Success with Sencha Architect
After struggling initially to develop my ExtJS 4.1 app using Sencha Architect, I thought I would share my experiences after about 30 days of consistent usage.
First, it took me about two weeks to truly get past the initial learning curve on ExtJS 4 MVC, so I would add that learning both Sencha Architect and MVC at the same time compounds the learning; however, the patient and responsive support I received from the SA architect and forum members during that critical first two weeks enabled me to keep making forward progress, not get discouraged, and finally reach a tipping point of productivity at about the 10 day point. Many thanks to all who assisted me.
Second, I have found that Sencha Architect 2.1 is actually very stable and productive. One of the most important lesson learned for me was understanding how References and ComponentQuery works in 4.1. This really is one of the keys to harnessing the power of SA controllers.
Additionally, I may have taken a slightly different approach to my application architecture than most. Instead of creating one big, monolithic ExtJS application, I chose to break my application into smaller, standalone "applets" (that's what I call them). Each applet is a standalone SA project and distinct ExtJS application. It can run standalone or be integrated into my overall application navigation framework.
I believe that this modular approach is perfect for Sencha Architect, as each application and project is smaller and focused as a result. Admittedly, I'm not thrilled with how I had to integrate the various applets into the application framework (using iframes), but it works and for the most part works extremely well.
My application is implemented as a top level framework with a typical east/west border layout, where the east panel contains a tree control (as shown below). The tree control is used to navigate to various functions. When the user clicks on an item in the tree, it opens an "iframe tab" in the west panel, which loads the applet (SA-generated application).
For anyone interested, I started with this iframe application framework, which works like a charm.
I'm sure the iframe/applet architecture isn't for everyone or every situation, but it's worked out great for building a modular, large application using ExtJS and Sencha Architect. In some ways, it's very similar to how the ExtJS Documentation application is structured (using iframes).
In any event, there's a lot to like about Sencha Architect, especially for visually prototyping and designing the UI prior to coding it. Now that I'm over the learning curve, I honestly don't want to develop rich Internet apps any other way.
My productivity continues to increase each week, and the ability to quickly clone an entire app (or applet, in my case) and then visually modify it to create the next applet is a real time saver. And since I don't have a huge, monolithic app to deal with, debugging and development is faster and easier using SA with lots of smaller applets.
Many thanks to the Sencha Architect team for hanging tough through many iterations of this technology, from the early Designer phase and SA 1 to SA 2.1, and for the support here on the Sencha forums.
Sencha Architect 2.1 is a real winner! I'm very glad I made it past the initial learning curve and didn't give up early on. The initial investment of time learning to use SA and MVC effectively was definitely worth it.