Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Implementing Application UI in XML

I just noticed the new release of Pivot on DZone, and the whole idea just leaves me confused.  Why would anyone want to do complex coding in XML?

Java isn't the best for the kind of declarative style that you need when coding components that need a lot of information to be passed in such as colours and fonts.  The rows of sets really become ugly but at least you can have named constants for things like points and rectangles which is really difficult in XML.  Ant is a good example of that, properties soon become complex which doesn't happen in a Java project.

I don't think JavaFx is the answer either, it's just as confusing.  It's a high level language without an advertised purpose.  Yes it can do nice graphics easily but this must account for a single figure percentage (if that) of the total amount of software currently being developed.  If it hasn't been made to scale up to more complex tasks then whats the point of it?  Thats more of an advertising blunder than a language problem since it has all of the features that I would expect of a non-innovative modern language.  Maybe it's just not for me, it's created for designers and I'm not the target market.  Concurrency features are a hard sell to hasn't seen their UI mysteriously lock up.  Overall I'm just not impressed enough to make the switch when I could spend my time learning much more interesting tech.

The Groovy builders are impressive but aren't so much greater than Java to make the massive leap of incorporating a new language into your system. 

Back to Java, what does it really need to catch up in productivity to the main players?
  • Closures,  this would just be really nice to have.  Anonymous classes achieve the same thing but Swing would look so much nicer with closures.
  • String interpolation and multiline string, so simple and so useful.  Over Christmas I read up on Ruby, the language is a good manual on how to make our lives easier for day to day tasks.
  • Clear up the cruddy Swing API, an average custom component has a multitude of inherited methods.  Just think how many different size properties there are, do you know which layout managers rely on which properties?  This can be improved.
  • Inbuilt listener framework, the property change listener framework is really underpowered.  The default framework for property listeners should have weak listeners, annotated methods that can generate handlers and threading strategies as standard.  Think EventBus or something similiar.
  • Configurable style, style should really be configurable and maybe even injectable as in Fuse.  The Swing Application Framework has this as well.
Using frameworks like Guice and MigLayout really improve design and coding as well and should be more standard in Java desktop development.

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