thingelstad

Jamie Thingelstad's personal website

Serious Development in JavaScript

ajax.jpgJavaScript is a really powerful development environment. Really.

Many developers don’t agree with that statement. I think there are a couple of reasons for that. First, the word “script” appears in the name of the language and developers are often pejorative of anything with the script word in it. The logic goes something like scripting may be fine for hacking out little things, but cannot be used to build real applications.

I think the other black eye for JavaScript was that the first uses of the language were purely trivial. Remember the first time you had snowflakes falling on a web page? Or how about going beyond blinking text to text just jumping all over the place. True, the first implementations using the language were primitive.

There are other issues that you could highlight. There are no threads. It’s not compiled. Namespace is very loose. But this all misses the point that some of the most sophisticated and sexiest web applications out there are largely built in JavaScript. I personally spend a lot of time everyday now in JavaScript applications thanks to Google. Developers need to focus more on this language as a serious development environment, and the tools for it need to catch up. Venkman is nice for debugging, but more is needed. Further tools like Google Gears will extend JavaScript even further including off-line.

The May 2007 issue of MSDN Magazine featured a cover article called Create Advanced Web Applications With Object-Oriented Techniques (whew, mouthful) that touched on building JavaScript in a more sophisticated way. It’s a good read, and will start your thinking down the path of using JavaScript for more than snowflakes falling off your mouse pointer.

3 Comments

  1. I have that MSDN article open in my other firefox TAB, I have been going through this article since yesterday in between my other distractions.

    Javascript is very forgiving … and like Perl it kind of lets you believe that “what you don’t know wont hurt you”.

    I find functions as first class objects, pretty amazing.

    Firefox + Firebug is a decent debugging option for online apps.

    Overall, I agree that better IDE integration and off line debuggers will make developers more productive.

  2. You guys should check out Aptana (www.aptana.org). Free Web IDE for Javascript, HTML, CSS. I think they even have a beta with support for Ruby, Rails, etc.

  3. Yeah, RadRails builds on top of Aptana I believe. It’s one of the two stand-outs for non-OS X rails development.

    It seems the biggest downside can be the flexibility that is it’s strength. Any of the object-orented practices and structure are optional. Javascript when it’s done well can be very good indeed, but when it’s done bad it is horrid.

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