Published: November 18, 2013
by Alex Woodie
Ext JS Supporters
Count John Rhodes of CM First Group, a provider of IBM i application modernization tools, as a firm member of the Ext JS camp. For the last three years, Rhodes and his colleagues have been using the Sencha products to help IBM i shops modernize and mobile-enable their applications.
Rhodes says the performance of mobile interfaces generated by Sencha and Ext JS were better than what other frameworks could develop. "The apps have to be very responsive," he says. "The performance was not as good [with the other frameworks]. We also really like the architecture of the framework. The Sencha architecture covers mobile and desktop applications, and it has code generation capacities that give you a head start. We also found it to be easier to develop with and faster to get products to market."
Robert Swanson of CNX Corp. is another Ext JS supporter. CNX has been using the Sencha products, including Ext JS and Sencha Touch, in Valence, its IBM i Web application development tool.
"We gravitated to Sencha back in 2007 because their flagship products--Ext JS and, later, Sencha Touch--are backed by a strong corporate entity in Silicon Valley, include a huge number of highly configurable user interface widgets, have comprehensive, well-structured API documentation, offer robust support options, and enjoy a huge, emphatic developer community," Swanson says via email.
But most importantly, Sencha is designed explicitly for end-to-end application development, he continues. "That's a key point for us in the IBM i world, where business apps are king. Ext JS is not intended to augment or enhance Web pages, which would be a task more suited to a library like jQuery. Rather, Ext JS is a complete framework designed for building highly interactive Web apps from scratch, using AJAX to communicate with the server (IBM i). The framework allows developers to quickly create what would otherwise be rather complicated front-end HTML5 elements without requiring them to get into the intricacies of the code."
CNX's Valence is not used for modernizing existing IBM i apps, but for creating brand new apps from scratch, so the selection of Sencha was a good fit. "If we were merely looking to supplement existing Web pages with some business data, then we might consider other approaches," Swanson says. "But for fully functional, single-page applications talking to IBM i we think Ext JS is tough to beat."
For others, however, jQuery's lightness and ease of use are far more important factors, and outweigh the large feature set that Ext JS can bring to bear. You can count Marcel Sarrasin of Business Computer Design as a firm member of the jQuery camp.
There are a number of other prominent IBM i developers who are in the jQuery camp, including Aaron Bartell and Craig Pelkie. Paul Tuohy, one of the co-founders of System i Developer, has written about his preference for jQuery on these pages as well.
Other JS Libraries
Dojo doesn't seem to have much backing in the IBM i community outside of one prominent member: IBM. In 2010, IBM added Dojo support to its Rational Business Developer, the IDE used for writing apps in Enterprise Generation Language (EGL). It followed that up in 2011 by adding it to Host Access Transformation Services (HATS).
You won't find Profound Logic and its rival BCD agreeing on much. But they both agree that Ext JS can be overkill for the typical IBM i developer.
"We found that at traditional RPG shops, the developers just have a very difficult time understanding and getting their mind around something like Ext JS," says Profound CEO Alex Roytman. "It wasn't a simple thing to learn. IBM i developers think of screens and display files, and this a different way of thinking. It's a steep learning curve to get into something like that for an IBM i shop."
The Profound UI Framework is open source and available as a free download. The project and source code is hosted at GitHub at github.com/ProfoundLogic/profoundui-framework.
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