Dojo: the JavaScript Toolkit with Industrial-Strength Mojo

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Featuring a rich standard library, an extensive collection of turn-key widgets, a unit-testing framework and build tools for minifying your source files, it's no wonder that Dojo is a key part of products from industry giants, such as AOL, Sun Microsystems, BEA and others.

A number of JavaScript toolkits have emerged to automate common Web development tasks and simplify creating rich user interfaces. Of all the contenders, Dojo stands out as the industrial-strength JavaScript toolkit because of its incredible depth and breadth. It features an extensive JavaScript library, a system of rich turn-key widgets, a collection of specialized subprojects, build tools and a unit-testing harness. Regardless of what your project entails, it is almost a certainty that Dojo can simplify the development and maintenance required. This article systematically focuses almost exclusively on some of the most fundamental constructs in the toolkit's highly optimized kernel, commonly referred to as Base.

Figure 1. Toolkit Architecture

Dojo: the JavaScript Toolkit You've Always Wanted

Variations among Web browsers have made developing applications for the Web really messy work. Working around subtle variations in JavaScript implementations, wrangling the Document Object Model (DOM) and normalizing content rendering across browsers can be downright tormenting at times, and unfortunately, a nontrivial portion of the investment in developing a solid Web application is spent re-inventing this kind of brittle boilerplate. Although many technologies have evolved to mitigate these kinds of issues, one you especially should be aware of the next time you decide to build a Web application is Dojo, the industrial-strength JavaScript toolkit.

In short, the Dojo toolkit is a liberally licensed client-side technology that can supplement virtually any aspect of Web development. It features a tiny but fully featured JavaScript standard library that insulates you from the bare metal of the browser, a large subsystem of widgets that snap into a page with little to no JavaScript required, and a suite of build tools for minifying and consolidating resources as well as writing unit tests. Knowing that industry giants, such as AOL, IBM, BEA and Sun Microsystems, are on board with Dojo should give you a boost of confidence if you're leery of trying something else in an ecosystem that's littered with half-baked inventions that don't always come though on their promises to deliver all-encompassing solutions.

This remainder of this article works through the bulk of the toolkit's most fundamental JavaScript programming constructs that will benefit you regardless of the size or scope of your project.

Getting Dojo to Work in Less than One Minute

Although you could download Dojo from its official Web presence and set up a local installation, the easiest way to get started with Dojo is to use the latest version of Dojo that is hosted on AOL's Content Delivery Network (CDN). The following page skeleton demonstrates that the minimal effort required to put Dojo to work from the CDN is a SCRIPT tag that loads Dojo into the HEAD of the page; it is especially noteworthy that the SCRIPT tag incurs the cost of one request to the Web server that delivers a gzipped payload of approximately 29kB and provides the latest 1.1.x release that is available. In Dojo parlance, the good that the SCRIPT tag provides is called Base, because it provides the base for the toolkit, and because everything you'll use is contained in the base-level dojo.* namespace. Speaking of which, with the exception of the dojo identifier itself, the global page-level namespace is otherwise preserved:


<html>
    <head>
        <title>Putting Dojo To Work</title>

        <!-- Loading Dojo requires only one SCRIPT tag -->
        <script type="text/javascript"
            src="http://o.aolcdn.com/dojo/1.1/dojo/dojo.xd.js">
        </script>

        <script type="text/javascript">
            dojo.addOnLoad(function() {
                /* safely use any code that relies on dojo.* 
                   functions in here ... */
            });
        </script>
    </head>
    <body>
        <a href="http://dojotoolkit.org">Dojo</a>
    </body>
</html>

To summarize, the dojo.addOnLoad block fires once the asynchronous loading of the dojo.xd.js file and any dependencies specified via dojo.require statements (more on these in a bit) have completed, and this is necessary in order to prevent any race conditions that might occur without it. Basically, the dojo.xd.js file providing Base accomplishes feats such as normalizing DOM events and provides you with a number of useful utilities for accelerating application development.

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Shaguf

Anonymous's picture

Hey Guys,
Author of More Servlets and JSP, Marty Hall is coming to Bangalore this April to speak on Choosing an Ajax/JavaScript Toolkit: A Comparison of the Most Popular JavaScript Libraries, Pure Java Ajax: An Overview of GWT 2.0, Integrated Ajax Support in JSF 2.0 and Ajax Support in the Prototype JavaScript Library. You can get more information on developersummit dot com

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