Smalltalk and native widgets

A product that I have just recently discovered is Ambrai Smalltalk. With Ambrai, you now have the option of developing using Smalltalk and interfacing with native OSX widgets. It even supports .nib files from Interface Builder. This is another option to consider if you want to develop in Smalltalk and still have native widgets for OS X. If you want to develop in Smalltalk but do not care about native widgets, then there is always Squeak.

What's the importance of native widgets? I have always been a fan of native widgets for desktop applications. I have never really been a fan of Java for creating native applications. Sure, the Eclipse IDE has a pretty decent --in fact it is one of the few that look decent. However, the Eclipse look is not for every product. For instance, The Azureus bit torrent client uses the same widget as Eclipse -- the SWT -- and yet it is an eyesore whenever I see it. The rest of the other IDEs like Komodo that use Java for cross platform compatibility really look very bad. The buttons look out of place and the widgets just do not blend in.

The Komodo IDE with its squarish tabs and unpolished icons. When viewed in isolation it does not look too bad; but when viewed in the context of the other applications running on OS X, it is garishly out of place.

The Azureus BitTorrent client on OS X. Again, the icons do not feel like part of OS X.

Most people usually do not care but I happen to be very particular about such things. Without a decent UI, I feel that the product is incomplete. I am reluctant to use that product because it feels so different from the rest of my desktop. For instance, I did not use Firefox until there was a way to make the buttons and form elements on the webpage look like the default on OS X. I found it extremely hideous to look at the squarish dark grey buttons on web pages whenever I used Firefox. Thank goodness for the native intel builds with aqua form widgets from beatnikpad.

However, it is not completely necessary in all cases to have native widgets. For instance, the Eclipse IDE is something that seems to blend in well with OS X. Custom images that serve as navigation cues (tabs, links, images, etc) on web pages can have their own distinct look and still not feel out of place.

Interestingly, the contrast between native widgets and non-native widgets seem to be most apparent on OS X. On Windows and Linux, I hardly ever notice the different if an application is using the native Windows form or native linux widgets (whatever that might refer to). I guess there is this discordance of user interface on the other systems that it becomes commonplace to have everything look like they don't belong. And because they do not look like they belong, they actually do not affect you much when you look at them.

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