My opinion about JavaFX 2.0

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My opinion about JavaFX 2.0

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It's been a few weeks since Oracle announced the plans with JavaFX. The JavaFX 2010-2011 roadmap is described at the JavaFX website. As I expected, there were many discussions and opinions in the blogosphere after the announcement. I took some time to read opinions, and to make my own impact estimations.


In general, I always applaud the move towards more Java. I am a Java developer, so the more Java the better for me. There are many reasons why I like JavaFX to be an integral part of the Java runtime. Every developer probably has his own list, here is mine:

  • Access the latest and greatest JDK features
  • Generics and Annotations can be used in JavaFX
  • Less confusion in concepts (should I make this a Java or JavaFX class?)
  • Less confusion in grammar (Foo foo = new Foo() or Foo {})
  • Existing tools for Java work for JavaFX (i.e. format, auto-complete,...)
  • No separate download for end-users
Apart from the move to Java, one of the major things is Prism. We heard a lot about Prism already, and my personal summary is that Prism is "THE graphical engine for applications in 2010+", where AWT was the graphical engine in Java in the late nineties.


For the projects I am working on, the new roadmap is a positive thing. The major drawback of the roadmap is the timeline. Developing in JavaFX 1.3.1 is still encouraged, and Oracle will probably provide some script or guidelines to migrate JavaFX 1.3.1 code to JavaFX 2.0.
But if Oracle wants to be a winner in the RIA market, things should happen faster. I understand quality matters, and I fully agree. One of the critics I heard about "good old Sun" is that Sun often over-promised and couldn't deliver. I partly agree with that. A number of in-house, closed door projects were not as good as promised. But, and here I go again with my comparison, look at the Glassfish project.

Lessons learned from the Glassfish project

From the very beginning, the Glassfish team created and communicated a roadmap. The goals were clear from day 1, but also the architectural documents, discussions and code was made available.
Having the goals clear creates high expectations from users and customers. Having the code and discussions open, allows developers to help, and it generates early feedback. When Glassfish x.y is released, there won't be negative surprises, since it is something that was already available in the community during development. Developers clearly know what is going on. If they need things faster, they are free to help and contribute. Of course, the quality assurance is still in internal hands. Not everyone is allowed to commit patches to the core functionality. But that is not needed. The developer community is allowed to help, and it is up to Oracle to decide what do with the code.

I strongly encourage the same concept for JavaFX development. The JavaFX team at Oracle is great, lots of clever people. I was glad I could talk with some of the core JavaFX developers (e.g. Richard Bair, Jasper Potts, Jonathan Giles and Amy Fowler) during JavaOne. Those are excellent people doing a great job. Add the power of the development community to this team, and JavaFX 2.0 will be a success.

JavaFX script and Visage

The JavaFX community has mixed feelings on the fact that Oracle won't continue the investment in JavaFX script. That means that Oracle won't continue to develop the JavaFX Script Compiler. Some people like this decision, others are extremely disappointed.
That sounds very reasonable. JavaFX script is a DSL with some specific characteristics. I don't believe there is a single language that is "best" for all developers. The way developers think, the way they see (or don't see) concepts and structures makes one or another language the most suitable to them. Some people see feature X of Scala as an advantage, others see it as a disadvantage. There is no "best" answer.

At JavaOne, Stephen Chin announced Visage, a "new" DSL that is actually the continuation of JavaFX script with modifications. The great thing about this is that it is a DSL that is developed in the Open Source, with input from the community.
I am convinced that Visage is a great language for at least a number of developers. One of the good things about JavaFX 2.0 (and Java in general) is the increasing support for DSL's that can leverage the Java platform. Developers use the language of their own choose (Java, Visage, Scala,...) and their code runs on the Java platform. That is an incredible strong point of the Java Platform.

Overall, I am happy with the JavaFX 2.0 plans. But I am convinced the developer community should be involved, in order to increase the chances on success.




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