The TableView (and TreeTableView) of JavaFX has won the prize for being the control that was mentioned the most in my recent “JavaFX Missing Features” survey and also in many follow-up discussions (including and especially the guys in our Zurich JavaFX Meetup group). I guess one of the reasons is the simple fact that almost every application needs a table view.

The two most requested features / improvements for the TableView were freezing rows / columns and better editing support.

Freezing Rows / Columns

  • Freeze / lock rows – the ability to have one or more rows to stay at the top or bottom of the table view. Often this feature is needed when trying to display the sum of the values in the columns.
  • Freeze / lock columns – the ability to have one or more columns stay on the left or right-hand side of the table view. Again, to show the sum of the values in the row or to display some kind of header for the row. In the case of my FlexGanttFX framework I like to have a column on the left-hand side to show the row number (yes, like in Excel).

I believe that freezing columns / rows was a feature that was planned for the TableView but that did not make it into the final release because of time and resource constraints. If I remember correctly then there is actually some left-over code / comments in the TableView code base that was intended for this purpose.

Editing Support

  • Ability to edit cell values by simply starting to type the new value – currently the user has to double click a cell first.
  • Fluent keyboard navigation to navigate from one cell to another via TAB, SHIFT_TAB, ENTER, arrow keys.
  • Cell validation when editing a value. The user should not be able to leave the cell without either entering a valid value or cancelling the edit.

The current editing support is probably the one thing that annoys developers the most when using the TableView as they know that their users expect more. I have already worked on two projects myself where we had to hack the TableView so that it would let the user edit values directly.


Other features that were requested included:

  • Cell / row spanning – the ability to have a cell go across multiple rows and or columns.
  • Filter UI – table views often let the user select one or more filters per column. The collection of all filters then determines the visible rows. In JavaFX this can be easily done in the model (via SortedList and FilteredList) but developers wished there were built-in controls directly inside the TableView (inside the headers).
  • Automatic column sizing – a way to adjust the width of a column to its content, to ensure readability of all values. This feature is actually implemented inside the TableView codebase. It is used to resize the column when the user double clicks on the edges of the column headers. However, the code for this is not public. I have recently posted an article showing how to do it.

I think that all of the above features are valid things to expect from a good table control but I am pretty sure that we will not see any progress in this area from the JavaFX team itself. I believe that from Oracle’s point of view the current table implementation is considered “good enough”, so I assume that it will be up to a third-party to come up with a good alternative, either open-source or commercial. I have brainstormed a lot about how to implement my own table view control but have reached the conclusion that this is too big to be a simple side-project. This is bad, but it also means that there is a potential for somebody else to create a commercial product and to actually make some money with it. Because like I said in the beginning: almost all applications need a table view.

The next “Missing Features” blog will be about performance and quality.

Stay tuned!

P.S.: for some of the features above you might want to try out the SpreadsheetView in the ControlsFX project.