Developing Web portal sites and portlets with IBM Rational Application Developer 7.0

A series of 10 articles

This series, written by the Rational Application Developer Portal Tooling team, is intended as a one-stop master resource for portal site development (which includes both portal and portlet application development) using IBM Rational Application Developer Version 7 and IBM WebSphere Portal Version 6. It elaborates on various capabilities that Rational Application Developer offers through its three components -- Portlet Tooling, Portal Designer, and Portal Server Tooling- - that deal with different aspects of portal site development. This summary includes links to 10 related articles.

21 August 2007

This series, written by the Rational Application Developer Portal Tooling team, is intended as a one-stop master resource for portal site development (which includes both portal and portlet application development) using IBM® Rational® Application Developer Version 7 and IBM® WebSphere® Portal Version 6. It elaborates on various capabilities that Rational Application Developer offers through its three components --Portlet Tooling, Portal Designer, and Portal Server Tooling -- that deal with different aspects of portal site development. All information is supported with corresponding separate articles listed in the Downloads section. The goal is to impart every possible training and knowledge need and to tie up all loose ends regarding end-to-end portal development questions.

System requirements

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Overview of IBM software relevant to this series of articles

IBM® WebSphere® Portal Version 6 includes middleware applications (called portlets) and development tools for building and managing secure business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C), and business-to-employee (B2E) portals. It provides organizations with a portal framework that connects a wide range of enterprise content and applications. IBM® Rational® Application Developer Version 7 is a premium product that is part of the IBM® Rational® Software Delivery Platform. It is a true integrated development environment (IDE), because it provides a single environment for designing, building, testing, and deploying complete, MVC-compliant portlet and portal applications for WebSphere Portal V6. For more information and related articles, see Downloads and Resources at the end of this article.

Various aspects of portal and portlet application development

A typical portlet or portal application development would start with installation of Rational Application Developer and WebSphere Portal. This would constitute the setup or preparation. Next would be portlet development. The Portlet Tooling component inside Rational Application Developer specifically helps with the creation of portlets. Having developed the portlets, the next logical step would be to test and debug the portlets on the server. This is where the Portal Server Tooling component comes in. It integrates the WebSphere Portal environment with Rational Application Developer and helps developers test or debug the portlets. For a portal application, the creation of a portal page and insertion portlets into it follows. The Portal Designer component in Rational Application Developer assists with this customization of the overall layout of portal page. Hence, all three Rational Application Developer portal components help in over all development process at various stages. The following sections will cover these phases separately to simulate the logical flow of a portlet or portal development.

Predevelopment resources

Installation and Configuration of IBM Rational Application Developer V7 for developing portal applications covers the installation and configuration options of the Rational Application Developer V7 environment (also known as the workspace) to suit the specific need of the portal developer and also provide a set of best practices which can help the developer derive the maximum benefit from the product. The usages of various options are tuned to specific use cases, so this article would explain the configuration from a scenario perspective helping not only improve productivity but also enhance user experience with the product.

Migration from IBM Rational Application Developer V6 to IBM Rational Application Developer V7 for portal and portlet development provides an overview of Rational Application Developer V7 improvements over Rational Application Developer V6 for creating and developing portal and portlet projects. It compares the new wizards and other UI features with its ancestor and shows the simplicity with which portlets and portals can be developed with V7. It also explains how to migrate portal and portlet projects developed using Rational Application Developer V6 to Rational Application Developer V7. It serves as a complete migration guide for Java™ 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) developers who are using Rational Application Developer V6 for portlet and portal development and want to switch to V7.

Portlet tooling features

The smallest unit in a portal or a portlet application is a portlet. Therefore, every portal development usually starts with creating portlets. The Portlet Tooling component within Rational Application Developer offers a variety of tools for developers to quickly and efficiently develop portlets. IBM WebSphere Portal 6 also offers a gamut of portlet services and features. Portlet Tooling enables you to exploit these offerings. The whole development process is amazingly simplified and quick, thus ensuring productivity and ease of use. In fact, some of the use cases, such as consuming Service Data Objects (SDOs), do not require any coding at all. Portlet tooling offers several advantages and capabilities:

  • Availability of programming models
    • Java Specification Request (JSR) 168 portlets, IBM API portlets
  • Development using model view controller (MVC) frameworks, Java™Server Faces portlets, and the Struts portlet framework
  • Enabling collaborative services
    • Cooperative portlets
    • People awareness
  • Connecting to enterprise systems
    • Business process portlets
    • Enterprise Information System (EIS) access (WebSphere Portal AI mediator-based, SAP, Siebel Systems, PeopleSoft, Domino)
  • Enabling personalization services
  • Using the credential vault services

Rapid portal site development using IBM Rational Application Developer 7 and IBM WebSphere Portal 6 explains how to create an end-to-end portlet application consisting of JSR Faces cooperative portlets that use IBM® DB2® relational Service Data Objects (SDOs) in no time, with no coding. This article describes the development, testing, and deployment of a portal application consisting of Java™Server Faces (JSF) cooperative portlets that will retrieve content from a database using relational database SDOs. Using a step-by-step approach with screenshots and a demo, it showcases the powerful features in Rational Application Developer V7 that assemble everything together with no coding at all.

Using IBM Rational Application Developer V7 to create portlet services and enhanced portlets for IBM WebSphere Portal V6 guides developers to use Rational Application Developer V7 for building advance portlets. It discusses various portlet services and how developer can generate these services automatically in their portlet project. Further, this article shows how to explore the tooling capabilities of Rational Application Developer V7 to define the rules and to personalize the portlets. Lastly, it shows the simplicity with which business-process portlets can be developed that can integrate with business process server provided with IBM WebSphere Portal V6. Java developers, who intend to work on portlet development using Rational Application Developer V7, will realize how easy it is to write advance portlets using Rational Application Developer V7 tooling capabilities.

JSR Faces portlet integration with data sources and Web services using IBM Rational Application Developer V7 with IBM WebSphere Portal V6 shows connecting portlets with models of a MVC2 (model view controller) architecture using SDOs. It introduces SDOs and shows the integration of Java™ Database Connectivity (JDBC), Enterprise Java™Beans (EJBs), and Web services with portlets by using these SDOs in Rational Application Developer V7, which offers powerful drag-and-drop features and wizards to support this integration. The article also covers deploying applications on WebSphere Portal V6 from Rational Application Developer, again emphasizing its importance as an end-to-end development platform.

IBM Rational Application Developer V7 advanced portlet development capabilities: Wiring and WSRP explores and showcases capabilities that Rational Application Developer V7 tooling offers on topics that go beyond the basics of portlet application development and are more likely in real-life use cases. It covers topics such as cross-page wiring, which is enablement of cooperative portlets that exist on separate portlet pages; Web Services for Remote Portlets (WSRP), which allows the integration of remote content and Web applications into an end-user portal; and implementation of Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) in portlets. The article also emphasizes the key theme of Rational Application Developer V7, which is to rapidly develop and deploy applications, thus increase productivity and reduce the learning curve.

Portal design tools

After creating the portlets, they are usually put together in a portal page. This is where the Portal Designer component comes in handy. From within Rational Application Developer, the Portal Designer allows WYSIWYG-based advanced portal page editing. An obvious question is, "Well, I have portal administration portlets, too. What does the Portal Designer offers for that?"

Portal administration portlets are form-based, whereas the Portal Designer in Rational Application Developer, enables you to exploit powerful Rational Application Developer features, such as visual editors, drag-and-drop outline view, and several other views. And not to forget: You don't need to log in to the WebSphere Portal to do all of the editing. So, what exactly does the Portal Designer enable you to do? Here's what:

  • Change the portal configuration by editing the portal page and layout of the portlets, using a WYSIWYG approach
  • Develop themes or "skins."
  • Coordinate with other Rational Application Developer tools, such as Page Designer and CSS Designer, to change the look and feel of a portal site
  • Collaborate with portlet tools by allowing portlets to be inserted into the page
  • Use WSRP
  • Wiring support for Cooperative Portlets
  • Business process tasks page definition
  • Team development support for portal project
  • Enable testing of a portal site using the Portal Test Environment or Portal Remote Server
  • Attach, import, and deploy portal configurations and resources from and to portals

Designing portal site structure and page layout using IBM Rational Application Developer V7 describes the portal site development capability in Rational Application Developer V7, focusing on support of new features provided by WebSphere Portal V6. Portal site developers and Web designers learn how easily they can customize their own portal sites by using Rational Application Developer V7. IBM WebSphere Portal V6 has introduced new features, such as Color Palette and Theme Policy to reduce developers' pains in developing portal sites. However, portal site development is still complicated for developers who are not knowledgeable about portal structure. A portal theme is too complicated for Web designers to design the look and feel, because it consists of hundreds of Java™Server Pages, (JSPs) cascading style sheets (CSS), property and image files, and several portal custom tags are used in the JSP files. Using Rational Application Developer V7 to develop portal sites for WebSphere Portal reduces those pains, because it makes it easier for developers to create page and portlet layout structures. It also makes it easier for Web designers to design the look and feel of the site.

Portal site development using IBM Rational Application Developer V7 in a distributed environment is for portal site developers who use Portal Designer in Rational Application Developer V7.0. The article covers development of a large portal site as a single project at a single location. The problems usually faced may be ownership of code, synchronization of code, management of the various parts of the portal site, and similar problems. To ease the development of large portal sites, Portal Designer can help developer split the main project into sub-portal projects, so they can develop and enhance the sub-portal projects, and then merge them for the main portal. Meanwhile, another team can work independently on the main project, which means that you can develop a large and complex portal site in a distributed environment. The sub-portal project can be developed and debugged just like the full portal. This feature is described as Export and Import Portal Topology Fragment. The export and import functions enable developers to work on different pages of a portal project simultaneously, too.

Testing, deploying, and debugging tools

One of the key benefits of using Rational Application Developer for portal development is its integration with the server environment. During development, you can test, debug, and deploy portals and portlet applications. The component working behind the scenes to make this possible is called Portal Server Tooling, which gives you several additional capabilities:

  • One-click deployment and testing
  • Debugging applications on the server
  • Automatic deployment of dependent artifacts in your workspace, such as Enterprise Java™Beans (EJBs), Web services, data sources, and J2EE Connector architecture (J2C) adapters
  • Automatic login to My Portal (WebSphere Portal 5.1) or Home (WebSphere Portal 6.0)
  • Configurable publishing
  • Ability to create custom pages
  • Ability to run a user-defined, post-publication XML access script

Publishing portal artifacts from IBM Rational Application Developer V7 to IBM WebSphere Portal V6 discusses the key benefits of using the combination of Rational Application Developer V7 and WebSphere Portal V6, and then goes into detail, explaining the various publishing options. It also touches on the recommended publishing option for pertinent use cases, and then wraps up with troubleshooting tips, so developers can resolve some of the common issues on their own.

Debugging and profiling portal and portlet application in IBM Rational Application Developer V7 explores and showcases the capabilities that Rational Application Developer V7 provides for debugging and profiling the portal and portlet applications. The article covers the basics of using the Rational Application Developer, as well as server debugging and profiling features, concentrating specifically on portal and portlet-related applications. The aim of the article is to help in use of the tools that enable you to pinpoint performance and memory use problems in the portal and portlet applications.

Conclusion

We have tried to cover various aspects associated with portal and portlet site development, although this list is not yet complete. We will enrich it with newer articles, resources, and information from time to time. Please bookmark this page, and keep visiting it for the latest on the portal and portlet tooling from the team that is at the heart of creating the tooling.

Downloads

DescriptionNameSize
RAD installation and configurationRAD_InstallConfig.pdf306KB
Migrating portals from V6 to V7RAD_PortalMigration.pdf619KB
Rapid portal developmentRapidPortalDev.pdf1.9MB
WebSphere Portal V6 portalsPortlets4WebSpherePortal.pdf638KB
JSR Faces portal integrationJSR_FacesIntegration4Portals.pdf1.18MB
Advanced portlet developmentAdvancedPortlets.pdf472KB
Designing portal sitesDesigningPortalSites.pdf274KB
Distributed development of portletsDistributedPortalDev.pdf415KB
Publishing portal artifactsPublishingPortalArtifacts.pdf155KB
Portal debugging and profilingDebuggingProfilingPortals.pdf396KB
Sample for Debugging articledevportals_sample.zip9375KB

Resources

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  • Participate in the Rational Software Architect, Data Architect, Software Modeler, Systems Developer, Application Developer and Web Developer forums and the WebSphere Portal forum, where you can ask questions, share your experiences, and discuss problems and solutions.
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