JavaScript vs. JavaFX

We built the XML Editor for the Formspider IDE in Java, because the original Formspider IDE was a Java Application. When we were preparing the Formspider Online IDE for the Web, we also had to move the XML Editor to the Web. In one of the brilliant moments of my career I told the team “Hey, we have a working editor in Java. Why don’t we convert it to JavaFX and be done with it?” This should be simple right? Right…After months of work, we finally got the editor working in JavaFX. The fact that we converted from Java to JavaFX, did not help as much as we hoped it would.

We went live with the Formspider Online IDE and started observing user behavior. Something was not right. People were signing up but not really doing anything. A quick investigation revealed that we were having problems with the XML Editor. It was failing for more than 50% of our users. Some people didn’t have Java on their machines, some had the open SDK that did not support JavaFX and some had problems we could not figure out.

Formspider IDE was not a joyride for the lucky few who was able to run the editor either. On average, a user had to wait about two minutes before the IDE was ready for input. The 1.5 MB jar was downloaded quickly enough but it took ages for the computer to install the jar and getting it ready to run. The security alert that kept popping up was also very annoying from the user’s perspective.The state we were in with the Online IDE was clearly unacceptable.

JavaScript came to the rescue. We were actually smart enough to sponsor a coding contest for a JavaScript editor while we were working on the JavaFX one. The team of Bilal Gültekin and Bahattin Tozyılmaz were the winners. In the picture below you see Bilal receiving their bounty, a teddy bear filled with $2600 dollars. We are also looking forward to host both Bilal and Bahattin as our interns this summer.

The Award Ceremony

After the contest was over, Öskan took over the code base for the XML Editor in JavaScript and prepared it for production use. After several weeks of work, the editor was ready for beta testing. However, the problem was so severe that even a partially working editor written in JavaScript was better than a thoroughly tested editor written in JavaFX. So we skipped the beta pretty quickly. We were already annoying pretty much every user, how much worse could we really get?

After a few quick iterations, we were incredibly happy with the results. Now our new XML Editor written entirely in JavaScript loads instantly and runs for our every user. Most importantly, our users started to engage with the Online IDE. I see them creating panels, text fields and windows everyday.

If you used the Formspider Online IDE before and you did not have a pleasant experience at all, I apologize and kindly invite you to give it another try. If this is going to be your first time with the Online IDE, nevermind… It all works just fine.

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