Buyer's Guide

Mobile app development tools: A buyer's guide

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Cross-platform mobile app development tools from Sencha

Ext JS, GXT and Touch mobile app development tools from Sencha feature a range of functions to support developers' cross-platform app development needs.

Sencha offers a number of mobile app development tools used for the creation of cross-platform applications for Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows devices. In particular, the company offers three feature-rich development frameworks for developers to choose from: Sencha Ext JS, Sencha GXT and Sencha Touch. Each of these frameworks is installed on premises and available for use on Linux, Mac or Windows operating systems.

Each framework can be licensed as standalone software; however, Ext JS and GXT can also be found as part of Sencha Platform, which is marketed as a complete product for application lifecycle management. Touch is only offered as standalone software.

Sencha's mobile app development tools let developers build cross-platform apps using a single codebase, in this case either Java or JavaScript. Using a single codebase for cross-platform development cuts down significantly on build and implementation timelines, and allows developers to focus their efforts on building the best application possible without worrying about replicating the application multiple times for specific operating system requirements. This then translates to faster publication to places such as the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, as well as faster distribution to employees in the case of enterprise apps.

Being able to choose between various development languages gives developers the freedom to choose a preferred method, which also cuts down on implementation timelines. Multiple development languages also eliminate organizations' needs to hire additional development staff or re-train existing staff, which lowers costs.

Sencha Ext JS lets developers build with JavaScript

Among mobile app development tools, Sencha Ext JS is a model-view-controller (MVC) that lets developers build apps using the JavaScript Web language. Sencha Ext JS is best suited for organizations with multi-person development teams. There are three editions of Ext JS available, each with its own pricing. Maintenance and support is included with each license, as well as the licensing and distribution rights for built apps.

Using JavaScript allows applications to leverage HTML5 and to execute on device as a Web application, thus permitting developers to create apps that operate on multiple device platforms. Ext JS provides developers with hundreds of user interface (UI) widgets for things such as lists, forms, menus, toolbars, panels and windows. These widgets are also available with preset themes for quick deployment.

The tool also incorporates a layout manager that gives developers control over device-specific data for display, screen and browser sizes, and also features a responsive configuration system that allows app components to change depending on display orientation or browser size. The latest version of the software is 5.1.1.

Sencha GXT lets developers build with Java

Sencha GXT is a Java mobile app development tool that lets developers build apps using the Java Web language. GXT is best suited for organizations with multi-person development teams. There is only one edition of the framework available. Maintenance and support is included with each license, as well as the licensing and distribution rights for built apps.

GXT implements the GWT (formerly Google Web Toolkit) compiler to translate Java code into HTML5 code, which enables the created application to have cross-platform functionality by executing as a Web app. Like Ext JS, GXT provides users with customizable UI widgets with available preset themes and a layout manager for support with device display, screen and browser sizes. It also allows for client-side data collections, and features support for GWT RPC, RequestFactory and JSON. The latest version of the software is 3.1.4.

Sencha Touch helps give cross-platform apps a native feel

Sencha Touch is one of the MVC mobile app development tools that lets developers build apps using JavaScript. Touch is targeted more at individual developers. Unlike Ext JS and GXT, Sencha Touch is available free of charge and can be downloaded directly from Sencha's website. A maintenance and support contract is available, with pricing determined by contacting Sencha.

Like Ext JS, Sencha Touch allows applications to take advantage of HTML5 and execute on device as a Web application. However, it varies from Ext JS in that it relies more heavily on leveraging device hardware acceleration, giving apps more native functionality and thus classifying them not as Web but hybrid apps.

Touch provides developers with more than 50 high-performance UI widgets built specifically for mobile platforms, as well as themes for Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows to give developed apps the most native appearance possible. It also features an adaptive layout engine that automatically determines and implements the most optimized resolution, scrolling and animation settings based on device platform.

And to ensure full functionality with device features such as a camera or GPS, Touch is fully integrated with Apache Cordova APIs. This means developers can focus their efforts on building the best app possible without having to worry that the app and the device's features won't perform in harmony.

Next Steps

Development tools like HTML5 are shaping the mobile app development landscape.

Considering a mobile app launch? Take our quiz on app development strategy to discover if you're ready.

Expert Matthew David provides helpful tips on deploying enterprise mobile apps.

This was last published in September 2015

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Buyer's Guide

Mobile app development tools: A buyer's guide

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