Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

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#1 markhazlett9  Icon User is offline

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Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Post icon  Posted 19 September 2009 - 10:50 AM

I'm wondering if it's popular in industry to use GUI builders. I absolutely hate them because of the awful code they generate and they always seem to produce more problems than they solve. So is it more popular to hard code GUI's or to use a builder?

Cheers
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Re: Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Posted 19 September 2009 - 10:57 AM

If you're using a decent GUI builder and you know how to properly use it, then it can save a lot of time, which is a big part for software programmers. Yes, a lot of professionals use GUI builders.
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#3 Martyr2  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Posted 19 September 2009 - 11:14 AM

I hate GUI builders because of the code they generate too. Any code generation tools typically take the decisions out of the programmers hands and do whatever that looks like it works. Great for solving problems in the moment, terrible for maintenance later. Half the time I find myself taking jobs where I am correcting problems created by code generation tools used years before (because the company may not have the money to buy the latest code generation tool or have some serious legacy systems that won't work with new code generation tool code)

Now as far as popularity of these tools, the sad truth is that yes they are becoming more popular. Especially for the web where you see a lot of sites using things like ASP.NET which as far as I am concerned is a bit of a code generator and a bit clunky in a way. I am not saying it is as terrible as say Dreamweaver or even one of the older generators that used 10 deep nested tables to align an image, but when compared to other hand coded solutions I find that they are full of bloat.

Companies find it popular because it typically becomes more disposable. For instance, a company creates a website using ASP.NET. The tool generates their site pages and everything looks great. Works on the major browsers and everything is right with the world. As time goes by the code rots (like all code does) and begins to not fulfill the needs of the company. Maybe it doesn't show the latest types of video streams or not very interactive. Maybe it sucks with Silverlight 37 or something. No problem... rather than having someone go in and update the site and fix the problems, it would be cheaper and more economical to throw most of the pages away and let a new code generator generate a whole new set of pages. Sites are becoming dispensable.

Given that sites are typically lasting only a couple of years before needing a new fresh look, companies figure why invest in solid site code and pay someone to do it right when they would probably throw it away in a couple years? Code generators, for GUI or anything else, make a "good enough" attempt at a economical price.

If you are interesting in diving into this thought process more, I encourage you to do a search for the "Principle of Good Enough" or POGE.

:)

This post has been edited by Martyr2: 19 September 2009 - 11:21 AM

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#4 coden4fun  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Posted 19 September 2009 - 12:21 PM

View PostMartyr2, on 19 Sep, 2009 - 10:14 AM, said:

I hate GUI builders because of the code they generate too. Any code generation tools typically take the decisions out of the programmers hands and do whatever that looks like it works. Great for solving problems in the moment, terrible for maintenance later. Half the time I find myself taking jobs where I am correcting problems created by code generation tools used years before (because the company may not have the money to buy the latest code generation tool or have some serious legacy systems that won't work with new code generation tool code)

Now as far as popularity of these tools, the sad truth is that yes they are becoming more popular. Especially for the web where you see a lot of sites using things like ASP.NET which as far as I am concerned is a bit of a code generator and a bit clunky in a way. I am not saying it is as terrible as say Dreamweaver or even one of the older generators that used 10 deep nested tables to align an image, but when compared to other hand coded solutions I find that they are full of bloat.

Companies find it popular because it typically becomes more disposable. For instance, a company creates a website using ASP.NET. The tool generates their site pages and everything looks great. Works on the major browsers and everything is right with the world. As time goes by the code rots (like all code does) and begins to not fulfill the needs of the company. Maybe it doesn't show the latest types of video streams or not very interactive. Maybe it sucks with Silverlight 37 or something. No problem... rather than having someone go in and update the site and fix the problems, it would be cheaper and more economical to throw most of the pages away and let a new code generator generate a whole new set of pages. Sites are becoming dispensable.

Given that sites are typically lasting only a couple of years before needing a new fresh look, companies figure why invest in solid site code and pay someone to do it right when they would probably throw it away in a couple years? Code generators, for GUI or anything else, make a "good enough" attempt at a economical price.

If you are interesting in diving into this thought process more, I encourage you to do a search for the "Principle of Good Enough" or POGE.

:)


@Martyr2

I must say first your name off the top of my head reminds me of Magic: The Gathering is that where you got your name?

Also, you are corret sir! I myself have found it much easier and time saving (maintenance wise) to hard code sites myself. I hate having to look at an old website, and have to juggle what should stay in and what should stay out, when in reality the whole damn thing should be thrown away and coders work from scratch. Also, not being at the start of things having to figure out what should go in/out of an old website getting an upgrade is like not fitting in a crowd trying to be notice, but not seen at the same time. Down right dreadful.
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#5 ccubed  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Posted 19 September 2009 - 12:26 PM

View PostMartyr2, on 19 Sep, 2009 - 10:14 AM, said:

I hate GUI builders because of the code they generate too. Any code generation tools typically take the decisions out of the programmers hands and do whatever that looks like it works. Great for solving problems in the moment, terrible for maintenance later. Half the time I find myself taking jobs where I am correcting problems created by code generation tools used years before (because the company may not have the money to buy the latest code generation tool or have some serious legacy systems that won't work with new code generation tool code)

Now as far as popularity of these tools, the sad truth is that yes they are becoming more popular. Especially for the web where you see a lot of sites using things like ASP.NET which as far as I am concerned is a bit of a code generator and a bit clunky in a way. I am not saying it is as terrible as say Dreamweaver or even one of the older generators that used 10 deep nested tables to align an image, but when compared to other hand coded solutions I find that they are full of bloat.

Companies find it popular because it typically becomes more disposable. For instance, a company creates a website using ASP.NET. The tool generates their site pages and everything looks great. Works on the major browsers and everything is right with the world. As time goes by the code rots (like all code does) and begins to not fulfill the needs of the company. Maybe it doesn't show the latest types of video streams or not very interactive. Maybe it sucks with Silverlight 37 or something. No problem... rather than having someone go in and update the site and fix the problems, it would be cheaper and more economical to throw most of the pages away and let a new code generator generate a whole new set of pages. Sites are becoming dispensable.

Given that sites are typically lasting only a couple of years before needing a new fresh look, companies figure why invest in solid site code and pay someone to do it right when they would probably throw it away in a couple years? Code generators, for GUI or anything else, make a "good enough" attempt at a economical price.

If you are interesting in diving into this thought process more, I encourage you to do a search for the "Principle of Good Enough" or POGE.

:)


Finally, I've found someone who doesn't sugar coat things. I've found many people that like to argue about the usefulness of GUI editors. I'll be honest, I'm not the best at programming GUIs, but I won't stoop to using a WYSIWYG editor either because I know i'll regret it later on. In fact, the only language I use a GUI editor for is VB, but then that's because the language doesn't work properly any other way.

My current class in Web Tech has me using Fireworks and Dreamweaver, which I can't comprehend. Apparently, the reason we should use it is "manageability." I don't quite see how this translates to anything relevant since it's relatively easy to open HTML files and replace in each one. Still, my Teacher insists that Dreamweaver is a management system and that's why we use it.

For the record, at least in Web Development, I've used the Web Developer platform from Microsoft, HTML-Kit from Chami and Dreamweaver from Adobe and yet none of them TRULY do me any good. I can develop better code at a better pace with just a text editor. However, as Martyr2 has said, they are becoming much more accepted and popular.
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#6 KYA  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Posted 19 September 2009 - 12:29 PM

I'd like to know what peoples' opinions of GUI builders in applications are. The focus thus far seems to be web sites.
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Re: Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Posted 19 September 2009 - 12:33 PM

View PostKYA, on 19 Sep, 2009 - 11:29 AM, said:

I'd like to know what peoples' opinions of GUI builders in applications are. The focus thus far seems to be web sites.


They're still just as bad when you get into it. Some languages are hard coded to be used with a GUI builder, such as VB, but otherwise they just waste time and generate bad code. I've even used Glade before and at times the code is completely counter productive and sometimes doesn't even mesh with the usage in the manual for GTK.

I always think of it like this: Imagine if <insert favorite OS here> was made using a GUI builder, what would you say?
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#8 Core  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Posted 19 September 2009 - 12:38 PM

Let's put it this way - it really depends for what task. I've been using Visual Studio for quite a while, and i can say that designing forms only through code would be a little bit more time-consuming. Especially considering the fact that the generated code is aboslutely the same I would write. And this is really nice, when you need to concentrate less on the UI design with code (XAML/WPF is a different thing in this case, I am speaking exclusively about WinForms) and focus on the functionality.

From the other side, I know that when it comes to HTML and web design, it is absolutely irrational to use only the visual designer to build the page (Martyr2 mentioned the reason). In this case it is better to write code, rather than design visually.

Visual designers are indeed popular (Visual Studio and it's design capabilites come to mind). However, I bet that even in such a company like Microsoft both visual design and code design is used. It once again depends on the task.

There is no absolute "yes" or "no" when it comes to visual desginers. Analyze the task and the capabilities of the designer, and then decide whether you need to use it or not.
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#9 Martyr2  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Posted 19 September 2009 - 12:56 PM

View Postcoden4fun, on 19 Sep, 2009 - 11:21 AM, said:

@Martyr2

I must say first your name off the top of my head reminds me of Magic: The Gathering is that where you got your name?



Yes, the original name I chose is Martyr's Cry which came directly from the series "The Dark" series of the magic the gathering. A series I still own today.

Quote

I'd like to know what peoples' opinions of GUI builders in applications are. The focus thus far seems to be web sites.


I am lumping GUI editors into this and my example was ASP.NET which uses the GUI editor of Visual Web Developer/Visual Studio (typically) for its development. But you have a point that it would be nice to see some other comments directly related to GUI editors unrelated to the web.

This post has been edited by Martyr2: 19 September 2009 - 12:57 PM

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#10 Oler1s  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Posted 19 September 2009 - 01:05 PM

A lot of it has to do with what GUI toolkits provide. GUI toolkits make it easy (relatively) to create interfaces that are basically a series of static forms, with a number of very basic elements organized in some fixed position on each form. Then toolkits allow you to connect events based on interaction with the various elements to pieces of code, through whatever event handling mechanism there is.

GUI builders automate much of this process and present an easier way to design the forms. To that end, I don't really fault GUI builders, but I do fault the toolkits. It's frankly very old Windows based kind of mentality.

In particular, I think usable interfaces require a lot of dynamic changes in the interface. The kind of create a static form with fixed elements mentality is very old fashioned. The interface needs to respond intelligently to the kind of data being presented or the necessary workflow, and static forms aren't a great way to handle that kind of usability need.

GUI toolkits are pretty old fashioned. Just look at the way they consider the layout and rendering of interface elements. It's very pixel based. I dare you to change your DPI on your monitor and see how many interfaces still work and more importantly, render correctly.

I don't know. Forget interfaces, it's about making usable interfaces. I'm disappointed with the current level of abstractions being offered.
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#11 KYA  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Posted 19 September 2009 - 01:10 PM

The reason I ask is because I find the Netbeans visual designer (for java apps in this context) absolutely wonderful. It allows me to focus on the core of the application rather then swing components.
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#12 Oler1s  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Posted 19 September 2009 - 01:21 PM

Quote

The reason I ask is because I find the Netbeans visual designer (for java apps in this context) absolutely wonderful. It allows me to focus on the core of the application rather then swing components.
On a project early this year, I had to form a GUI for a program that would generate SVG diagrams of some graphs (CS graphs, not the Excel graphs).

Java isn't my forte at all, so I had to actually get up to speed on the language, and I used Eclipse and hand coded a bit with Swing. Switching to Netbeans, I actually managed to get something decent done. I didn't like the interface, but you know what, I managed to push something that looked half respectable by the deadline.

I don't knock a good GUI builder. It doesn't matter how wonderful your approach is if you can't meet deadlines to get something working and decent.
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#13 Martyr2  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Posted 19 September 2009 - 01:26 PM

That is a bit of the point I was making Oler1s, GUI builders and such are being used as a "Good enough" approach to help meet ever tightening deadlines. They are decent for the little time you put into them and they accelerate work, but its the debug/maintenance years down the road which can really kill ya. Well, that is unless they just throw away your work and have someone else generate another "Good enough" solution more appropriate for that particular time.

:)
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#14 markhazlett9  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Posted 19 September 2009 - 03:52 PM

View PostMartyr2, on 19 Sep, 2009 - 12:26 PM, said:

That is a bit of the point I was making Oler1s, GUI builders and such are being used as a "Good enough" approach to help meet ever tightening deadlines. They are decent for the little time you put into them and they accelerate work, but its the debug/maintenance years down the road which can really kill ya. Well, that is unless they just throw away your work and have someone else generate another "Good enough" solution more appropriate for that particular time.

:)



Very well put... 100% agreed
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#15 anirelles  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is it popular in industry to use a GUI builder?

Posted 19 September 2009 - 05:22 PM

My first job was to be a developer specialized in the use of a GUI builder called Calendra, a French framework that have been bought by BMC software. Actually it was a lot more than just GUI builder, it was able to handle a whole web app (user roles, data source, data mapping, workflows, navigation, etc) inside a graphical studio.

I was able to develop web apps really fast but when a client wanted some customization I could waste a lot of time if the builder didn't manage it.

For me GUI Builder are great but the danger is to rely too much on them and don't understand the code that is generated. Actually in my first job I didn't care about that and after 2 years using it I almost didn't learn anything in programming. I was really good using the builder but only that. You don't have to care about design, best practices, the programming language etc as the builder do everything for you.
In the other hand you can focus more on the coding of business rules of the application.

The book "The Pragmatic Programmer" suggest to understand every line of code generated by code generators. I don't know if it's realistic.
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