Monday, March 05, 2007

Tree on my Table

While I'm deciding on if I should just trash this whole "indy developer" routine I made such a horrible attempt at, I decided to dedicate more time to ConsultComm development.

Desktop integration with Java has been, and continues to be, horrible. It is slowly getting better, but even basic elements are absent or work terribly. The system tray icon works, but isn't any more polished than when it was an incubator project with the JDIC. Now, I'm not trying to be critical of the original System Tray author - he did a fine job. I just expected Sun to make it actually 100% usable.

One thing people have always expected to have was a tree layout for the windowing toolkit with multiple columns for each row. It's not a new concept - TableTrees are in nearly every file browser out there. But for some reason Swing just hasn't had it. Sure, there have been Sun-created articles and tutorials, but no official components. I made one for ConsultComm and have since attempted to make it into a stand-alone component, but it's a good deal of work.

Supposedly the table/tree is making it's way into JSR 296, but those can take a while. I doubt we'll see it soon.

You may notice that I wrote a JDIC component back in the day - SystemInfo. I initially just wanted to donate the code and be done, but was encouraged to make an incubator project out of it. I did so, but quickly became frustrated with Sun's collaboration & project repository Web application and just gave up. Hence the current unusable state the project is in. It appears Sun has now made a separate... something alongside the JDIC mess called "SwingLabs." All the links seem to run in a circle between the JDIC project repository and the SwingLabs site... so I'm not precisely clear on their relationship to each other. But it appears SwingLabs is trying to "productize" or at least "centralize" the disparate desktop components and APIs into a single, coherent package.

In SwingLabs' main package called SwingX they have a new component called JXTreeTable that appears to offer the basic functionality originally put forth in way back in 2003 (probably earlier) with Philip Milne's article. It's fairly basic, but I'm attempting to integrate it into ConsultComm. Relying on a (hopefully) more stable and independent UI codebase should accelerate development. Who knows? I may just fix up SystemInfo if I am able to glean the time. Then again... maybe not. Doing desktop integration via JNI is an insane headache.

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