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J2EE Journal: Article

WebSphere First Look: Introducing IBM Workplace Designer 2.5

Developing applications for the IBM Workplace platform

This article will introduce you to Workplace Designer 2.5. We begin with a brief overview of Workplace Designer and how you can use it to create Workplace applications. We then take a closer look at some of the many features included in Workplace Designer. We assume that you have experience with Web application development. Some familiarity with IBM Workplace products (such as IBM Workplace Collaboration Services 2.5 and IBM Workplace Services Express 2.5) would also be helpful.

What is Workplace Designer?
If your background is in Notes/Domino programming, you can think of Workplace Designer as a tool for providing Domino Designer-type application development functionality to the IBM Workplace family of products. In fact, those familiar with Domino Designer will notice a lot of similarities with many IBM Workplace Designer features and concepts described later in this article. This similarity is not coincidental - Workplace Designer was created with Domino Designer in mind. This lets experienced Domino developers leverage their existing skills to quickly create new applications for IBM Workplace products. Figure 1 shows a screen shot of Workplace Designer.

Bear in mind, however, that Workplace Designer isn't intended to replace Domino Designer. Domino Designer will still be available as the primary tool for developing applications in a Notes/Domino environment. Workplace Designer lets Notes/Domino developers extend their expertise to IBM Workplace products. (For an overview of new features in the upcoming release of Domino Designer 7, see the developerWorks Lotus article, "New Features in Lotus Notes and Domino Designer 7.0."

Even if you don't have a great deal of experience with development platforms such as Domino Designer, Workplace Designer will give you an easy way to use document-oriented programming for collaborative components without an in-depth knowledge of Java. Workplace Designer's underlying J2EE technologies aren't exposed, so expertise in this area isn't necessary to develop production applications - although if you need the power and flexibility of Java, there are extensive APIs available that let you access the data and services provided by IBM Workplace servers. Developers who have to customize and access the code directly can use tools such as Rational Application Developer. Workplace Designer offers a number of extension points that more experienced Java developers can use to share code artifacts created with Rational Application Developer and other IBM tools.

Inside Workplace Designer
Internally, the components created with Workplace Designer contain artifacts that support the MVC (Model, View, Controller) architecture used in standard Web architectures. Additionally, any documents created from the deployed components are stored in a relational database as XML documents. These documents are defined by XSD schemas and can be accessed through the XPath language. Workplace Designer includes a schema editor for modifying the schemas.

Note that Workplace Designer applications aren't self-contained like Notes databases. When you design an application in Notes/Domino, you can immediately deploy and run it. In the Workplace model, you must deploy components to the Workplace server where they will be run, and then do additional setup to include the component in one or more Workplace composite applications.

Workplace Designer, based on Eclipse 3.0, is completely integrated with IBM Workplace Collaboration Services 2.5 and IBM Workplace Services Express 2.5. (See the developerWorks Lotus article, "Introducing IBM Workplace Services Express.") It installs on top of the IBM Workplace Managed Client. Workplace Designer includes a developer's license for IBM Workplace Collaboration Services 2.5 and WebSphere Portal, and can seamlessly deploy components to the server for testing and assembly into templates and applications. You can authenticate with the Workplace server, and launch the tool from the IBM Workplace client. You can use the components in conjunction with Workplace application builder.

Workplace Designer incorporates the following industry standards:

  • XML for data access and exchange
  • HTML/CSS for portal development
  • JavaScript for the programming language
On the workstation, Workplace Designer runs in IBM Workplace on Linux and Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP. On the server, Workplace Designer applications run on Workplace Services Express 2.5 and Workplace Collaboration Services 2.5 on all supported platforms.

Workplace Designer supports several database platforms, including IBM Cloudscape, DB2, Oracle, and Microsoft SQL Server. In addition, Workplace Designer supports the LDAP servers supported by IBM Workplace products.

The first release of Workplace Designer includes everything you need to get started:

  • The product code
  • Documentation and tutorials
  • Example application code
  • IBM Workplace Collaboration Services for previewing and testing in-progress applications
  • IBM Cloudscape (technically part of Workplace Collaboration Services)
Workplace Designer Features
Workplace Designer 2.5 includes the following features:
  • Components (collections of forms, schemas, scripts, and images) that comprise a single portlet on the Workplace server.
  • Design elements. These are parts of Workplace Designer that let you create and modify components visually.
  • Form editor for creating forms for entering information into and displaying information from various data sources. Forms are critical elements of a collaborative system, providing a flexible way to collect and process information. They are the main user interface element and contain the controls that comprise the interface of the application. Forms are used to create, edit, and display data stored in documents.
  • UI control palette for presenting all available UI controls/components. UI controls are visual elements that let users work with data on a form. UI controls include edit fields, buttons, drop-down lists, and links.
  • Events for providing full programming capabilities, such as a button click or field event, document open or close event, and so on.
  • Scripting with full JavaScript interfaces to built-in functions. This includes a script editor, offering many of the features found in the Eclipse script editor, including syntax coloring and type-ahead.
  • Easy deployment options for testing and production scenarios.
These are discussed in more detail in the sections below.

As mentioned, Workplace Designer components are sets of forms, scripts, and other elements from which you construct portlets. (Workplace applications consist of one or several portlets.) You can use Workplace Designer to build components, deploy them on the Workplace server as portlets then add them to Workplace applications. These applications are then available to Web users. You can create new components "from scratch" or import an existing Domino database as a starting point for the new component. You can write scripts to associate with events in a component. To do this, select a component event then write a script for that event. (Scripting and events are discussed below.)

More Stories By Dick McCarrick

Dick McCarrick is a content developer for developerWorks: Lotus. He was previously a member of the Domino/Notes Documentation team for over 11 years, playing a variety of roles in documenting many major components of Domino and Notes. He also wrote the occasional article for Iris Today (including Ask Professor INI) before joining the Developer Domain team permanently in 2002. In his spare time, Dick's leisure activities include running, fishing, woodworking, and reading about the natural sciences. An avid astronomer, he's the former director of the Bridgewater (Mass.) State College Observatory. Dick lives in Vermont.

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