Building GUIs in Eclipse

Jeff and I got a lot of questions during the webinar we did last week, but we were only able to answer a few of them in the time we had available. The good people at BZ Media were nice enough to send me a file with all the questions. I’ve been spending a good chunk of my time trying to provide answers for all of them. And… I thought I’d share some of them.

One listener asked

Does Eclipse have a GUI builder that:
  • Actually works and is good enough for everyday development,
  • Is platform-independent, and
  • Is open-source.

I’d like to build GUIs with SWT and JFace.

The answer is yes. There are actually many choices of GUI builders for Eclipse.

To start, there is the Visual Editor Project which you can incorporate into Eclipse using the update manager. The Visual Editor is quite good and I have used it for what I consider “everyday development”. It lets you build SWT and JFace components and it also does Swing and AWT. It provides reasonably good window building technology and you can’t beat the price.

There are other options as well (though some do go against the “open source” criterion). You might consider Jigloo which is free for non-commercial use or WindowBuilder which is a full-featured commercial product that now includes a handy perspective builder.

There may be others. There are a few sites that provide plug-in catalogues that can point you in the right direction…

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3 Responses to Building GUIs in Eclipse

  1. vowitaf says:

    Actually they don’t really work cross platform. Check Bug 67384. This is so broken that we can’t use any GUI builders on OS X or ship RCP based applications for our mac users without taking the Swing part out of it. Hope it gets fixed soon – the bug’s been around a long time (more than a year).

  2. Wayne says:

    Strictly speaking you’re right. If you need to use the Mac to develop Swing components on Eclipse using WindowBuilder, you’re out of luck. It’s also the case that if you want to have AWT/Swing components interact with SWT components, you’re out of luck on the Mac. However, you can use Window Builder’s SWT Designer, the VE, Jigloo, etc. to build SWT user interfaces that work just fine on the Mac. For the uninitiated, SWT is the windowing framework that underlies Eclipse. AWT/Swing is the standard Java windowing framework.

  3. Jeff says:

    FYI – Work is being done to support the VE on OS X for Swing/AWT and SWT development for version 1.2. It’s still experimental (i.e. buggy) but it’s impressive considering the limitations caused by Bug 67384 hampers the functionality of other GUI builders.

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