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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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Bruce Eckel

Posts: 868
Nickname: beckel
Registered: Jun, 2003

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 18, 2008 3:57 PM
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> Have a look at the Merapa project
> (http://www.merapiproject.net/). They are building a
> bridge between Air and Java.

Excellent! That's what I needed to know. I was very surprised that such a thing didn't seem to exist, and it seems that the only problem is that Google doesn't find it very easily.

David Qiao

Posts: 6
Nickname: jidesoft
Registered: Oct, 2004

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 18, 2008 4:02 PM
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Exactly. I think Google doesn't even care about the Desktop, let alone the Desktop Java.

Bruce Eckel

Posts: 868
Nickname: beckel
Registered: Jun, 2003

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 18, 2008 4:05 PM
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> Now don't get me wrong, I'm no hypocrite, I won't throw
> stones at Flex, as is seems to be a fine product, but I
> think trying to claim that Java Desktop is irrelevant (see
> title) is ridiculous, and I think it is very much agenda
> driven by the people who are pushing Flex.

The title didn't say it was irrelevant, it asked if anyone cared. And lots of people have responded that they do, and have described what they are doing. So it's been very informative.

I personally think that desktop Java has better opportunities with a UI system like Flex that is better at creating UIs, while at the same time leveraging the vast libraries that Java has created over the years. This gives the best of both worlds -- and it was something that I wanted to do recently, but couldn't find the right tool.

At the same time, people who want to use Swing or SWT are obviously creating useful apps that way. I've personally been having a better time with Flex, but that doesn't mean it's the only way. Just as Swing isn't the only way.

Romain Guy

Posts: 2
Nickname: romainguy
Registered: Jul, 2008

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 18, 2008 5:03 PM
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The fact that I now work for Google has nothing to do with whether or not I care about Desktop Java. During the 10 years I spent caring about Desktop Java, I spent only one working professionally with Swing, at Sun. Does that mean I shouldn't have been caring during 9 years? No.

But it's been a long time, I still really enjoy programming in Swing and Java2D and I believe these are two great technologies. However, let's face it: the software industry at large doesn't care about Desktop Java. It's a tool and there are better tools out there to get the job done.

I care about good user interfaces and I am convinced that it's easier to achieve with Flex, Cocoa, WPF, etc. than Swing and Java2D (or SWT for that matter.) Desktop Java is just a tool, it doesn't have to be *the* tool.

What changed my mind is Sun itself, and more specifically JavaOne 2007 and the announcement of JavaFX. It looks promising but I really don't see why anybody would use it. Since I would have to learn a new language and new APIs, I'd rather spend my time learning technologies that are widely used, adopted, distributed and liked. For instance, Flex.

Desktop Java is not dead, I still enjoy writing stuff in Swing and Java2D, but really, nobody cares :)

And for what it's worth I even wrote two Swing based tools for the Android SDK :)

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 18, 2008 5:17 PM
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> The title didn't say it was irrelevant, it asked if anyone
> cared. And lots of people have responded that they do, and
> have described what they are doing. So it's been very
> informative.
>
> I personally think that desktop Java has better
> opportunities with a UI system like Flex that is better at
> creating UIs, while at the same time leveraging the vast
> libraries that Java has created over the years. This gives
> the best of both worlds -- and it was something that I
> wanted to do recently, but couldn't find the right tool.
>
> At the same time, people who want to use Swing or SWT are
> obviously creating useful apps that way. I've personally
> been having a better time with Flex, but that doesn't mean
> it's the only way. Just as Swing isn't the only way.

The title is phrased provocatively. Consider: "Does anyone really care about Bruce Eckel's opinion?" This statement contains a underlying supposition that there's something wrong with caring about desktop java. You could have said, "who's using desktop Java?" Of course, the more provocative title might just be a strategy to get more eyeballs and responses so I didn't read too much into it.

However, at the risk of seeming rude, your recent conversion to flex, and your name and picture being featured in Adobe advertisements gives the impression that you might be tearing-down Java as part of being a shill for Adobe. Personally, I think it would be proper for you to reveal what kind of financial relationship you have with Adobe if you have one.

Rio Malaschitz

Posts: 2
Nickname: riom
Registered: Jul, 2008

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 18, 2008 6:57 PM
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> (http://www.merapiproject.net/). They are building a
> bridge between Air and Java.

I last month finished commercial project for photo-service company. It was my first project in Adobe AIR. Because Merapi is not finished I created own library for communication between Adobe AIR and back end application in Java (I need it for some special printing and for using RXTX library).

Creating own library is very simple (via Socket) and this is probably reason because does not exist some widely used open source solution for it (as PyAMF).

Rinie Kervel

Posts: 26
Nickname: rinie
Registered: Oct, 2005

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 19, 2008 3:00 AM
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> Exactly. I think Google doesn't even care about the
> Desktop, let alone the Desktop Java.

They translate it to javascript. Wonder why no one mentioned GWT? Program in Java execute in your browser

Florin Jurcovici

Posts: 66
Nickname: a0flj0
Registered: Feb, 2005

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 19, 2008 3:02 AM
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I havea coleague, she's a very good, very experienced and very skillful C++ programmer. For most part of her career all that she got to use is MS DevStudio. Nothing in this world could convince her that managed-mem or dynamic languages are worth much in enterprise computing, although she herself did some VB apps too. There might be quite a lot of programmers out there thinking the same way. Since MS's C++ stack isn't quite the ideal technology to build network apps, what else than desktop apps is it that they could build? Whereas Java shines when it comes to network apps, and is therefore used most for web-based business apps.

Then you also have lots of legacy apps, which nobody is going to port to Java and a Java-based UI just in order to increase the percentage of desktop apps written in Java.

Did you try out GWT lately? Or Wicket? These might be reasons why you won't probably see many rich clients written in Java from now on, in spite of Java being heavily used in enterprise apps. This coupled with the fact that rich clients are one of the most often encountered species of apps for businesses might be another reason why there are not so many publicly known rich UI Java apps.

I for one surely don't care for desktop apps written in Java. I think almost anything should be a server-based app running in Jetty, no matter if embedded or not, and having a web frontend, and other species of apps. Such a development model allows quite a nice and modular separation of responsibilities in your code, and provided you use the right tools isn't as nightmarishly difficult as some might want to believe. There's just one catch: don't go for standards coming out of the JCP, but look for free, open source alternatives, which are usually what programmers need, not what big businesses would like to sell.

Charles H

Posts: 5
Nickname: chhum
Registered: Feb, 2007

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 19, 2008 5:24 AM
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> <p>So if people are really interested in desktop Java,
> prove it. Take the work that's already been done in the
> open-source BlazeDS and create a desktop Java-AMF bridge,
> so we can easily add AIR user interfaces on top of Java
> code. That way you can have easy-to-create UIs now,
> instead of waiting to see whether Java FX pans out.</p>

So if I care about desktop Java we should put our effort into supporting a propriety alternative to it? I don't see the logic of this really. Surely if I care about desktop Java I should get inolved in helping to shape desktop Java directly via openJFX (https://openjfx.dev.java.net/) or working on Swing/Java2D itself?

As an aside every organization I've consulted for in the last 7 years has had some desktop Java apps in regular use and not all of them are by IT or developers. Most of the projects that I've architected have used an applet or some other Swing components for something (from handling printing duties in a large retail label printing application to emulating a mainframe for a bank contact centre desktop, to providing a GUI for defining insurance risk assessment rules). I'm yet to see a Flex application in an enterprise context although I'm sure there are some around. I have developed a Flex app myself for someone and found it OK although some of the limitations of the language (no typed arrays - ug!) were rather annoying. Java would still be my first choice for this though.

Rob Ross

Posts: 1
Nickname: robross
Registered: Jul, 2008

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 19, 2008 7:28 AM
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The title was clearly designed to be provocative, presumably to increase the number of eyeballs viewing this article and thus increase ad revenue.

But that's a pretty standard technique in the publishing industry and has been for hundreds of years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_journalism

You might have just as easily written "Does anyone really care about .NET any more?" and gotten a huge influx of irate .NET developers. Maybe next year you'll be writing "Has Flex failed on the Desktop?" and we can all watch the ironic hilarity ensue.

But I won't take it personally. I do find it amusing though.

Anyway I'm posting this to say that yes, *I* care about Java on the desktop. I spend the majority of my time writing desktop Java applications for internal use by my company. Many of them are quite impressive if I do say so myself. The users love them, and they're supporting mission-critical processes of the company. And you've never heard of these applications, nor of me, but hey, we exist!

Do any of the users know that these apps are written in Java, or even know what "Java" is? Magic 8-ball tells me "outcome unlikely."

I like Java, and I like the power that Swing and Java2D give me. I started my career long ago writing apps in 4GL environments like PowerBuilder, VB, 4th Dimension, etc. I soon became frustrated with the fact that these tools, although quite good at letting you quickly develop applications, did not easily allow one to go "outside" the pre-determined feature set of the UI widgets. That is, customizing applications beyond these environments' operating parameters was very difficult, time-consuming, and difficult to debug. And cross-platform development, something else that is important to me, was often impossible with these tools.

So when I first discovered Java and Swing I was instantly hooked and it felt like a huge barrier to creativity had been lifted. Sure, it took a while to get it stable, but since Java 1.4 I have had no major issues developing snappy, responsive, attractive and usable applications. I can literally design any GUI that anyone can think up, because if needed I can develop my own widgets based on primitive Java2D drawing operations. And I can deploy the same application on both Mac and Windows machines, with minimal platform-specific tweaking. But hey, feel free to show me another cross-platform desktop development environment with the standard library features and 3rd-party support of Java and the same flexible deployment options and that is open-source, and I will be happy to take a look at it.

By the way, I have never had a problem thinking of desktop Java as a primarily a tool for in-house corporate development. It can and has been used for commercial applications, but I think it really shines for in-house, cross-platform app development. But that's just my personal experience, I don't want denigrate anyone writing commercial apps.

Rio Malaschitz

Posts: 2
Nickname: riom
Registered: Jul, 2008

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 19, 2008 7:48 AM
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> So when I first discovered Java and Swing I was instantly
> hooked and it felt like a huge barrier to creativity had
> been lifted.

I am too. And when I discovered Adobe Flex and Adobe AIR I have again the same feeling.

Pavel Stepanek

Posts: 2
Nickname: stepec
Registered: Jul, 2008

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 19, 2008 8:25 AM
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Everybody here is talking about Desktop Java and is comparing solutions for building GUI, but other crucial factors which surely companies take in account are not mentioned at all.

If Bruce Eckel is asking why there are no popular commercial Java desktop applications, I´m asking what are such popular desktop applications regardless language/platform in/on which they were written? Everybody knows Word, Excel, web browsers, various editors (graphics, text, ... ). Then there are many special software development tools, but lot of them are open source.

I think that important role plays also the overall performance and how such a commercial software is vulnerable to cracking or know-how protection. I think that these factors and probably other are of a much greater importance and are evaluated first. And on desktop it is not usual and not as effective to write client GUI in other language/platform than the core app. For example Netbeans is great IDE, but it is starting on my 1800 MHZ, 1 GB RAM many times slower than Visual Studio. And that´s not all. The JRE swallows many megs of RAM, even the smallest GUI app in Java eats megs of RAM. So compiled languages (to machine code) like C++, Object Pascal/Delphi and Visual Basic, with smaller memory footprint are better choice. If I know that my desktop single user application/program woul best perform in C++, why should I build GUI in Java? Simply desktop is not the best segment for whole Java platform.

Regardless of these disadvanteges, there are some very nice desktop aplications written in Java (I think that for example Oxygen XML editor is written in Java) and I also agree that in Enterprise sphere there are many fat clients, graphical interfaces written in Swing which does its job well.

Hervé Girod

Posts: 2
Nickname: magnum1
Registered: Mar, 2006

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 19, 2008 9:05 AM
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>
> I care about good user interfaces and I am convinced that
> it's easier to achieve with Flex, Cocoa, WPF, etc. than
> Swing and Java2D (or SWT for that matter.) Desktop Java is
> just a tool, it doesn't have to be *the* tool.
>
> Since I would have to learn a new language and new APIs,
> I'd rather spend my time learning technologies that are
> widely used, adopted, distributed and liked. For instance,
> Flex.
>
The Cocoa framework is primarily for MAC OS X, and the main implementation is proprietary IMHO.

WPF is the next highly advertised MS UI framework, as always, theoretically opened, but practically closed (Mono / Moonlight will always have to catch the latest Microsoft additions, until the time they will switch to new technologies and announce the new one as the next big thing).

Flex builder and Adobe Flash are proprietary, and Flex builds on that.

So I think it's dangerous to use these technologies, because we can't have any say in their development, which is not the case with Java (at least since OpenJDK). Those that used Windows Forms may be aware by now that Microsoft has shifted interest to WPF, so Forms is now peacefully getting older without real support. But some time ago Forms may had it's 15 mn of fame...

Yanic Inghelbrecht

Posts: 1
Nickname: yanic
Registered: Dec, 2007

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 19, 2008 1:02 PM
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I'd say a good looking UI is definitely possible in Java, I just wish it were a bit easier to achieve.

For example, have a look at Trace Modeler ( 30 sec demo : http://www.tracemodeler.com/download/index.html#demo )

It took a lot of work, but people like how it looks and -more importantly perhaps- how they interact with it. In case you're wondering, it uses javasoft's synthetica L&F with their whitevision theme.

The main difficulty for java on the desktop, in my experience, is not so much the UI itself, but the broader aspect of creating something that works well on multiple platforms.

For example, dealing with all the little inconsistencies and unique bugs for every JRE/platform combination wastes a lot of time (and makes java apps look bad since such 'exotic' issues are usually detected by your users).

If anyone is interested, I wrote a little bit about this in the programming section of http://www.tracemodeler.com/articles/index.html

Wilfred Springer

Posts: 176
Nickname: springerw
Registered: Sep, 2006

Re: Does Anyone Really Care About Desktop Java? Posted: Jul 19, 2008 3:43 PM
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Early 2007, I started to gain some hope; JavaFX seemed to be hitting a sweet spot, in terms of the power-to-weight ratio. No more crazy combinations of XML and JavaScript. However, it now has been announced twice: once at JavaOne 2007, and again at JavaOne 2008. And it still isn't out there. It is hard to believe that it will now ever catch up with the momentum Flex gained meanwhile.

(For the Sun managers out there: don't get me wrong. We love JavaFX. Don't kill this project. Instead, make sure that it gets out there.)

It would be interesting to know if any of the guys working on JavaFX has been hit by the latest layoffs at Sun. (Anybody knows?)

If JavaFX doesn't cut it, I could imagine we could still use a large portion of what has been created so far + the Desktop related updates in Java 6 to build something interesting in Scala, I suppose. Admittedly, it would target a completely different audience - but it would be interesting.

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