The blogsphere is a buzz to discuss the question "Is
Mozilla XU Development too hard?".

   Dan comments:

   It’s not too hard. They just don’t know that it
exists. If they’ve heard of XUL, they think it’s
Netscape’s proprietary DHTML stuff. It’s a PR problem.

   Neil Deakin (of XUL Planet fame) comments from
outer space:

   Not really. There are over 100 extensions that show
it can't be that difficult.

  Phil Wilson weighs in with his own blog story:

I’m extraordinarily keen to develop applications with
Mozilla. I would absolutely love to be able to write
an application which used XUL as its front end, giving
me a nice, cross-platform interface. I’ve put a lot of
time and effort into various Java solutions: Swing,
SWT, XWT, Thinlet, Jelly, but none have been
completely satisfactory, always letting me down in
some way or another.

As you can tell, my programming language of choice is
Java, and for me RDF and XUL aren’t a problem, in fact
I positively embrace both of them, but I have no idea
at all of how to link a Java app to an XUL front end
except by means of a web service which I can call from

I have a vague idea that JNI exists and would probably
be useful here (as, most likely, would XPIDL and
XPCOM), but whilst I understand how to make calls
between basic C++ and Java apps using JNI, I have
absolutely no idea how this relates in the real world
to Mozilla, or even would relate to a GRE or XRE. I'm
pretty sure that XPCOM is the crux of the thing, but
even that has more than one front page on the Mozilla
site: XPCOM the project, and XPCOM the architecture.
In all fariness, the XPCOM architecture page looks
great, and seems to link to some good resources, but I
swear I'd not seen half of them before, and am going
to put down this new discovery to the reworking of
mozilla.org ;)

But regardless, there's too much text and not enough
code. What I need is a simple example of how I can
take input from the user in XUL, pass it back to my
Java code which updates the user interface. If only
Creating Applications with Mozilla told me!
Newsmonster, for example, is written wholly in Java
(AFAIK!) and so it’s clearly possbile, but god knows
how it’s done – I certainly haven’t been able to find
any examples of how to get started. I also know about
the Blackwood project, the aim of which is: “Creating
a bridge between the Java Platform and Mozilla”, but a
quick look at the checkins shows nothing’s happened
since Jan 2002!

All of which means that I’m sitting here, full of
enthusiasm and verve, and I have no idea of how to
even start.

Who can point me in the right direction?    

  Ken Walker writes in his blog story:

 I should have asked “Is Mozilla Development Too
Esoteric?”—not too difficult. I can attest that within
a few hours of playing with XUL, I was able to get
some widgets working and provide basic functionality
behind them. Designing in XUL/CSS is as easy as
designing websites, and JavaScript is a flexible, easy
language to write in. So, I would assume that the
problem isn’t technological, but sociopolitical. When
Mozilla 1.0 came out just a few years ago, I thought
the technology breakthrough was the browser. I
downloaded it…and was disappointed. There was nothing
new here but the same old ugly Netscape. What I didn’t
see (as a browser end user) was that the entire
browser itself was being rendered with the Gecko
engine—a clever, intuitive application framework had
been invented. I only became aware of this fact last
year when I was researching cross-platform development
tools for my Senior Project. Then I started to realize
XUL’s potential.

I suspect a lot of people are still where I was a
couple years ago—looking at Mozilla and saying,
“what’s the big deal?”

  Any comments? 

   - Gerald

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