Last week I started playing with the Eclipse Ajax Toolkit Framework (ATF). Until last week, I had really never looked very hard at Ajax. I’m familiar with the base technologies, and the concepts behind it, but I had never really done anything with it. I figured that tinkering with ATF would be a great way to get a little practical experience.
Setting up ATF is a little cumbersome because it requires some activities outside of Eclipse. Getting the plug-ins installed is a relatively simple matter: I opted to grab the Eclipse Web Tools all-in-one download and use it as a base for the ATF plug-ins which I found on the download site. At present, there is no update site for ATF (it’s only version 0.2.1); however, be aware that the download is actually an update site. Don’t just drop the contents of ATF into your Eclipse directory. Instead, unzip the downloaded file, and open the update manager and point it to the unzipped file.
After that, ATF requires a little configuration. First, you need to have XULRunner installed. To be totally honest, I have no idea why (I spent a few minutes poking around, but then decided that I really didn’t care). Setup of XULRunner is pretty simple and is detailed on the ATF download page (on a side note, I’m amused that several Mozilla projects are named after characters/entities from Ghostbusters). I also installed JSLint as described in the instructions on the ATF download page.
The other thing you need is the actual Ajax libraries. I opted to install Dojo for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I had dinner one night with one of the Dojo developers and he seemed nice. The other reason is that I spend quite a lot of time in a Dojo and felt a certain affinity. Some additional configuration in the Eclipse Preferences view was then required to make sure that ATF could find all the bits and pieces.
In all, setup took less than 15 minutes. I assume that as they get closer to a release version, this can only get better.
I used ATF to assemble a few Dojo components onto a page. ATF populates the snippets view with some components that are pretty easy to drag, drop, and configure into the editor. In minutes, I had a working Dojo application running inside the embedded Mozilla browser instance (I do love that the browsers all run inside the Eclipse workbench).
The above example shows the Fisheye control (similar to the OSX launcher).
There’s some handy features in ATF that help you sort out what’s going on with your components (the image shows the “DOM Source” view which shows the DOM under the cursor). Over the next few days, I’ll spend some time capturing some of the cooler bits. In the meantime, the ATF developers have produced a number of screen cam demos that show off their stuff pretty well. Check ’em out here.