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You Should Start Developing With Google Dart By @YFain | @CloudExpo [#Cloud]

Developing JavaScript applications in Dart is definitely more productive

Why You Should Start Developing With Google Dart

In the summer of 2013 I wrote a blog “How Serious is Google About Dart“. It’s January of 2015, and I’d like to give you an update from the trenches. Our team has developed and deployed in prod a beta version of the application that helps consumers with finding and rating insurance agents and getting quotes online. The front end of EasyInsure is written in Dart language.

Before introducing the Dart ecosystem, I’d like to give you a little background about our prior experience in developing Web applications (I work for Farata Systems).

On the server side we always use Java and have no plans to switch to any other technology. After spending many years developing the front end with Adobe Flex framework and ActionScript programming language we got spoiled by this super-productive environment. After the mankind led by Apple killed Flash Player, we started to look for an alternative.

Back in 2005 we’ve abandoned JavaScript, but decided to give it another chance. Things were a little better this time. JavaScript has better IDEs and browser-based tools for developers. The number of JavaScript frameworks and libraries went down from two hundred to a couple of dozens, which is a good thing.

Still, the productivity of our developers dropped substantially in JavaScript comparing to what we’ve seen with Flex. I can’t give you exact numbers, but it looks like developing in Flex is at least three times faster than with any JavaScript framework we tried (ExtJS,AngularJS, and lots of small libraries). When I say JavaScript, I mean its version based on the ECMAScript 5 specification.

In 2013 we got familiar with the Google Dart language. The syntax of the language was pretty appealing and easy to understand. It felt like Java, but a little more modern. Dart is optionally-typed language. You can run the compiled Dart code in DartVM, but no browser except Dartium support it, and it’ll remain this way. Generating JavaScript from the Dart code is a realistic way of delivering Dart applications for any browser today.

But any language without the proper tooling is doomed, and this is what makes Dart stand out. Here’s the list of tools available for Dart Developers:

1. The IDEs: Dart Editor from Google and WebStorm from JetBrains. We use Dart Editor because it’s smarter than WebStorm today.
2. dart2js is a Dart-to-JavaScript compiler and a tree-shaker, which removes the unused code from the third-party libraries used in the application.
3. pub is a dependency management, development server and build tool.
4. gulp is a task manager. It’s an analog of Grunt or Gradle. We use gulp to prepare optimized ready-to-deploy application from the code produced by the pub build. In particular, we do the gzip compression there.
5. Dartium is a Web Browser for developers. Google Chrome is based on the open source project called Chromium, and Dartium is Chromium with built-in DartVM. We use it for launching and debugging applications. https://www.dartlang.org/tools/dartium/
6. Dump-Info Visualizer – allows to inspect the generated JavaScript. It gives a very convenient breakdown by the application’s JavaScript code so we can analyze file sizes and identify the scripts to be optimized.
7. Observatory is Dart profiler (we haven’t used it yet)
8. AngularDart framework. It’s a port of a popular JavaScript framework AngularJS.

The above list is pretty impressive, isn’t it? As Google Dart evangelists say, “Batteries included”.

Developing JavaScript applications in Dart is definitely more productive. I do recommend you to start learning Dart and develop the front end of your Web applications in this developer-friendly environment. Having said that, I’d like to warn you that there are no jobs on dice.com that require programmers with Dart skills. Oops… Moreover, three years from now your Dart skills may be in even lesser demand in the enterprise world. Oops…

After these two oopses half of the readers may lose interest to Dart, because it doesn’t meet their career objectives. For those of you who continue reading I’ll explain why IMHO you still should learn and use Dart today. Because the final release of ECMAScript 6 (ES6) is around the corner. Because this spec already gave birth to JavaScript 6 (it’s a boy)!

By the way, do you know why there is no enterprise jobs that require Dart skills? Because enterprise architects will fight hard against any language that runs in a browser unless it’s called JavaScript. Back in 2007 Adobe sales force did a great job by pushing Flex framework into enterprises. Enterprise architects were fighting hard against Flex then, and they will do the same with Dart. But Google is not Adobe. They won’t fight for Dart in enterprises.

But promoting Dart in your organization can be easy. Just explain your enterprise architects that programming in Dart is just a smart way of preparing the enterprise to embrace the bright JavaScript 6 future with classes,modules, promise, fast image rendering, et al. The code that you’ll be writing in Dart during the next 12-18 months will need to be converted into EcmaScript 6 as soon as several major Web browsers will start support it.

The syntax of Dart and ES6 are literally the same. Google invested time and resources in creation of IDE for Dart, and now they’re working on the IDE for ES6. Even manual refactoring of the code from Dart to ES6 shouldn’t be a major project, but I’m sure this process will be automated soon.

As a matter of fact, some browsers already started supporting ES6. See for yourself:

dartblog

I’d like to draw your attention to the greenest column on the right side. Yes, it’s the successor of the today’s funniest browser known as IE! Microsoft calls it Spartan, and promises that Spartan will be a lightweight browser that feels like Chrome or Firefox. You just can’t go wrong with such a name.

Spartan already supports ES6. Courageous early adopters can start developing code in ES6 now, than compile the code down to ES5 with Traceur compiler and deploy it in any today’s browser. But if you want to work in a tools-rich environment just develop your single-page applications in Dart and AngularDart. Give the ES6 some time to mature. The work on ES7 is being done too, and it looks very interesting and promising.

I’ve created a New York City Dart Meetup with a hope to get some Manhattan-based firm to host our meetings in the future. Meanwhile we’ll run our meetings online so you’re welcome to join no matter where you are located. Go Dart if you need to deliver today! 

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More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain