BlackBerry WebWorks Tooling Evolved

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BlackBerry WebWorks and tinyHippos

Web Standards and Embracing the Web

As we’ve been pushing forward with BlackBerry® WebWorks™ and embracing the web on the BlackBerry® platform, we’ve made some important moves. First, we brought WebKit to the BlackBerry platform, which now powers our browser on both the BlackBerry® Tablet OS and the BlackBerry smartphone OS with fantastic web standards support and wicked HTML5 capabilities.

We’ve also been iterating quickly on the BlackBerry WebWorks platform both for smartphones and tablet, bringing new functionality to web developers. Last year we made BlackBerry WebWorks an open source project on GitHub™ and, while we continue to pick up steam on GitHub, we have been bringing more of our daily development out into the open. The collaborative and open approach that we’ve been taking with our API documentation on GitHub is an indicator of how we’ll be operating moving forward with the project’s source code.

Understanding what Web Developers want

With each of these steps, we’ve been listening to our partners and the web development community to understand their needs from a technology and tooling standpoint. We kept hearing from the community that if the development of BlackBerry WebWorks applications could be as simple as developing a website with a traditional desktop browser it would make things MUCH easier than launching simulators and compiling code. It would also be SUPER COOL and AWESOME!

So, where we are going?

This is where tinyHippos and the Ripple Emulator becomes an important piece of the puzzle. Being able to point to a website (local or remote) that’s running your BlackBerry WebWorks application and emulate the entire BlackBerry WebWorks environment without having to compile your code or launch a simulator provides a similar experience to desktop browser development. This also means that you can use any editing tool that you like for your web content, and pick any web server to serve up your BlackBerry WebWorks application for testing. Then making changes is as simple as editing your source code and pressing refresh in the Ripple Emulator.

We also believe that one of the major advantages of HTML5 and web development is the promise of portable code and cross platform compatibility. This is why multiple platform support is currently available in the Ripple Emulator.

While the current implementation of the Ripple Emulator is excellent, we feel that we can take this capability and evolve it even further. Currently the emulator is implemented as a Google® Chrome™ plug-in, which has its benefits, but also brings with it common browser limitations that don’t allow for full BlackBerry WebWorks emulation.

Below you can find the functionality you will be able to expect from the Ripple Emulator as it evolves:

  • Downloadable light weight emulator running on your desktop like a standard browser with integration into any tool that can have a browser registered (i.e. Eclipse™ & Visual Studio™)/li>
  • Fidelity rendering and JavaScript® compatibility with the actual BlackBerry WebKit browser/li>
  • Embedded Web Inspectorsupport for debugging/li>
  • Ability to build and sign your app
  • Ability to load your built application on a device simulator or actual device for final testing

Out with the Old and In with the New

In the spirit of openness, we want to let the community know that with our concentration on the new Ripple emulation environment we will be retiring the BlackBerry WebWorks plug-ins for Visual Studio and Eclipse.

These plug-ins will continue to be available for download in BlackBerry® Developer Zone until October 19th, 2011. There will be no new releases of the plug-ins, and they will only remain compatible with version 2.0 (and earlier) of the BlackBerry WebWorks SDK for BlackBerry smartphones. Further, we will end support for these plug-ins on December 31, 2011.

Migration path from using the WebWorks Plug-Ins

To ease the transition from the existing Visual Studio and Eclipse plug-ins, we have created a developer’s guide for migration. This article outlines alternative tools and also provides documentation and scripts to continue to use Eclipse and Visual Studio without the plug-ins.
The scripts provided aren’t just useful for those who continue to use Eclipse and Visual Studio for BlackBerry WebWorks development, but are also valuable for anyone building BlackBerry WebWorks applications using any IDE or authoring environment.

In Summary

We have lots of cool stuff that you can start using today, as well as many new enhancements on the way… hey, I just made a rhyme. :) Let us know if you have any questions in the comments!

About Tim N.

Tim leads Application Platform & Tools Product Management at Research In Motion. This includes APIs, Frameworks and Tools for the BlackBerry Platform. He can be found hanging out in the development forums or Twitter (@brcewane) trying to help out where he can and to bring your feedback into the next releases of BlackBerry tooling. You’ll also see Tim presenting various topics at the BlackBerry Developer Conferences and BlackBerry World so be sure to stop by and say hi. Just don’t start talking about cars or Batman or you won’t be able to get rid of him.

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