January 30, 2013

Farewell ActiveX, Hello Dojo!

With the advent of the Unica suite version 9, now known as IBM EMM (Enterprise Marketing Management) version 9, comes a slew of changes from GUI to added capabilities. Stanton made a great Unica V9 summation with his blog post (below). The most notable change for me is the removal of the ActiveX component, and introduction of Dojo (enter angelic horns trumpeting as rays of sun break through clouded skies).

Before we can understand the joy behind my typing fingers, we have to look at the players, ActiveX and Dojo.  I’ll try not to get too technical so forgive me if I do, and I applaud you for sticking it out.


Let’s start with ActiveX, which is made up of two parts.

1. ActiveX was created by Microsoft back in 1996 as the code framework unifying OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) and COM(Component Object Model) which facilitates the sharing of data between programs for reusability.  Basically, it introduced a form of program symbiosis by allowing one ActiveX program to plug into other ActiveX programs and still retain its full functionality.

Good examples are:

  • Microsoft Excel spreadsheets within Microsoft Word Documents.
  • Spellchecker use in all Microsoft products.
  • Unica Flowchart environment within Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Its heart is in the right place, giving us a lot of nice functions and capabilities, but as you can see in the examples above, only in the Microsoft World – Microsoft products and platforms.

2. ActiveX Controls These are Web programs created from the ActiveX framework. All Unica Campaign veterans are very familiar with this, as it is the necessary component required to create/modify Campaign flowcharts.

ActiveX pains:

  • It is the source of a lot of headaches since it pigeon-holes you into using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
  • Versioning rears its annoying head if you open a Campaign flowchart in a different version of Unica. This results in the installation of a new ActiveX control with EVERY new version encountered.
  • Security confusion – ActiveX control security relies somewhat on the end user through the use of digital signatures. This can be a pain in organizations that have a complicated software adoption process which include signature approvals. Even if not verified, it is still up to the end user to execute it or not. These types of security dialogs in the web browser can be very confusing for non-technical users of the Unica suite and even a point of failure when the ActiveX control doesn’t install correctly.


Enter the new kid on the block, so to speak – Dojo, also known as Dojo toolkit, created in 2004.

Dojo is the JavaScript framework IBM utilized in recoding EMM Version 9 (Unica V9).  This is important because Dojo focuses on large scale client side Web development activity and functionality.  With Dojo comes benefits that makes ActiveX look very antiquated.

  • Where ActiveX fails at being able to run on various different Web browsers, Dojo excels by being supported by ALL Web browsers, including the ActiveX heavy Internet Explorer.  (Dojo even works well on mobile devices so, who knows, EMM mobile sounds intriguing.)
  • Dojo was created with dynamic Web GUIs in mind, resulting in EMM v9’s new NON-ActiveX User Interface.  Through Dojo widgets, many features like 2D Vector Drawings, 3D objects, advanced animation effects, dynamic charts, are available on top of what we’re used to with drag and drop. Check out the Dojo website links below for cool examples of what Dojo can do:

Desktop Applications / Web Apps

Graphics and Charts

  • Dojo is completely open-source and modular, meaning it is free and evolves with industry standards. This makes it very accessible to developers who like to tinker. I believe the more people tinker with something, the better it becomes.

From the horse’s mouth…

When asking our IBM partner why the move to Dojo, the answer was in tune with what I was looking for in the future iteration of EMM – “DOJO offers a robust set of tools for building very attractive user interfaces that will work on a variety of platforms. In addition, the drag and drop functionality along with well designed controls (“eye candy”) will help us reach parity with our competitors, many of whom criticize our dated-looking interface.  Many of our customers have wanted us to support other browsers besides IE. Many of our larger clients deploy on Unix/Linux and want support for Firefox and Safari. ”

At the end of the day, it’s all about ease and efficiency of use and user adoption. IBM’s use of Dojo in EMMv9 brings all of that to the table, as well as, new possibilities to make EMM even better for years to come.

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