The WindowBuilder project is a proposed open source project under the Eclipse Tools Project.
This proposal is in the Project Proposal Phase (as defined in the Eclipse
Development Process) and is written to declare its intent and scope. We solicit
additional participation and input from the Eclipse community. Please send all
feedback to the Eclipse Proposals
A GUI builder is a visual programming tool that lets a user build a
graphical user interface by dragging and dropping elements from a palette onto
a design surface. GUI builders typically contain Wizards and templates that
help automate the GUI building process. GUI building tools allow developers to
spend less time and money creating Java GUIs, because they can focus on
creating application-specific functionality rather than coding the low-level
logic required for GUIs to run.
According to Ben Galbraith, in his Successful GUI Building blog, “In
my experience, the number one reason why GUI builders hold appeal is that they
often lead to an order of magnitude improvement in productivity over hand
coding, especially amongst average-level Swing developers. I consider myself
above average, and I see improvements in productivity around 2x-10x (perhaps
higher) in my own work.”
Created in 2003 by Instantiations, WindowBuilder is widely regarded as the
the best GUI builder in the Java world (winning the award for Best Commercial
Eclipse Tool in 2009). Beyond being an exemplary example of a GUI design tool
for SWT, XWT, Swing and Google’s GWT, WindowBuilder is also a highly
extensible and customizable framework (with 50+ existing extension points) for
creating new GUI design tools based on any UI toolkit for any language. Google
re-launched WindowBuilder as a free product available to any member of the
Eclipse community soon after its acquisition of Instantiations in 2010, and now
wishes to contribute the framework (the WindowBuilder Engine) and associated
products (SWT Designer and Swing Designer) to the Eclipse Foundation. Google
will continue to invest heavily in the project, as it will continue to be the
basis for its own in-house GWT Designer tool.
The scope of the project is to provide the definitive Eclipse extensible
framework for creating GUI design tools for any language or UI framework. The
current framework provides solid support for Java and XML based UI frameworks
and exemplary tools for creating Swing and SWT UIs. Extending the framework to
the future is highly desirable.
The WindowBuilder project goal will be to continue to develop the
WindowBuilder Engine (WBE) framework for tool vendors wishing to support UI
toolkits in a variety of languages. The framework currently has built-in
support for Java-based (Swing, SWT, RCP, etc.) and XML-based (XWT) UI
frameworks and can be extended to support any language for which a parser (and
associated AST model) exists.
The project will also focus on continuing to develop and enhance the
exemplary tool examples for SWT/RCP/XWT and Swing for the benefit of developers
using Eclipse to build their own applications using those UI frameworks.
GUI building tools allow developers to spend less time and money creating
Java GUIs. Here are some key features provided by the WindowBuilder Engine:
- WYSIWYG visual designer and editing — The WBE
takes the guesswork out of building and modifying a GUI. It contains both
design and source views allowing developers to view content identical to
the end result while the interface is being created.
- Flexibility and consistency across frameworks —
The WBE is easy to use and provides flexibility across different types of
UI frameworks, meaning that the tool has a flexible parser to parse its own
code as well as code written by hand or by other GUI building tools. It
also provides a consistent development experience no matter which UI
framework is being used.
- Bi-directional code generation (round-trip editing)
— Bi-directional code generation is important so that the visual
design and source are always synchronized no matter which you edit.
- Drag-and-drop — The WBE permits developers to
implement exactly what they want, where they want it, by simply dragging
and dropping GUI elements into the design layout view.
- Wizards and templates — These features give
developers a head-start in designing a GUI because they don’t have to
re-create the basics.
- Reverse engineering capabilities — The WBE allows
a developer to read and write code coming from a variety of sources
—such as code generated by other GUI builders, code created by hand,
or code created in another application. This feature means that developers
do not have to start from scratch on developing the GUI because they can
use the existing code as a starting basis, especially with a product that
is already in production.
- Localization and Internationalization
— Localization and internationalization capabilities allow the
application under development to be easily adapted to various languages and
regions without engineering changes. The WBE has powerful
internationalization (i18n) support that helps automate the localization
process. It can externalize component strings, create and manage resource
bundles for multiple languages, and edit translated strings in context. The
WBE allows developers to switch which language is used to render the GUI on
the fly to see the effect of different length strings. The WBE makes it
easy to support different languages by adding existing locales or creating
new locales from existing language and country codes.
- Minimal code changes — The WBE makes minimal edits
to the source code and maintains changes made by developers to customize
the GUI. The tool knows which lines of code are GUI-related and parses only
those. It ignores non-GUI code added by the user and preserves that code
any time it edits the file. The WBE uses a style of micro editing that
ensures that the smallest possible change is made to the source, again
preserving all user code and formatting.
- Morphing tools — The WBE contains advanced
features such as a Morphing tool that allows the developer to change one
widget type into another.
- Visual inheritance — The WBE supports visual
inheritance so that code can be inherited from a parent-child hierarchy.
Visual Inheritance is the inheritance of visual elements in a window such
as buttons and panels in derived GUI classes. Inheriting forms is a
powerful feature that allows standardization of common GUI elements on a
window that may be changed in one place rather than in countless individual
- Factories — The WBE supports the creation of
custom factory classes and methods. This is a convenient way to create
customized, reusable versions of common components. It allows developers to
create a static factory method from any widget, morph any widget into a
factory instance, or add any factory component to the palette. This feature
saves time and is a good method of building versions of commonly used
- Data Binding — The WBE supports Data binding which
allows easy linking of UI elements and models so that users can edit or
view the data in the model. Traditionally, this is what you need to do to
link, for example, a text widget to a String property of a model
- Auto-discovery of UI supported frameworks — The
WBE supports the automatic discovery and one-click loading of supported UI
frameworks. For example, a developer using the WBE and SWT tools can easily
load the Swing tools if needed and vice versa.
The initial contribution will be composed of three main parts:
- WindowBuilder Engine — the core extensible
framework providing support for all of the features listed above.
- SWT Designer — an exemplary implementation of an
GUI design tool that supports SWT, JFace, RCP, eRCP and XWT. This tool also
provides excellent support for the Nebula widget collection and the Eclipse
Data Binding framework.
- Swing Designer — an exemplary implementation of an
GUI design tool that supports Swing. This tool also provides excellent
support for 3rd party layout managers such as JGoodies FormLayout and
MiGLayout as well as support for the Swing Data Binding framework.
The goal is to provide an even more useful framework and associated tools,
so contributions from the community are welcome. Example contributions that we
would hope to see include:
- Support for new widgets and widget collections
- Support for new layout managers
- Support for new localization patterns
- Support for new Java and XML based UI frameworks
- Support for new languages and associated frameworks
- Support for additional operating systems beyond Windows, Linux and
- Support for additional extension points for further customizing the
No legal issues are anticipated although all 3rd party code used in the
product will go through the standard Eclipse IP process.
Relationships to other Eclipse projects
The WindowBuilder project has the following relationships to other Eclipse
- WindowBuilder directly competes with the Visual Editor
- WindowBuilder makes heavy use of the Java Development
Tools (JDT). The Java Editor is embedded in the WindowBuilder
editor to create the Source page. The WBE builds a JDT AST model for
reverse engineering Java code.
- WindowBuilder uses the Plug-in Development Environment
(PDE) to create plug-in and RCP components like Views and Editors and
update the plugin.xml and manifest.mf files.
- WindowBuilder embeds the XML editor from the Web Standard
Tools (WST) as the Source page when editing XML-based UIs.
- The SWT tooling uses and generates code to support the following Eclipse
frameworks: SWT, RCP,
eRCP, XWT and Nebula.
Some support is also available for RAP and
Riena based applications.
The following individuals are proposed as initial committers to the
- Eric Clayberg, Google
Eric has been the project manager of the existing WindowBuilder project
over the last seven years and will continue to be heavily involved in all
facets of the project going forward as the Project Lead.
- Konstantin Scheglov, Google
Konstantin is the chief architect and technical lead for the existing
WindowBuilder project at Google (formerly at Instantiations) and will
continue to be heavily involved in all facets of the project going
- Alexander Mitin, Google
Alexander has been on of the key developers for the existing WindowBuilder
project over the last seven years and will continue to be heavily involved
in all facets of the project going forward.
- Andrey Sablin, Google
Andrey has been a developer on the existing WindowBuilder project for the
last two years and will continue to be heavily involved in all facets of
the project going forward.
- Jaime Wren, Google
Jaime has been a developer on the existing WindowBuilder project for the
last two years and will continue to be heavily involved in all facets of
the project going forward.
- Dan Rubel, Google
Dan has been a contributor on the existing WindowBuilder project for the
last seven years and will continue to be involved in all facets of the
project going forward.
- Mark Russell, Google
Mark has been a build master for the existing WindowBuilder project for the
last five years and will continue to be responsible for build-related
issues going forward.
- Devon Carew, Google
Devon is interested in contributing to the project.
- Rajeev Dayal, Google
Rajeev is interested in contributing to the project.
- Miguel Mendez, Google
Miguel is interested in contributing to the project.
- David Carlson, Google
David is interested in contributing to the project.
- Alexander Humesky, Google
Alexander is interested in contributing to the project.
- Xavier Ducrohet, Google
Xavier is interested in contributing to the project.
- Raphael Moll, Google
Raphael is interested in contributing to the project.
- Tor Norbye, Google
Tor is interested in contributing to the project.
- Ed Merks, Cloudsmith
Ed is interested in Data Binding features.
- Kenn Hussey, Cloudsmith
Kenn is interested in Data Binding features.
- Christian Campo, compeople AG
Christian is interested in SWT features to support Riena.
- Neeraj Bhusare, Genuitec
Neeraj is interested in Swing tools.
- Piotrek Tomiak, Genuitec
Piotrek is interested in Swing tools.
- Vadim Ridosh, Genuitec
Vadim is interested in tools for mobile apps.
We welcome additional committers and contributions.
The following Architecture Council members will mentor this project:
The following individuals, organizations, companies and projects have
expressed interest in this project:
- Cloudsmith — interested in all aspects (esp. Data
- Genuitec — interested in taking the lead on Swing
- Eclipse Riena Team — interested in WBE & SWT
- Motorola — interested in mobile UI tools
Changes to this Document
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