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04 October 2011, 12:38

Java FX 2.0 tries again

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The first time round, JavaFX was a closed source attempt to dislodge Flash, Silverlight and the other plugin runtimes from being the way that people delivered rich applications on the internet. This time around, Oracle has released version 2.0 of its JavaFX RIA (rich internet application) technology as an open source based platform. The release was announced at JavaOne, which is being held in parallel with the company's in-house OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.

In contrast to previous attempts, in the opinion of many of the Java experts who have been testing the beta since February, it comes across as a much more rounded product. Whether Oracle will be able to compete with alternatives such as Microsoft's Silverlight or Adobe's AIR/Flex is, however, open to question, especially as those platforms are already under pressure from the emerging HTML5 ecosystem.

JavaFX was instituted by Sun as a new product for the multimedia web application market in 2007. Under Sun, however, the product failed to find a major audience. Following Sun's takeover by Oracle, last year's JavaOne saw the new team announce that the much vilified JavaFX script, used for programming JavaFX applications, would be replaced with a new Java API. That API would allow programs to be written for JavaFX using any language which could run on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), such as Groovy or Scala. Developers would also be able to use standard Java development tools, such as Eclipse or the Oracle-sponsored NetBeans, to write JavaFX programs.

JavaFX 2.0 includes a new hardware-accelerated rendering engine and a new engine for playing multimedia content. Web components such as WebView allow HTML to be embedded into JavaFX applications. Developers now have access to a scriptable XML descriptive markup language, FXML, for developing interfaces. FXML is supported by design tool JavaFX SceneBuilder, which was introduced in a previous version.

Oracle is planning to continue development of the JavaFX platform (meaning the UI control elements and associated libraries) as an open source project as part of OpenJDK. The licence it has chosen for this is GPLv2 with the classpath exception, the same licence used for Java. Oracle's JavaFX runtime and JavaFX SDK (software development kit) will continue to be covered by the Java binary code licence.

The final version of the JavaFX runtime environment and corresponding SDK are now available to download. At present JavaFX 2.0 is available for Windows, with a Mac OS X version undergoing beta testing. There is also a plugin for open source IDE NetBeans. The latest NetBeans 7.1 beta, which supports most of the new features of the new version of JavaFX, is recommended for carrying out development work using JavaFX 2.0.


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