GWT’s Hidden Strengths

I’ve been working on a particularly complex web interface recently, and have ended up writing tags to check the browsers so that layout and CSS can be different for certain browsers (not just IE, but Firefox as well). It’s plain old JSP’s and Servlets, and it’s a serious headache thanks to the complexity of the page layout. Theres even JavaScript the assists in the layout of each page.

Every-one by now knows that GWT buys you great cross-browser JavaScript (by writing different JavaScript for different browsers). What most people don’t know is that GWT also buys you is a moderately consistent look-and-feel across browsers. If you want to use weird and wonderful CSS, thats your affair, but in terms of the widget layout, it’s very consistent (assuming you don’t use CSS to layout your widgets).

I specifically exclude the use of CSS, since CSS behavior is so different between the different browsers that you almost want a Servlet to serve up different CSS for each browser (something very easily achieved by using the “User-Agent” header).

GWT’s other big strength is the time to market effect. It’s amazing how little code you need to write to get something working out of the door. So: first write in GWT, launch, then back port for older browsers and such.


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