Look and feel mechanism?

Stephen Winnall steve at winnall.ch
Mon Dec 9 03:49:18 PST 2013

On 9 Dec 2013, at 03:18, Felix Bembrick <felix.bembrick at gmail.com> wrote:

> @Stephen, you are absolutely right about this.  But such an approach (and pretty much *any* approach) to "emulated" native look and feels is fraught with difficulties and complexities.
> Firstly, it will *never* be possible to completely emulate the native look and feel.  And, even if the differences are subtle, there is the very real risk that the end user will have a very uneasy feeling using such a look and feel.  At times it will even seem like an imposter.

Agreed, though Quaqua did quite a good (and unobtrusive) job for the look on Swing on Mac OS X.

> Secondly, you will be forever playing catchup as each new major release (and also even each minor update) changes one or more of the behaviours that you have so carefully emulated.  The result is that for a while at least, your emulated look and feel is an even more obvious imposter with an even more uneasy experience for the user.

Indeed. I’m not really a fan of reimplementing something that’s already there anyway. It should be possible to use the native facilities via appropriate APIs.

> Thirdly, building such emulated look and feels is a *lot* of work (much more than you would think).

Tell me about it :-) I spent a long time trying to create a Platform abstraction for Swing which would allow applications to be moved from platform to platform and adopt the native look and feel. The along came JavaFX. But we missed out on the chance of developing a platform abstraction there too.

> My reasoning is: why bother?  Why not build a "JavaFX look and feel" (akin to something like Nimubs in Swing) that simply doesn't even try to look native?  Then you know for sure your app looks and behaves identically on all devices and there is no hint of "imposter-ness”.

The answer to this question is relatively simple: Metal. Metal, you will recall, was the one-size-fits-all look for Swing. And it was <expletive deleted> and was a major reason for the failure of Swing (and thus Java) on the desktop.

Ultimately, all cross-platform looks suffer from the same problem: they don’t look right on any platform and often terrible on others. And ignoring the feel of the target platform is the ultimate sin: users don’t understand what the app is doing or why but often cannot articulate their feelings because there’s no *observable* problem, only a “feelable" one. And so another Java desktop app dies the death...

> These days, many apps do not look 100% native and may have their own controls or look and feel in general.  Why not channel all that massive effort in constructing an emulated native look and feel into simply making JavaFX better overall?

Agreed. Let’s define a platform abstraction…


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