UI technologies under the microscope

JavaOne 2015 Diary – Day 3 (a.k.a Day 4)

Lars Röwekamp
© Markus Eisele

JavaOne is happening as we speak and we’ve got Lars Röwekamp reporting on what you want to know from the biggest Java event of the year. Day 3 (or is it Day 4?) of his recap looks at HTML5, UI technologies and rich client apps.

When I woke up this morning, I feared I had overslept an entire day. In my inbox there was an email from Oracle with the subject line “Welcome to JavaOne – Day 4”. And here I was thinking it was Day 3 of the conference! Ok, I may have had a few drinks with friends yesterday – but surely it wasn’t so wild that I missed an entire day? Apparently, Oracle counts the Sunday session of workshops and University events as the first day of the conference. Well then, welcome to Day 4 of JavaOne.

RIA Panel: UI technologies under the microscope

When I look at my diary entries over the last few days, I have to admit that I’ve neglected the theme “UI technologies” a little. It’s not because it isn’t interesting, either. But somehow there were parallel sessions more exciting than UI discussions – no wonder, with 15+ parallel events. Luckily today there was an RIA panel with a number of renowned representatives of the UI community, so I can easily give a good update on the status quo of the UI world in my own words.

The session started with a survey of the audience about who uses which UI technology or what UI framework. Both Java-based and JavaScript frameworks were addressed. Of course, the result isn’t truly representative, considering that we’re at a Java conference sponsored by Oracle. But it was quite interesting to see that HTML5 and co. plus JavaFX dominated the poll while Swing, SWT or GWT were hardly mentioned.

SEE ALSO: JavaOne 2015 Diary – Day 2

On the question of who (still) uses Dart – you know, the revolutionary programming language from Google – and there was only laughter in the room. A “deep dive” into the depths of JavaScript frameworks showed that Angular still seems to be the most popular framework – at least among these participants. It remains to be seen whether this holds out after the forthcoming launch of the non-backwards-compatible Angular2, or whether there’ll be a migration to the currently popular React framework. Even Oracle has chimed in with their own JavaScript framework with Oracle JET. Thanks to the good integration of other Oracle products, this would certainly be interesting for customers who already rely on the Oracle stack. But this addition is otherwise just one of many, many frameworks in the JavaScript jungle.

At this point we were already alluding to Andres Almiray’s quote: “It’s one thing to choose the latest and greatest but it’s another thing to find a durable solution”. It’s not a trivial subject when selecting the right JavaScript framework, but it’s unfortunately not a new struggle.

“HTML5 has its place – but not on my Smartphone”

When asked about “HTML5 vs. Native” for mobile, all panel speakers agreed on its place. When it comes to a company’s internal application where the UI and UX don’t really matter, then options can pretty much revolve around current web technologies. And if you can’t bring yourself to work without Java (or if you want to steer clear of the space between HTML5/JavaScript and Java), it’s worth looking at DukeScript (Winner of the Duke Choice Award 2014) and Gluon’s tools, two cross-platform application development solutions based on Java.

Assuming, however, that the app is public, then the unanimous decision highlighted Native as the only true solution:

You really want the app to look and feel like the native platform and like other apps on the device.

That was but one of the comments on the subject. Something more extreme, yet somewhat aptly put by Kevin Nielsen of Google:

HTML5 has its place – but not on my phone!

Mission-critical and Rich Client Apps

Just like the smartphone or tablet solutions out there, HTML5 and Friends want to contribute to a possible solution for mission-critical, or rich client applications. “Mission-critical things, believe me, they do not run on the web,” commented Andres Almiray, who gave an example of a project at CERN. This all fits in with a quote from James Gosling, who was at his best during the presentation of an RIA interface for controlling water-robots:

You do not want to do this in HTML5!

The reason why HTML5 is an alternative at all for the apps of many companies lies in its extremely simple deployment scenario. Enter stage-left Johan Vos, co-founder at Gluon, who bundled his own Java application using javafxpackager with the appropriate JDK to bypass the problem of incorrect or non-existent JDKs on the target computer. If the normal JDK for this purpose is too large, you can resort to the much smaller Compact2 profiles.

What about JavaFX?

Funnily enough, the topic of JavaFX was hardly discussed by the panel. However, this was probably due to the fact that this ‘new’ Java UI technology is pretty much regarded as set. Considering how much the panel discussed Swing, SWT and GWT, no comment on JavaFX is also a comment – namely a positive.

SEE ALSO: JavaOne Diary 2015 – Day 1

JavaFX has now officially arrived in the Java community, as shown by the many, many sessions involving JavaFX at JavaOne that were consistently well attended.

Following on from my “Eat your own dogfood” shoutout about JavaFX in yesterday’s post, you were able to find JavaFX-based voting machines scattered throughout the conference venue. A very cool idea, the machines were well received by participants and shows how much fun JavaFX can be.

Hendrik Ebbers and Michael Heinreichs amuse themselves with the “JavaOne Voting Machine”

Tomorrow is unfortunately the last day of JavaOne. For me, I’ll be delving deeper into microservices and Java. I look forward to it!


Lars Röwekamp

Lars Röwekamp is the CEO of Open Knowledge GmbH and has been advising customers on international projects for more than ten years around the theme of enterprise computing. You can find him on Twitter at @mobileLarson.

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