There are at least two ways to approach building an application that combines Java and XML. One involves using a toolkit; that was covered in last week's article. In this second of two parts, you'll learn what is available for the second approach: using an integrated development environment.
Java UI Design with an IDE - JFormDesigner (Page 5 of 5 )
JFormDesigner (http://www.jformdesigner.com/) is the other one that you are going to have to pay for if you want to use it. This application is fully installed and takes Java UI design and construction to its peak.
It's very powerful and is intuitive enough for basic programming tasks, but it quickly becomes very complicated and almost has too much going on. There are a whole load of UI elements that you can select and create very easily using this application, and there is also a display of the structure of your form and a properties panel to adjust the properties of each element. You can run tests of your UI in the program environment and view any build problems in the highly visible error log.
This application costs even more than the previous one, up to $189 with a year of support. It looks very nice and it has a reasonable help file, but for most people, the outlay simply won't pay off. Anyone that's making small scale applications or messing around with Java for fun can find everything they need in an open source, free application.
Developers that don't use Java to write applications need not begin to feel just a little left out at this point, as Microsoft has also produced a system for developing application user interfaces from XML files. XAML files contain the mark up used to describe your application interface and are used along with any language that supports the .NET Common Language Specification. The Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), formally known as Avalon, is an integral part of the .NET framework 3.0 and Vista, and as development has been kicking around for a few years, there are a few editors around that you can use to work with it. You can choose from open source applications to extensions to Visual Studio 2005.
So, as the second article focusing on Java and XML application UI design draws to a close, we've seen two methods of designing reduced maintenance user interfaces. The first article looked mainly at open source toolkits, while this article has concentrated mainly on environments that feature their own interfaces, often designed using the languages they were written to design. While the toolkits can offer a more robust approach to UI construction, setting them up requires a greater understanding of the underlying technologies and can sometimes be much less documented.
The applications looked at in this article, on the other hand, have generally been a lot easier to install and much better documented. There are generally less of them than the toolkits, however, and their development and maintenance can in some cases be sporadic. Make up your own mind as to which one you would rather use, but when designing Java applications, make sure you use one of them.
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