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20 Reasons Why You Should Move to JavaFX and the NetBeans Platform

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  1. What Are JavaFX and the NetBeans Platform?
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Gail Anderson and Paul Anderson, co-authors of JavaFX Rich Client Programming on the NetBeans Platform and NetBeans Dream Team members, share 20 compelling arguments for incorporating JavaFX and the NetBeans Platform into your development of rich desktop applications. The modular NetBeans Platform gives you the architectural flexibility to create sophisticated applications, while JavaFX enriches your interfaces.
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What Are JavaFX and the NetBeans Platform?

In 2011, Oracle released its new JavaFX user interface toolkit for the Java API. In Java 8 and subsequent releases, JavaFX is included with the standard Java Development Kit. (Swing, long the de facto UI toolkit for Java developers, continues to be widely used alongside JavaFX.)

The NetBeans Platform is a rich-client application framework that lets developers build sophisticated desktop applications with many out-of-the-box features.

Our book JavaFX Rich Client Programming on the NetBeans Platform shows you how to use the NetBeans Platform to build sophisticated desktop applications. We also show you how to integrate JavaFX into NetBeans Platform applications for an improved user experience. The book provides all the instructions and examples you’ll need to employ JavaFX and the NetBeans Platform in your application programming. This article presents 20 reasons why the NetBeans Platform and JavaFX can improve your rich-client applications..

1: The NetBeans Platform is an application framework.

Both Swing and JavaFX are UI toolkits without application frameworks. The NetBeans Platform is a rich client framework that provides a modular architecture, a service provider system, and an inter-module communication system. The NetBeans Platform also supports an action framework, window system, and toolbar and menu system, and it provides many other modules to support rich-client programming.

2: You don’t have to wait for Java 9 to build modular applications.

The NetBeans Platform lets you create modular applications right now. With modularity, you can break up large, unwieldy, buggy, and brittle applications into discrete small, cohesive parts. Dependencies are set explicitly, and circular dependencies are prohibited by enforcement of the runtime environment; no accidental dependencies are permitted. You can add, replace, and remove modules, letting your application evolve as needed. The NetBeans Platform also supports OSGi modules now, and it will support Java 9 modules when they’re available.

3: The NetBeans Platform provides a built-in window system.

The NetBeans Platform lets you construct multiple windows. Each window can be independently floated, opened, closed, moved, resized, minimized, and maximized. These TopComponents are automatically integrated into the window system.

4: The NetBeans Platform includes a service provider system.

You can define services and then provide one or more implementations of each service. Client modules look up service providers without forming dependencies on service provider modules. This design keeps your applications flexible and loosely coupled.

5: The NetBeans Platform provides inter-module communication strategies.

Modules can listen for user selection changes, file system configuration changes, and context changes. These communication strategies help preserve loose coupling.

6: The NetBeans Platform provides an action framework with toolbar and menu system.

A flexible Java annotation system lets you define user actions with toolbar icons, key-sequence shortcuts, and menu items. These actions can be context-sensitive or always enabled.

7: The NetBeans Platform includes a Plugin Manager for easy application updates.

You can integrate the NetBeans Platform Plugin UI into your application and create an update center. This feature allows users to update only those modules that have new releases. Users can also install new modules that add features to your application. The Plugin Manager checks for updates and categorizes available plugins.

8: The NetBeans Platform is free and open source software.

The NetBeans Platform application framework is included when you download the NetBeans integrated development environment (IDE). The NetBeans Platform is a subset of the NetBeans IDE. After you have the NetBeans IDE installed, you can access the NetBeans Platform and use it as the basis of your own applications.

The NetBeans IDE (and platform) is open source, which you can access at Mercurial Repositories.

9: The NetBeans Platform is a proven Java desktop application framework.

From its roots as a student project, the NetBeans Platform has been the application framework behind hundreds—perhaps thousands—of applications, including the popular NetBeans IDE. Organizations such as Boeing, NATO, Northrop Grumman, the U.S. Navy, NASA, and Oracle use the NetBeans Platform to build applications.

10: JavaFX is part of the standard JDK release.

The JavaFX APIs are standard with the JDK distribution. You don’t have to perform any special configuration to use JavaFX in your applications.

11: JavaFX is based on a scene graph model that is superior to models used by Java 2D and Swing.

With JavaFX, you define UI elements in terms of a hierarchical structure (a scene graph) and specify transforms to position elements relative to one another. The scene graph model makes transformations such as animations and effects easy to achieve. This means you can use JavaFX to create UIs that are compelling and engaging with much less effort than would be required in Swing.

12: JavaFX performs well.

JavaFX leverages a high-performance hardware-accelerated graphics pipeline to give you complex UI rendering that performs well. High performance is especially crucial for 3D applications.

13: JavaFX has properties and binding.

JavaFX properties are similar to the familiar JavaBeans properties with getters and setters. However, JavaFX properties are observable and encapsulate an event-delivery mechanism. With a single statement, you can specify binding relationships that are more concise and less error-prone than traditional event listeners.

14: You don’t have to abandon your Swing code to begin using JavaFX.

JavaFX includes the Swing component JFXPanel, which lets you embed JavaFX content in Swing applications. All user input events (key, mouse, and focus events) are transparently forwarded to the JavaFX scene. This capability provides a great way to begin exploring JavaFX. You use JFXPanel to embed JavaFX content in NetBeans Platform windows.

Similarly, if you want to make the leap to JavaFX but have a customized Swing component, you can embed your Swing content in JavaFX with the SwingNode control. This option lets you retain the investment you’ve made in Swing, but still migrate to the JavaFX world.

15: JavaFX can be styled with CSS.

As of JavaFX 8, all JavaFX controls are styled with the Modena style sheet, which replaces the initial default style. You can provide your own CSS styling as well. Since CSS is a well-entrenched standard recognized by UI designers, you can easily have your UI styled by designers.

16: JavaFX scenes can be defined with FXML.

FXML is an XML markup language that lets you define JavaFX scene graphs. JavaFX controller classes manage dynamic content and event handlers. This division of FXML and controller class not only helps separate the view and controller but also keeps JavaFX UI code isolated from NetBeans Platform UI code, which is Swing-based. This is the best strategy for integrating JavaFX with the NetBeans Platform.

17: JavaFX Scene Builder is a great tool for creating JavaFX UIs.

JavaFX Scene Builder is a stand-alone program that builds JavaFX UIs via drag-and-drop. Scene Builder also provides control-specific dialogs to customize components. Scene Builder generates FXML, and, like CSS, can be used by UI designers.

18: JavaFX has charts!

With JavaFX, you don’t have to use third-party chart libraries to visualize your data. The JavaFX API comes standard with a charts package that includes several chart types:

  • Pie chart
  • Bar chart
  • Line chart
  • Bubble chart
  • Scatter chart
  • Area chart
  • Stacked area chart
  • Stacked bar chart

Figure 1 shows a NetBeans Platform application with several JavaFX charts, each implemented in its own window and module.

Figure 1

Figure 1 JavaFX provides a charts package.

19: JavaFX includes 3D.

As graphics processing units (GPUs) become faster and cheaper, you can render 3D visualizations by incorporating JavaFX 3D content into NetBeans Platform applications. JavaFX 3D has built-in 3D primitives, including Box (shown in the left window in Figure 2), Cylinder, and Sphere. You can also use depth buffering capabilities (also called Z-buffering) and a perspective camera to render 2D shapes in a 3D perspective (the right window in Figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2 Box primitive (left window) and depth buffering (right window).

20: The NetBeans Platform lets you move to JavaFX easily.

Within a NetBeans Platform application, you can choose how to best leverage JavaFX. In multi-window, modular applications, you can identify windows where JavaFX is most appropriate and incrementally apply JavaFX features such as animation, background gradients, drop shadow effects, and 3D to your application.

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