Thursday 9 October 2008

Composite Controls with ICEfaces and Facelets

I've been interested in ICEfaces for a while now, and been pleased to see how the adoption is coming along.
One thing I've noticed is how many AJAX and Rich-client frameworks impress with cool widgets but make things complicated through excessive use of Javascript or poor integration at the back-end. I think there's danger in choosing a framework for it's widgets, and there's a risk that people look at ICEfaces purely as a JSF rich component set, not as a complete framework, which it truly is.
Being built on the JSF framework, ICEfaces is a first-class citizen in the JEE world and integrates well with just about any other Java framework. (It can even play nice with a surprizing amount of other JSF component frameworks, like Apache My Faces.)
On top of this, their IDE integration is top notch, supporting just about anything in common use today. After using Eclipse for a while now, I've recently moved to NetBeans due to my new role. Thank goodness the ICEfaces IDE support module is there!
Recently I have had the pleasure of re-aquainting myself with ICEfaces. I finally got the job I've been hoping for since my first brush with JSF a few years back. I'm now a UI architect and it's fantastic to have the company respecting my opinion that ICEfaces/Facelets/JSF is the way to go for enterprise rich internet application (RIA) development.
I even got the opportunity to take my new team on an ICEsoft training course to get them excited about the possibilities. The people at ICEsoft have a great, open approach. They are interested primarily in productivity, and gave all kinds of ideas in how to best use their framework and how to best utilize other tools to be productive. In two days they were saying things like "that's so cool", "this is how web app development should be" and "I'm never going anywhere near Struts again". In ICEfaces, you hardly ever have to think about the request and what values it's sending. You're thinking in terms of components and objects and services - that's the way OO development should be.
I thought that I knew what there was to know about the whole gamut, but there was even a revelation for me: How to make re-usable AJAX enabled components using Facelet composites. I thought I would have to be making new JSF controls and digging into writing TagLibs, Javascript and writing JSF lifecycle event handlers. But I was completely surprized just how easy it is to make a re-usable components that combines the power of Facelets with the coolness of ICEfaces AJAX components. (Perhaps I'll blog on this some time. I had a cool widget up and running in about half a day, and then spent a little more time to extend it.)

Well that's it for now. Take my advice, the next time you think about doing a Java Web App, evaluate ICEfaces. (And don't just look at the component showcase, evaluate the whole framework.) You may find it very enlightening.

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