Putting a Swing Front End on a Web Application

During this JavaOne 2007 BOF, David Wroton shared his experienced of porting a JavaServer Faces (JSF) front-end to a Swing desktop client. David started with the whole browser vs fat client debate. David listed his issues with the browser, such as HTML Scrolling, back button, Funky JSF URLs. He said that “the back button is something that is breaking society.” The benefit of developing a HTML web application is that it is easier to get started.

The issues listed by David as holding back a rich Swing desktop include installation, maintenance, and getting started from scratch. To work around installation issues David used Java Web Start and instead of writing the desktop client from scratch he looked into using a Rich Client Platform such as Eclipe, NetBeans or Spring. Regarding the choice for which RCP to use he said, “There was a review last year, the review said, man, they are all hard.” Ultimately he selected Spring RCP, mostly because of his previous exposure to Spring. According to the speaker, Spring RCP has good form, data binding, and validation support. The major draw back to Spring RCP is the lack of documentation, an issue descried in last years’ review of Rich Client Platforms.

In closing, the David told the audience that the desktop is far more rich than any web based application, but AJAX goes a long way making a web application more user friendly and for many applications that is enough. Finally, he said there are still no clear lightweight/agile solution for a Swing framework.

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