In recent years most of my work has been back-end. When I used to do desktop development, I was impressed with the ease of development when using tools such as Eclipse Windowbuilder and Netbeans Matisse. I have tried, to no avail, to find similar tools to develop web applications. My dream toolset would have the following characteristics:

  1. Free and open source.
  2. Visual design with layout management, drag and drop of components from a palette and WYSIWIG.
  3. Agnostic as to the back end. In other words, I do not want a "full stack" approach. My backend stack is already set (Spring) and I cannot port it to another technology.
  4. If possible, I prefer to the primary development language not be JavaScript. I am a Java developer, but I am open to working with a different language. But I really don't like JavaScript. There are now many languages that compile to JavaScript or Web Assembly, so I prefer to go in that direction.
  5. UI customization accomplished largely through themes, similar to Swing's pluggable look and feel.
  6. My background is Java, Unix, Linux, open source etc. I don't live in the .NET world, so I am not particularly interested in .NET solutions. I might reconsider if that is truly the only way to get what I want.
  7. As I said, my primary interest is web applications, but extra points if the toolset can develop mobile and desktop apps from the same code base.

My decidedly non-expert observation that the current state of web app development seems to fall into the following general categories:

  1. Use the traditional trio of HTML/CSS/JavaScript, but use a JavaScript framework, e.g Vue).
  2. Keep HTML and CSS, but replace JavaScript with another language that compiles to JavaScript or Web Assembly.
  3. Everything is generated from JavaScript or TypeScript, e.g. React.
  4. Everything is generated from a language that compiles to JavaScript or Web Assembly, e.g. ELM.

There is a mind boggling number of choices available, but I still have not found anything that makes development as easy and fun as desktop development. I would be interested to hear what others think.

  • Drag n drop might be tricky (but it's a frequent question, so search the site). If you can live without it & code your own HTML, then Brackets IDE offers a "live preview" feature, where every change in your code is reflected instantly in the browser. I was happy with it for AngularJs, so it should be fine for Vue – Mawg says reinstate Monica Apr 17 '19 at 9:19

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