Dojo – Well done you have found another piece of the hidden documentation!

imageI’ll start this post by saying I like Dojo. It makes developing JavaScript a lot easier than hacking the code yourself especially when trying to support multiple browsers. As with everything though it’s not perfect.  Whilst getting hold of the code is as simple as linking to the AOL hosted site, getting hold of the information about how to use the code makes you feel like your playing some sort of Japanese console adventure game, probably on the Wii, hunting the internet for snippets of code, working examples or even fully fledge sites, that might give you a small insight into how the library is best used.

Power imageUp!

Every time you find a bit of this information, no matter how small it can make all the difference about how productive you can be with the code, it’s like you have gained a power up. In fact often, maybe only in my head, I can hear one of those tinkling game sounds notifying me of some additional ability.

If we compare Dojo to the other libraries that can be used for working with ArcGIS we can see why the benefit of having a massive set of technical authors and production values can really streamline the help for a product. Whilst both Silverlight and Flex have had a number of versions, there have been no massive breaking changes like there has in Dojo. The relevant documentation is maintained on a single site, backed by a large company that provides an integrated experience including videos and professional tutorials and encourages staff to blog about the best practices of the use of the software.

imageDude where’s my manual?

Dojo on the other hand with its open source nature is always going to struggle to compete, unlike another JavaScript library such as the yahoo supported YUI. Which has a series of patterns to be used, a  comprehensive help system and someone (maybe more!), I assume, that is paid to maintain and promote this information.

Whilst products like Aptana can really help the developers productivity, that lack of a tightly integrated IDE like Flexbuilder and Visual Studio means that actually working out how something is used by looking at the objects and methods becomes a more complicated process. Couple that with a number of versions released in a relatively short time, including some major breaking changes between versions 0.4 and 0.9 and the search for help can be fraught with danger.

Just because a site says something might work in Dojo always be careful to read the label and check the version that it says it is based upon!

Doctor heal thy self!image

I know that the answer to this question is to contribute to the documentation myself, to make it better for   other people. Maybe I will if I ever get time, in the mean time I will resume my search for the mysterious documentation, if you don’t hear from me again I hope these notes will save to remind others of the perils that are fraught with the search for the Dojo doc. I will also leave clues about how you can find your way to the promised land of Dojo goodness.

Why are you still here? Go and read the doc and good luck with the power-ups!

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