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The designer of Xwidgets recently returned to the Xwidget community with a re-issue of the Android version of Xwidgets. It has been reported that he has been working on a new version of the xwidget engine for the desktop but we have seen nothing up until now...

Tony has just dropped a demonstration version of the new Xwidget designer onto the forum for developers to try. It is a cut-down version of the final thing, lacking features and missing essential components as it is still heavily under development. However, it works! I assume that some features may may make the final cut and some may not. When you test the new designer bear this in mind this lack of features and recent gestation.

You can find the new version here: bbs.xwidget.com/viewtopic.php?…

Here is my own feedback on the Xwidget 2.0 designer.

Negative points first...

Objects are missing lots of properties (presumably yet to come)

Components are a little threadbare - plenty in development I presume.

I miss the useful icons/buttons at the top, debug, design, code split, log &c - hoping these will re-appear when the design is more complete. They give the new user some direction as to where to go, what to do. They are also familiar and easy to use. I'd hate to see them disappear. The ability to switch to the code window at will using a convenient button has been lost, not good for those of us who are code-oriented. I know there is the little script button at the bottom of the page but it is tucked away and feels hidden. I expect the main helpful functions to be sited together where they are intuitively useful. The option to revert to the icons/buttons should be provided then the new designer will feel a friendly place to be rather than one where our knowledge and skills to operate the IDE are lost. Icons are useful! Give us the option to have icons, to make them smaller or larger and to place them where we want them - just as almost ALL other code editors do. We should be able to show/hide toolbars as we require. Windows users expect applications with icons and and menus in the expected location. Let us not alienate our Windows users with different methods of operation.

The black overall theme of the Xdesigner - I particularly dislike it. All my code windows, IDEs and text editors use white background and black text going back to the late 1980s. That is what I am familiar with and that is what I like. I strongly suggest an option to revert to a more traditional theme for the designer. I don't draw on a blackboard, I design using pen and paper...

Image
Xdesigner 2.0 Proposed new version

Let the user determine the font to use for the Xdesigner in the various panels, the current font is too large, I prefer something smaller, some might prefer something larger, give us an option to configure the Xdesigner, font, colours &c.

The code window -the default font has changed and there is no option to revert to another font. I know which font I prefer for my code and it certainly isn't arial or similar.

There is still no option to change the font size on the code designer forcing the Xdesigner window to be displayed covering a lot of the user's screen.

The Xdesigner starting up in full screen mode every time is unwelcome.

The overall look and feel of the Xdesigner appliication is a tadge dull and boring in comparison to version 1.0. It has taken the 'modern' theme as provided by Microsoft and has followed it slavishly. As a result the new designer is a boring place to be where as the older version has colour and is vibrant. I don't like Microsoft's new style, it is corporate and bland and it would be good to be able to configure the style ourselves. See how vibrant the old designer was.

Image
Xdesigner 1.0, bright and vibrant, it looks like an IDE.

I don't like the change from 'widget' to 'theme'. A widget is a discrete component, whereas a theme is a more comprehensive set of styles and components that produce an overall "look and theme". I would be disappointed if the xwidget designer was more oriented toward themes rather than desktop objects such as widgets. I suggest reverting to 'widgets' or 'objects' if the term widget is now out of date. I think the term 'theme' is misleading in this context. I know what I mean by theme and I believe most of the world thinks the same way. If the new version is tending towards the creation of whole themes then I think the change is a step too far and a step away from the whole concept of xwidgets... I strongly suggest that a rethink is performed here that allows those that want to create discrete widgets to continue.

I don't like the change from 'layer' to 'page'. A layer is an easily understandable concept when it comes to designing a widget comprising images, whereas a page has a relationship with a document rather than a programmable object. I would be disappointed if the xwidget designer was more oriented toward documents rather than desktop objects such as widgets. I suggest reverting to 'layers'. I think the term 'page' is misleading in this context. I know what I mean by layer or page and I believe most of the world thinks the same way.

The new Xdesigner is not backward compatible. I cannot open any old widgets using the new Xdesigner, does that mean we have to start from scratch with every design? Poor me ? Poor JimKing! There MUST be a compatibility mode or a widget mode allowing the designer to open and configure previous objects.

I do not like not being able to close my widget/theme without closing the whole Xdesigner.

I do not like not being able to open the Xdesigner without creating a new theme every time. I should be able to open the designer without opening an existing theme or opening a new one. If the Xdesigner is an IDE then make it an IDE that you can open and run and use for your own purposes. I do not wish to be forced to open a project every time.

Code window code highlighting - it seems to highlight keywords in a similar fashion as before, which is good but I must be able to define the colours. The current colours are garish, jarring and all wrong. My current code editor is Kate from the KDE stable, it is an advanced code editor, is highly configurable, colours can be changed - and Tony could take serious hints on operation from that source. kate-editor.org/2016/04/29/kat…

Image
Kate Editor showing my preferred code colours that I have used for years now.

Assigning some code to an image object now takes even more clicks, it takes seven in total to get to the code. In the VB6 IDE (one of the best IDEs in the world) a double-click on an object in designer mode took you directly to the code and straight to the onclick event, the most commonly used event. Seven clicks to get to the code is ridiculous - and is more than the old Xdesigner that only took three!

The function list is gone from the code window, it was useful. Let's have it back please.

Some events are missing, I'm hoping they will return, ONkey events on images and other objects are required, they did not actually work on the old runtime but at least the events were present in the Xdesigner...

Split mode is missing entirely, I presume/hope it will return.

Most windows have the X or close button on the wrong side of the title bar. It is in the wrong place compared to ALL other Windows applications. Let us not alienate our users with different methods of operation. Windows users expect all buttons to be in the expected location. This is not Linux.

-oOo-

Bugs:

The Xdesigner made changes that I did not want. It is saving when I don't want it to. I made changes to the default theme, deleting the background image on the layout item and then exited the designer specifically without saving my changes but they have still been applied. When I re-opened the theme the background was gone.

Ctrl/F - search - is definitely not working, ACK produced instead of a pop-up search window.

The switch to 'debug' mode by clicking on the 'play' button is very, very, very slow. Debug mode in the old Xdesigner was instant and very useful. A slow debug mode is useless and debug mode will not be used as a result. If it is slow then remove it. My system is a core i7 3.4ghz with an SSD and I wait over 10 seconds for it to render a 'theme'. If this is the penalty for converting to themes then I don't want themes, I want widgets and an IDE that is quick to debug. I have dropped IDE's that were awkward to use. I previously dropped xDesigner 1.0 due to a clunky interface and awkward operation, I don't want to drop Xdesigner 2.0 due to a slow IDE.

-oOo-

Suggestions:

Feature Request: XWidget does not capture a keypress on an image bbs.xwidget.com/viewtopic.php?… This is essential to allow a widget to react to hotkeys or keypresses. Other programs/widget engines have this functionality.

Feature Request: On the Xdesigner, the new 'action and command' window, a click on the function should take you to the function in the code window.

Feature Request: Object ordering within a layer is clumsy, only allowing 'bring to front' and 'send to back'. Very primitive when you have 50 or more objects. A simple move backward/forward option would allow more advanced ordering.

Feature Request: Xwidgets still has no preferences function where you can build your own widget configuration options. See Yahoo widgets for an example of how this should be done.

Feature Request: Make it possible to bind keys to specific tasks so for example the F3 key can be bound to call the search function and to repeat the search function as necessary. All windows applications use CTRL/F and F3 to search.

Feature Request - Alt+F+S to operate as other windows applications do! Give us menus to perform hot key operations using the keyboard such as save/opening widgets. All windows applications have this functionality. bbs.xwidget.com/viewtopic.php?… No need to deny Xwidget's platform roots.

Feature Request: Code Search Function - Enhance the search, allow search from top www.bbs.xwidget.com/viewtopic.…

Feature Request: Allow default image to display any type, animated GIF, APNG, .ANI or other image format. bbs.xwidget.com/viewtopic.php?…

Feature Request: Transparent areas of PNGs to be excluded from being recognised as a valid click event. It should always click through transparent areas automatically.

Feature Request: Give progress bars absolute values. Progress bars can be used to give a sliding indicator showing any value. They are useful as visual analogue indicators of values directly from cores but only for cores that express their values as percentages. Unfortunately, they are next to useless when showing anything that does not equate to a percentage value. For example a temperature cannot be expressed in terms of percent. A temperature is an absolute, it is a measurement. It has no maximum which could equate to 100%. bbs.xwidget.com/viewtopic.php?…

Feature Request: Tooltips are not supported in the current version of the Xwidget engine, only 'hints'. Hints are massive, tooltips are discrete. Let Xwidget 2.0 provide tooltips once again.

Feature Request: NetMonitor Boolean network availability. bbs.xwidget.com/viewtopic.php?…

Feature Request: Windows Media player core, data source needs a revamp, it can't select a track for playing immediately. The current core is simply poor quality. Using the WMplayer OCX gives complete access to the Windows Media player and so I don't quite understand how the old media player core has basic and essential control missing. Fix it please!

Feature Request: Alternative media player cores, data sources. VLC is required at least, target open source players please. bbs.xwidget.com/viewtopic.php?…

Feature Request: The speedfan core, data source needs to identify the sensor names correctly. It is possible by reading the names of the sensors in speedfansens.cfg.

Feature Request: Open Hardware Monitor core, open source and preferred alternative to speedfan &c. This is the future for hardware monitoring, uses WMI to store the data.

Feature Request: Data source API to be disclosed so that we can write cores ourselves... I have written my own speedfan core for use with another widget engine. We could write them, expose the interface, explain what we should be using, give us the source code of a demonstration core. bbs.xwidget.com/viewtopic.php?…

Feature Request: Far more focus and orientation toward producing widgets for Android. In particular gesture based events that we can code and design in Windows and build for Android. More working cores/data sources for Android. The current set is too limiting. I was expecting so much more from this aspect of Xwidgets and it really needs to be addressed. bbs.xwidget.com/viewtopic.php?…

-oOo-

Things I like:

In the editor single-clicking on the line number highlights the line.

The highlighting text duplication bug seems to have gone away.

Changing 'cores' to 'data sources' seems more intuitive.

In code edit mode clicking on an open bracket selets the end bracket - good!

Much easier to grab and drag the IDE's frames to resize the various areas.

The ability to resize the design using the mouse scroll wheel is very welcome.

I like the resizing controls on the Xdesigner.

I prefer the properties being located beneath one panel instead of being grouped under several panels as before, although I can imagine that some might prefer the older method, perhaps this could be configurable?

I like the new ability to assign right-click context-related menus to specific objects.

-oOo-

In general I am pleased with the new designer, it is professional and so far a step in the right direction. It MUST have configuration options to change the look and feel so it matches the older designer in order to avoid alienating users.

Personally I wouldn't bother with changes to the look and feel, I would focus on fixing bugs, improving functionality, providing new data sources and bringing the code editor up to scratch and give us the tools/cores to perform cross-platform Widgets to Android. Change is fine but only when it brings improvement. The trend towards themes disturbs me. If this is a themeing engine and we cannot create discrete widgets anymore then I'd be seriously annoyed if I was one of the main widget designers...

I don't mind the idea of themes but I do not want it to subvert the concept of discrete widgets.

Other than that, it is a good offering so far. The best thing is that it proves Xwidget is NOT dead after all and the developer really is working on the new version.
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Last Updated ( Sunday, 20 November 2016 )
 
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