Google has recently launched Google Health, a place where you can organize health information, keep it up to date and stay current with the latest health issues. We're happy to say that Google Health was built with the Google Web Toolkit, and pleased to have Samantha Lemonnier from the Health team share her experience using GWT.
Since many of you are faced with these same decisions, I thought it might be useful to share a synopsis of that first email thread I wrote to the GWT team titled "GWT, to use or not to use". In it I included a link to our mock as well as 4 key questions:
- Can we use GWT to accomplish all that was in the mock?
- How many browsers does GWT reliably support?
- Is i18n supported?
- How big is the GWT library that needs to be downloaded and how will it perform in the browser client?
Scott Blum from the GWT team responded that "in general anything you can do in HTML, you can do with GWT". Joel Webber, one of the founders of GWT, added "Looking at the your mocks... it appears as though you would want to fetch lots of information from the server during the course of interaction with the user, and to update both the form on the left and the results on the right interactively. I think GWT would be an excellent way to do this". To get a better feel for what GWT development meant, I created a sample project to test the waters. After exploring the widget library, I was able to build a functional prototype quickly. I tried a bunch of different widgets and found that they are easy to use and extend. The RPC calls were straightforward as well, and tied into the Servlet framework nicely. I was very pleased with the result of the prototyping.
Scott also confirmed browser support for "Recent versions of Opera, Safari, and Mozilla/Firefox; IE6+", which was satisfactory for us.
At the time, the i18n support was still in the works, but we were assured that it would arrive very soon. We were a little bit worried about how hard it would be but we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the implementation was really simple. All we had to do is to inherit the i18n package, create the constant and message classes along with their associated property files for all the strings, messages that need to be externalized.
Finally, after receiving convincing arguments and techniques for creating a custom-cut Google Data library, the choice for which technology to use to bring Google Health to production was obvious, and the rest is history. My sample GWT project became the launch pad for the Google Health client infrastructure.