Google updates web app toolkit for speed

Version 2.0 of Google's web application development tool adds performance-improving features designed for the latest browsers
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor on

Google has released a significant update to Google Web Toolkit, the web application development tool it uses for many of its own web apps, providing features designed to help speed up load times and performance.

Google said it uses Google Web Toolkit (GWT) in the development of web applications such as Google Wave and the AdWords 3.0 interface. The toolkit turns Java code into JavaScript that can be run natively in browsers. It is designed to help developers bridge the differences between various browsers.

"We use Google Web Toolkit for all our Java-based internal apps," said Google chief information officer Ben Fried, in a statement. "In addition to the big benefits in developer productivity GWT offers, the future-proofing and browser independence you get out of the box mean that we're protected from the problems caused by browser-specific bugs and exploits."

Several of the features introduced in version 2.0 of GWT, which made its debut on Tuesday night at the Google Campfire One developer event, are aimed specifically at improving application performance.

Speed Tracer, for instance, is designed to help identify and fix performance problems by visualising metrics from key points within the browser while the application runs. The tool particularly looks at problems with the interactions between JavaScript, HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), Google said.

A new feature called 'code-splitting' divides the application code into multiple fragments to improve start-up speed. The feature means the parts of an application needed for basic interactivity can be loaded first, with the rest loading as needed, according to Google.

The company said it has also improved the way the compiler produces JavaScript, making the resulting code smaller and faster.

UiBinder is another feature aimed at condensing code, in this case making user-interface code smaller, as well as faster to develop and easier to maintain, Google said.

The feature allows programmers to develop the user interface code independently in XML, which is more familiar to many user-interface designers than Java, according to Google.

"UiBinder is a great way for programmers to collaborate with UI designers who are more comfortable with XML, HTML and CSS than Java source code," the company said.

Other features include layout panels, a technique designed to help specify the exact look and feel needed for a web application, and 'development mode', which allows applications to be debugged directly in a web browser.

The toolkit is available for download from Google's GWT website.

Version 1.6 of GWT was released in April, adding features such as Eclipse integration.

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