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Google has released a new version of Google App Engine – the service that lets you build applications atop the company's famously distributed infrastructure – providing additional tools for both Python and Java developers.

When originally released in the spring of 2008, App Engine allowed development only in Python, a favorite within the walls of the Mountain View Chocolate Factory. The following year, Google added the Java runtime. On Wednesday, announcing the release of Google App Engine version 1.4.3, the company said that it had brought its Java and Python runtimes "closer to parity".

On the Python side, App Engine now offers a test library akin to the existing Java testing framework. "You can create tests for your application that do not rely on calling App Engine production services, which speeds up the time your tests take to complete, and eliminates dependencies for your test on external services," Google said in a blog post.

On the Java side, it offers the Deferred and Remote APIs previously available for Python. The Remote API lets you handle datastore operations from your local machine – "this is particularly useful for work that is not well-suited to App Engine’s request/response model," Google said – while the Deferred API lets you more easily write and execute ad hoc tasks.

With Python, Google has also introduced an "experimental" API for "prospective search", which lets developers build services akin to Google Alerts. "This means massive amounts of data can be sent to Prospective Search and it will alert you when that data matches," the company tells us. You could build an application, for instance, that includes a simple web crawler that passes information to the Prospective Search API. Then, the application's users could ask to receive an email alert whenever pages are posted to the web with certain keywords. Or they could simply request that the data be inputted into a database.

For both Python and Java, Google has added a Files API that lets you read and write data via BlobStore. This can be used generate reports, export data, or "do anything that your heart desires that requires large, binary objects," the company said.

The company also said that the upcoming 1.4.4 release will let additional users download App Engine code for their particular project. With the earlier 1.4.0 release, Google finally allowed users to download code they had deployed on App Engine. With the next release, the company will let project owners download the code as well.

Google App Engine is a so-called "platform cloud" along the lines of Microsoft Azure. It's a service for building, hosting, and dynamically scaling applications. But unlike, say, Amazon EC2, you do not have access to raw computing resources such as virtual machines. ®

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