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Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java?

103 replies on 7 pages. Most recent reply: Oct 7, 2008 3:42 AM by Andrew Binstock

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Flat View: This topic has 103 replies on 7 pages [ « | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 | » ]
Michael Galpin

Posts: 2
Nickname: mgalpin
Registered: Jul, 2008

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 4:30 PM
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So you're asking for an embedded Java app server that runs BlazeDS? That's what you had in the Python article, right? If so, seems like an executable on top of Jetty would be straightforward.

Patrick Wright

Posts: 15
Nickname: pdoubleya
Registered: Jun, 2005

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 4:32 PM
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I think the question isn't why Java failed, the question is why, despite the hassle, so many of the desktop apps I find on my machine are written (as far as I can tell) in C/C++ or (on OS X) Objective-C. They certainly aren't written in Ruby, Perl, or Smalltalk. For the most part, on Ubuntu, most aren't written in C#/Mono, either. I used a Python GUI app once (that was where I knew it was Python) but I think it was just that once.

For development--yeah, I use the Java IDEs (IDEA on OS X is pretty incredible, actually), jEdit once in awhile. I used to use SmartCVS as well, that's a nice (and useful) Swing app. Cyberduck is a Java app for OS X that uses the OS X libraries for the UI, as far as I know. Great app, though.

Bruce, take a gander at the machines you use and see what their desktop software is written in. How many Flex apps do you have installed? How many are you currently evaluating, and thinking of using full-time in place of some other app?

As far as Flex, I just associate it with a whole line of development tools aiming to put advertising on every single webpage I visited. I don't recall any websites that were using Flash, for example, where it seemed to buy me anything, outside of web video. Bruce, can you name 5 or 6 websites using Flex that are just so rocking that we're convinced it's the way of the future? I do like where parleys.com, but that's the only one I can think of.

I have downloaded some AIR apps and they were pretty nice to look at; pleasant. But I found no need to actually install them or use any of them. I'm not against it in any way; I still try out a lot of software and when I find something useful, I stick with it. At the end of the day, I want apps that help me get something done or enjoy myself.

What I found with several Java desktops apps I used was that if they were well-designed (BlogBridge is nice, SmartCVS was great, Azureus is OK but I rarely need it) then I just forgot they were written in Java. The reason why I stopped using them was not because of visual issues or performance issues but rather that they just weren't well designed for the task at hand, at least for my purposes. Omni Outliner is a good counter-example to that: it does outlines, it's simple and lets me focus on outlining and it never breaks. If an app does its job well, then I don't care what it's written in.

I think the larger point is that designing high-quality GUI apps is at least part art, and there are many, many times more junk apps written for, say, Windows, in C and C++ or even VB than ever were written in Java. Good GUI designers, people who do that well, are just hard to find; or else maybe most of them write software for OS X.


Patrick

Digital Alterego

Posts: 1
Nickname: alterego
Registered: Jul, 2008

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 4:44 PM
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Err, ever tried the flash plugin on a non windows platform?
It's an absolut disaster, I'can't tell how often flash is crashing and taking down the browser on my linux system.

Last week I tried almost all Flex apps shown at http://showcase.thinkpixels.net/ and the official flex showcase site.
The overall performance was ridiculous on my dualcore system. This maybe due the crappy NVIDIA drivers, or X, but nonetheless all Swing apps work flawlessly.

My impression was, that flex apps are like aliens in the browser. I know that's a very subjective impression, but just to give some hints.
- No support for standard browser actions (forward/back/search, etc).
- Bookmarking
- Printing Support (ever saw flash's linux printing dialog?)
- Yet another new unique lnf. Swing was bashed for ages, because it never looked like an native app.

I'm not sure, it's the right way to impose a whole GUI/widget/appframework on top of flash only because flash runs in the browser and has a large installation base.

And, yes to answer your question, I care about desktop java. We've successfully delivered a Java/Swing application to 300 clients (absolut non geek audience) and never regretted our choice.

David Koontz

Posts: 3
Nickname: dkoontz
Registered: May, 2008

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 4:46 PM
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I've used DBVisualizer (http://dbvisualizer.com/) for years (back when I was on Windows and now on OSX). Freemind (http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page) is also another OSS Java desktop app that has some level of visiblity (at least within the mind mapping crowd).

Personally I make my living doing Java desktop apps but not using straight Java (that *is* crazy). The Swing picture looks a lot better when you consider the use of a dynamic language. So I use Monkeybars (http://monkeybars.org) which when combined with a decent visual designer like Netbeans means Swing gets out of your way more than it gets in your way. Now any GUI toolkit is going to have issues and Swing still certainly has its own, but as Chet Haase and Romain Guy have shown the ability to reach in, install custom painters, etc. can be fantastically powerful.

We're having such success that regular consumer level desktop apps are my primary focus now. The ability to develop on OSX and release an app that works equally well on Windows/Linux is really fantastic, plus you get to use any language that can run on the JVM instead of being stuck with ActionScript.

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 4:51 PM
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> Personally I make my living doing Java desktop apps but
> not using straight Java (that *is* crazy). The Swing
> picture looks a lot better when you consider the use of a
> dynamic language. So I use Monkeybars
> (http://monkeybars.org) which when combined with a decent
> visual designer like Netbeans means Swing gets out of your
> way more than it gets in your way. Now any GUI toolkit is
> going to have issues and Swing still certainly has its
> own, but as Chet Haase and Romain Guy have shown the
> ability to reach in, install custom painters, etc. can be
> fantastically powerful.

I have been thinking about using a dynamic language for this purpose. Does anyone know of something like Monkeybars in Jython? I can build Swing apps in Jython now but a Python specific API could be so much cleaner and easier to work with. For example, being able to pass functions as event listeners instead of having to implement an interface would be a great start.

Mark McLaren

Posts: 2
Nickname: markmc
Registered: Jan, 2007

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 4:58 PM
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I think people overlook SWT.

Bruce - for an example of a good Java desktop app, check out our Solar Accounts accounting software:
http://www.solaraccounts.co.uk

Costs £85, and people are buying!

Fred Garvin

Posts: 52
Nickname: fredgarvin
Registered: Jan, 2008

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 5:28 PM
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In the world of enterprise applications the underlying reason for the "deafening silence" is the same as it has been for nearly ten years now -- deployment. Like it or not we live in a browser centric world. People have been conditioned to believe that AWT/Swing/Applets is a poor platform for deploying enterprise apps. If you want to sell enterprise software you have a *much* easier time selling servlet-based applications that render Html to a browser. Of course other platforms have been sneaking in (e.g., Flash, Silverlight) that have more or less the same "problems" that Web Start or Fx-based apps have. Their advantage is that they are not Java or Swing; there is no baggage.

The silver lining is the trend that we are finally moving away from Html/Javascript based applications. We seem to be finally realizing that in order to build manageable rich applications we kind of need a real presentation manager and solid languages to leverage it.

As an aside Windows is still the dominating desktop platform especially in the business world -- where the $$ are. If I were building a rich, non-browser based, application, I would seriously consider using .NET with C# 3.x. You can't beat the language, platform, and tools.

Umberto Zappia

Posts: 1
Nickname: javathread
Registered: Jul, 2008

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 6:58 PM
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Mr Bruce (or Mr Thinking in Java I should say) have a look at this fantastic Java app for photographers:

http://lightcrafts.com/

Adam Fisk

Posts: 2
Nickname: adamfisk
Registered: Jul, 2008

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 7:40 PM
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By far the most popular desktop Java application I know of is LimeWire, which I wrote a good deal of. The installs of LimeWire dwarf anything else mentioned here to an absurd degree.

Hopefully that will soon be true of my latest creation, LittleShoot. LittleShoot takes a much different approach to UI, though, and I'd argue a better one. It actually runs a local HTTP server that supplies any necessary UI data to a browser, while most of the actual UI is controlled through a central web site, only fetching data locally as necessary. No more Swing/SWT/QT nightmares (just browser compatibility ones!).

LittleShoot's at http://www.littleshoot.org.

Adam Fisk

Posts: 2
Nickname: adamfisk
Registered: Jul, 2008

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 7:50 PM
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Oh, and I'd also add an argument for straight JavaScript using comet (aka asynchronous AJAX) if you really want asynchronous messaging. The Flash business model is ultimately tied to selling Flash Media Servers. That's a nightmare, and you don't need to go there.

Stick with the open web, fellas.

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 8:41 PM
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> I think people overlook SWT.

I was really excited about SWT until I actually tried it. I hate APIs that rely on huge numbers of uncategorized integer constants (or enums) which seems to be an IBM MO. Maybe things have gotten better in the last couple years but I got sick of trying to figure out which constants are valid parameters to which methods.

robert young

Posts: 361
Nickname: funbunny
Registered: Sep, 2003

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 9:38 PM
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> > I'll chime in. I wrote a Swing app a few years ago.
> The
> > level of effort required and the overall clunkiness of
> the
> > result convinced me that Java UI was just pointless.
> I've
> > revisited that app as recently as a couple years ago.
> It
> > still looks awful (I'm using standard swing components)
> > and feels "mushy" in terms of responsiveness.
>
> Did you try it in 1.6? That's where the major
> improvements start.

I work for Fortune X00 company making stuff for other Fortune X00 companies. Some of our stuff (circa 1.1) is Applet. Most of our clients refuse to upgrade from 1.3. Nor will they. Maybe we have worse than usual clients. OTOH, these clients still won't accept COBOL/84 code, either.

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 9:55 PM
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> I work for Fortune X00 company making stuff for other
> Fortune X00 companies. Some of our stuff (circa 1.1) is
> Applet. Most of our clients refuse to upgrade from 1.3.
> Nor will they. Maybe we have worse than usual clients.
> . OTOH, these clients still won't accept COBOL/84 code,
> either.

That stinks. We are still using 1.4 where I am but I don't write desktop apps for work. Well, not any that I've been told to write by any supervisors anyway and for those I use whatever I want.

Mike Mormando

Posts: 1
Nickname: mezmo
Registered: Jul, 2008

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 10:03 PM
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I didn't really see this mentioned anywhere, but lets think about where Java came from...it was supposed to be designed as a language for embedded development, and until JME and the PS3 took off, by that measure it has to be the most successful failure I've ever heard of! Not a whole lot of UI and GUI work in embedded systems. So they finally figure out they're NEVER going to shoehorn this thing they've created into an TV top box(come on, did you really expect to ever be able to buy a 1 terabyte drive back then?? I mean really, I sat in a meeting around the time of Java's release and listened to a manager kill a data warehousing project because disk for it was 1 million dollars a terabyte!), so, this Internet thing was going on and they decided to throw together applets, and now look where we are??!!?? So with this sort of history is it any wonder GUI looks like an afterthought? It wasn't even an afterthought, it was just a grope in the dark!

Mike K

Posts: 2
Nickname: mkorcy
Registered: Jul, 2008

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 17, 2008 10:44 PM
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The VUE project at Tufts (http://vue.tufts.edu) is, to me, a good example of a project in which Java on the desktop works, and looks good. Disclaimer, I am one of the developers on the project, but it really does look good. Yes, there's an overhead to making your project not look like a typical Swing Metal UI (although that's improved greatly even with stock components lately, and JLooks) but there's certainly benefits to using Java as well. The breadth and quality of 3rd party/Open Source libraries allow you to add some advanced functionality which may, take you a bit longer in some other languages. So while you made need to spend more time with your UI, especially if you really want cross platform parity, I think there are other areas where you can make up for it.

And to answer the question, I care about Desktop Java :) I just hope Sun/Apple doesn't lag 18 months bringing Java6u10 to the mac.

Mike

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