Originating publication
May 18, 1998, Issue: 789
Section: Software

Java Takes Evolutionary Steps -- Sneak Preview: Preliminary Look At Future Programming Game Plan
Los Angeles -- The release of Microsoft Corp.'s Visual J++ 6.0 (VJ 6.0) is more than a beta release of another Java development environment. Rather, it is a preview of the software giant's game plan for developing, managing and deploying Java applications on the Windows platform.

Perhaps more importantly, this product represents a divergence from the Java philosophy of machine independence and pure Java code.

Microsoft believes systems can only achieve efficient execution by allowing direct calls to the host operating system's APIs. The Redmond, Wash.-based developer provides the underlining components for controlling the Windows interface in the form of Windows Foundation Classes. These reusable object components provide a rich set of prebuilt functions that can be encapsulated to more easily build business tools.

The VJ 6.0 interactive development environment (IDE) lets programmers develop components by leveraging Microsoft's development technologies-such as forms designer and the drag-and-drop metaphor from Visual Basic-while supporting the object-oriented programming language, inheritance and typing common to C++.

With a flip of a switch, VJ 6.0's IDE can resemble Visual Basic or C++. This provides a relatively painless transition for Visual Basic and C++ programmers.

VJ 6.0 is a complete IDE, built on an architecture that allows for a large-scale deployment of transaction-based applications such as the Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) and ActiveX Data Object interface.

But VJ 6.0 is also a road map to developing and deploying scalable applications throughout the enterprise via the Windows Distributed InterNet Application Architecture (DNA). Microsoft uses Visual Studio to enable DNA and integrate SourceSafe (its code-distribution tool), MTS, database tools and native SQL support. Reusable objects, also known as Com components, put it all together, allowing debugging across all platforms.

VJ 6.0's IDE project manager and templates are directory-based, allowing for easy conversion from VJ 1.1 to VJ 6.0 by merely pointing the project module to the correct subdirectory. The HTML integration features a complete WYSIWYG HTML viewer, and Java classes can be integrated into the HTML code.

One of the most powerful features is the integration of Java-based event handlers for most common functions into HTML. Unlike applications that live in their own world and must have all code included, VJ 6.0 provides total integration between HTML and the user interface.

True cross-platform Java requires trade-offs; the developer must code to the lowest common GUI functions. Developers can take the high ground and code to HTML.

All source-code control can be Web-based, and developers can use X.509 digital signatures to authenticate new components and protect them from nosy programmers that bypass the Windows security policy manager.

One of the most useful enhancements is IntelliSense, a background parser that provides syntax checking, auto-completion and intelligent help via red underlines and hover help. It also can extend IntelliSense with JavaDoc comments that can be embedded within the Java code. It is essentially the same technology seen in consumer products such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint.

The CRN Test Center found a few bugs in this beta. One of the more annoying ones is that event types can be created, but not modified or deleted. Creating databases with the visual database tool is downright impossible. This glitch should be fixed in the new version of VJ 6.0, scheduled to ship this quarter. But the best proof of all that the development environment works is the fact that 30 percent of VJ 6.0 code is written and compiled in VJ 6.0.