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2006-08-18
  Web Service Client Programs
Since my company is rolling out all our web services across our SOA stack I wanted an easy way to test web services using SOAP over HTTP. More specifically, I wanted a tool easy enough to show biz/ analyst people how to execute web services.

My requirements were pretty simple, given a WSDL file, present me with a UI to enter all the fields, then submit the request and show me the response in a relatively pretty view.

I guessed this would be really simple to find as executing web services is a pretty common need. I googled around for a suitable client program and didn't find much. First I found .Net WebServiceStudio. It presents a basic UI, but given a WSDL url or file it will parse it and give you an input pane for all the request doc fields. It even does basic validation and will give you drop downs if your WSDL schema defines enumerations. This seemed cool, but because .Net sends a Byte Order Mark/ BOM on its UTF8 request docs, java blows up. Our Service Runtime Engine is implemented in Java so it uses the Java xml libs. This is one of the instances where Microsoft is right and Sun is wrong. Sun decided not to fix this defect in the JRE because it might mess up backwards compatibility. Hooray Sun! As soon as Java is open source this will get fixed pretty quickly.

Since all the MS consoles were ruled out, I kept googling. Eclipse has some good plug-ins like the Web Services Console Plugin and a ton of others that give this functionality. But when I tried to show how to set up Eclipse and plugins to our analysts that didn't work out so well.

Similarly, there is an easy to use JavaScript WebService Behavior from Microsoft but I can't expect analysts to write JavaScript.

There's also a decent plugin for my preferred Java IDE, IntelliJ, but I can't hand that over to analysts because they don't have IntelliJ licenses.

If you are rich and/or are employed by a rich company you can use Progress Software's Stylus Studio ($150-800 per license) or Altova's XmlSpy ($1200-2200).

In the end I found Integration Central's Quasar a best fit mainly because it's cheap (only $90) and simple. The UI is clunky and leaves much to be desired, but since the only feature I want is to submit SOAP document style requests over HTTP, it is good enough for now. Our vendor has committed to adding a work around so MS-based WS clients can invoke our services and when that happens we will switch over to Microsoft's tool kits.

But I really expect a decent, Open Source web service client tool to come out in Java or Python or something any day now. It probably doesn't exist now because nerdy OS guys are probably content to use Eclipse/IntelliJ plugins. One more item I've added to my handy dandy google spreadsheet of software projects to write.

PS- I find it odd that google spreadsheets doesn't have a public URL to view as HTML or something. This would be pretty useful.
 
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