Better late than never

Vaadin 7 finally arrives (with GWT in tow)

Chris Mayer

After an extended 16 months of development, the seventh version of Java web framework Vaadin has been released.

After 16 months of development, the team behind Java web framework Vaadin have unveiled the seventh version of their rich web application platform at the Jfokus conference.

The library allows Java developers to write web applications purely by writing Java (or any JVM language) on the server side, with the framework automatically creating UIs on the browser side.

Originally planned for release at JavaOne and Devoxx, the first major Vaadin release since 2009 has been dogged by delays.

Amongst 65 new features, the biggest fundamental change comes with the integration of Google Web Toolkit into Vaadin, thanks to the company’s prominent role within the GWT Steering group. CEO and creator of Vaadin, Joonas Lehtinen says the inclusion of GWT has two implications for the framework, ridding it of any “extra dependencies” and adding a “really powerful client-side” model.

“We’ve actually been using GWT for 5 years now in really crucial parts of Vaadin”, Lehtinen told JAXenter. With GWT included, developers now have three options: continue with the tradition Vaadin approach, build client side widgets in Java then compile into JavaScript, or work entirely in GWT by writing JavaScript for the HTML5 layer.

“Where the power lies is that you don’t have to go through these layers if you don’t really want to,” adds Lehtinen. “Most of the time you can keep on the highest abstraction level, you don’t have to touch these underlying layers if you don’t want or need to.”

Rather than downplay their involvement in GWT since Google opened up the technology, Vaadin have chosen to embrace the platform despite the two being in competition previously. In December, the Steering Committee published The Future of GWT Report, finding that there was still a strong internal enterprise use for GWT.

“It’s used by huge projects with huge budgets,” says Lehtinen. “These projects aren’t going away, [the report] cemented our view that we should be investing in GWT and building our business more and more on top of GWT.”

With so much riding on GWT, it would be easy to overlook Vaadin 7’s other features. Vaadin’s community will be pleased to see several new extensions and components in the Add-on Directory, as well as a “renewed communication layer” forging stronger links between the client and server side. With eight Vaadin 6 minor updates, the team also thought it was the perfect time to provide “a spring clean-up”.

Lehtinen was open when questioned about Vaadin 7’s delays, explaining that the core development team had bitten off more than they could chew.

“We ended up kind of building too long a list for ourselves. We projected that it would a take year’s development to implement those features, and we really failed in that,” the CEO admitted, adding that many features had been pushed to 7.1.

Despite the setbacks, Vaadin 7 on the face of it appears to be a fresh start for the Java web framework, realising the need to regenerate their stack to embrace the changing enterprise world.

Further details on the landmark Vaadin release can be found in Lehtinen’s blogpost. A full list of features can be found here.

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