I'm not a great fan of JSF, to say the least. There are some heavy mixing of concerns there that hurt my cocooner's habits. It does have some good things however such as the event model that we somehow borrowed for
Cocoon Forms. Anyway, I found it interesting to see some demo and hear what these guys have to say about it.
Fisrt of all, they made it clear: Java Studio Creator is targeted at the "corporate developer", which is a politically correct way of identifying the mass of people that don't have high technical abilities and develop application by drag'n dropping ActiveX components and glueing them with VisualBasic code snippets.
In this regard, Java Studio Creator is a cool tool. It can bring J2EE to the masses, as what the "corporate developer" is presented with is a WYSIWYG HTML editor where she can drag'n drop JSF components and write event handlers (server-side) associated to these components. Most of the tedious work related to handling HTTP requests and page redisplay in case of validation error is taken care of automatically. I just hope these abstraction aren't
JSF is also meant to foster an industry of component vendors. They told us about some advanced components provided by
OLAP vendors. The combination of these components with WYSIWYG drag'n drop editor really makes it a compelling alternative to Microsoft's Visual Studio.
So, even if that product isn't my cup of tea, it has the potential to attract a lot of new users to the Java platform, that will be able to do their applications the quick (although a bit dirty) way. Combine this with some more advanced Java developper to write the application back-end and you can have a quite productive combination for not too complex write-and-forget webapps.
A question that was gently eluded was the case of complex web design: the Studio's HTML editor is not to the same functional level as e.g. Dreamweaver, and web designer tools don't currently support JSF. This means advanced graphic layouts will be difficult to achieve. This is also where the mixing of concerns is most apparent in this kind of tools.
After the demo, I introduced myself to the team and we had some lively and friendly discussion, mainly with Craig and Tor Nobye who wrote the HTML WYSIWYG editor (amazing job!). I told them about some of the nice things we have in Cocoon such as the
Flowscript and they looked rather impressed by the simplicity it brings to writing complex page flows.
I'll send Tor one of my presentations on Flowscript in the hope he gets infected and pushes this approach into the "standard" J2EE world (yes, Cocoon is somehow deviant).