JavaFX is used to create desktop applications and internet applications.  It is meant to replace Swing as the main GUI library that comes included with Java SE.  This post will cover some of the basics to help get started with using JavaFX.

Before I start giving out code examples I am going to insist that you use Scene Builder to help design the GUI’s that you make.  It is a drag and drop application so you can simply move the components you want on your application to where you want them and Scene Builder will write the code for you.  If you use Eclipse like I currently am you can install the plugin e(fx)clipse which will let you access Scene Builder directly from Eclipse and also brings some other useful tools with it as well.

Now we can get started.  JavaFX allows the GUI’s to be written in using .fxml files.  As the the extension suggests this is a form of XML.  The main benefit of using this form is that it inherently separates the View from the Controller as it is best practice to use MVC (Model – View – Controller) pattern when writing JavaFX applications.  The FXML is not able to control anything it simply displays information.  All the controlling will be used in the aptly named Controller class which can include actions that are referenced in the FXML. So when a button is pressed it will fire an ActionEvent which will be caught by the relevant listener in the Controller which will then perform some sort of process.

The example in this post is quite simple and is ignoring the Model from MVC pattern.  It will demonstrate how to launch, display and control a JavaFX application.

First comes the simplest part which is the launcher.  It must extend Application and all it does is reference a FXML file (which will be shown later) and uses this to create a new scene.

As the launcher contains a reference to the FXML it only makes sense to go onto this part next.  As mentioned earlier I recommend using Scene Builder to write the code for you.

Some of the first things you will notice while looking at this code is that it uses a style sheet and references a Controller (both of these will be shown later).  The Controller is referenced using the fx:controller notation.  Further down you will see another notation called fx:id which names the component so it can be referenced from inside the Controller class.  Another important part of these components are the onAction’s.  So if a button with onAction=”#handleRandomColorButtonAction” is pressed it will fire a ActionEvent to the Controller and will be caught by the method named handleRandomColorButtonAction(ActionEvent event).

Its probably a good time to mentioned the Controller’s code now.

Firstly the Controller must implement Initializable.  It includes @FXML anotations which are what link up to the fx:id‘s and onAction‘s that are defined in the FXML.  It allows the components that are marked with the @FXML annotations to be controlled from within the Java code, such as changing the style of a component or adding text into a TextField.

The code below demonstrates the use of @FXML notation:

At this point a working JavaFX application will have been produced but it wont look that nice unless you are happy with the default JavaFX style.  The simplest way to change the look and feel of the application is through the use of CSS.  Simply reference the style sheet from within the root component of the FXML code.  Annoyingly the CSS used in JavaFX differs from others used in HTML for example and uses its own notations.  A good place to look for these notations is the JavaFX CSS Reference Guide.  Below I have added the CSS that I used within this application.

One of the more annoying things I encountered while I tried to use JavaFX for the first time was getting accessing my files correctly.  The references that are inside the MainAppLauncher and MainApp.fxml need to be correct and if they are wrong you ar
e going to have a bad time.  Unfortunately it will just say Location is required as if its trying to taunt you.  Therefore I have included the file structure I used for this post as to hopefully lessen the pain caused by this.

tutorial-package-structure

Now that you have reached this point you should have a fully working JavaFX application. I will try and make some follow up posts to this one explaining some of the other features of JavaFX.