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As most Java developers know, the standard GUI components provided with the Java platform are barely adequate for most applications. We've all had to extend the base Swing (JFC) components and AWT components to develop the rich user interface components that users expect today. Today's sophisticated users expect more interactive, intuitive GUI components to be available in their applications.

Swing was a good start but it lacked many of the common features that users have come to expect in a Windows world. Swing offers a good framework but the default implementations are lacking robust capabilities such as masked field entry, maximum length entry, standard popup components such as date selectors and calculator pads, and the list goes on. Of course, it should be understood that Sun was providing a base implementation that a company like Infragistics could build on and create GUI components that not only met users' expectations but surpassed them. Even those same users who once tolerated HTML form controls within a browser are now demanding richer Web-based GUI components in the form of Java applets and Sun's Java Web Start protocol. JSuite 6 from Infragistics, a company that provides cutting-edge client-side and server-side components, meets this challenge. This product contains a class of Enterprise-level, Java-based visual components for application client development, server-side components for server-side utility operations, and a broad set of client-side chart components that will satisfy the demands of today's business user community.

JSuite 6
JSuite 6 is a suite of client-side visual components and server-side data/utility components for Java-based applications or applets. The suite of components integrates easily with the most popular Java IDEs such as JBuilder, WebGain (formerly Visual Café), and VisualAge. JSuite 6 includes multiple versions of their visual components that work best with the type of application you're developing. They offer AWT, Swing, and bean-based components. Whether you're working with a Swing-based client application or an applet-based Web application, JSuite 6 will satisfy all your visual component needs. It offers components that fulfill the following visual component categories required in most sophisticated client applications:

  • Editing components such as combobox (image/text dropdown), currency, date edit, mask edit, numeric, password, and static text
  • Date-based components such as Calendar, DayView, WeekView, and DateEdit with dropdown calendars; advanced features include appointment scheduling with synchronization between all date-based components and DayView (with multiple lines and images per appointment)
  • Advanced table component that provides a view to complex back-end data models and allows for easy user interaction with the underlying data model
  • Advanced tree component that offers many utility functions that are often very burdensome for the developer, such as drag-and-drop functionality
  • Rich data-driven components to allow easy navigation of hierarchical data structures using an Explorer-style interface or Gantt chart interface

    Other powerful tools available in the JSuite 6 tool chest are:

  • PowerChart, a powerful 2D/3D chart-rendering component for client applications/applets
  • Utilities for common user interface operations such as color picker and customizable buttons
  • Data model adapters to handle numerous back-end data needs such as JDBC, XML, text, or binary

    With JSuite 6, a Java developer can get down to the business of providing a business solution quickly.

    Installing and Using JSuite 6
    Infragistics offers JSuite 6 in a downloadable format. A CD key is provided to you upon successful purchase from their Web site. For those developers who wish to extend its components and need to know the internals, the source can be purchased as well. I downloaded the JSuite 6 self-extracting installation file and ran it trouble-free on a Windows NT workstation.

    I opened up the JSuite Help that was created during the installation process and followed the directions for integrating the JSuite components with my preferred IDE, JBuilder. Integrating the JSuite components into JBuilder's component palette was as simple as integrating any third-party component library. Simply add a new tab on the component palette for "Infragistics" and associate this tab with the JSuite component JAR files located in the JSuite 6 installation's subdirectory, jsuite/jars. JSuite 6 icons will then be copied to JBuilder's component palette for use in the JBuilder designer.

    From this point, using the components is the same as using any other Swing/AWT component in your IDE's designer. Just drag and drop the JSuite component you wish to use onto your application's panels. There are also numerous sample applications/applets source code to help you understand how to use each JSuite visual component and nonvisual component.

    Using JSuite 6 from within an application was simple and intuitive. I was able to create a daily planner application in just minutes using its calendar components. The only code I had to write was the synchronization code for the components to capture the "add appointment" events. In Figure 1, the JPVWeek calendar component was dragged from the JBuilder component palette and dropped on the application's panel in the designer. The properties associated with the JSuite components are documented in the JSuite 6 Help under the "How To" section and the JavaDocs are included as well.

    Figure 1
    Figure 1

    I found the JSuite calendar components to be user friendly. Adding an appointment was handled through the calendar components by displaying a popup appointment dialog, supplied by JSuite (see Figure 2). The user can display the appointment dialog by clicking a popup indicator, and can resize (shorten or lengthen) an appointment by positioning the mouse cursor over the bottom edge of the appointment and dragging it in either direction (see Figure 3).

    Figure 2
    Figure 2

    Figure 3
    Figure 3

    JSuite 6 provides Java developers with a vast array of almost every visual component they will need when developing professional client applications. I'm unable to cover all the components in the space of this review. However, Infragistics supplied ample precompiled, ready-to-run applications that demonstrate all the visual and nonvisual components available in JSuite 6. I went through each one of these samples and found that nearly every feature demanded of me during my past Java client application projects could have been satisfied and exceeded with JSuite 6. I haven't gone into the nonvisual components in great detail, but I think many Java developers who ever wrote code using Java's JTable component with an XML or JDBC data source will appreciate JSuite's JPVTable component and its data model adapters, JPVXMLAdaptor and JPVJDBCAdaptor.

    When it comes to Java client-side application development, Infragistics' JSuite 6 offers one of the most comprehensive suites of visual components available in the Java third-party visual component market. I was impressed with the Rapid Application Development (RAD) qualities the suite delivered. I would have liked to see better integration with JBuilder's IDE designer properties panel. Often I had to refer to the JavaDoc for the JSuite 6 component to determine the proper property settings. A popup editor would be helpful. In today's highly competitive business environment, an impressive front end is as important as the business-driving back end. Project managers will appreciate the return on investment (ROI) benefits of using a mature, full-featured visual component library like JSuite 6. If you are a Java developer looking to shorten your development cycle and improve your client application's usability and visual appeal, you'll want to add Infragistics' JSuite 6 to your toolkit.

    Infragistics Corporation
    Windsor Corporate Park
    50 Millstone Road
    Building 200 - Suite 150
    East Windsor, NJ 08520
    Phone: 800-231-8588
    Web: www.infragistics.com

    Platforms: Any platform supported by JDK 1.1 through 1.4 (there are older versions of the components included for older versions of the JDK as well)
    Pricing: $795 (includes PowerChart Server Edition) $995 with annual subscription ­ a year's worth of updates, upgrades and new products (includes source code) $1,495 Enterprise Edition ­ product, subscription, as well as guaranteed priority support

    Test Platform
    Gateway GP7-600, 600 MHz Intel Pentium III processor, 80GB disk, 512MB RAM, Windows NT with Service Pack 6a

    Reviewed by
    Paul Frey [email protected]

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    Copyright ©  2004 SYS-CON Media, Inc.
      E-mail: [email protected]

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