SIMPL GUI Designer – 1

February 7, 2012

SIMPL GUI Designer

SIMPL GUI Designer

Above is an image of the first build of a web-based GUI designer for SIMPL.

Sencha Designer 2.0

Sencha Designer 2.0

And here is an image of the Sencha Designer 2.0 that I am using to build the web-based version. The web-based version will use the same general layout, but may have different drag-n-drop capabilities.

GUI design is one of the most complex tasks in building many Internet applications. Hopefully, the SIMPL GUI Designer will make this a lot less painful, at least for applications of moderate complexity.

Windows 3.x started to become popular in the early 1990’s and the only way to build Windows applications at first was to use the “C” language. And Windows 3.x was based upon a hybrid 16/24/32 bit model which required programmers to specify “NEAR” and “FAR” pointer types for most function calls. Programming Windows in the early days was *very* hard.

Digitalk released versions of Smalltalk/V for Windows in 1991/1992 which made the complexity disappear – you simply sent a message to a “Window” object and it performed the requested actions (“open”, “close”, “move”, “resize”, etc). There were no “pointers” in Smalltalk. A company called “ObjectShare” (IIRC) released a product named “WindowBuilder” which made building GUI’s even easier with layout being accomplished by “dragging” and “dropping” components into place.

Microsoft, of course, realized that the difficult nature of building Window’s applications was costing them sales. They released the first version of Visual Basic in 1991. VB was very easy to program, (although much less flexible than “C”) and this led to an explosion of VB applications and probably was a major factor in Windows becoming ubiquitous.

I think that RIA (Rich Internet Application) GUI’s are at a similar situation to Windows 3.0/3.1 in the earlier 1990’s.

The technology obviously works and Sencha has done an outstanding job in engineering and documenting ExtJs 4.x.

But building ExtJs applications can still be challenging (although not nearly as difficult as building the early Windows apps). Sencha Designer 2.0 is a big step in the right direction although, at $399, it is likely to appeal mostly to professional programmers.

A more accessible web-based tool, like SIMPL GUI Designer, might provide a way for web designers and part-time developers to use the ExtJs library as well.