Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Released a new version of plovr so I can show it off at my two Closure lectures this Thursday

I just released a new version of plovr in time for the two talks on Closure I am giving this Thursday. The first is a guest lecture for an MIT web programming competition: 6.470. My understanding is that the course attracts a lot of freshmen, so my hope is that plovr can help those who are new to JavaScript leverage the Closure Compiler to help them identify their JavaScript errors (of which there are likely to be many!). This motivated me to fix some annoying issues in plovr that have been lingering for awhile (which the early adopters have been nice enough to put up with for far too long :).

The second talk I am going to give is part of the Boston JS Meetup, which I am very excited to attend for the first time. I'm looking forward to talking to the group and showing off what both Closure and plovr can offer to those in industry.

Also, up until now, I have been making decisions autonomously about new plovr features and config options because I did not have a good way to gather feedback from users other than the bug reports I received. To that end, I finally decided to create a Google Group for plovr where users can help influence plovr development and ask questions about how to use plovr. As I noted in the Closure Library group, I would like to extend plovr to help with CSS management and developing against jQuery (among other things), and I believe these features will only be useful to others if prospective users participate in the discussion. We'll see how all of that works out.

Finally, one interesting engineering challenge that has plagued plovr since its inception (but has finally been slayed!) is the question of how to manage its dependency on the Closure Library, Closure Compiler, and Closure Templates. With a considerable amount of help from Ilia Mirkin (and a lot of SVN and Hg gymnastics), I finally have a system that I am happy with. Basically, it requires creating a branch for each dependent project to which updates are periodically added and then merged into the main repository. As this is a general problem for open-source projects, I documented it thoroughly on the plovr wiki.

Although it was tricky to set up, it is now possible to build plovr without checking out the other Closure projects. (Previously, a new version of plovr would include my own local checkouts of the closure-library, closure-compiler, and closure-templates repositories, which were at somewhat arbitrary revisions with possibly even more arbitrary/undocumented patches of my own in them.) Further, because plovr has its own clones of the Closure projects in its repository, it is far easier to modify Closure code if it needs to be edited for plovr. For example, it was now trivial to make the constructor of public, whereas previously I would have had to create a completely separate binary for the Closure Compiler with this one modification and then replace it with the one in plovr's lib directory. Further, I would forever have to keep my checkout of the Closure Compiler with the modification around so that I could make further modifications in the future while no outside developer would have any insight into that process -- no more!

This also allowed me to clean up the build process for plovr and remove some unnecessary and/or duplicate dependencies. The release of plovr I did back in December was 11.7 MB, but the new release is down to 8.4 MB, which is the smallest plovr jar I have ever published! Things are definitely moving in the right direction for the project.

Want to learn more about Closure? Pick up a copy of my new book, Closure: The Definitive Guide (O'Reilly), and learn how to build sophisticated web applications like Gmail and Google Maps!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your talk last night at the JS Boston meetup. I really enjoyed it and looking forward to learning more about closure.