When implementing a trivial timer application in Cappuccino, RestfulX and SproutCore, one thing that struck me was how varied their approaches were to handling interaction with a server back end. Cappuccino has the lowest level abstraction here, while RestfulX takes care of more of the process and SproutCore has a high-level and somewhat complex system for server interaction.


The Cappuccino framework provides the CPURLConnection class, which handles XMLHTTPRequests, although the level of abstraction is fairly low. For instance, here’s what I use to submit a request to create a new project in Clocky/Cappuccino:

var JSONString = ''{"project_session":{"start_time":"''+startTime+''","end_time":"''+endTime+
            ''","project_id":"''+[currentProject id]+''"}}''
var request     = [CPURLRequest requestWithURL:baseURL + "/project_sessions.json"];
[request setHTTPMethod: "POST"];
[request setHTTPBody: JSONString];
[request setValue:"application/json" forHTTPHeaderField:"Accept"] ;
[request setValue:"application/json" forHTTPHeaderField:"Content-Type"] ;
addConnection  = [CPURLConnection connectionWithRequest:request delegate:self];

This does allow greater flexibility for any type of back end, however.


RestfulX has a higher level of abstraction, with Service Providers for JSON, XML and others, and models that use the service provides when they’re asked to be created/updated/etc. This allows you to use create a new project (after setting it’s properties) with something like:

project.create({onSuccess: onProjectCreate});

Of course, the JSONHTTPServiceProvider assumes a standard Rails-style “REST” JSON API, which is great if you’re using Rails, but you’d need to roll your own service provider if you’re not using a back end that’s Rails-style or one of the other existing Service Provider types.


SproutCore clearly has the highest level of abstraction for server interaction, although it’s a bit complex so it may seem intimidating at first. There are actually 3 levels as I understand things: the model, the data store and the data source. Your models (e.g. projects in Clocky) are locally stored on the client in the DataStore, which is back end-agnostic. The data source layer lies between the data store and your server, so it handles putting together the right XMLHTTPRequest. What’s great is that the SproutCore actually keeps track of state on model objects, and you just have to make your application respond to these states appropriately. Unfortunately you have to roll your own data source, and for me getting SproutCore to talk with my standard Rails backend took almost as much time as doing the rest of the app (it would have been easier if I’d been willing to adopt the JSON structures to what SproutCore likes). Of course now I have a fairly generic Rails data source that I could use on future projects.

The winner: it depends

Determining which framework handles back end integration the best will depend on how you want that interaction to work. If you’re doing Rails-style REST on the back end, then RestfulX and SproutCore are going to take care of a lot of the details for you. SproutCore’s ability to track state and do local queries using the data cached on the client could save you a lot of work if you think you’d end up having to implement that yourself with the other frameworks. But if you roll your own back end or don’t plan on doing CRUD over HTTP then you won’t miss what the others have to offer by going with Cappuccino.

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Bruz Marzolf




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