Getting started with Google Web Toolkit

Simple Dialog Box Example

Next, try building a simple dialog box that loads from an existing AJAX URL. Out of laziness, make sure you're importing everything from GWT's client package:


Replace the contents of onModuleLoad with:


and then add the function shown in Listing 4.

Listing 4

Add this Function


If you open this in hosted mode, the diaglog box appears when the page opens, which is a nice demo, but it isn't really useful. Instead, you want to be able to call the dialog box from anywhere in the application, and to do this, you need to expose part of the Java application to JavaScript using the JavaScript Native Interface (JSNI).

First, create a function that declares itself "native" and effectively initializes a JavaScript "API," such as the function shown in Listing 5.

Listing 5

Going Native


Finally, in onModuleLoad, replace openDialogBox() with initJavaScriptAPI():


If you refresh hosted mode, you'll see nothing because when the app is loaded, it only declares the JS API – a window only opens when the JavaScript function openDialog() is called. To see this work, add the following line inside the <body> in public/MyApp.html:

<a href="javascript:openDialog();">Open my GWT dialog box</a>

Then, refresh hosted mode, click the link, and watch the dialog open. Although this example is basic, it demonstrates something useful: You can now build complex, cross-browser functionality in GWT and call this functionality from your existing JavaScript applications.


An alternative to using GWT is to use one of the available JavaScript frameworks, such as Scriptaculous/prototype, MooTools, jQuery, or Ext JS.

These frameworks are extremely strong and have improved my JavaScript, but they don't do the the same thing as GWT. For specific, smaller (but not small) pieces of AJAX/Web 2.0 functionality, these libraries are great, but after a while, debugging, maintaining, and optimizing in a purely JavaScript environment becomes time consuming.

Using Existing AJAX Apps

The dialog box is still just a nice demo, rather than anything really useful, so spice it up by adding AJAX between an existing AJAX server and GWT.

A typical requirement is for a dialog box to load its contents over AJAX, and you can easily achieve this by modifying your class. Add the code in Listing 6 to the end of openDialogBox().

Listing 6

Adding AJAX


Next, use MyApp-compile to deploy it into an existing application: You'll need some existing web pages running locally – I'll assume you're running a LAMP stack.

Then compile the app and copy the www directory to your existing application:

mv -r www /path/to/my/app/gwt-www
touch /path/to/my/app/gwt-www/AjaxServer.php

Finally, create a file called AjaxServer.php and add the following:

echo "Hello, World from my existing AJAX server called from GWT, but triggered from a native JavaScript call!";

Test the New Feature

To test the new AJAX feature, open up MyApp.htm from inside the application and click the link (Figure 2). The JavaScript API means you can call GWT functionality from the existing JS app, and the use of the AJAX server means that GWT can integrate with your existing AJAX functionality. However, the AJAX URL is hardcoded, so push that URL into a variable passed from JavaScript into Java.

Figure 2: Check out MyApp.htm for a greeting to the world.

First, modify the contents of initJavaScriptAPI (see Listing 7).

Listing 7

Modifying initJavaScriptAPI


The url argument on the first line is a JavaScript parameter, which will be converted to a Java variable of type java.lang.string and passed to openDialogBox.

Then modify openDialogBox to accept the argument

public void openDialogBox(String url) {

and then modify the request to use this variable:

RequestBuilder builder = new RequestBuilder (RequestBuilder.GET, URL.encode( url ));

Now compile it and move the files into your application, then add some URLs to the JS function calls so you can call existing URLs:

<a href=!javascript:openDialog('/AjaxServer1.php');">Open my GWT dialog box</a> <a href="javascript:openDialog('/AjaxServer2.php');">Open another dialog box</a>

In the final step, get the GWT functionality into the web app by including a JavaScript file. Add the script tag to the HTML header, adjusting the src=".." to point to the appropriate directory:

<script type="text/javascript"language="javascript" src="com.mycompany.MyApp.nocache.js"></script>

Then, somewhere in your template, add links that trigger the JavaScript:

<a href="javascript:openDialog('/path/to/ajax.php');">Open my Ajax server</a>

As a test, you could throw this link onto WordPress, your existing CMS, or any other web page.

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