Thursday, May 19, 2005

Eclipse 3.0's Rich Client Platform

Eclipse 3.0's Rich Client Platform
Taking the drudgery out of cross-platform UI development
By Gene Sally and Maciej Halasz

One of the tremendous engineering feats behind Eclipse is that users don't know they're working with a multiplatform application. The user interface elements (drop-downs, option buttons, hierarchical views, and such) look and operate like other applications on the platform, even though the Eclipse platform is built on the same source code base. This article looks into the technology driving the Eclipse user experience and how you can use it to create your own cross-platform applications.

The Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT) serves as the graphical underpinning for the Eclipse framework, powering a sophisticated IDE. However, the SWT framework isn't only for Eclipse. You can use it by itself or in conjunction with the Rich Client Platform (RCP) when creating multiplatform applications. In this article, I examine the SWT and RCP, and show how to use them to deliver cross-platform applications.

Not Swing
Java graphical user interfaces (GUIs) have long been dominated by Sun's Abstract Widget Toolkit (AWT) and Swing windowing component packages. These two kits are widely used to create Java-compliant graphical components. Both AWT and Swing present a highly abstracted API that shields users from the underlying windowing system. While this thick layer lets AWT and Swing behave more like Java than SWT does, users pay in the form of a suboptimal experience.

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