Java GUI Builder Syncs Up with Latest Google Web Toolkit Release

Instantiations recently upgraded its popular Eclipse-based Ajax/Java GUI builder to allow developers to take advantage of new features in the latest major release of the Google Web Toolkit (GWT 2.0). GWT Designer 7.3 now supports the toolkit's new development mode, layout panels and widgets. It also provides enhanced support for the Ext GWT Java library.

The GWT is Google's free, open source development framework aimed at Web application builders who want to use the Asynchronous JavaScript and XML technique (Ajax) without having to learn JavaScript. Developers use the toolkit to write their applications using Java, and then the GWT compiles that code into highly optimized JavaScript.

It's one of about 150 Ajax toolkits currently available to Web developers, Gartner analyst Ray Valdes explained. He ranks the Google offering among the top toolkits, along with Dojo, Prototype, jQuery, Mootools and Ext JS.

Google doesn't currently provide a GUI builder for the GWT, so the Instantiations toolkit is filling something of a gap. David H. McCoy, senior software engineer at Navius Technologies, said he is glad to see that gap filled. McCoy focuses on Java development, usually Web-based, server-side applications, and he uses a variety of front ends, but he said he finds the GWT indispensable.

"If you've ever had to do a GUI application programmatically in Windows or Java, you know that it's a pain," explained McCoy. "GWT gives you a lot right out of the box. Using it and GWT Designer, I can quickly prototype the application -- in fact GWT Designer gets me 85 percent of the way there. The remaining 15 percent is refactoring and some hand-coding. For my latest project, I was able to use GWT Designer to create a front end, compile it with GWT, and take the resulting Java script and demo right to the customer."

A big upgrade from version 1.7, the GWT 2.0 release adds a number of new features. Along with a number of bug fixes, the new release adds: development mode, which allows developers to develop and debug code as it runs in the browser; the Speed Tracer tool, which provides visual metrics of app performance; "developer guided code splitting," which allows developers to fragment their GWT code for faster startups; a new draftCompile flag in the compiler, which speeds up compiles by skipping optimization; UiBinder, which allows devs to create UIs declaratively in XML; and Layout Panels, which provides a basic layout system on top of standard CSS.

That growth doesn't surprise McCoy, who added that today's GUI's are much more than eye candy. "The front ends have to be sexy," he said. "That's the price of admission today. If the customers don't like the way the app looks, and they don't enjoy using it, who cares how elegant the back end is?"

GWT Designer is built on Instantiations' WindowBuilder Pro, an Eclipse-based tool for creating Java GUI applications. This release of the Portland, Ore.-based company's product supports Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. It also supports the popular Ext GWT (GXT) library. Instantiations currently claims nearly 40,000 registered users of the product.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].