Why I created Agile Toolkit?

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011|Beginner tips, Version 4|by Romans
Romans Malinovskis
Author of Agile Toolkit

I first have learned about Object Oriented in the age of 10, in 1990. I have already mastered BASIC and was exploring the world of Turbo Pascal. My young mind couldn’t grasp the ideas of in capsulation and polymorphism so I asked my mom to help out. She took the book and carefully kept re-reading the introduction.

“Objects. Think Objects”.

Years later I have been eager to apply the Object Oriented principles everywhere: the games I wrote, the demo-scene productions, my copy of multiplayer user dungeon. When I settled in as a Web Developer and learned PHP3.0 I was disappointed at the poor implementation of the objects.

The birth of Agile Toolkit was as soon as the Zend Engine 2.0 alpha was released. I started to re-wrote the framework I had into a new, powerful language. From the first versions the most important distinctive feature of Agile Toolkit today have been embedded into the very core of the framework.

Rendering of the Runtime Object Tree

2-3 decades have passed since the concept of Object-Oriented User Interface have been launched on the desk-top computers. The realization that the elements you can see on your screen have many similarities even through the look differently defines every Graphics User Interface today. To understand this concept Imagine a “button” and a “input field” next to each-other.

Here a two object quite distinctive in their appearance are being rendered by the operating system by calling each object’s rendering function. The system may decide to force objects to re-render or skip rendering if they are not actually visible on the screen.

The exactly same idea is in the foundation of Agile Toolkit. Because I have been creating my own User Interface in Pascal and Assembler this was to me the best possible solution to interfaces in the Web Applications – implement them as a tree of visual objects generated during the run-time of your application and then rendering the necessary components.

Making Interface More “Webby”

Initial implementation of Agile Toolkit was only good to produce back-end administration systems as it was too in-flexible to do the requirements of the creative minds of our web-designers. Many UI Frameworks are destined with the same interface style, but Agile Toolkit was able to introduce a great breakthrough.

All the objects in Agile Toolkit, no matter how complex, are producing a valid HTML code based on object templates. This approach allows to easily change HTML behind individual or all objects and finally produce the great solution for website front-ends. However the default look and feel of Agile Toolkit application gives developers a great start.

Progressive Enhancement

By the time Agile Toolkit has matured the move towards Progressive Enhancements in CSS and Scripting made it possible to create a separate JavaScript layer which would  be optional for the elements. While earlier we would need to set “onchange” and “onsubmit” handlers into HTML baking templates extremely complex, now all of the JavaScript code have gone into a separate JavaScript API based on top of jQuery UI.

This allowed to purge all the JavaScript hacks from the code and rely on a much more powerful Object-oriented interface between JavaScript and PHP.

Business Logic

With the increasing complexity of our projects, it became apparent that a Objective Model layer is necessary. It finally appeared in Agile Toolkit in 2008 as an optional component. The models in Agile Toolkit serve a different role than the Models of other ORMs and Frameworks. Instead of only offering DataBase engine transparency and populating classes from data structures models in Agile Toolkit introduce a new dimension to modeling – inheritance. You can understand the power of this when you can narrow down values in the drop-down field by simply setting the right model to the reference definition. SQL Databases could not implement such flexibility but a PHP framework can.

RoadMap for Agile Toolkit

Up till now, Agile Toolkit had been walking a different path than other frameworks. Their goal was to provide developers with “utility” or a wrench to do certain things better. Approach of Agile Toolkit is to build levels of abstractions from the very bottom up. I must admit, that I can solve any web-related task with Agile Toolkit, but if I must produce a solution in clear PHP I feel lost and confused.

The immediate road-map for Agile Toolkit is to improve the 3 strengths it has by making it easier to interact and build. The “Model Builder” is in the works, which provides a visual interface to building new model fields and actually generating a PHP file as a result. The syntax of Models is already extremely simple but it will be even more so with the builder.

Another initiative is the User Interface builder. This allows create pages and add objects on your pages with a drag-and-drop interface. Similarly the tool would be capable of outputting a valid PHP code you can then further modify.

The number of Views and Templates will be made available through an on-line repository. In a way this would be similar to WordPress extensions, but tho time you will be installing classes which will aid you in building an Interface. The available views could be either free or paid creating a possible new revenue model for developers. A good example for such an view would be a “Gallery”. You could add this to any application you’ve got and bind it with the model holding images.

Unlike add-ons in other frameworks, the unified UI, JavaScript and Model structure makes sure that the add-on you are adding will fit-in perfectly, will be easily configurable to do the job and will contain minimum amount of code.

Conclusion

I adore web applications, but today it is way too complicated to build a web application. The situation reminds me the “DOS” and with Agile Toolkit I am able to introduce a Graphical User Interface for The Web.

1 Comment

Barthe
Posted July 9, 20123:04 pm

I agree with you, though I master MVC principles, it remains complicated to build a web app! I like very much the ideas behind Agile Toolkit. The documentation seems very good. I had like to get in PDF, soon? thanks, Guillaume.