We wanted to highlight another success story for GWT. Lombardi Software has created an innovative modeling tool called Blueprint that they recently built using GWT. Rather than having me tell the story, here are the details from Alex Moffat, Engineering Manger at Lombardi:
The challenge handed to us was to create a tool that the average business user could use to document and manage their business processes. It had to be easy to use, encourage collaboration between team members, and provide a shared repository for all of a company's process documentation. Workflow functionality had to be on par with our competitors: Microsoft Visio, IDS Scheer's ARIS, IBM's WebSphere Business Modeler, and other desktop modeling tools. But we also wanted wiki & shared whiteboard capabilities to store information. Editing should use the drag and drop interaction users of desktop apps are familiar with. We ended up with some additional features that really set us apart:
- An intuitive map view as a high level visualization of a process
- Automatic workflow diagram generation
- PowerPoint generation for easily presenting the process
- Online chat functionality
Back when we began developing Blueprint, we started with a combination of HTML and Flash 8 for the interactive parts. We ended up abandoning that fairly quickly for a couple of reasons:
- Flash is a plug-in. Even in this day and age, not everyone has the latest version of Flash installed on their machines. Lots of our users are at big corporations where their boxes are locked down tight enough that installing/upgrading browser plug-ins is a nonstarter.
- Browser plug-in behavior is unpredictable. Weird browser interaction bugs made cross platform Flash support harder than we thought.
- It felt like a black box. While Dojo is open source, without a good debugger it was very difficult to figure out what was going on under the hood. We got pretty good at using firebug and venkman with Firefox but that still left IE and neither solution was terribly easy to use.
- Massively improved debugging. Hosted mode debugging is wonderful.
- Easy browser specific code. While GWT does a good job of hiding browser differences from us in most scenarios, there are always edge cases that we have to handle with our own code. GWT makes it really easy to add browser specific code and have that code only be served up to the appropriate browsers.
- Unit tests. GWT makes it easy to run unit tests on our client side code without having to launch a browser. Testing the visual appearance of the screens still needs other solutions though.
Overall we believe GWT has enabled us to write a much more reliable and efficient application and build it faster than we could have otherwise. Since its release just 120 days ago, people in 60 countries have begun using Blueprint; this represents more than 750 companies and thousands of individuals. You can check it out for yourself and let us know what you think!