I know, I know. You can’t move at the minute for people talking about Google. But the tedious Street View controversy isn’t what’s got me going this month. It’s more interesting than that.
Second is a fabulous tool I discovered a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been unable to stop tinkering with ever since. Its slightly cryptic name is the Google Web Toolkit – shortened by those ever-keen-to-reduce-keystrokes hacker types to GWT. You’ll find it at http://code.google.com/.
The whole of GWT is suffused with the Google philosophy of not making simple things deliberately complicated. For starters, to make it go you just need to download two zip packages: the GWT code itself and a copy of Eclipse, the open-source development environment. Unzip the archives into a convenient folder on your hard disk and run them from there.
GWT does something I find faintly magical. You write a Java application more or less as normal in Eclipse. That means you’re cosseted by a powerful development platform that, for instance, not only tells you when a line of code contains errors, but will automatically fix them if you ask it to.
And remember the bit about not needing to install Eclipse and GWT? That’s solved my biggest development annoyance. Until now, the complicated installation of IDEs such as Visual Studio or Sun’s NetBeans IDE has meant being tied to developing on one PC that you’ve spent ages setting up.
Pah. So last decade. All you need do now is add your Eclipse folder to your Live Mesh (www.mesh.com), pop a few files into a separate folder in a common location on the C drive so your workspace stays consistent, then sync that too and hey presto! You can carry on developing your application on any machine with a web connection just by syncing two folders. It’s literally a five-minute job and you can be editing the same code you were editing at home last night, in the same IDE, on any computer that happens to be lying around.