It’s not that often I get to do some real, exploratory hacking anymore. It’s a shame, I love just playing with new stuff, but other responsibilities keep me away from it much of the time. However, recently I had a play with the Eclipse Rich Ajax Platform (RAP) project (currently in the validation phase of the Eclipse incubation process), boy is it cool.
RAP provides a wide range of of GUI widgets for creating web applications with a very rich user interface (using AJAX for those who care). So what? There are plenty of AJAX libraries around, what is special about this one?
There are a number of things that make RAP interesting. One of the key issues, the one I focus on here, is that the API of the RAP widgets is drawn from the Eclipse Standard Widget Toolkit and the JFace User Interface framework. Couple this with the excellent OSGI framework and you have a delivery platform that allows you to deploy your application as a desktop or a web application with the drop in replacement of the user interface plugin.
If you have already developed a desktop application using the Eclipse Rich Client Platform then you will be comfortable with RAP almost immediately.
Add to this mix the Eclipse Embedded Client Platform (eRCP) and the same application can be quickly deployed on mobil phones or PDAs.
The Rich Ajax Platform is not the best choice for every application. It scales reasonably well, but if you are looking at 100,000+ simultaneous users it’s not really for you due to the heavy server load, but for apps that you want to deploy in many different guises it could be the answer.
I’m looking forward to having a proper play with this as the application framework for the forthcoming OSS Watch project, Simal (more on that soon).