If you follow the JavaFX mailing list, you may remember the storm of indignation that greeted the news that from Java 8 update 40, Oracle would be ceasing to provide installers for application interface designer Scene Builder. Since then, the tool has only been available as source code.
Fortunately, the Gluon team stepped in to close this aching void with an offering of the same name, providing those same builds of Scene Builder as before as installers for Mac OS X, Linux, Windows or executable jar files. As Bennet Schulz wrote on DZone, the biggest change that comes with Gluon is that developers have to head over to the Gluon homepage to download Scene Builder instead of their former Oracle stomping grounds.
Gluon are now developing a roster of products in their arsenal; the Gluon Charm Library, Gluon Cloud, and also coming soon, Gluon Glisten. It’s this last offering that’s had the JavaFX fandom in a lather this month, with the official teaser trailer officially going live.
As you can see, Glisten will be one of the sub-components in the Gluon Charm library, and as the name suggests, its purpose is to make your apps shine like a freshly buffer Ferrari. The design is strongly influenced by (though not directly copied from) the style of Google Material Design, which the team feel is ideal for devices with limited screen size.
The tool provides an application framework most suited to mobile devices though it could also come in handy for desktop and embedded hardware. Users are offered multiple, easily-interchangeable views, which can be layered according to user convenience.
We spoke to Johan Vos – one of the Gluon co-founders – for the full story on Gluon, what’s new, and what we can expect down the road.
Voxxed: Why do you think Oracle decided to stop releasing Scene Builder in build form?
Vos: We have to make a difference between Oracle as a commercial company, and Oracle as the Java Steward. Being the Java steward, Oracle puts resources into a number of technologies that are relevant to the broader Java Community Being a commercial company, Oracle has a well-thought product line.
Some Java technologies fit with this product line, others don’t fit or are competitive with other Oracle products.
So, while we don’t know for certain why Oracle does what they do, to us it seemed like a strange move that Scene Builder, an excellent UI builder for JavaFX, would be dropped. We thought that this wasn’t right, and decided to clone the source code and continue development in our own open source repository.
If Oracle continue to develop Scene Builder, we will integrate those changes into our builds, and we of course plan to improve Scene Builder. For example, we’ve already stated that we want to improve support for third party libraries.
How did Gluon come about?
The moment I started with the platform, I was impressed with client-side Java. I have always been a believer in a business that combines Java on the client with Java on the server. Working on software that enables enterprises to leverage the power of mobile devices, and combining it with big enterprise systems is something I’ve been doing my whole career.
Initially though, there were way too many hurdles preventing companies writing Java applications that could easily be deployed on client devices (phones, PDAs, embedded devices,…). Creating a UI in Java mobile/embedded was very different from doing UI work on desktops. Also, distributing applications to consumers was very difficult.
JavaFX solves the problem of a different UI framework between mobile and desktop, and the app stores make it possible to easily distribute applications to end-users. The missing piece was a first-class JavaFX SDK for Java on mobile and embedded. With the open source JavaFX Ports initiative, Gluon as a company is very proud to be leading the efforts on this very important area.
At this moment, I believe the quality of JavaFX on mobile and embedded is good enough to allow companies to create Java based end-to-end solutions, with Java on the Client (JavaFX) as well as on the server. In order to help companies write this software, productivity tools and frameworks are needed. That is what Gluon is working on, and indeed, our early beta customers are finding our solutions to provide significant productivity gains.
Gluon is a company founded by a number of Java experts, from both the cloud / Java EE world, as well as from the UI / JavaFX world. Our Java EE experts (including myself) are co-founders of Gluon, and we all hail from our sister company (LodgON). Our Java EE developers have an excellent track record in developing client-server applications, but for creating compelling mobile applications, that would not be enough. That is why we have Eugene Ryzhikov as the other Gluon co-founder. He is an expert in the area of UI design, UI control development, JavaFX, etc. He leads our UI division, where our developers focus on the Gluon Glisten library for building amazing user interfaces for mobile devices.
The combination of these two different, complementary skillsets is what makes Gluon a unique company in the Java world.
What’s your release roadmap?
We plan to release a MVP in the next few weeks. We are already working with some friendly developers that are using our API’s. Based on their feedback, we are polishing the API’s. We have 2 major components: the Charm client library, and the Gluon Cloud. The Charm client library will be released in a few weeks from now, and the Gluon Cloud will be available for beta testers around the same time. While we consider those products as independent from each other, we make sure they inter-operate very well, and we provide a number of samples that combine both.
Were Charm, Cloud, and Glisten planned from the outset or was this partially motivated by user demand – and can we expect anything else in the near future?
Before we started Gluon, a number of companies came to our sister company LodgON with questions about JavaFX in enterprise environments. We noticed the same questions were always being asked, and they were mainly about easy ways to connect constrained devices (e.g. smartphones, tablets, embedded devices, but also desktop systems) to large enterprise systems. Also, as soon as the mobile ports started to be used, people asked about how to develop applications that behave similar on different platforms, while they are very much integrated with the native platform at the same time.
We saw that there was a growing demand from organisations to have a single codebase that could span mobile and desktop systems, so that developers could leverage all of their existing Java code. We also saw that developers desperately wanted APIs to allow for them to easily store and synchronise data with the cloud. So, to answer your question, Gluon as a company was conceived to offer Gluon Charm and Gluon Cloud.
Of course, on top of these commercial products we as a company wanted to advance the mobile Java story, which is why we invest a lot of our developer time into our open source projects, such as JavaFX Ports, Scene Builder, the NetBeans IDE plugin, the Charm Down library, and a few more that we have in the works that will be announced when the time is right 😉
LodgOn partnered with Trillian Mobile to bring JavaFX to iOS earlier this year. Where does Gluon sit in this tooling?
Gluon as a company wants to solve the higher-level problem. In other words, now that Java can run on mobile devices, we want to make it easier and more productive. This is where our Gluon Charm library and Gluon Cloud come in. We are all about products and services for end-to-end Java mobile-to-enterprise development. Hence, for Gluon, it is very important that JavaFX runs very well on all relevant client platforms. RoboVM is doing a great job in making it possible to run Java code on iOS. LodgON has partnered with RoboVM in order to make sure JavaFX is a first class citizen in the Java on iOS world.
Can you give us any examples of apps developed in JavaFX, or any projects in progress which are using Gluon?
Of course we can’t speak specifically about our customers development. It is an unfortunate truth that most Java development takes place behind the corporate firewall, so it is very hard to provide examples of some of the really cool things being done by our customers. However, recently Jose Pereda and Jens Deters have uploaded their 2048FX game to the Android Play Store and to the App Store. They have a single codebase at https://github.com/jperedadnr/ that builds the code for desktop, Android and iOS. They are using Gluon’s Charm Down library, which is an open-source component.
Additionally, as part of our release plan we are developing a number of developer applications showing the capabilities of Glisten, Gluon Cloud and the combination of both. These will be useful apps for developers to learn how to get started with our technology.
What’s the best way for developers to get started with Gluon?
We are posting screencasts on our youtube channel, and have a knowledge base section on our website. In time we will be populating both with vastly more content. Additionally, we will be posting more blog posts and opening up forums, bug trackers, etc. People who are interested should follow our blog for more details.
Is any of the code for Gluon open source?
SceneBuilder is open source and available here.
Charm-Down is open source as well, available here.
Charm-Down provides an abstraction on top of platform-specific functionality, e.g. access to the location device, application-specific filesystem and so on.
The NetBeans Gluon Plugin, which allows you to easily create Java Client applications using NetBeans and run them on Android and iOS, will be made open source as well.
How has adoption been? And where had demand come from?
Two months after we made available the SceneBuilder binaries, the download counter was at 50,000. These are real downloads, showing there is a clear interest in JavaFX.
We also got lots of feedback after we released the Gluon NetBeans plugin, and after showing the first Glisten screencast.
Demand comes from different corners of the developer community. We see a large number of questions coming from rather big companies that are working on client applications for internal or external usage. Often, those companies created a Swing client a long time ago, and are now upgrading their software from Swing to JavaFX. There are clear benefits in doing so: not only will they be able to leverage the performance provided by the JavaFX architect, they also can make their applications much nicer than before, and they can run on mobile phones and tablets.
Not surprisingly, the fact that JavaFX now runs on mobile devices seems to be a key reason on why companies are migrating their client software to JavaFX.