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JavaFX Composer a Big Step for JavaFX?

01.14.2010
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Released for early access back in December, the JavaFX Composer is a new visual editor plugin for NetBeans 6.8 (similar to Project Matisse for Swing) that uses components in the JavaFX SDK.  DZone recently interviewed the JavaFX Tools QA Team lead at Sun Microsystems, Lukas Hasik, to see how developers were responding to the new tool and find out when the GA release is coming.  The plugin is still in the process of adding more features, and community feedback is crucial for deciding those features.  It currently resembles tools like Flash Builder and Microsoft Blend, but it makes things easier on developers who don't have design training.  The plugin is a welcome addition to the skimpy JavaFX toolbox.  More tools like the JavaFX Composer could lead to an increase in high profile JavaFX applications like the medal visualizer application on the 2010 Winter Olympics website.

DZone:  First, can you tell me why JavaFX Composer is unique and significant for JavaFX developers?  What was the motivation behind the creation of JavaFX Composer?

Lukas Hasik:  We collect feedback from our users periodically and we got many requests from developers who need to create fat clients that access various data sources.  They'd like to use JavaFX for such applications because Swing doesn't provide cool UI effects.  On the other hand they are not designers and they prefer to use pre-defined components with easy layout (form, grid), often optimized for small devices (application flow with multiple screens). JavaFX Composer should address exactly these needs.

DZone:  What kinds of general feedback have you gotten from developers about the tool?


Lukas:  So far the feedback is very positive. We were surprised to see such detailed reviews immediately after the preview release. We've also received requests to support many new features.

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DZone:  How far off is a GA release of JavaFX Composer and what new features might be added?


Lukas:  Rougly 6 months.  The current plan is to align it with the NetBeans 6.9 release.  We're planning to add support for JavaFX 1.3, more components, more and better data sources, and better integration with JavaFX Production Suite.  Also, we are going to focus on improving usability based on user feedback.

DZone:  Are there plans to make the plugin available on more IDE's and platforms?


Lukas: 
NetBeans is our main tools platform and at the moment there are no plans to extend the plugin to other IDEs.

DZone:  How popular has the early access plugin been so far?  What is the community's response?

Lukas: 
It is too early to evaluate.  It's been available for a while since we released the first preview, but people are definitely interested in it - we got many positive reactions immediately after we revealed the first screenshot a few weeks ago.

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DZone: Are there any common issues in this early preview that users should keep in mind?

Lukas:  The current preview release is very stable. We definitely need feedback from people, so that we can polish the work flow. The component set is still limited, but this will improve with JavaFX 1.3, and going forward we'd like to integrate more and more components.  The same is true for Data Sources.  At the moment, generated code cannot be edited, but custom code can be attached through handlers.  We're working on it but it is not trivial and we're not going to release such a feature until it is robust enough not to break user code.
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DZone also got the chance to speak with Martin Ryzl, the manager of JavaFX Composer development:

DZone:  Many JavaFX users say that there aren't enough tools available for JavaFX.  Some also say that a lack of tooling is a big reason why JavaFX isn't gaining more traction.  Do you agree with those statements?  Does JavaFX Composer satisfy some of the tooling needs for JavaFX?

Martin Ryzl:  I agree that a lack of tools for an RIA technology is a reason for limited adoption. That's the reason NetBeans has been paying attention to JavaFX tooling, and based on the feedback from our users we started working on the JavaFX Composer.  Of course, basic support like the editor with advanced highlighting, hints, refactoring, build system, etc. is higher priority.
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You can see a video here where Lukas Hasik creates a simple application in JavaFX Composer that will rotate and zoom in on the NetBeans logo.  To get started with the JavaFX Composer, check out this tutorial.

Comments

Max Katz replied on Thu, 2010/01/14 - 8:14pm

For Eclipse users, Exadel has JavaFX plug-in for Eclipse and we have also started working on visual designer.

Max
http://mkblog.exadel.com

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