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A Developer's Perspective

Rick Ross is the founder of Javalobby. He is a frequent speaker at Java-related events and a well-known advocate for Java developer interests.

It Makes You Love Being A Java DeveloperRick Ross, JavaLobby Founder

Once in a blue moon you come across a package that reminds you how exciting it can be to work with really great development tools, something that is so darned good you're truly excited to be using it and learning more about how it functions. This was the exact experience Matt and I had this week as we began working with the incredible JIDE Docking Framework from the team at JIDE Software. It is unquestionably one of the best conceived and best implemented Java class library products I have seen in years, and I am not exaggerating.

The JIDE Docking Framework provides a versatile, easy to use solution for supporting tearable, dockable, auto-hiding windows and panels to help your Swing application feel as configurable as the latest IDE products from the big guns like Microsoft, IBM/Rational, Sun and Oracle. It also comes with some solid Swing Look and Feel classes to provide even more professional polish, and it only costs $399. It is an amazing value, and you should go buy your copy right now before these guys realize they should raise their prices by about $1000 or more. This code provides powerful plumbing that will make your application look great, and with this selling for $399 you'd be crazy to think you were saving money by trying to code this yourself.

We integrated the JIDE Docking Framework into a Swing application we're working on in just a little over an hour, and you should have heard the "oohs" and "aahs" as everyone played with the docking windows interface it provided. The JIDE Docking Framework is especially useful when your application employs a lot of different tool windows and non-modal dialogs but also needs to make the most of the available screen real estate. Windows can be docked on every edge of your main window or frame, auto-hidden so they appear only when you hover over them, clustered in tabbed groups, or floated out onto the desktop, and complex arrangements of windows can be saved and loaded at will.

Best of all, you barely have to write any code at all to support this powerhouse set of features. You just add derive your tool windows from the DockableFrame class, add them to the DefaultDockingManager, and you're off to the races. It is drop-dead simple. The JIDE Developer Guides are well-written, concise and useful documents that explain everything you need to know to make the most of the framework. I'd like to see more documentation of this style and quality, which is all too rare in a world where too many developers seem to think that packaging javadocs along with their library is sufficient.

Check out their demo, which shows off the JIDE Docking Framework managing an insanely populated frame full of floating, docking, hiding, tabbing windows that feels amazingly like the latest developer tools package from a certain convicted monopolist in the northwestern United States. I have long respected the work of the teams that produce the major Java-powered IDE's like IntelliJ and Oracle JDeveloper, but this JIDE Docking Framework gives you a heck of a start if you want to incorporate that kind of look into your own Swing application. I also have a lot of respect for the achievements of the Eclipse team, but the JIDE Software product proves that all of us can have great-looking, performant interfaces in pure Java without having to resort to controversial libraries like the SWT.

JIDE Docking Framework takes a place right near JGoodies SwingSuite on my short list of must-have tools for great Java client application development. We're using both of them together now, and the result is shaping up quickly as an application that feels crisply professional and has an ultra-polished interface that looks like we put a lot more effort into it than we actually had to. What more could you ask for from your developer tools and class libraries?

Until next time,
Rick Ross

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