JavaFX vs. Swing vs. HTML5, Who Wins? – My Interview with Alexander Casall

In November 2015 Dirk Lemmermann (Freelancer) and Alexander Casall of Saxonia Systems had a JavaOne session about JavaFX Real World Applications. The article 20 JavaFX real-world applications summarizes the presentation by showing the applications that they’ve talked about. In addition to providing example applications for the article, I was interviewed by Alexander to get my thoughts on JavaFX and desktop development in general. The interview appears below.

Can you tell us about the highlights when you used JavaFX?

The animated transitions and effects such as blurring or drop shadows make a huge difference in the user experience of the application when implemented properly. These are small details that sometimes get glossed over, but when introduced to an application can create a very polished UI.  The effects and transitions were something that were possible to do with Swing, but it was so painful.  I don’t remember how many times I had to override the paintComponent() method to customize the look of a particular component, but all of this is baked into the JavaFX framework, allowing you to do these things in literally a few lines of code.

What is your general opinion about JavaFX?

Overall I am pleased with JavaFX as a successor to Swing.  The addition of property bindings, which eliminate the need for event listeners in many circumstances helps cut down on some of the code complexity.  I also like the fact that there is a very clear seperation between the model, view, and controller, where the view is FXML, the model can be a collection of JavaFX properties, and the controller utilizes dependency injection to have the UI components passed in.  There are some nice tools for doing JavaFX development, including NetBeans for coding, SceneBuilder as a WYSIWYG design tool and ScenicView to help visual provide information about the application while it is running.

JavaFX, Swing, SWT, HTML5 – Who wins – or better, when to use what?

For a new application I would not consider Swing or SWT, which leaves either JavaFX or HTML5 as the remaining options.  In this case there is not a clear winner, but a set of tradeoffs one needs to consider when making a decision.  With HTML5 you have the advantage of being able to deploy your application across many different platforms (phones, tablets, and Desktops), as well as multiple OSs (Windows, Mac, Linux).  There is also the benefit of a huge development community and large selection of open source tools and frameworks.  The ease of deployment across platforms comes at a cost however, in that you must operate within the constraints that are placed on you by the browser. The amount of time debugging issues across different browsers or OSs is often overlooked or underestimated by teams when deciding whether or not to go the desktop or web app route.  We recently worked on a project where a very large chunk of time had been consumed in order to get a piece of functionality working correctly in IE 9 on Windows.With JavaFX the drawback is that the user has to download and install something to their desktop, which is becoming very old fashioned.  But if this is not an issue, then you are free to develop outside the constraints of the browser and use the full power of the Java language and the eco system that backs it.For applications that are used internally within the company I feel that it makes a lot of sense to deploy these at desktop applications for this reason.  Deployments are not an issue in this case as we can automatically push out new installations or updates to PCs in our network automatically.  We also bundle a private JRE with the application so we don’t need to worry about which version(s) of Java the user has installed on their PC.

How satisfied are you with the work of Oracle on JavaFX?

Jonathan Giles and his team have been doing great work at Oracle adding improving and enhancing the JavaFX libraries.  That being said, it would be nice if Oracle officially stated what their long term plans are with JavaFX.  When Oracle let go of some of their evangelists (who were big proponents of JavaFX), just before JavaOne it started a rumor mill of what may have been behind the move.  The uncertainty this has created, and lack of official communication from Oracle will likely deter some development teams who may be on the fence about whether they should port legacy Swing application to JavaFX or HTML5. Over time this will potentially affect how large the JavaFX community eventually becomes.

What do you miss in the work with JavaFX?

The amount of 3rd party component libraries (both open source and commercial) that are available for JavaFX is still somewhat limited at this point, but that should change as the JavaFX community continues to grow.


twitter: @RobTerpilowski
LinkedIn: Rob Terpilowski

3 thoughts on “JavaFX vs. Swing vs. HTML5, Who Wins? – My Interview with Alexander Casall

  1. Pingback: JavaFX links of the week, February 23 // JavaFX News, Demos and Insight // FX Experience

  2. Pingback: Java desktop links of the week, February 23 « Jonathan Giles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s