Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Ext Designer Preview tool, to go with Ext 3.0

Category: Sencha

<>p>The Ext folks released Ext version 3 a few weeks back, but we were holding back for their blog post on the matter. There is a lot of great stuff in this release, much of which has been covered in other posts on the release candidates. What is new about the full release though is process, and one cool tool.

There is a new release cycle. Every 3 months a minor public release will be available (3.1, 3.2, etc)
and every month patch releases will be available to support subscribers (3.0.1, 3.0.2).

On to the tool. The team has created an Ext Designer AIR application that lets you build Ext interfaces with a traditional toolbox interface:

Constructing your interfaces in code will be a thing of the past. We are releasing a Designer Preview that will allow you to experiment with the designer interface and to explore how configs affect your layout. Soon, you will be able to build your application components using base Ext components and Certified User Extensions.

Code generation is currently not available. Our intentions are to charge a fee for this service and to enable our community to create and sell their creations on our marketplace. Our goals are lofty. We want to be the iTunes of Web App Development.

Definitely lofty goals. I know of at least three other designer tools like this, (we all know of Atlas of course) and some of them are planning on being open source. It is fantastic to see great web based tools coming out from the framework creators. The platform is maturing.

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I love Ext and the preview tool looks great, it will be interesting to see how well there whole “App Store” idea takes tho.

<3

Comment by Phunky — August 11, 2009

Still, that licence is horrible.

Comment by RichardJohn — August 11, 2009

I downloaded and tests the application a little and it looks promising even if there are still a lot of things to polish and make them work in a predictable way. Resizing components is one of them.

But charge a fee for code generation? This is possible only if they don’t release the code. If they do it someone else will sell the same service for less, ultimately and very quickly leading the price down to zero. Also note that the marketplace will work only if some restrictive license will be put on generated components. No GPL, Apache, BSD etc licenses can be used of people will distribute components for no money at all. This is a huge break compared to the licenses of the JavaScript libraries we got used to in the last years and I wonder what success they might have when the price of the competition is zero.

On the philosophical side, I don’t see me using a remote code generation service where I store basically all the layouts of the projects I do for my customers. That’s not only inconvenient but it could also raise contractual issues.

Furthermore the chances of reselling a component are slim because it will be one among thousands and I’m in a different business (projects, not components). Chances for the developers of Ext3 and similar frameworks are better because they already are in the components business.

Comment by pmontrasio — August 11, 2009

@pmontrasio It’s a huge break compared to licenses you’re used to with JavaScript because ExtJS itself is a huge break.

I hate to sound like an evangelist, but their package enables web programmers to design apps very fast, and it’s no wonder that they’re wanting to start making a little money off of it.

As long as they keep releasing the free opensource version, it’s not going to bother me.

Comment by mdmadph — August 11, 2009

ExtJS 3.0. That’s really cool since ExtJS is an awesome product. Yes, it needs some refinement in the resizing area, but it’s arguably the best GUI toolkit for the web.

I think charging for code generation is a horrible idea. Apple gets away with controlling their ecosystem because they almost have a monopoly on the media smartphone market. ExtJS is not even close to a monopoly. Besides, Apple gets money from developers and customers, ExtJS only gets money from developers; whom are the most angry in the Apple Ecosystem.

Every company wants the kind of control and profit margins that the likes of Apple and Microsoft have enjoyed for years. I don’t think ExtJS is strong enough to start commanding such premiums.

Comment by tercero12 — August 11, 2009

I would much rather see them increase their license fees than charge for code generation.

Comment by mrfator — August 11, 2009

Yeah, it’ll just encourage people like us to create even more open source alternatives.

Comment by Jadet — August 11, 2009

Ext just won the game. Again.

Comment by Darkimmortal — August 11, 2009

charging for code generation doesn’t seem right. why not charge for the Ext Designer app instead? makes much more sense to me.

Comment by ajaxery — August 11, 2009

> Constructing your interfaces in code will be a thing of the past.

Isn’t that a bit like saying all text documents will be produced by WYSIWYG editors like Microsoft Word? That isn’t even close to the case.

Comment by PeterMichaux — August 11, 2009

ExtJS doesn’t really need a designer, because editing the config objects by themselves in a text editor is simple enough. So, I also have to wonder about the feasibility of such a business model. On the other hand, I suppose I’ll wait until all the details are known before passing judgement.

There’s other stuff that means more to me in ExtJS 3 than the designer, like the hbox and vbox layouts, the ARIA support, and the smart toolbars (with automatic overflow and ribbon-style layouts).

Comment by Joeri — August 11, 2009

Just read the comments on the blog post, and noticed the following tidbit by mr. Elias: “To clarify “charging a fee for this service” is nothing more than “We plan to charge for the Designer when it comes out with this feature.””

@PeterMichaux: I think they mean that it will be like Visual Studio or Delphi, where the UI is always constructed via drag-and-drop, not by editing code by hand.

Comment by Joeri — August 11, 2009

I was really looking forward to this tool. But with this #*&%§ licensing model I am definitively never going to use it. OMG.

Comment by phpeter — August 11, 2009

@phpeter
Could you clarify what the #*&%§ thing about the licensing model is in your opinion?

Since when is it a weird thing to charge for a “Pro” version of software, and keep a free version available for users that just want to prototype an interface and play around with different components/layouts/configuration/extentions options available for the library. Imagine discussing several ways of implementing an interface with your team, and having the ability to quickly try them out without having to touch any code. Another use case might be for new Ext developers to quickly see the differences between layouts, and see what effect different configuration options have on layouts and components.

If you want to use the Designer with the more powerful options (like generation to Ext JS, Ext GWT etc), you will have to buy the “Pro” license for it. We invest a great deal of time building and refining this Designer, and in our opinion its nothing less then fair to charge a small fee for the more advanced features of it.

Comment by TommyMaintz — August 11, 2009

I am not an expert in licensing issues, but if I am not completely mistaken you can use Ext under the GPL license and still have everything on the server-side licensed under a commercial license. Since the Javascript Ext part on the browser and the server-side programs communicate only via HTTP (i.e. via sockets) they are an aggregate rather than a modified version of a single program and there should not be any limitations imposed by the use of the GPL license. Am I wrong here?

Comment by omegamale — August 11, 2009

@omegamale: You are wrong…sort of. This point is unclear in GPL 3. However, the ExtJS guys adopted GPL 3 with the understanding that the server-side code and the Javascript it serves as the same piece of software and hence the GPL virally applies to the server-side software if you use ExtJS. The ExtJS guys explained this once in the forums and now they ignore any discussion of it since they have already explained it. This is why most JS libraries are BSD/MIT licensed…to encourage wide use.

As an aside, SmartClient uses LGPL, which you can use commercially without releasing your server-side code.

The Affero license (while unrelated to ExtJS), is a GPL 3-like license that was created to clarify the confusion and allow for web servers to run software without it being considered distribution as the GPL 3 hints (and therefore requiring source code distribution).

Comment by tercero12 — August 11, 2009

@TommyMainz
I would pay for a “pro” version of a good tool, that I can use unlimited and that is worth the money, like I bought a commercial ext license. As far as I have understood the anouncement in the ext blog, you can play around with the tool, but if you want to see the generated code, you would have to use a webservice and pay each time you change something and want to see the result. Maybe the anouncement is unclear and I understood it wrong. But if I consider to use an IDE, any license model that is “pay per use” and any functionality that is only accessible via network and not locally makes the IDE uninteresting for me.

Comment by phpeter — August 11, 2009

@tercero12: It’s probably an issue lawyers have to clarify. Nevertheless I would argue that the GPL is “not that viral”. If I deliver my product with a SmartClient-client for the browser and my customer decides to have a third party write an Ext-client, this obviously does not render my original license invalid. Why should it do so if I do the same thing for a customer? The GPL is indifferent to the supplier of the code.

Comment by omegamale — August 11, 2009

@phpeter

We should probably be more clear on this subject. It is NOT our intention to charge for every code generation cycle. For a Designer “Pro” license you would pay a monthly, quarterly or yearly fee and this would give you an unlimited amount of code generations and other more advanced features not available for users without a license.
We regret the way we formulated that sentence in our blogpost, but we don’t want to change it now. Instead we will post a blogpost in a further stage of development with more details about the pricing and advanced features that will be available in the “Pro” version of the Designer.

Just to repeat and be clear about this: We won’t charge for each code generation, instead we will release the Designer Pro under a SaaS model.

Comment by TommyMaintz — August 11, 2009

I like that kind of UI Designer like VB/Delphi : http://www.linb.net/VisualJS/UIBuilder.html

Comment by linb — August 11, 2009

Charing people is a bad idea. Proprietary software is a horrible idea.

Comment by jhuni — August 12, 2009

“Char(g)ing people is a bad idea”

let’s live on fresh air and grass!

Comment by mystix — August 12, 2009

like, property is theft man!

Comment by ExtAnimal — August 12, 2009

@jhuni – I agree that CHARING people is a bad idea ( see: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/char#Verb_2 ).

Charging people, I’m ok with though. Software developers need to eat too.

Comment by WillPeavy — August 12, 2009

Hey, charge all you want, as long as you release a free version as well (sans support and updates, of course).

Comment by mdmadph — August 12, 2009

@tercero12 – Just a clarification on the Affero license. You are correct, it was created to clear up confusion with the GPL’s concept of distribution but not in the way that you say. You say that it “allows for web servers to run software without it being considered distribution as the GPL 3 hints (and therefore requiring source code distribution).” -this is incorrect; actually the opposite is true. With the AGPL you are *required* to open source modifications made to the server end of a web application as it is considered distribution.

I recall when the ExtJS gang spoke about the licensing change and they said it was unclear and they were choosing to interpret the GPL as you suggest. However, since the FSF chose to make a separate license (the AGPL) just to clarify this point, this indicates that they do not consider the GPL to require the open sourcing of modifications to the server end of a web application (the FSF also had the opportunity to build the AGPL into GPL 3 and declined to do so, deciding instead to keep it as a separate license). Since they created these licenses and are regarded as the authority on them, their interpretation would be the one to follow regardless of the beliefs of Jack et. al.(It is likely the ExtJS interpretation is technically incorrect).

Comment by coryn1 — August 12, 2009

@ocalawebdesign:
What is open source about developing for the iphone?

Comment by Joeri — August 12, 2009

@ocalawebdesign:

you mean that community of developers that constantly get the shaft from apple, for no real reason. the developers that have been jumping ship for more open platforms. those guys?

Comment by ajaxery — August 12, 2009

@ocalawebdesign: Never mind open source, it wasn’t that long ago you weren’t even allowed to *speak* about developing for the iPhone.

Comment by coryn1 — August 12, 2009

Why must every post contain the same old discussions about licensing? Just enjoy a nice write up about a new version of Ext and a preview of the designer tool or skip the article and read something else.

If you take the amount of time you spent whining here and multiply it by your hourly rate, you could have just gotten a license.

Comment by jackslocum — August 13, 2009

jackslocum,

Why Ext is not listed in TaskSpeed comparison?

http://dante.dojotoolkit.org/taskspeed/

I’d like to know how it stacks up against the competition.

Comment by Les — August 13, 2009

“If you take the amount of time you spent whining here and multiply it by your hourly rate, you could have just gotten a license.”

Awesome quote – so incredibly true.

Comment by VinylFox — August 17, 2009

“If you take the amount of time you spent whining here and multiply it by your hourly rate, you could have just gotten a license.”

Awesome quote – so incredibly true.
—–

Yeah works both ways, If the Ext team stopped trawling the web whining about people whining about their license we would probably have Ext.4 by now mmmmwwwwwhahahahahahahahaha

“However, since the FSF chose to make a separate license (the AGPL) just to clarify this point, this indicates that they do not consider the GPL to require the open sourcing of modifications to the server end of a web application (the FSF also had the opportunity to build the AGPL into GPL 3 and declined to do so, deciding instead to keep it as a separate license). Since they created these licenses and are regarded as the authority on them, their interpretation would be the one to follow regardless of the beliefs of Jack et. al.(It is likely the ExtJS interpretation is technically incorrect).”

Comment by webvida — August 19, 2009

“ExtJS doesn’t really need a designer, because editing the config objects by themselves in a text editor is simple enough.”

I totally disagree. It is very simple making a JSON object yes. But designing interfaces this way is very time consuming, if you really care about the result.

There is also the general principle that designing a visual interface visually is a more immediate and logical approach, you can see the results immediately.

Sorry but the reason I don’t use ExtJS is because of the torturous time I had crafting the interface in JSON, compared to a traditional HTML/CSS interface, or to creating Desktop applications.

From my experience a tool like this is definetely needed for serious GUI work of this kind.

Comment by SpotDog — September 3, 2009

There is a tutorial: Ext Designer for developers at http://aboutfrontend.com/2010/07/ext-designer-tutorial-for-a-developer/

Comment by NilsFredrik — December 4, 2010

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