Friday, August 21, 2009

Spring Web Flow 2 Web Development: Book Review

I have been keeping the good people of PACKT Publishing waiting some time for this short review; they were kind and prompt in sending me their book - in my defence I have been very busy lately. I had hoped to include some example code but as I am still short on time right now I thought I would release a general review first and maybe something with some example code at a later date when I've had some more time to digest the book further. To business, Spring Web Flow 2 Web Development is a book for Spring developers who want to give Spring Web Flow a try. So what is Spring Web Flow? As described in following excerpts from the book (page 9):

"...- you can use Spring Web Flow to create conversational web applications. ...For example, take an application with a wizard-like interface. ...You are working in a predefined flow with a specific goal, such as ordering a book or creating a new user account. ...Spring Web Flow makes it very easy to create flows. Flows created by Spring Web Flow are not only decoupled from the applications logic, but are also re-usable in different applications. A flow in Spring Web Flow is a sequence of steps, that is, with states and transitions between them. There are also actions that can be executed on various points, for example, when the flow starts or the web page is rendered..."

This book is intended to describe Spring Web Flow 2 and any book which ties itself to a particular version is going to date quickly but that said you are bound to learn something new reading this book.

The book contains the obligatory chapters describing the Spring Web Flow 2 concepts and exploring what has changed since the last version, the distribution and example code. It also has a chapter on setting up your development environment be that Ant, Maven, Eclipse (and Spring IDE) or NetBeans. A chapter on JavaServerFaces integration using the Spring Web Flow 2 "Spring Faces" module, as I've never properly explored JavaServerFaces I'm not qualified to comment on this. The sample project that is used throughout the book is a simple bug tracking system ("flow.trac"). With this project there is plenty of scope to explore what Spring Web Flow 2 has to offer in terms of user interface (JavaScript including AJAX, Apache Tiles etc.), testing (JUnit and EasyMock) and security (Spring Security) whilst utilising a JPA (Hibernate) database layer. In the appendix it shows you how you can run your code on the SpringSource dm Server and gives a gentle introduction to making you application work in an OSGi environment. The source code for the book is available @ www.packtpub.com/files/code/5425_Code.zip

One of my early impressions was one of surprise, I admit to raising an eyebrow that they chose to use Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Express Edition as their example database server. I would expect something more lightweight such as H2 or Apache Derby -e.g. something you could easily bundle as part of a Maven build.

The intended audience for this book seems to be people who plan to use the triumvirate of Spring, Spring MVC and Spring Web Flow. From my perspective Spring is a gimme and you are obviously interested in Spring Web Flow (that is why you bought the book!) but I'm not so sure you are always free to choose Spring MVC. To be fair the book goes to great pains to say that Spring Web Flow can be used with other technologies but as my main web development MVC framework is still good ole' Struts 1.3, it would be nice to see some examples of using Spring Web Flow 2 with something other than Spring MVC or maybe even in a more exotic environment like inside a Spring MVC portlet. Spring Web Flow 2 includes components for integrating with JavaScript. I have to admit to being a jQuery devotee so any alternate JavaScript technology seems a bit unnecessary to me but I can see it could be useful to some folks.

All in all and so far, I have found reading this book to be very enjoyable. It is nice to see how other developers go about things, I found myself reading and thinking "I wouldn't do it that way" AND "That's clever, I'd never have thought of that!". The experience of reading this book is very much like shadowing some very experienced senior Java developers.

23 comments:

ismjml said...

I also had those "I could do it better this way" and "wow - smooth code" moments reading this book. I love how coding is like language dialects, except every coder writes slightly differently.



Vince Samios
Note: Comment imported. Original by Vince Samios website: http://vincesamios.com at 2009-11-02 08:26

ismjml said...

Spring Web Flow 2 supports JavaServer Faces technology through the new Spring Faces module. Spring Faces lets you use JSF as a view technology in Web applications, with the Spring MVC Web framework underneath.
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ismjml said...

Well, I think that Spring Web Flow is a great technology and I am also looking forward to get more information on this particular subject.
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