Rich Client Platforms

The session Test Driving the Rich Client Platform by Mikael Boman was really informative. I been looking into the Eclipse RCP and have also been reading a lot about the NetBeans Platform. In this session, Mikael discussed the NetBeans Platform, the Eclipse RCP, the Spring RCP, and the alternatives for building a rich client application.

A Rich Client Platform like the Eclipse RCP helps an application developer by proving a proven application UI with most of the plumbing already wired. The Eclipse RCP has a large user base and has been well tested by a myriad of applications. By getting all this for free you, as an application developer, have more time to focus on the business logic. If you think about it, the Eclipse IDE is just a collection of plug-ins. The IBM RAD tool is basically Eclipse with a ton of plug-ins. As a positive, the Eclipse RCP counts on the SWT native UI library and hundreds of available plug-ins. The SWT is also one of the negatives for the Eclipse RCP. SWT is a competing technology to Swing and it is not 100% Java. According to Mikael, you can use Swing but will have some difficulty in some configurations.

According to Mikael, the NetBeans Plaform benefits from being 100% Java. A ton of existing modules already exist which you might be able to reuse in your own application. As for the negative aspects of the NetBeans Platform you can include the lack of documentation and the complexity of the platform.

The Spring RCP provides data binding and validation to the framework. The Spring RCP supports Swing and is feature rich. The problem with Spring RCP is that there is no documentation available for it at this time.. The Spring RCP framework is not mature and at this time if you use it you will have to do a lot of hand coding. Basically Mikael recommends that the Spring RCP is only for the brave.

Mikael’s final conclusion was to “build on what you know.” If you are using Eclipse and are developing SWT then the Eclipse RCP is for you. If you are developing Swing then maybe the NetBeans Platform will be a viable option.

I stopped at the bookstore at JavaOne after this session and noticed that you can get started with the Eclipse RCP with the help of three books. The SWT: The Standard Widget Toolkit, Eclipse: Rich Client Platform, and Eclipse: Building Commercial-Quality Plug-ins. These books are from the Eclipse Series by Addison-Wesley. I didn’t see any book that will help to get started with the NetBeans Platform and that to me speaks volumes.

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