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Finally... Interactive JavaDocs

Posted by javaben on August 10, 2004 at 9:06 AM PDT

Over the past few weeks, I've watched with anticipation as Rick Ross and Matt Schmidt from Javalobby have put together jdocs.com, an on-line JavaDoc search engine. As the site has matured in recent days, I've enjoyed using it in place of my downloaded JavaDocs.

(Note that jdocs.com is built on the open-source project Ashkelon, a powerful JavaDoc indexing tool -- much more than a search engine bolted onto JavaDocs -- created by java.net's own Eitan Suez. I was treated to a demo of Ashkelon by Eitan several weeks ago and was very impressed, although saddened that the project is so little known.)

The killer feature of jdocs.com is the ability for developers to comment on individual JavaDoc entries. Having used this functionality on other sites to great positive effect before, I can't wait to start leaving comments of my own -- if nothing else for my own future use.

As other like-minded developers start leaving their own comments, jdocs.com may become a virtual hivemind of Java knowledge (apologies to my friend Howard), helping newbies discover, for example, that calling setLocationRelativeTo(null) is how you center a Window in AWT/Swing, or that you need to use a Transformer to save a DOM tree (ah, that intuitive W3C DOM API...).

Hopefully, as the site matures, comments will span versions of an API and the comments of superclasses will be visible in some natural way in the API of subclasses (or at least acknowledge their presence).

Some may view the on-line ads injected into the JavaDocs as a nuisance. I'm actually quite intrigued by the possibilities; this could evolve into an ideal platform for component vendors to hawk their wares, and for developers to more fully understand their options. Imagine querying the JavaDoc for JTree and seeing an ad for an alternative GUI tree component or any number of other similar scenarios.

I've already integrated jdocs.com with my IntelliJ IDEA projects and use it for my JavaDoc queries. Congratulations to Rick and Matt for one of the most exciting new community resources in a long time -- and keep the innovation coming!

P.S. The Javalobby folks aren't quite sure how much load the site's going to be under as the word gets out, so be kind over the next few days as they ramp it up.

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