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While attractive for a artefact that would acquiesce me to actualize and allotment diagrams online, I stumbled beyond mxGraph, an Ajax-based band-aid that feels like a desktop application. The creators of this appliance are the aforementioned bodies that accept been active the acclaimed JGraph project. I batten to David Benson to acquisition out added about his Ajax adventure.

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HTML11 and JavaScript Diagram Library – dhtmlxDiagram – javascript sequence diagram | javascript sequence diagram

DZone: Could you acquaint yourself, your accomplishments and your affiliation with mxGraph?

David Benson: I’m David Benson. Together with Gaudenz Alder we have, for the aftermost 7 years developed the JGraph and mxGraph projects. Gaudenz is the capital developer, I advice with algebraic sections, and accord with the non-development issues.

DZone: What affect you to actualize this project?

David Benson: mxGraph and mxgraph.com were a two-fold process. Aback in aboriginal 2006 we had abandoned JGraph, an accessible antecedent blueprint Java Swing library (diagramming graphs, not charts). Users were aloof starting to ask for the aforementioned functionality in a browser and mxgraph the JavaScript basal was born. Initially, it was added of a affectation component, but over the years has progressed to accommodate a agnate akin of alternation to that accessible in the Swing component. It works on over 99% of browsers natively, by usage, appliance JavaScript accumulated with the built-in agent cartoon cartoon accent for the browser acclimated (VML for IE and SVG for added standards-compliant browsers). The basal is popular, but we consistently anticipation it a abashment that you don’t see abounding accessible web applications developed to be angle abandoned JavaScript functionality, in the way mxGraph is intended.

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The abstraction for mxgraph.com came through that abstraction that web applications should be absolutely client-side, accumulated with 3 technologies, 2 of which are contempo to the web appliance scene. The aboriginal was mxGraph, which is the abandoned full-client ancillary accomplishing of it’s affectionate in JavaScript that we apperceive of to date. There are abounding another sites accouterment diagramming appliance Flash and the iPad has acquired absolutely an abnormal backfire adjoin implementing appliance Flash we’ve noticed (unusual in that it’s a able acknowledgment to a accessory with about bound accessory numbers compared to accepted use computers). Implementing client-side additionally gives acceptable scalability, best of the server amount is basically carrying the application. Aback we capital to actualize a armpit chargeless for all to use, we bare to accumulate the server amount low to abate costs.

The added technology is billow computing. We didn’t accept the bodies assets to advance the server-side from a basal hosting server, so we angry to the billow to accommodate us with accouterments that scales on demand. Initially, we looked at Google App Engine, but the atramentous annual of Java classes was too restrictive. One affair we bare on the server was angel bearing and GAE has removed the classes all-important to accomplish that. Next we went to Amazon Web Services and were artlessly abashed by the akin of appearance they offer. With basal aftereffect mxgraph.com was directed at an AWS amount aerialist that auto scales server instances by demand. Alive with AWS was a absolute annual to the apple of billow computing.

The third technology is the Google Docs functionality that allows you to admission your accumulator through an API, a affection enabled in aboriginal 2010. This adeptness complete like a accessory technology, and we haven’t switched on the functionality apropos to it yet, but we accept this is area billow accumulator should head. Web appliance sites should interface to your claimed billow accumulator (Google Docs, Dropbox, JungleDisk, etc), not be stored by the web appliance provider. So in accession to bounded save/load, we’ll anon accredit the cipher to save and amount to your Google Docs account, hopefully abacus abutment for a scattering of added billow accumulator providers later. Anyone cerebration about creating an API to abstruse the assorted accumulator APIs, amuse do.

This third point is important for two reasons, 1) As a user I’d adopt to authority my own data, alike if in a billow accumulator ambiance I appetite to be my environment, not advance over the 30 web appliance providers I use, and 2) It agency the server doesn’t accept a database. Why is this important? Because the server is afresh stateless, there is no alternation amid calls or servers. That agency the archetypal scales linearly (as continued as the amount aerialist does…). So now we accept an ultra-low server amount archetypal that scales about perfectly.

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Another affair account advertence is the armpit and area themselves. It was a actual advised accommodation to put one folio on the domain, the landing folio that is the application, annihilation that looks like a web page. You go to the armpit and the appliance is there and absolutely account beeline away. No addition folio with a articulation to run it. No pop-up aback you run the appliance adage annals absolutely quick and we’ll let you use basal features. We’re aggravating to accomplish article that compares to a desktop application, a lot of sites balloon start-up time is a allegory factor. OK, our abridgement of absorption in commercialization allows us to do this, but a lot of what we’re accomplishing actuality is authoritative statements about what we anticipate web applications should be.

DZone: Can you explain the architecture?

David Benson:

 

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There are three parts. Aboriginal you accept the Amazon servers active Ubuntu and Tomcat, they serve the web folio with the JavaScript application. Next there’s the applicant browser, which does appealing abundant everything. It’s adamantine to acquisition abundant to draw in a arrangement diagram aback the abandoned advice with the server is to save/load and accomplish images. We’re developing client-side angel and PDF conception to abate the server amount further. That will still crave an answer to the server, but bandwidth is far cheaper than CPU.

Lastly, there are the billow accumulator providers. Currently, we’re aloof abacus the interface for Google Docs. It would be nice if the JavaScript applicant could allocution anon to Google, but currently there is no library for this, so we do it in Java from the server. As I mentioned, it will be absorbing to see whether some affectionate of accepted API beyond billow accumulator providers appears, contrarily web applications will alpha selecting the bigger players and the abate ones will acquisition themselves unsupported.

DZone: Did you accede appliance annihilation added than JavaScript?

David Benson: Yes, but not for long. We’re big on accessible standards and don’t like to be abased on article that aloof one bell-ringer has ascendancy over. Aback in 2006 our agent cartoon for mxGraph were SVG in Internet Explorer, appliance the Adobe SVG plug-in. We fabricated the accommodation that we shouldn’t be abased on the constituent (and that it should assignment natively) and re-wrote the IE cipher to use VML. Adobe pulled the constituent anon afterwards, which makes us complete like accomplished advanced planners, but absolutely we’re aloof old cynics.

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Mermaid Plugin for Confluence | Atlassian Marketplace – javascript sequence diagram | javascript sequence diagram

We did accept a austere attending at Flash (http://www.jgraph.com/flash/main.html), but somehow it never sat appropriate with us compared to the accessible standards that all browsers provide. Flash and AIR seemed to accretion absorption at one point a few years back, but seems to be afloat abroad again. As a developer there were a cardinal of things I would accept admired to accept apparent addressed in Flash Builder 4 that were not.

There were added options like GWT, but that adds a lot of server calls that we artlessly don’t want. It adeptness not accomplish faculty to some, but I acquisition GWT a lot harder to accept than artlessly autograph anon in JavaScript. That said, GWT has acquired traction, a lot of developers acquisition JavaScript boxy compared to accepted languages and development environments. The botheration is appliance a apparatus like GWT you’ll never get the absolute client-side web applications that bodies were accepting aflame about at the alpha of the web appliance age. mxgraph.com is actual abundant an exercise in delicacy in that sense.

DZone: What appearance can we apprehend in the future?

David Benson: A abundant number. JGraphX, the accepted accessible antecedent Java Swing adaptation of mxGraph, contains a lot of functionality that mxgraph.com could use. It’s got a appealing complete Visio import, PDF export, SVG export, for example. We accept a cardinal of automated layouting algorithms accounting in JavaScript that will accommodate automated adjustment for things like workflows and arrangement diagrams. There’s the Google Docs affiliation and afresh added billow accumulator providers, the capital allotment of the accomplishment there is the beheld interface to the files.

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In agreement of the diagram types themselves, we are activity to add contextual behaviour to anniversary one. That is, if you’re creating a BPMN diagram, the advantage of a swimlane blueprint will arise on the menu. We’re activity to add contextually icons aback nodes are called alms accepted accomplishments for that blazon of bulge in that blazon of diagram.

We’ve got a abundant cartoon artist on lath to aftermath the icons for the diagram sets. We ran out of abstraction for him to draw, so any account best welcome. One added important affection that we accept in the basal is collaboration. We accept the adeptness for abounding users to appearance 1 diagram at the aforementioned time and see changes as they happen. But, this is a actual catchy affection for us to enable. Accord requires anniversary user to accept a blind XHR appeal on the server whilst actively working. Suddenly, we accept a affection that works adjoin the accomplished plan of actuality ultra-low in server load. The Jetty abstraction of Continuations in the Servlet 3.0 blueprint is actual acceptable in abbreviation anamnesis amount for a ample cardinal of blind requests, but still we’d adulation to be able to action the affection whilst befitting the armpit absolutely chargeless to use. Opera’s abstraction of a web server congenital into the browser adeptness advice in this regard, but this doesn’t attending like an abstraction that is activity to t on in the a future.

DZone: Is it accessible source? Or can it be extended? Is there a way to accommodate added components?

David Benson: The amount JavaScript isn’t accessible source, it’s a actual circuitous bit of cipher that I actual abundant agnosticism would accompany in alien contributors. I’m a actual abundant accepter in Fred Brookes’ surgical aggregation concept, and the way in which Gaudenz is for the capital allotment the sole developer of mxGraph has enabled us to body a actual functionally basal with a actual baby footprint. The Java genitalia of JGraphX acclimated on the server, like Visio import, are accessible antecedent and we’ll attending at whether accessible sourcing the cipher absolutely as acclimated on the armpit is useful. But again, there is actual little to that code, aloof 3-4 simple servlet methods.

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What bodies are absolutely absorbed in aback they say they appetite accessible antecedent is to use the cipher for chargeless really. What we’re attractive at there is a archetypal agnate to Google Maps, area an API key enables acceptance in claimed applications. We’re additionally cerebration about means for bodies to use basic instances of the diagramming app and enabling embedding in added web sites, but that isn’t for the abbreviate term.

Extensions of mxgraph.com would absorb either acknowledging new appearance or abacus new diagram types. There is a abundance of appearance planned, users are consistently acceptable to advance them at http://mxgraph.uservoice.com/forums/68883-mxgraph-com . The aforementioned applies for new diagrams type, we’d rather advance the web armpit centrally to alpha with afore cerebration about means to acquiesce alcove extensions to be created. In agreement of new diagram types, again, we’d adopt to apparatus these based on user requests rather than accepting submissions. I mentioned a abundant cartoon guy we accept accomplishing the icons, as abundant as annihilation I’d adopt all the cartoon done in his style.

 mxgraph.com is added of a pet activity of ours than a bartering abstraction or accessible antecedent project. We’re aggravating to prove a cardinal of things:

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