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Discussion on: What happened to Graphical GUI Builders? - Help me understand - (They are still here, I guess)

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jessekphillips profile image
Jesse Phillips

GUI editors are a disaster. Well, if not done really well. As some mentioned we do still see them in things like mobile and desktop apps or other specialty UIs

  • Android
  • iOS
  • WCF
  • swing/gtk

But we generally don't see them on the web

  • Frontpage
  • codeweaver

But why? Noting the examples I gave come from a time of static web pages. I can only give my thoughts and no evidence.

I think there are three trends which made the gui editor hard to tackle.

  • Explosion of frameworks
  • Frontend or backend rendering (which programing language controls the web?)
  • Components Understand, it is not like this hasn't been seen before. Swing, swt, winform, gtk, qt... They also had the concept of componetization.

So what then? Well, those I listed still exist and probably still have their gui editor. Note these listed also lived through the late 90's which was a time where the future of programming was in "code less editing". Also note these are the main players of graphical interfaces

Jump to the start of the web UI and you, (what I'm going to say will sound harsh, but I think it is accurate imagery), and you have script monkeys (because we all are from time to time) hacking up the web DOM in whatever fashion suits their needs. There was no need for a GUI, they new what they were doing and it was cool.

I believe that the move to trying to componetize the web is still a new approach for the modern web, there are competing approaches and unlike in the desktop age of GUI, these programs are used to doing it by hand (the no code movement is still out there somewhere, but right now things are a moving target and who knows when it will need to be rewritten for the next framework (we have angular, but you can't say it has been around long because it has had many design changes under the same name)).


On the editor side of things, they have been known to make ugly code. It can be hard to version control changes (merge conflicts anyone?). While the code can be edited, the GUI editor may stumble on things you try if you don't stick specifically to its expectations. You aren't removing the code or your need to understand what it is doing (or at least if you don't understand it will be a mysterious black box which doesn't work some times and all you can do is remove and re-add the missing components).

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rohansawant profile image
Rohan Sawant Author

Yep, exactly this was one of the points which I had not thought of.

I still remember how back in the day when I was using one such GUI Editor, it generated tons of code which I had no idea how it worked. I would certainly not have written such unmaintainable code myself.

Yeah, this helps me understand things better! Thanks!