What is Apache Tomcat?

Apache Tomcat software is a run-time environment, developed by the Apache Foundation, that allows you to run Web applications from a server. Its main technical feature is to be centered on the Java programming language, specifically in Servlet technologies and Java Server Pages, or JSP. This approach rivals, for example, frameworks such as Microsoft ASP, which is based on the Visual Basic language.

The Apache Foundation, best known for its Web server, allows administrators to use Tomcat software freely for commercial or non-commercial purposes. It’s written in Java and requires Java version 2 Standard Edition J2SE to be installed on the computer where it will run. It’s not enough to have the Java run-time version installed, though, as Tomcat also needs to compile programs written in Java. The Jakarta Apache Foundation project, of which the Tomcat sub-project is the most well-known representative, aims to develop open source solutions based on the Java platform.

What Languages Are Supported by Apache Tomcat?

The development of a typical Web application running with Tomcat typically makes use of several common languages. To begin with, all applications and algorithms must be written in Java. The application interface is marked up using HTML and viewed through the user’s browser. This task is usually delegated to the Web designer of a project. Any issues relating to the application configuration must be expressed using XML in a file named “web.xml” that resides in the project’s configuration folder. The configuration data can be used both by the Tomcat environment as well as the application.

According to Oracle, a servlet is an application class written in Java intended to generate encoded HTML documents. This characteristic of servlets implies that a Web designer needs to know Java fluently to be able to design the pages of an application. Because relatively few Web designers know Java programming, this limitation is overcome using JSP technology.

A page written in JSP is a page written in HTML and Java code that contains small fragments and special tags defined in the JSP specification. With these tags, the Web designer does not need to write a single line of Java code. Unlike what happens with the ASP technology, the programmer can us Java to create custom tags for application development.

What Are the Technical Benefits of Apache Tomcat?

The Tomcat server has the ability to automatically convert any JSP page into an equivalent servlet. In other words, Tomcat is able to create Java source code from a simple HTML document. From a technical point of view, Tomcat is the reference implementation of the specification of servlets and JSP technologies. Version 4.0 of Tomcat implements the most recent Servlet and JSP specifications. Several companies — such as Borland, IBM, BEA and others — also offer their implementations of these frameworks.

Tomcat can be used as a standalone Web server or in conjunction with a dedicated server such as Apache. In this case, Apache serves static page requests while Tomcat serves dynamic page requests. Another way is to use Tomcat as part of the Java 2 Enterprise Edition for creating Java application servers.

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The world of Web development is a quickly growing industry with a great deal of projected job growth. While the frameworks and languages of the Web are typically easier to learn than standard programming languages, the same mathematical rules of computational efficiency apply. If you want to provide Web design services to clients, you’ll most likely need to know Apache Tomcat programming.