Hi - I’ve been using webMethods a long time. I recently moved from Developer 8 to Designer 9.6 as part of a platform upgrade.
While there are improvements delivered by the Eclipse Rich Client Platform (notably multi-monitor support), here is some criticism on what Designer can do better. Most relate to the Flow visual language.
Editing existing MAP assignments
This is a common procedure when editing an existing map assignment:
- Click on a pipeline element (say, in the ‘Pipeline In’ section on the left side).
- Now, click a pipeline assignment link (or ‘wire’)
- At this point, in Developer 8, the previously clicked pipeline element is still selected, serving as a visual marker
But in Designer 9, clicking the map link deselects the ‘Pipeline In’ element
Navigating a densely packed MAP
In Developer 8, clicking a MAP link causes both the link and corresponding ‘Pipeline In’ /‘Pipeline Out’ elements on the right and left to expand and show elements involved in the link
In Designer 9, clicking a link does nothing.
Mapping a complex data structure using transformers
In Developer 8, dragging a transformer input or output brings up a ‘Link To/Link From’ context menu, right at the mouse cursor. The appropriate element can be selected with minimal disruption to the task.
In Designer 9, a popup appears elsewhere on screen, that you must navigate to, then navigate back to what you were doing.
Service ‘Layout’ View
The ‘Layout’ view is back in Designer 9 with its own tab.
I recall this view in earlier versions of developer. I think it was removed at some point because it was next-to-useless for service development. Now, it has a non-removable tab in Designer, between the default ‘Tree’ view and ‘Input/Output’. This leads to frustration when a click is misplaced.
Contrast the above to the extremely useful service ‘Comments’ tab. In Developer 8, this tab opened a prominent text area this was commonly used to document Flow services.
This was also fully readable by all developers who wanted to review service documentation.
In Designer 9, it has been reduced to a tiny ‘Comments’ property field.
Further, documentation on existing services is only fully visible if a developer ‘locks’ the service for development.
‘Trace to Here’
Developer 8’s extremely useful ‘Trace to Here’ option enabled single-click debugging.
This is gone in Designer 9, replaced by the more-complicated Eclipse breakpoints and debugger.
Eclipse bookmarks do not work for Flow code.
Eclipse is slow, presents a cluttered UI, and takes a lot of effort to customise and get productive.
Core Development Tools Still Missing
After 15-18 years of webMethods Flow existing, it is still missing core development tools for Flow:
- Code diff and merge
- Proper refactoring support for Flow (including updating renamed variable references)
- Code estimation (e.g. ‘KLOC-equivalent’ metrics).
In sum, a whole lot of effort went into porting Developer to the Eclipse RCP over years. But the spirit and polish of the original are lacking, while common development functionality expected on Eclipse is missing. In the meantime, Netbeans has become the RCP du jour.
I hope SAG takes my feedback in stride. I like webMethods, but innovation must cover the basics to be meaningful.