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IBM Rational Tools and Learning Showcase
1. IBM Rational Application Developer for WebSphere Software V6.0
2. IBM Rational Performance Tester V6.1
3. IBM Rational Software Architect V6.0
4. IBM Rational Software Modeler V6.0
5. IBM Rational Functional Tester V6.1
IBM Rational Tools and Learning Update

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J2EE Development For the Rest of Us
J2EE is powerful, but complex—for many developers, just too complex. That's why you'll welcome IBM Rational Application Developer—it actually puts nontrivial enterprise Java development within reach of those of us who haven't memorized the EJB spec.  

You may think J2EE is powerful, but too complex for you to use. Well, let's think again.

Times have changed. While enterprise Java development hasn't quite reached the simplicity of Visual Basic ("J2EE for Dummies" anyone?), vast improvements in development tools have opened the door to J2EE for those of us who can't recite the EJB specification on command.

Can J2EE development actually be considered "easy?" With the right tools, the answer is now "yes." Just as Visual Basic once opened Windows client programming to the masses, Rational Application Developer can do the same for aspiring enterprise Java developers.

Cutting Through Complexity
Early adopters of enterprise Java were often overwhelmed by the complexity of the J2EE specification. Much support code needed to be written because the available development tools were incapable of automating common tasks, such as creating and deploying EJBs. Inadequate tools also made the job of debugging and tuning a J2EE application challenging.

Fortunately, with the advent of Rational Application Developer, that chapter of computer history has closed. Rational Application Developer frees J2EE development from its ivory tower mentality. Now almost any type of software developer can construct, test and debug, and tune a J2EE application without losing his or her hair.

How is this possible, you may ask? Well, it's because Rational Application Developer—the latest version of what was previously called WebSphere Studio Application Developer—provides a robust set of tools that manages and abstracts away the former overwhelming complexity of J2EE development.

Ease of Construction
With Rational Application Developer, the days of writing tons of code is long gone. Visual construction is the new paradigm. Complete dynamic Web sites can now be created without writing a single line of code. Just visually create the site hierarchy, and then drag-and-drop elements onto the page, including HTML, JSF and Struts elements, JSP tags, and calls to JavaBeans.

Novice and veteran J2EE developers alike will appreciate the power that JavaServer Faces technology (JSF) offers. JSF significantly simplifies the construction of interactive Web interfaces by automatically handling almost all user interactions with the application, including input validation, error checking, and validation and conversion of strings.

Rational Application Developer provides the wizards and visual UI components necessary to easily utilize JSF. The wizards do all the set-up work needed by JSF—there is no coding required. Java language code-behind files, which are the implementation of your JSF design, are dynamically created as the JSF design surface is edited—there is no additional generate step; thus the code and UI design are always in sync.

The Struts framework has taken the J2EE world by storm. While the framework holds great promise, without the right tools, Struts is painful to use. Rational Application Developer lets even novice developers create well-architected Web applications without having to learn the intricacies of Struts. Just define a Struts application, and Rational Application Developer will create reusable JavaBeans that encapsulate the code for managing data and passing it between forms.

Visualizing Reality
It is rare a developer that starts with a clean state. More typically, you're staring at 300,000 lines of code wondering just what the heck is going on. Rational Application Developer shows the big picture by "visualizing" class relationships and the interactions between objects. This visualization presents existing code as a "model" without requiring you learn everything about modeling.

Rational Application Developer's support for UML sequence diagrams (which visualize object interactions) places it far ahead of traditional class browsers. This power is to be expected of course, since the UML visualization features of Rational Application Developer were built by the same team that created the first industrial-strength UML modeling tool, Rational Rose.

On-Demand: Rapid J2EE Development—View the Webcast
IBM Rational Application Developer targets the novice J2EE developer as well as the more experienced practitioner. This Webcast covers the technical aspects of designing, developing, and testing J2EE applications, helping you solve application development challenges.

Squash the Bugs
As any experienced developer knows, writing an application is easy; the hard part is making it work correctly. Rational Application Developer helps solve this traditional problem by streamlining the build, deploy, and test process.

One extremely tedious task for developers is packaging all the various pieces of an application into a build for integration testing. Rational Application Developer allows automation of this task though its support of Ant (the de facto standard for Java builds). Components can then be easily deployed, as the product generates EJB deployment code and automatically configures the test server to access any needed data sources.

Deployed components can be tested by using Rational Application Developer's Universal Test Client. Developers interact with the test client via a browser to set breakpoints, define parameters to pass to JavaBeans, and otherwise fully test the functionality of the components. Without these features, developers would have to manually create a test client that covers all test cases for an application and then deploy the test client to a target server.

Rational Application Developer also provides component test tools for building, managing, and automatically generating test cases for unit and system testing. Its built-in support for the JUnit framework and the open-source Hyades test management project includes test creation wizards that offer a set of test patterns that automatically generate tests from code analysis and user input. Rational Application Developer provides proven patterns for testing various components, including testing the life cycle of EJBs.

Runs Faster
One of the biggest headaches of J2EE application development is figuring out why an application exhibits inferior performance. Rational Application Developer provides several tools that let developers test application performance early on in the development cycle—when it can still be easily fixed.

Rational Application Developer offers profiling tools to collect data about a program's runtime behavior and presents that information in graphical and statistical views for easy analysis. These views expose memory leaks and help illustrate problematic patterns in the application design.

Developers can also launch remote applications and concurrently monitor multiple live processes residing on several other machines. Information can be gathered on a stand-alone application or an application running within a J2EE application server. In either case, profiling can be performed locally or remotely, relative to the target host. For Web projects, performance monitoring shows HTTP requests and responses as they occur.

Tearing Down the Wall
Enterprise Java has become more powerful, yet also more complex. Rational Application Developer tears down the wall that has separated J2EE development from the rest of us. Its ease of use and extensive automation of complex development tasks allows mere mortals to construct, test and debug, and tune non-trivial J2EE applications without the steep learning curve of old-style enterprise Java development.

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Allan McNaughton, a veteran developer and long-time writer, is the principal at Technical Insight LLC, a firm specializing in the composition of high-technology white papers.