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Google gears Java 5 Web Toolkit

CSS shrinkage on roadmap

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Google is this week expected to release the long-awaited update to its Web Toolkit (GWT) adding support for Java 5 Standard Edition language features to speed development and performance of JavaScript.

The search giant has also outlined plans for successive versions of its web toolkit. Version 1.6 is scheduled for the third quarter, under a planned quarterly cycle for "minor" updates, with a version 2.0 featuring bigger changes further out.

Goals for version 2.0 include automating the removal of unwanted CSS code to shrink an application's download size. GWT co-creator Bruce Johnson told Reg Dev: "We'd like to apply some of the techniques that have served us well in GWT to CSS." There's no date for version 2.0 yet which Johnson noted is still "up in the air".

One likely target will be moving GWT to Java 6, released in December 2006. Java 5 this April entered what Sun Microsystems called its "end of life transition period", a period that will last until October 8, 2009. That means free "fixes" will no longer be generally available for Java 5 unless you sign up to Sun's new Java SE for Business program, which provides 15 years of support. You can also upgrade to Java 6.

Ahead of that, this week, there's the GWT 1.5 release candidate, whose biggest addition is the ability to generate JavaScript from Java 5. Johnson believes Java 5 features intended to clean and simplify application programming combined with GWT complier improvements will further boost web applications' performance.

Java 5 includes generic types, enumeration types, annotations, auto boxing and parameter lists that let programmers build cleaner code and - thus - becomes more straight forward for GWT to compile.

"It depends on the way you construct your code, how much client side-code you run. If you are doing complex algorithms, big-time formatting... that will get significantly faster," Johnson said. He also claimed most existing GWT applications could be migrated and recompiled in a "couple of hours" adding breaking changes will be listed in the accompanying documentation.

Additionally, GWT 1.5 features a new set of low-level DOM classes to program a level beyond widgets. "You can hit it [GWT] at the JavaScript, Java or DOM level that suits your application," Johnson said.

Goggle sees GWT 1.5 being used in a number of scenarios, beyond just Google applications. Already, GWT is being used with Adobe Systems' Flash for multimedia, AIR, and the iPhone Safari browser, with Google engineers also using GWT code to run on the company's planned Android mobile platform.®

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