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Fighting with NetBeans GUI Builder

Posted by joconner on October 3, 2006 at 12:24 AM PDT

I really like NetBeans 5.5 Beta's GUI Builder. However, after fighting with it for the last 3 hours, it's time to just get up and walk away for a while...like you might do when you find yourself getting extremely frustrated with a loved one. I don't want any hurt feelings for me or the NetBeans team. After all, I promote NetBeans every chance I get, but what happened here tonight between me and the NetBeans GUI Builder can only be described as a major scuffle. I'm telling you about it as therapy to help me to forgive and forget.

I thought I'd give the GUI Builder a whirl with the new "Free Design" layout. This layout is supposed to be very simple to use, and it enforces platform specific gaps among elements among other things. But I fought and fought with it, and in the end I just couldn't get it to do what I wanted. I gave up and did what was easiest to do. I let it have it's way. Here's the result of trying to create an address book layout.

The first panel started like this:

firstpanel.png

Then I tried to resize the "Email" text field as this image shows. Note that in this image I haven't released the mouse, and this is the state of the GUI Builder during the reposition:

attempt.png

...then when I release the mouse button, the GUI Builder snaps the text field back to where it started.:

firstpanel.png

If this were the end of the experience, I wouldn't have to take a break. I'd have nothing to write about. Believe me, this little image above is nothing compared to the UI I was trying to create. I tried to design a larger UI with GUI Builder. After positioning a dozen labels and text fields, I would make the mistake of trying to resize something. The GUI Builder would snatch up all my components before and after the change and sling them to the left or right of the container. Then I'd start over from the top, working left to right, top to bottom, placing the moved components back to where I wanted them. Then, again I would try to resize a component, maybe make a text field shorter or longer. And the GUI Builder would toss my layout around like a rag doll. The only thing I finally was able to do was predict that it would mess things up, but I could never predict how, and I never understood why. How frustrating!

So, I'm leaving for a while; I'm not going to fight anymore tonight. A relationship counselor once told me that it was ok to leave an argument if I promise to come back to it and if I let the other party know that I won't be gone forever. So, that's what I'm doing now...sorry NetBeans, I'm just really frustrated with how things are working out between your GUI Builder (Matisse) and me right now. I'm going to get up and leave now, but just for a few hours, and I'll be back tomorrow.

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