Lotus releases rapid development tool for Workplace

IBM/Lotus Tuesday released a development tool designed to be the bridge to carry a legion of Lotus Notes developers onto the company's new J2EE-based platform.

The Workplace Designer 2.5 is a script-based rapid application development (RAD) tool for creating application components for the WebSphere or Workplace platforms, much the same way Domino Designer is used to create Notes-based applications.

The software represents the major milestone in terms of development tools in the merger of the Domino and Workplace collaboration environments.

"When we set out to build this tool we wanted to attract this very large community," says Jim Russell, director of application development tools for IBM's Lotus Software division. " We have nearly a million Domino Designer developers, plus there are several million more developers that are used to using scripting development tools, things like Visual Basic and PowerBuilder."

Workplace Designer is based on Eclipse, an open-source framework for development tools, and includes form and view creation, scripting, debugging, workflow, and other features to build components that run on Workplace Collaboration Services 2.5 and Workplace Collaboration Services Express 2.5. Both are Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition (J2EE)-based collaboration platforms for deploying pre-built, reusable collaboration services such as e-mail and calendars.

Workplace Designer components also can run inside Workplace Client Technology (WCT), a "rich client" framework that includes a small database, a runtime environment and a synchronization technology that supports clients and middleware servers sharing application processing chores.

A future client IBM/Lotus announced earlier this year - code-named Hannover and once tagged Notes 8 - will operate as a component within the WCT framework and support applications developed with Workplace Designer, which supports JavaScript, XML and HTML.

The two - Hannover and Workplace Designer - represent the evolution of the Notes client and Domino Designer into the J2EE-based Workplace environment. But Workplace Designer is not intended to replace Domino Designer, just to extend developers' reach into Workplace, according to Lotus officials.

Despite RAD qualities between Workplace Designer and Domino Designer, Workplace Designer applications are not self-contained Notes databases. While Notes/Domino applications can be immediately deployed and run after development, in the Workplace model components are deployed to the Workplace server and then tied into a Workplace composite application before they can be executed.

The Workplace Designer includes sample collaboration components including a blogging component, a project management tool, contact management list and online discussion forum. In addition, users can import forms from existing Domino applications.

IBM Workplace Designer is priced at US$649 per user and is available for download at: http://gwareview.boulder.ibm.com/software/howtobuy/passportadvantage/index.html

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