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UI Design with Java and XML Toolkits

XML has revolutionized application UI design in recent years. With a cunning blend of XML and script languages such as JavaScript, rich, aesthetically pleasing applications can be quickly constructed with ease. We've looked at Widgets and XUL as two examples of this in the past and now, I'm going to take a look at some of the innovative Java UI toolkits that implement XML as an integral mechanism for application II design. Please note, this is the first part of a two-part article.

Author Info:
By: Dan Wellman
Rating: 4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars / 10
September 13, 2006
  1. · UI Design with Java and XML Toolkits
  2. · Luxor
  3. · JXUL and SwiXml
  4. · JAXX and Thinlet

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UI Design with Java and XML Toolkits - Luxor
(Page 2 of 4 )

It would seem to be the next logical step for people that have comfortably used XUL to create add-ins for Mozilla or FireFox, or even mini desktop applications.  Whereas XUL must mostly run within either browser, Luxor is an embedded XUL engine that is combined with Java to produce rich desktop applications, including the very popular LimeWire peer-to-peer program.  Because specifying the user interface in XUL is so easy, constructing a functional and attractive interface can be done very quickly -- much quicker, and with greatly simplified code in fact than in writing the whole application in Java.

You can also make use of several of the main attractions of XUL; CSS styling which allows a simple mechanism for creating a visual theme for your app, and the skinnability that many users desire, as well as the localizational properties of XUL. JavaScript can be utilized effectively for the simple functions of an interface, but Java gives you more power than Javascript and has been claimed as being easier to learn with a cleaner syntax. JavaScript is also less appropriate outside of a browser environment. 

For those of you that aren't interested in learning Java, there is also Luxilla, which is a Luxor development environment you can use without knowing/coding a single line of Java. Luxor is free, open source and released under the GPL. A Luxor web site does exist, at http://luxor-xul.sourceforge.net/index.html, but don't expect anything more than a very basic site. There is little real information for anyone wanting to get started with Luxor, and no introductory tutorials that guide you through the installation process or use. 

Luxor comes in the form of an executable .JAR file, much like most of Mozilla/FireFox, which contains the swing class files used to render the UI objects on screen. Luxor enthusiasm does seem to be at a low ebb at present, the latest distribution being around 18 months old. I have to admit, in the time I allocated to playing around with each of the Java XML toolkits I looked at, I didn't manage to get Luxor working at all.

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