The Servoy Way: A Test DriveBy Frank Ohlhorst | Print
For those tired of maintaining separate code bases for Web and desktop applications, Servoy offers a way to consolidate those code bases and cut development time in half.
It is very easy to get started with Servoy 4.0: The installation is wizard-driven and includes all of the components needed to get going. The installation wizard automatically installs Eclipse and any other required elements. Setting up the Servoy Application Server is equally easy, removing many of the obstacles that developers usually encounter when configuring a Web application environment for testing and deployment of applications.
Launching Servoy Developer brings up a screen filled with useful tidbits, ranging from direct links to flash-based tutorials to background information on the Eclipse development environment. The introduction screen is divided up into areas that support new Servoy users, users new to Eclipse and users who are familiar with previous versions of Servoy.
The product does an excellent job of unobtrusively guiding the user—tool tips, guided wizards and context-sensitive help is all readily available. Most projects will start with the solution checkout dialog, which points the user toward new or previously generated projects.
Servoy uses the term "solution" to refer to development projects. All projects are started by either opening an existing solution or creating a new solution. Servoy is designed to work with SQL databases from many different vendors, and in most cases it is best to have the SQL database predefined and operating before starting a Servoy solution.
Most everything takes place in the Eclipse environment and is form-based. Developers design forms that interact with the SQL database to process data. Of course, the forms can contain procedures, calculations, data verification and many other event-driven elements; the real key here is that all of those processes can be accomplished without writing a single lick of code.
How an application is laid out is completely up to the developer. Menus can be designed into forms to select form-based procedures, developers can use a tab-based interface to drive data entry and fields can be populated on forms to be used as lookups to tables. The flexibility and freedom is a great accomplishment for a product that requires no hand-written code, but there is a down side. Developers not well versed in UI designing can create poorly designed forms that only confuse an end user. With Servoy it becomes readily apparent that the old management axiom of "One hour of planning can save 7 hours of labor" holds true. In other words, only seasoned developers that have a good sense of interface design should be let loose with the product, which is pretty much true of any flexible RAD product.
Once a developer is fully familiar with the Eclipse/Servoy environment, applications can be generated very quickly. The drag-and-drop form population, along with predefined scripts, can reduce development time greatly when fully leveraged, according to the company. Servoy has done case studies in which a team of developers was able to slash man-hours tenfold when compared to a .Net project.