GWT widget libraries, a market overview

After many hours searching the Internet for GWT widget libraries, analyzing them, and taking notes I thought I might as well publish my findings here. Feel free to comment and point out inconsistencies.

At the moment the market seems to be split into two segements:
– a few small or medium-size, low-key libraries with little activity
– the whole “Ext” gang

However things change very quickly, in a matter of months, and the end of 2008 saw the advent of a new-kid-on-the-block: SmartGWT.

Small, or medium-sized libraries

  • GWT-SL/WL, a collection of server- and client-side tools. No real show case that demonstrates the power of the library is available. Last minor release in December 2008. Little SVN activity over the entire course of 2008.
  • GWT Tatami, based on the DOJO JS framework. Show case isn’t impressive, but project is active. Continuous SVN activity. Road map for first half of 2009 available.
  • GWTLib, continuous but little SVN activity. Offers hardly anything else but but table-centric widgets.
  • GWT Tk, tbd
  • Rocket GWT, tbd
  • “vanilla” GWT, Google’s on-board GWT widgets. Nothing fancy, but clean and slick.

The “Ext” corner
A long time ago (think Internet time ;-)) a guy called Jack Slocum built an extension to Yahoo’s YUI widget library named YUI-Ext. It evolved and became independent, Ext JS was born and with it a new company: The library quickly became very popular.
Once GWT was released people started writing widget libraries for it. Boston-based Sanjiv Jivan started GWT-Ext and based in on Ext JS. Darrell Meyer wrote MyGWT, a pure GWT widget library which shared the Ext JS l&f. It was voted #1 widget library one year ago.
In April 2008 things became very nasty an confusing when Jack Slocum changed the Ext JS license from LGPL to GPL thereby forcing GWT-Ext to stick with Ext JS 2.0.2 which was the last version available under LGPL. Furthermore, he hired Darrell Meyer who brought his MyGWT as a dower into the relationship. As a result, Ext JS published its own GWT widget library called Ext GWT. Now developers had the choice between GWT-Ext (full OSS with LGPL) and Ext GWT with a dual-licensing model. The GWT widget “war” (see references 1-5 below) turned many away from Jack Slocum’s Ext JS because they disliked the way the company treated the GWT community.
On November 26th, 2008, the game changed again when the GWT-Ext crew announced that they would no longer build major new features but instead be migrating to SmartGWT, a library created by GWT-Ext developer Sanjiv Jivan . SmartGWT 1.0 had been announced only two weeks earlier.


Leave a Reply