Ekke's Indigo Highlights

UI Tools in Indigo Release Train: WindowBuilder

EkkehardGentz
UI-Tools-in-Indigo-Release-Train-WindowBuilder-teaser-pic

Part five of Ekkehard Gentz’s Indigo Highlights series focues on UI tooling.

This 5th part of my Indigo Highlights series focuses on UI
Tooling. It doesn’t matter if you’re developing Eclipse SWT, Swing,
GWT or RCP/RAP applications – you’re always looking for a UI
Designer Tool. So, what’s new in the Indigo Release (Eclipse 3.7)
?

WindowBuilder – an old friend

I don’t know how many years have gone by since the first time I
searched for an UI Designer tool to design SWT applications. Also,
I don’t know how many years ago Eric Clayberg of Instantiations
becomes a friend of mine. Instantiations has developed the
SWTDesigner as part of a product family:

  • SWTDesigner to design UI of SWT / RCP applications
  • SwingDesigner to design UI of Swing applications
  • GWTDesigner to design UI of GWT applications

… all packaged as WindowBuilder. SWTDesigner always was one of
the less non-Open-Source products I used in my daily work.

In August 2010, Google took over WindowBuilder together with the
crew of developers and founders of Instantiations. Some months
later there was a split: Google integrated GWTDesigner into their
GWT Tooling and donated the rest as the new
WindowBuilder project
to the Eclipse Foundation. WindowBuilder
is now one of the new projects being a part of the Release Train
for the first time – I never imagined that one day SWTDesigner
would become part of Eclipse’s open source projects. Not every
takeover will have such a happy ending!

Where do I find the WindowBuilder ?

Working with WindowBuilder is easy and intuitive, but perhaps
it’s not so easy to find and to install into Indigo – so I’ll
explain this in detail.

First, what comes to mind when you have to install something, is
the new and comfortable Eclipse Marketplace. If you have installed one
of the Eclipse EPP Packages, you’ll usually find the
Marketplace as part of the help menu. But….. if you’re using
Eclipse SDK (Classic Package) there’s no Market Place
pre-installed. To be able to install the Marketplace into Eclipse
Classic Package you have to add the Update
Site
of Eclipse Marketplace Client (MPC):

 

 

Then you’ll find the Marketplace as expected, as part of the
help menu. Searching for “WindowBuilder” immediately shows two
products: WindowBuilder and GWT Designer.

 

We’re only interested in WindowBuilder – unfortunately the new
Drag’n’Drop installation doesn’t work, so we click “learn more” and
get some details:

 

Attention: the
green arrow promises to point to the updatesite, but it’s an old
one (as of today). Please DON’T use this update site – the new
sites can be found here.

 

Using the
Indigo (3.7) updatesite you’ll get all available features – choose
what you need – in this example I only wanted to install
SWTDesigner.

 

After
restarting Eclipse you should really look at the details from
preferences, where you can configure how the generated code should
look. There are so many properties – I’m sure you’ll be able to
find one suited to your own individual style.

 

 

WindowBuilder
works bi-directionally: You can change the design using Drag’n’Drop
or type into the source code – the other part will be dynamically
changed. The easiest way to try it out is to create a SWT/JFace
Java project and then inside this project a RCP ViewPart.
WindowBuilder provides many powerful wizards.

 

 

Opening the
ViewPart inside the Designer Editor, you’ll find all the UI
elements inside a palette, from there you can drag them into the
design area. Properties of all elements can be edited in
detail.

 

 

There’s also a
tree view to display the structure of your components.

 

 

If you would
like to see the results of your design ‘live’ – it’s only one mouse
click away.

 

 

Also switching
between source, design and databinding is easy.

 

 

Without
entering one line of code WindowBuilder has generated:

 

 

You’re
developing RAP applications ? No problem: WindowBuilder also allows
you to design RAP applications.

 

 

 

 

Prospect

If you don’t
know WindowBuilder yet, you should try it out soon – WindowBuilder
is flexible and complex, but easy to use.

 

The next part
will be focussed on the large X – I mean
Xtext 2, Xbase,
Xtend2. Using these frameworks, generating code
becomes easy. Since the old days of openArchitectureWare so many
new cool things were developed. It makes sense to take a deeper
look at this. Stay tuned!

Author
EkkehardGentz
Ekkehard Gentz has worked as an Independent Software Architect for more then 30 years in the domain of business applications (ERP). Ekke's focus is on model driven development, OSGI applications and mobile Java Apps. Ekkehard is Committer at the Eclipse Riena Project and Project lead of Open Source Projects redView, redVoodo, enMOcs and red-open. ekke twitters at @ekkescorner and blogs at http://ekkes-corner.org.
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