R – Developing a GUI Builder Application


I am looking for a nice framework for developing a GUI builder Application. We have an application where 100Os of custom data entry forms and their print formats are required and each client will need some modifications on these. We have a developed a product using java based open source templatnig frameworks so that the layout and field definition are stored in database and rendered dynamically to the user. We also have an appication to design these forms but cannot do visual design.

Now I am trying to make a Visual Form Designer application for generating these forms. Can any one suggest some open source frameworks than can be used? Can I use Eclipse Visual Editor? Or is it better to develop some kind of parser for HTML using AntLR and then parse the HTML output from already existing GUI builders like Dreamweaver to get the desired output?

Thanks and Regards,

— Kannan

Best Solution

Oooh, great question!

I wouldn't know any readily availble framework that you can use. Depending on your needs however, I think rolling your own shouldn't be too hard.

First of all, you probably wouldn't want to give the users too much freedom. Freedom only gives them the opportunity to mess things up and make the resultant forms hard to use. I think from your description that the fields are pre-defined, so that the user only needs to customize which fields appear on a given form, and in what order. Order can be a simple thing like top-to-bottom. Some semi-intelligent automatic layouting could be used to conserve screen space. Adding a feature to group fields together would probably also be useful, and grouping would lead to some kind of standard "group" widget.

Accepting simplified functionality like this, you don't really need the flexibility of a full gui editor. A couple of listviews, maybe a property sheet and a preview window will be enough to give your users the functionality they need.

Of course, this only holds for screen forms. Print forms may be trickier to layout, as people may want to cram as many fields as possible into very little space so the entire form can fit on a single page or something. I really don't have any suggestions for you there, but maybe a similar "simplified" approach with some intelligent auto-layouting could work.

Overall, my advice would be: Keep It Simple! (S... ;)

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