Book Review: XPages Extension Library

Jul 2, 2012, 7:10 PM

Tags: xpages review

Unlike many development environments, there are only a handful of books about XPages. Combined with the historical lack of documentation, that makes all three - Mastering XPages, XPages Portable Command Guide, and XPages Extension Library - essential. In that sense, the quality of the book is a less important purchasing-decision factor than its mere existence.

Fortunately, XPages Extension Library doesn't skimp on quality or breadth of coverage. The sections of the book track the natural progression of someone new to the Extension Library: how to acquire and install it, how to use its upgraded application-development features like the application layout and slicker Dojo controls, how to do the entirely-new things in the ExtLib like REST and JDBC, and finally a much-needed guide to starting "proper" Java development in XPages.

Since reading through the book in sequence, I have cracked it back open both as an indexed reference and for several of its step-by-step guides.

Part 2, which covers the various application UI components, has proven to be very useful when I have a specific UI task in mind, such as using a particular Dojo layout element or implementing some of the fancy, OneUI-friendly elements like the dataView. The organization of the chapters and code examples provide a much-needed sense of order to the bevy of new controls that you find in Designer's sidebar after installing the Library. And even just reading through the chapters in order is bound to give you a wealth of new UI ideas for your day-to-day use.

Several chapters provide invaluable guides for accomplishing complex and potentially daunting tasks, such as the ideal OSGi-based installation of the library to your servers, setting up a OneUI layout for your app (replete with an explanation of facets and callbacks, which are useful in XPages development generally), and packaging JDBC drivers for OSGi deployment. The last task in particular is almost comically opaque process for anyone thoroughly versed in the peculiar Eclipse way of doing things, and the book provides a clear step-by-step guide on negotiating that thicket.

As anyone who follows this blog can probably surmise, I think that pretty much everyone who programs with XPages would be well-served by familiarizing themselves with Java, and so I'm pleased that the book contains a smooth introduction to how to and why you would write Java classes in your app. This chapter does a fine job explaining how to use already-existing classes and packages, how to set up your Designer environment to make Java development easier, what a "bean" is (it's simpler than you'd think), and how to create and make use of managed beans. It's a great XPages-focused guide to starting down what should be a very fruitful road learning Java and the XPages Java environment.

The last word on this book is simple: if you do XPages development, you should purchase and read this book. XPages development with the Extension Library is much more productive than without, and XPages Extension Library provides an easy-to-read explanation to get your head around its myriad capabilities.

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Patrick Kwinten - Jul 3, 2012, 3:33 AM

I finished the book yesterday evening. Great book, invaluable for sure.

What I liked most about the book book, besides the dojo modules was the last chapter on Java development in XPages. I think this is subject to a sole book, so I (and more core Notes/Domino developers) would highly appreciate if there would be a follow up on Java and XPages.

I wonder if IBM would sponsor such initiative? It would make benefit to their product.

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Paul Hannan - Jul 3, 2012, 4:40 AM

Jesse, thank you so mush for the review. Really glad you liked the book and that you found it useful.

It's funny that you mention the chapter on Java development in XPages because it was one of the chapters we were thinking about dropping. Glad we didn't obviously. :-)

And I agree with Patrick about the need for a book on Java development in XPages. There certainly would be demand for it but would there be much of a market for it? If significant, then all you have to do is to get a few like minded individuals together and write it (if you need help getting the proposal together, let me know). 

Thanks again for the review.



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Paul Della-Nebbia - Jul 3, 2012, 2:04 PM

@Patrick - TLCC did write the Java in XPages topic already, not as a book but as a complete self-paced course, Java 1 for XPages Development  As the name implies there are plans for a follow-on "Java 2 for XPages" course where we plan to cover debugging, beans, managed beans and more.

Our courses are delivered in Notes databases and integrated with Domino Designer with lots of hands-on demos and activities - its a very effective learning model developed over 15 years.

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