Streamline app dev with a single tool

In today’s ultrafast-paced business world, companies need quick and productive turnaround from their programmers. The tools programmers use, the languages with which they code, and their development methods must all be rock solid. A complete, all-in-one IDE (integrated development environment) that leverages these requirements while keeping programmers in their coding groove further ensures timely turnaround.

Fortunately, thanks to vendors such as TogetherSoft Corp., with its Together Control Center (TCC) 4.2, having a swift yet fruitful development cycle is easier to accomplish than ever. TCC provides a complete end-to-end development environment for designing, deploying, debugging and administering complex applications.

In a field littered with competition, including Rational Software Corp.’s Rose for creating and working with object models and IBM’s VisualAge for developing with Java on the development side, TCC stands alone by offering the best of both worlds. This powerful combination, coupled with TCC’s functionality and ease of use, earns it a score of Excellent.

Version 4.2 supports deployment of Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) and servlets on BEA Systems’ WebLogic 5.1 and IBM WebSphere 3.5 application servers. It also offers the option of automatically generating a Java Server Page (JSP) client for testing, thereby eliminating the need to write custom code or to use other tools.

Another new feature is an improved Java debugger, replete with support for debugging applets and servlets. It shows users the results of expressions and allows them to set new values on the fly while they are debugging.

Anxious to begin testing, we downloaded TCC 4.2 via the Web and started our installation. In addition to being fairly quick and painless to work through, TCC provides a copy of the Version 1.3 Java 2 Standard Edition SDK.

We put the solution to the test by creating Java code from our UML (Unified Modeling Language) models and, on the flip side, by creating UML models from our code.

At start-up, we were prompted to select the role we would assume in the development process. Choices included business modeler, designer, developer or programmer. Each designation allows a user to access only those features specific to his or her respective task, thereby reducing the chance of confusing users with options they would never use.

Beyond modelling

TCC 4.2 is far more than just a modelling solution or an IDE; it contains features for use throughout an entire development cycle. We had the option at start-up of using a wizard, aptly named New Project Expert, which walked us through all of the salient details required to begin our development effort, such as defining paths, selecting language, and setting certain options. This well-designed wizard should enable users to begin working in TCC 4.2 without requiring a huge amount of knowledge of the tool beforehand.

With our paths defined, our language chosen – Java, C++, or IDL (Interface Definition Language) – and our initial diagram type selected, we were launched into the multipaned interface, which allowed us to view our code and our diagrams simultaneously. From here, we found that we needed only to select a diagram type from the menu and click on the palette to place it into our model.

We were pleased to discover that the solution supports all of the most popular diagrams, including class, use case, sequence, collaboration, state and activity, as well as a few extras such as component, deployment and entity relationships. Additional modelling options are available, thanks to the inclusion of an EJB assembler, an XML structure, and even Jacobsen’s business process.

TCC 4.2’s simultaneous round-trip engineering capability automatically transformed our model into code and vice versa. This was one of TCC’s most useful features. Other tools, such as Rose, support round-trip engineering, but we liked the fact that TCC does so in real time and in one of the main panel windows, which allowed us to see exactly what was happening on both levels.

Simple transformation

To test the Java side of the tool, we reverse engineered a couple of the Java Swing components. With little effort, we were able to transform code that existed from a different location into our models, complete with documentation.

The tool further eases the process by offering numerous opportunities for customization at the editor level and the modelling level. Not only could we set indentation, style and coding rules, but we could also have prologues automatically added to any source we created.

We also were pleased that TCC 4.2 can run on all Windows platforms, as well as Solaris and Linux. Those organizations that use a platform from Hewlett-Packard will be pleased that TogetherSoft has promised to include HP support in one of its upcoming TCC releases.

The only quibble we had was the solution’s slow start-up. Although not an issue once the solution was loaded, it would be nice to see Together ramp this up to the same quality of speed found in the running of the product.

In all, we found TCC 4.2 to be an excellent product. In addition to its functionality and intuitive and customizable interfaces, we determined that TCC provided all that is needed for visual or textual object-oriented development. Couple TCC’s functionality with its capability of being integrated with a slew of products and you have a tool worthy of any shop.

Fielden ([email protected]) is a senior analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center.

Review Box: Together Control Center 4.2

Supplier: TogetherSoft Corp.

Cost: US$5,995 per seat plus required first-year 20 per cent maintenance (includes upgrades and support); volume discounts available

Platform: Any Java 2-compatible platform (Windows, Solaris, Linux, etc.)

Pros: Simultaneous round-trip engineering; excellent integration opportunities; impressive help and sample applications; improved workflow opportunities; strong use of UML; highly intuitive and customizable interfaces

Cons: Slow start-up (but this is minor)

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