I recently started using the look and feel library BizLaf of Centigrade GmbH (Germany) and I have come to the conclusion that, after 13 years of programming Swing UIs, this is by far the best look and feel library for Java that I have ever used. Reason enough to blog about it and to share my thoughts.
For the last 2 and a half years I have been working on my very own software project called “Collapp” for collaborative project planning. I have made it my mission to make it one of the most professional looking applications ever written for Java (this is probably the reason why I still haven’t been able to release it). To me this means that the application should look polished on all platforms and at the same time feel natively to the platform it runs on. On a MacIntosh it should look like a Mac application (e.g. iTunes, iWeb, iPhoto, …) with typical Mac features (unified toolbar, sourcelist, …). On Windows it should look like a Windows application with the frame containing the menubar, and so on. It should be noted that Windows generally allows a higher degree of freedom when it comes to UI design (this can be good or bad).
For the Mac UI I was very lucky that I could use Ken Orr’s outstanding MacWidgets library. It gave me a great head start and I almost instantly looked at an application that fit right onto Macs. So far so good, unfortunately it is not very usable for Windows. The MacWidgets components really only work nicely on Mac, which in return shows how much attention to detail the Apple engineers put into the Aqua UI. Everything works hand in hand (e.g. the Window title and the toolbar appear as a single component / panel).