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Interface21 and Tasktop Discuss The Upcoming Spring Tool Suite

by Scott Delap on Oct 22, 2007 |
Interface21 and Tasktop Technologies recently announced they would be collaborating on the Spring Tool Suite.  Among the product's features:

  • support for the latest Spring 2.0 features, including namespace-based configurations;
  • support for Spring Web Flow, including an extension to WTP’s XML editor for content assist, hyperlinking, validation, and graphical editing;
  • tools for Spring AOP based development, including support for validating configurations and visualization of cross cutting references;
  • support for Spring Java configuration.

InfoQ sat down with Rod Johnson, CEO of Interface21, and Mik Kersten, Eclipse Mylyn Lead, to discuss the application and how it relates to the existing Spring IDE:

1. Explain how the Spring Tool Suite relates to the previously available Spring IDE project?

Rod: The Spring Tool Suite will be an end-to-end solution for middleware development with the Spring Portfolio. It will be built on Eclipse and have Spring IDE as a core component. Spring IDE will continue to be available independently.

Mik: The Spring Tools Suite will also build on Eclipse Mylyn in order to ease the development of large Spring applications, and incorporate other key features, ranging from issue tracking to code quality, in order to better support a Spring application’s entire lifecycle. One interesting aspect of our approach is that we will be leveraging extensions to Mylyn’s Task-Focused UI to provide a smooth and simple workflow in the presence of numerous best-of-breed tools and technologies that will be bundled by the suite.

2. The press release lists Spring related technologies that will be "supported". Could you expand the definition of "supported"? What does it allow me to do versus something that isn't supported?

Rod: Interface21 already offers high quality support services for the Spring Framework and other products in the Spring portfolio, which includes benefits such as guaranteed incident response times. The same kind of support will be extended to the Spring Tool Suite.

Mik: One interesting aspect of our approach is that we’ll be incorporating subscription and support mechanisms into the tool suite itself. For newcomers to Spring, this will provide tool-guided assistance through tutorials and walk-troughs that integrate the excellent Interface 21 Spring training materials. For seasoned experts this will tighten the support loop to make it easier to get resolutions to incidents by providing mechanisms for sharing and getting feedback on key problems such as application configuration.

3. The press release does not mention licensing. Will the new product be commercial or open source?

Rod: The new product will be available to all Interface21 support subscription customers. It will include both closed and open source components. Spring IDE and other open source components will be significantly enhanced as part of this collaboration, while some new functionality will not be open sourced.

4. For readers unfamiliar with the technology, could you provide a brief description of the capabilities of the Mylyn tool and upcoming Tasktop product?

Mik: Mylyn adds two things to the IDE: integrated task management and automatic context management. This means that the tasks that make up a developer’s workday, such as the bugs we fix or features we add, are seamlessly integrated with the IDE’s rich UI. Tasks can come from a variety of supported tasks repositories, including Bugzilla, JIRA, CollabNet, Rally and several others, and the IDE integration provides facilities such as code completion, change set management, and offline editing. The real magic that developers rave about happens when you “activate” a task, at which point Mylyn will automatically start focusing the entire Eclipse IDE to show you only the source files and elements relevant to the task at hand.

The current Mylyn distribution includes extensions for support plain Java and Eclipse plug-in developers. One of the most exciting parts of this collaboration between Interface 21 and Tasktop is that we’ll be building Mylyn extensions specific to enterprise applications, thereby extending Mylyn’s productivity benefits to a much wider audience. The task-focused desktop (Tasktop) product goes beyond the window of the IDE to extend Mylyn’s Task-Focused UI to the other sources of information that knowledge workers interact with, whether they’re messages in your Outlook email inbox, events in your Google Calendar, or references in Wikipedia. So the Tasktop product will be very complementary with the Spring Tool Suite, since it will extend the reach of Mylyn’s Task List to the other information sources used by developers and others involved in the software development process.

5. How did the partnership come together and what excites each of you about working with the other party?

Rod: Interface21 is excited to be working with Tasktop and Mik Kersten as we believe they are driving real innovation in tooling that brings significant benefits to developers. Mylyn is an important step forward for Eclipse users. We believe that Tasktop is a perfect fit with our commitment to high quality, innovative software and practical solutions for developers. Tasktop is also an important contributor to the Eclipse ecosystem, so it means that we are helping that open source community as well as our own.

Mik: These feelings are not only mutual, but also founded in a long history. Adrian Colyer (Interface 21 CTO) and I have been working together on AspectJ tools since Eclipse was first released in late 2001, with the shared vision that middleware is the killer app for AOP. Since that time I have watched in awe at the pace with which Rod Johnson & co have taken the Spring Framework from an embodiment of principles of modularity and simplicity that we all share, to a de facto standard for Java enterprise application development. I can no longer imagine having Tasktop build our own web services on anything but Spring, and I’ve heard Interface 21 employees say that they can no longer imagine working without Mylyn. So you can imagine the degree of technical alignment that we have. It builds on our shared passion for open source frameworks and innovation. I’m already looking forward to the output of our partnership making a noticeable mark on the productivity of JEE developers over the coming year.

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