We all go a little crazy sometimes

JavaFX becomes the new HTML with WebFX

Elliot Bentley
webfx

Bruno Borges’ experimental browser renders FXML files as web pages, scripted with JVM languages.

The big demo at JavaOne this year may have been the DukePad tablet, but it isn’t the only JavaFX
proof-of-concept currently attracting attention.

Oracle evangelist Bruno Borges (pictured
right)
 has been developing a browser in JavaFX that
renders FXML pages, which can be then scripted using a variety of
JVM languages.

“Of course it is ‘insane’ to think that this
could replace HTML+WebKit engine”, the Brazilian developer told
JAXenter over email. However, that hasn’t stopped him from putting
together a
functioning
prototype
, which he has shown off in
screencasts
and, more recently, at JavaOne 2013
(feedback was “really cool”, he says).

In addition to loading regular HTML pages using
a
WebView
, WebFX’s killer feature is the ability to render web pages
written in FXML, a variant of XML for designing JavaFX UIs. These
are displayed as if they were regular HTML pages and are styled
with CSS.

While obviously lacking HTML’s near-universal
appeal, FXML has one advantage over HTML in its ability to provide
custom components. “There is a movement in the HTML area to provide
“Web Components” and <templates>, so I guess JavaFX was
right,” wrote Borges (adding a friendly smiley on the
end).

That’s not all that WebFX does differently. As
well as JavaScript, page scripting can be achieved with any
ScriptEngine-compatible language such as Groovy, JRuby or Jython,
not to mention Java itself.

WebFX screencast

WebFX in action

In addition to the browser, Borges is writing a
JavaFX component that can load FXML pages, equivalent in function
to the native WebView component. The advantage of using an embedded
FXML view, he says, is that it “can be easily updated without the
need for compilation”. For JavaFX devs more familiar with FXML than
HTML, this could
potentially be more
convenient than a WebView.

Still, while for Borges WebFX may currently be more of a
tech demo, “the concept is there, the technology is available, all
it is needed now is interest by someone else”. After all, the
JavaOne audience shown WebFX thought “that this could come true one
day,”  the ever enthusiastic Borges added. “We don’t want the
Web Innovation to stop at the HTML technology, right?”

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