What's new in IBM Rational Application Developer V7.0

This article provides an overview of the new features of IBM® Rational® Application Developer V7.0, which is one of the premier tools for developing software solutions and applications.
Note: The content (including screenshots) is taken from a variety of IBM marketing materials and product help files and is based on the beta and pre-release versions of Rational Application Developer V7.0.

Aaron Lloyd (rust@us.ibm.com), MSO Development Lead, IBM

Aaron (Rusty) Lloyd is a member of the IBM Rational Brand Services organization. In this role, he leads the development of service offerings and other intellectual capital that accelerates customers' business results and success achieved via their use of IBM Rational tools, methods, and solutions. He has deployed Rational solutions for various clients across the United States since 2000.



05 December 2006

Also available in Chinese

This article provides an overview of the new features of Rational Application Developer V7.0. Since this overview deals with the enhancements made to the product from version 6.0, a knowledge of Rational Application Developer V6.0 would be very useful, though not mandatory.

Introduction

As in our companion articles on IBM® Rational® Software Architect V7.0 and IBM® Rational® Software Modeler V7.0, let's install Rational Application Developer V7.0 before we begin to dig into its new features. Like Rational Software Architect V7.0 and Rational Software Modeler V7.0, it utilizes the new Installation Manager. Figure 1 starts that process for us here.

Figure 1. Starting the installation of Rational Application Developer V7.0
initial installation screen of Rational Application Developer V7.0

If you've read the companion articles on Rational Software Architect and Rational Software Modeler, you know that we have a brand new installer and that we've based our product upgrade on Eclipse 3.2. You are also able to have multiple products use the same Eclipse shell, and can more easily choose the features you wish to have in your installation, insuring greater flexibility in your install footprint and overall product feature set.

In Figures 2 and 3, we see the features we've selected being installed, and also confirmation of a successful install.

Figure 2. Progress of the Rational Application Developer V7.0 install
Seeing the progress of the Rational Application Developer 7.0 install
Figure 3. A successful installation
A successful installation of Rational Application Developer 7.0.

While we've spoken of the Installation Manager before in the other articles, we haven't really peeked under its covers. Let's take a quick look.

The Installation Manager has a couple of neat features which make installing our Software Delivery Platform products much easier. One of these is the ability to specify and use repositories in order to download and/or upgrade product assets.

Deploying assets to any group of developers can often be seen as a physically exhausting task (How many of you remember running from machine to machine with a CD in your hand and hoping that the user's drive doesn't have a cup of coffee sticking out of it, or waiting hours--and using up valuable disk space--downloading a large piece of software?). Using a central Web-based repository to store your software for distribution can greatly simplify the installation and update process of the tools in your development environment.

Figures 4, 5, 6 and 7 illustrate this by showing different views of the repository selection capability within the Installation Manager.

Figure 4. Selecting Preferences
Selecting preferences gets you to…

After selecting Preferences, you can choose to update the location of your product repository or your help server.

Figure 5. Choosing a repository from the Preferences window
Choosing a repository

Just add a repository (or test the connection to the repository) by selecting the appropriate menu item.

Figure 6. Adding a repository to the list.
Adding a repository to the repository preference list

Specify a HTTP or FTP Proxy server by expanding the treebrowser item.

Figure 7. Specifying a HTTP Proxy server for new repository
Specifying a HTTP Proxy server for our new repository

Hopefully, if you are involved in deploying this product to a team of developers, you'll be able to take advantage of this capability in order to make your product roll-out process a little easier.

Let's move on to the new features in Rational Application Developer V7.0.


New features and benefits

Rational Application Developer V7.0 fixes a number of defects and issues found in Rational Application Developer V6.0, and builds on the already robust feature set of Rational Application Developer V6.0 by providing a very detailed set of enhancements and improvements for Web, portal and application development. If you've looked at the companion articles written about Rational Software Architect and Rational Software Modeler, you're already familiar with some of the new features. Let's delve into some of these new features, specifically the ones that pertain to Rational Application Developer V7.0:

  • Enhanced Diagram Editor
  • Web Services Wizard updates
  • J2C improvements
  • Portal development enhancements
  • JSF tooling improvements
  • AJAX support

Why are these new enhancements and features so important? Well, for one reason, it is always a good idea to constantly update your technology to insure you stay current amidst the rapidly changing landscape of software development products. Also, these enhancements are a direct result of customer feedback and support the following themes:

  • Ensures higher code quality and consistency
  • Improves understanding and management of architecture and it's evolution with software development
  • Makes SOA development even easier

Note: Support for SOA will be forthcoming in 2007


A walkthrough of the new features

Now that we've started talking about these new features, let's go over each of them below. This will not be an exhaustive walkthrough. Rather, our coverage is just designed to illustrate the new features of Rational Application Developer V7.0, thereby stimulating your curiosity to use the product and see (and play with) these new features more up-close and personal on your own. To download the trial version, see the Resources section.

First, we'll take a look at the Enhanced Diagram Editor.

Enhanced Diagram Editor

One of the main new changes in Rational Application Developer V7.0 is the update and enhancement of the Web Diagram Editor. It takes advantage of the many graphical improvements through the updates to Eclipse's Graphical Modeling Framework (GMF), as well as improving the interface to make it more intuitive and user friendly.

Figure 8 takes a look at the new look and feel of the editor.

Figure 8. Updated Web Diagram Editor
Showing the updated Web Diagram Editor in Rational Application Developer V7.0

The Web Diagram Editor is also more informative (a .jsp or Java Bean will now show you the links that it contains, as well as the data and resources that it accesses). The Diagram Editor also insures that the other assets created (Web pages, etc.) stay synchronized with the diagram.

Adding a bean to the Web Diagram immediately synchronizes it with the rest of your application. If you add a resource and then remove it, you are also prompted by Rational Application Developer V7.0, making sure that you immediately understand the impact of your changes. This is seen in Figures 9 and 10.

Figure 9 shows you adding a bean to your Web Diagram.

Figure 9. Creating the bean in the Web Diagram Editor
Creating the bean in Rational Application Developer's Web Diagram Editor

Adding a connection from the bean to a .jsp shows up in the Web Diagram, along with the success condition created from the bean to the .jsp. In Figure 10, when deleting the bean you just created, you are prompted by the Resource Changes dialog so that you understand the consequences of your actions.

Figure 10. Resource Changes dialog
Being prompted by the Resource Changes Dialog to confirm your decision

Let's move on to take a peek at the updates to the Web Services Wizard.

Web Services Wizard

The Web Services Wizard has been updated in V7.0 to make the use and creation of Web Services much easier than before. Some of the things that have been done include:

  • Usability updates
    • Simplification in all of the Web Services Wizards
    • Server startup
    • Improved skeleton merge for Top Down Web Service creation
    • Simplified views for editing WSDL and XML Schema
    • Remote WSDL validation
  • Complex Schema support with SDO (based on EMF SDO v1)
    • An alternative is JAX-RPC
  • Refactoring support for XSD
  • WSDL and XSD Modeling
    • Similar to Java/EJB/C++/Data modeling
  • Ant task support

Figure 11 contains the updated Wizard. Of particular importance here are the sliders on the left which let you choose the level of implementation for both the service and the client.

Figure 11. Updated Web Service wizard
Showing the updated Web Service wizard

Figure 12 shows one of the detail screens in the wizard – having to deal with the service deployment configuration: from server-side deployment considerations to service runtimes.

Figure 12. The Service Deployment Configuration
The Service Deployment Configuration detail screen.

When the wizard finishes, since we have the slider at "Test Service", the Web Services Test Agent will launch, as seen in Figure 13, so you can test the service you've created.

Figure 13. Web Services Test Agent
Taking a look at the Web Services Test Agent

There are many more improvements to take a look at here, and I would encourage you to explore them on your own.

Next, we explore the changes in Rational Application Developer V7.0 to its J2C support.

J2EE Connector (J2C) improvements

In addition to the improvements made with Eclipse 3.2 and supporting Java 5, Rational Application Developer V7.0 also makes improvements to how it handles J2C:

  • Page Designer integration
    • Palette entry for J2C Java beans for drag and drop
  • Enhanced Editing Support
    • Wizard based guidance to expose J2C InteractionSpec properties as input arguments
      • E.g.. User name, password
  • Wizard Session Recording
    • Creates an Ant build file that captures the user interaction with the J2C Wizards to allow command line based regeneration of J2C Java Beans and the Language Data Beans
  • PL/I added to COBOL and C as supported native languages

Figure 14 shows the J2C drag and drop functionality from the Web Diagram Editor, as we create a new J2C bean to add to one of our .jsp pages.

Figure 14. Creating a J2C Bean for a pre-existing .jsp page
Creating a J2C Bean for one of our pre-existing .jsp pages

During the generation of our J2C Bean, we can save it as an Ant script for later use (Figure 15).

Figure 15. Saving a session as an Ant script
Saving our session as an Ant script

In Figure 16 we could map, if we wanted, to either COBOL, PLI or C.

Figure 16. The data mapping window as the J2C Bean gets configured
The data mapping window as we continue to configure our J2C Bean

When we're done, we can see our J2C Bean test interface represented in our .jsp file, as displayed in Figure 17.

Figure 17. The Interface as seen within the .jsp page.
The Interface as seen within our .jsp page.

Another area of improvement in Rational Application Developer V7.0 has to do with enhancements to its Portal development feature set. Let's see what updates have been made here.

Portal development enhancements

With all the other changes made to Rational Application Developer V7.0, it would be natural to expect enhancements related to the way it handles portal development. Some of these updates include:

  • Usability
    • Re-designed portlet/project wizards
    • Improved Co-operative portlet wizard
  • Improvements for the enterprise
    • Complex data type support for cooperative portlets
    • Enabling credential vault support for JSF and Struts portlets
    • Better integration with WID
      • Auto-gen of human task portlet
  • WP Test environment is a ‘real’ portal server install
    • Business process portlet testing in portal test environment
    • Can test portlets with Content Management, embedded messaging, etc…
  • Support for WP v6.0
    • New portlet mode (EDIT_DEFAULT) support
    • Upgrade test environment
  • Limited Migration from IBM Portlet API to JSR 168
    • Only for portlet.xml file
  • JSR 168 support for WAS 6.1

Figure 18 shows the updated portlet wizard after we create a new project. As we've selected Websphere Application Server 6.1 as our runtime, we select JSR 168 for our portlet API.

Figure 18. Improved Portlet Wizard
The improved Portlet Wizard

Enabling our portlet with business integration and credential vault support is as easy as selecting them when you configure its options (Figure 19).

Figure 19. Enabling business integration and credential vault support in the portlet configuration window
Enabling business integration and credential vault support in the portlet configuration window in RAD V7

As with Web Services, there is a lot to digest here, so I would definitely encourage you to download the tool and check the improvements out for yourself. The help files can definitely assist you in figuring out how to best use the improved functionality for your development needs.

Let's next review Rational Application Developer's V7.0 improvements to its Java Server Faces (JSF) functionality

JSF tooling improvements

JSF tooling in Rational Application Developer V7.0 has also been overhauled. It includes:

  • Managed beans in Page Data view
  • Greatly improved code generation
  • Better options to suppress page code
  • Support multiple Faces-config files
  • Better third party component support
  • Support for runtime page templates with Tiles
  • Large improvements in JWL JSF components
    • New components- "insta-form"
    • Tree and graph to work without "client data"
    • Addition of back channel support (AJAX)
    • Continued to refine existing components based on customer feedback

Figure 20 details the Page Data view, showing the support for managed beans. Figure 21 shows the enhanced palette.

Figure 20. Managed beans in the Page Data view
Managed beans, as shown in the Page Data view
Figure 21. Palette for working on JSP pages with JSF
The Palette for working on your JSP pages with JSF

There is more here than I could possibly go through in this brief overview, so I encourage you to take a look yourself as you design your .jsp pages with Rational Application Developer V7.0. Utilize the tutorials and code samples in the help files to give yourself a good starting point for your development exploration efforts.

We mentioned Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) support above. We will briefly review how Rational Application Developer V7.0 supports this web development technique, as we end our walkthrough of Rational Application Developer V7.0 features,.

AJAX support

In Rational Application Developer V7.0, AJAX support has improved as well.

Here are some of the new AJAX components included in Rational Application Developer V7.0:

  • inputTypeAhead
  • ajaxRefreshRequest
  • ajaxSubmitRequest
  • ajaxExternalRequest

Figures 22 through 24 show how to create an AJAX .jsp page by activating the controls on the .jsp page that support AJAX behaviour.

Figure 22. Detailed .jsp with AJAX support
The detailed .jsp with AJAX support

Figures 23 and 24 show the AJAX control on one variable of our .jsp page and the activation of the control behind it.

Figure 23. AJAX control on the .jsp page variable
The AJAX control on the .jsp page variable
Figure 24. AJAX behaviour in our control
Allowing AJAX behaviour in our control

When you create your .jsps, be sure to add AJAX functionality in your JSF components to create some great interactive Web pages.

Other features that we haven't covered include the updated debugging features, such as the new debugger for Jython scripts, and the new Show running threads filter. There is also support for debugging DB2 V9 Stored Procedures. You can find this information in the help files, as seen in Figure 25.

Figure 25. New debugging information in the help files
Seeing the new debugging information in the help files

What's next?

This article has provided you with an overview of the new features of Rational Application Developer V7.0. In addition, it also covered a walkthrough of these features, which, hopefully, gave you an idea of what we're doing in order to stay on top of the Java development stack. Please keep in mind that Rational Software Modeler and Rational Application Developer are products that contain specialized subsets of the features found in Rational Software Architect V7.0, which means that you get to use them all in Rational Software Architect V7.0, if you so choose.

I'm glad that you've stuck with me through this article series to see all the new features released with V7.0. I hope that these articles will help stimulate you to use these new features and that they benefit you in your development projects.

Thanks for reading!


Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank Lee Ackerman, Celso Gonzalez, Matthew Gammie, Gary Clarke, William T. Smith and Mike Schmitz for their assistance in writing this article.

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