Instead of giving a complete summary of Monday, I’ll try and highlight the one talk that I felt provided the most buzz that I attended. Of those that I didn’t attend, but was getting good buzz on twitter was 3D CDO, hopefully somebody will provide an update of that talk soon.
For me, it was “Window Builder 101”.
One thing I have felt for years that Eclipse has been missing is a really good open source GUI designer. Most developers I know and work with, do not like writing UI code. We’d rather be writing the functionality behind it, not messing around with getting a pixel in the correct position. WindowBuilder was a commercial product before Google bought Instantiation. Being the nice search engine overlord that they are, Google has donated the project to Eclipse. Google kept the GWT Designer which leverages the core engine of WindowBuilder.
There have been many attempts to provide a graphical designer for eclipse as open source projects, however, it’s always been hard to keep them going. With the advent of projects like WindowBuilder, Sapphire, and Graphitti we have a renewed interest. The big advantage that WindowBuilder has at least from Java perspective, is that it can read and write existing Java code to give you the screen. So if you already have a legacy application, it can interpret your existing code and use it. It does not use any intermediate meta data files to store the information.
The other thing I found interesting about WindowBuilder was that the underlying engine is java agnostic. Meaning it could generate GUI code for QT, GTK, KDE, Android, iOS, or any other graphical editing framework that you plug into it. You can feed it in code from a DSL, wether XML, Xtext, or other custom written DSL. You could feed it C code with the right extension points. This could make a HUGE selling point for projects like CDT, that still get compared to Visual Studio with it’s graphical designers. WindowBuilder could help level this playing field, and provide a very good alternative to Visual Studio with the right extensions points added to it.
All of the graphical editing projects now at Eclipse are a good sign that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. I for one welcome our new graphical designer overlords.