October 21, 2002

Update on web framework use

As I mentioned previously, we’ve decided to use Struts for our web interface. Ara’s recent post on Tapestry prompted me to give an update.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with Struts. It breaks apart the different layers of a web application nicely, and once you get the hang of the process -- write JSP, write action to feed JSP, declare action, deploy -- it's pretty quick.

Development is slower right now because I'm developing the infrastructure as I go: do something once, then encounter it again and think, "Oh, I could probably write a taglib for that," write the taglib, apply it to the previous usage, then move on.

I've been successful in keeping all Java code out of JSPs. The tag libraries for common functions (iterating, displaying, formatting, etc.) are a bit awkward, particularly when I'm used to the functionality with the Template Toolkit, but it's tolerable. JSTL helps a bunch in this regard, and the modifications in Struts-EL make integration with the JSTL easier.

Helping enormously with my favorable impression is the struts-user mailing list. It's high-volume, but also has a wonderful s/n ratio. Events that might cause an extended flare up in another other high-volume list -- FAQ that was answered yesterday, user doesn't look in the archive/docs first, etc. -- just prompt one or two polite replies. Further posts from the offender may elicit some smartass replies, but that's about it. I attribute this to the presence of a core group of smart, dedicated folks on the list, and also to Craig McClanahan (aka, "Papa Struts") replying to very minor posts.

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