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JSP Flavour

Posted on 2004-04-17
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Hi,

I want to start converting an existing Application to JSP and wanted some advice.

1. What is the best flavour of JSP Server & Why
2. What is the best editor & Why
3. What are good references for JSP beginners

For background, experienced developers, used mainly procedural based languages, Coldfusion etc, etc.
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Question by:Plucka
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john-at-7fff earned 500 total points
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Plucka --

I can tell you a few things. I've written a lot of CF code, and I also teach an Enterprise Java / Distributed Java course at a major university. My main competency is C / C++ / Unix / Java, but I've done my fair share of good old web development.

Server: First off, if you're writing JSP and Servlets and don't think you'll be using the big J2EE APIs (such as EJB, Enterprise Java Beans), then the no-brainer answer for a servlet is Tomcat 5.x. Reasons: It's the "reference implementation" for JSP / Servlets: It does the new features before anyone (for instance: It implements JSP 2.0, which has MAJOR new stuff for custom tags -- see below); A lot of people use it; it's in its 5th version, so it's mature; it's free (http://jakarta.apache.org/tomcat/). Also, if you do move to full-blown J2EE, it happens that Tomcat is embedded in the most frequently used free J2EE server (JBoss).

Editor: Right now, for JSP in particular, I'd say NetBeans (http://www.netbeans.org/). It knows about JSP, and has Tomcat embedded. The one irritating thing is that the current version has Tomcat 3.x embedded, so you'd want to figure out how to get a more recent Tomcat in your NetBeans (perhaps post another question). Still, NetBeans is free. Another option would be the latest version of Dreamweaver.

References: You say you're a beginner, but you also say you're interested in background / CF. If you have some experience, there is a great new book, Falkner and Jones, Servlets and JavaServer Pages. This book is really neat because not only does it touch on "how to get it done," but it is always thinking about the architectural decisions that would help you become a great developer and not just an ok developer.

Two last things about JSP in general:

--If you're converting an existing app, you *will* find things that aren't in JSP. You may have to burnish your Java skills. The classic problem is that, say, CF provides a neat tag that does some hard work for you, but there's nothing out of the box in JSP. So you would need to write you own custom tag. Believe me, this is a TON easier in the newest releases of JSP and Servlets than it used to be.

--There are really great extensions to JSP. A key one is JSTL, the "standard tag library." You really want to learn about this, especially if you've done CF. The folks at Allaire (who invented CF) contributed to the early definitions of these tags, and they can really speed up traditional tag-based webdev. So when you get started with Tomcat, make sure to set up JSTL as well. It provides tags for database queries, XML processing, fancy formatting, etc., etc.
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by:Plucka
ID: 10857278
Well one response is better than none!
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by:Plucka
ID: 10857300
Especially if your the one response and reciepient of the 2000 points :)

Thanks the info on JSTL seems useful, wish you ran a course here in Australia.

PS: Does tomcat run on IIS or just Apache? I assume just apache since it's from Apache.
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by:john-at-7fff
ID: 10858711
Tomcat can run standalone, and will do the web page serving itself, if you like. This is great for testing.

Or, you can configure Tomcat so that all JSP/Servlet requests are handled by Tomcat (this gives you top performance for non-Java pages, and then Tomcat for the dynamic stuff).

You can definitely configure Tomcat with IIS. Here's an example:

http://www.onjava.com/pub/a/onjava/2002/12/18/tomcat.html

You would want to consult the Tomcat docs for IIS: It is likely improved from how it was in 2002.
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