Friday, August 05, 2005

The Eclipse Visual Editor for Java

Source: Dr. Dobb's Journal


Picasso and Rembrandt conceived a visual idea and expressed it one brush stroke at a time until masterpieces for the ages stood on the easel. Today, many software engineers try to "paint" graphical user interfaces (GUIs) by writing line after line of code. However, modern tools are available to help you quickly produce high-quality GUI masterpieces, even if you're not a GUI expert.

In use since the late 1980s, visual editors (sometimes called "GUI builders") encompass a collection of software tools that help you in quickly creating attractive and usable interfaces for your application. Visual editors can be found for almost any programming language—including Java, which supports the Advanced Windowing Toolkit (AWT) and the more widely used Swing GUI libraries. However, as anyone who has worked with Swing will attest, it is flexible but can be difficult to work with.

Java GUI development normally consists of writing hundreds of lines of code using the Swing and AWT libraries, compiling, running, then tweaking for many hours to get the interface to look and behave just right. This cycle of coding, running, coding, running can be time consuming and frustrating. In some cases, it can even delay a project or cause shortcuts to be taken by weary developers leading to unusable GUIs. Enter the visual editor. Visual editing lets you drag-and-drop GUI components onto a visual display of the final GUI, creating a complete "what you see is what you get" (WYSIWYG) tool.

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