Google contributes GUI designer tool to Eclipse

WindowBuilder could be extended for mobile app development, among other uses

Google is announcing on Wednesday its donation of GUI designer technology to the Eclipse Foundation, a contribution that an Eclipse official said could lead to the emergence of mobile GUI builders and other capabilities.

Tools being donated include the WindowBuilder Java UI design tool as well as CodePro Profiler, a runtime Java analysis gauging factors like memory leaks. Both tools became Google property when the company bought Instantiations in August; they will now become open source projects at Eclipse. WindowBuilder has been used for development related to Standard Widget Toolkit, GWT (Google Web Toolkit), and Swing.

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"WindowBuilder is a well-respected GUI builder in the Eclipse community, and having open source at Eclipse gives [the technology] a wider audience," said Ian Skerrett, Eclipse director of marketing. "The equally important thing is the WindowBuilder framework that comes with the tool will allow other GUI builders to be easily built at Eclipse."

Smartphone application builders in particular need a GUI builder, and someone could extend WindowBuilder for that purpose, Skerrett said. Extensions for JavaScript development could be built as well.

"[The contribution to Eclipse is] important to Google because we want to build a community, particularly around the WindowBuilder donations," said Eric Clayberg, software engineering manager for Google developer tools and a former Instantiations official. Google has had many requests to make the tools available via open source, he said.

The principal contribution involves the core WindowBuilder engine; the total contribution is valued at $5 million by Google. The WindowBuilder framework has more than 50 extension points for developers to add capabilities such as new widgets and layout managers. "Really, the sky's the limit on how you would extend it," Clayberg said.

Source code and intellectual property are included in the contribution. Genuitec plans to support WindowsBuilder-based products, including Swing Designer and GWT Designer.

Also in the open source realm, the Apache Software Foundation on Tuesday announced apache-extras.org, a Google-hosted site for code associated with Apache projects that are not included in Apache Top-Level projects or Apache Incubator or Labs initiatives. The site provides a home for projects unable to or not wishing to conform to Apache intellectual property management rules.

"Apache Extras provides a home for Apache-related software which is not formally a part of the ASF itself. Having these projects on a single hosting platform will help to further accelerate innovation involving Apache software," said Ross Gardler, foundation vice president for community development, in a statement released by Apache.

The projects will not be managed by the foundation; users can use whatever license and project management process desired. Google Code projects related to Apache can be migrated to apache-extras.org.

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