Tibco has released a faster and more functional version if its General Interface AJAX development toolkit.

The new General Interface 3.5 is available either as free open source or a paid enterprise licence that includes support services.

"The 3.5 release focused on a host of performance enhancements across the entire product," said Kevin Hakman, director of developer evangelism at Tibco.

The product is used for building AJAX applications, primarily behind-the-firewall business systems running in a browser. It has more than 100 readymade AJAX components and visual tools for assimilating those components into applications screens and connecting them to data services, Hakman said.

"It's a WYSIWYG environment. It's substantially faster to assemble applications than using code," said Hakman.

Version 3.5 has faster data display using a new jsx3.gui.Table class that renders view-only data with sorting, selection, and other functions. Render times also have been improved via synchronous rendering of content in containers, to help components get on-screen sooner, Tibco said. Performance optimisations for Internet Explorer 6 also are included.

A benchmarks tool-bar in General Interface 3.5 at the bottom of component files lets developers know the file size, load and render times, and HTML size.

An enhanced debug build feature provides extra author-time feedback and tips such as notifications for redundant paint calls, said Tibco. Developers receive feedback about code so that they do not render the same component multiple times, said Hakman.

A context-sensitive help system is featured, also. "It automatically takes you to the subsection of the documentation related to the area of the product that you're using," Hakman said.

Vector-drawing APIs have been made easier to use. Developers can create lines, arcs, and other shapes and fills with APIs while General Interface renders them as VML for Internet Explorer and SVG for Firefox.

General Interface has served as an interface to Tibco's middleware, but it also has value on its own, said analyst Ray Valdes, research director for Web services at Gartner. The product stands out in the AJAX and rich Internet applications market, he said.

"It's a crowded and dynamic and fragmented market sector, and they have one of the leading products," Valdes said.

Tibco open-sourced the product in October 2006. "Open-sourcing General Interface helped accelerate the use of services for a full application stack," Hakman said. Services could include those for SOA or for other systems such as RSS feeds.

The number of downloads of General Interface has increased from 10,000 to 120,000 since going to open source.

General Interface is part of Tibco's AJAX product suite, which also includes Tibco AJAX Message Service, for bridging real-time data on the server to data in the browser; Tibco PageBus, a client-side publish-and-subscribe message bus for creating AJAX composite applications, and General Interface Test Automation Kit.

Tibco currently is hosting its "Ultimate Mashup Ajax Challenge," a project to build the world's largest mash-up using PageBus and General Interface. The contest runs through 30 September, with sponsor Artima to award prizes to the best entries.