JavaFX adds docking library for easier use, better customization

DockFX fills a void, enabling developers to build fluid, customizable interfaces similar to Visual Studio, Eclipse, or GIMP

JavaFX has been Java's under-the-radar platform for building rich client applications. While it hasn't garnered the attention that rival platforms like Adobe Flash or JavaScript have received, it continues to plod along in the Java development community, with a loyal set of users. One such user is building a docking library for the platform to make it easier to use.

Found on GitHub, the DockFx library was built to fill what the developer cites as a void for docking frameworks available for JavaFX. "DockFX is a library that enables application developers to create customizable and fluid interfaces for their end users, move side panels, hide panels out of view, or drag panels out and get a closer look," developer Robert Colton, a computer science student at Penn State University said in an email. "The library makes it possible to create an interface similar to Visual Studio, Eclipse, or GIMP in very little time without much work. Because the library is targeted at a wide variety of developers, it can also result in a more stable control with more features as it is maintained and improved by a larger number of users."

Still in an early stage of development, the open source DockFX supports CSS and styling. It will add support for FXML, which is an XML-based declarative markup language for JavaFX, and DockBar, which supports floating toolbars. "The library saves the developer from having to write the boilerplate code that makes such a customizable user interface possible by providing a common and reusable control," said Colton.

Plans call for possibly including DockFX with Oracle's ControlsFX project to provide high-quality UI controls for JavaFX. "I believe that this is the most appropriate course to take because my goal was to build a common control that accommodates all Java users, including proprietary application developers," Colton said.

JavaFX was unveiled by Sun Microsystems in May 2007. "I feel that the focus on JavaFX as an RIA platform has detracted from providing a comparable feature set to Swing's traditional desktop-oriented approach, potentially leaving it to be suitable for neither," Colton said. "I also believe that more attention should be focused on JavaFX for Linux and MacOS where the platform underperforms Windows. Despite my concerns, I feel that the JavaFX developers have been doing an outstanding job and I commend them for the work that they've done in building this new platform."

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