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Desktop Careers

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Joined: 2003-06-09

Is it practical to have a career focusing solely on Java Desktop development? What kinds of applications do you build, and what GUI toolkits are you using? Do your applications run on multiple platforms? This topic is for everyone who gets paid to know AWT, Swing, SWT, JGoodies, etc., and whose work launches with a double-click, not as part of a server's startup script.

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Just a quick comment... millions maybe billions of people with methods of payment sit at desktops everyday looking for something exciting to do. If you get enough people excited and keep them interested, how could you lose? Desktop application careers are limited only by the audience you attract.

Joined: 2003-06-30

Well, in my opinion desktop work is a lot more challenging to the grey matter than server-side. Being somewhat specialist it is also somewhat well paid. Gui programmers also tend to have better dress sense and own less pairs of sandals than server side programmers.

Joined: 2003-08-06

You should consider that must Java jobs these days do seem to be server-side / J2EE / Web based. Trying to find a client application development role can be quite difficult, I've found.

Joined: 2003-07-28

My company Trinity Software, LLC is betting Java Desktop application developers are out there. If you want to see a Java development community for Java Desktop software in the future, please support Trinity Software, LLC, and buy a copy of EvaluateAnywhere. We need your support. Download a trial version of EvaluateAnywhere at:

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Aaron Schiffman
Trinity Software, LLC

Joined: 2004-01-02

I don't think it's ever a good idea to try to build a career on a single technology. When you do that, your entire livelihood is based on decisions outside your control.

I definitely think there are jobs right now that you can solely on Java desktop development, but I wouldn't count on doing that for the rest of your life.

Joined: 2003-06-12

> I don't think it's ever a good idea to try to build a
> career on a single technology.

Taking a slightly wider view... Is it a good idea to specialize on User Interaction? A Desktop Career implies that your primary concern is going to be with human/computer interaction versus areas that are a bit more cut-and-dried.

As a User Interaction person, you are going to have to deal with Users and their Opinions. The further you move towards the technical end of the spectrum, the less you will have to deal with uncertainty (the wire protocol either works, or it doesn't).

For most of my career, I have worked on the User side with technologies all the way from character mode DOS to Swing to HTML. I've always worked for small companies, because I like gathering input from users and negotiating solutions. I couldn't code a UI to a concrete specification if you put a gun to my head.

Friends of mine hate this kind of work. Any ambiguity in a requirement drives them batty. These guys are great at writing device drivers.

It all comes down to what you enjoy doing. If you enjoy User Interaction work, then Swing is a great place to start... but remember that it's only a start.

Joined: 2004-07-23

"As a User Interaction person, you are going to have to deal with Users and their Opinions."

Is their an IT position that doesn't have this problem?!?
If so, please share it with the rest of us! ;)

Joined: 2003-06-12

I've been doing largely desktop development in java for close to 10 years. I've done a few back end things, although none using the full J2EE kit (it was either not available yet or wasn't really compatable with our goals).

The only real toolkits I've used were RogueWave (years ago: pre-Swing) and a toolkit for which I was lead developer (a couple of years ago: it was a startup that went the way of most startups). Other than that, it's generally always been Swing development (or AWT before Swing was available).

As far as applications go, it really has run the gamut: everything from small database systems to large scale (1500 custom widgets spread across 3 21" monitors) control systems. Currently, the application I work on runs on a half dozen platforms, is translated into a half dozen languages, is sold under a half dozen different brands (most of them being recognizable computer equipment companies), and is shipped into a few dozen countries

The original question: is it practical?? It can be, although it really is limiting. I live in a good size market (although not one of the current hi-tech clusters), and it really is much harder to find new positions than it would be if I'd been doing J2EE all these years. You also run into a lot of attitude from server-side guys who think that servlets/EJB's/JSP's are as hard as it gets and that anyone can learn to write swing applications in just a couple of days [[ Of course, we're all at least a little guilty of thinking that our particular specialty is 1) the most important and 2) the most technically challenging -- so if your particular specialty is one of the minority interests, you frequently have to pursuade people that you do in fact possess a brain and you do engage it periodically and that you can come up to speed on their particular technology in a reasonable timeframe ]]. As with any specialty, it'll help if you can travel frequently, or at least be willing to commute a fair distance.

[[Please don't let this post be one of the ones that gets picked up on the homepage of -- The answers to the questions the OP asked in this thread would really not sound right as a direct link from the front page]]

Joined: 2003-08-24

I don't know if it is practical to base one's career on Java desktop development but that's exactly what I did :)

My product -- -- relies heavily on Java desktop technologies. Seeing as I've made no money to date I guess this isn't a good example, but this is a startup company and I'm new to all of this so it remains to be seen where I'll be a few months into the future.

I'm fairly confident that if you have a good idea and good business sense (independantly of whether you use Java or not) you're going to get somewhere. If, on the other hand, you're hoping to work on this kind of stuff as an employee I'd say it isn't going to happen. I've yet to see a single "mature" company do this sort of thing.


Joined: 2004-09-08

I work for a small business which has a single product that is almost completely desktop oriented. We have a version that can also run in JBOSS and we are J2EE compliant, but the majority of our customers prefer the desktop approach. Yes, our app is cross platform. Primarly our customers are on Windows machines but we have run it on Solaris, Red Hat (I think) and recently Mac OS X (because my boss is a Mac nut). I've been at this job for almost a year now and I am paid to know Swing, AWT, and their silly nuances.

Before I started this job I was working, like the majority of the community, on the server side. I can tell you that the stuff you learn over there is still very applicable on teh desktop side. Sure, there are some differences, but for the most part, life is the same.

Having done both, which will I choose to focus on after this job? I'd much rather do desktop dev than app server stuff. But that's just me. Do what you think is fun.

Joined: 2004-11-18

Is it a good option to focus on a SCJP certification and latter on a SCJD certification? My region has no tradition in software development, but I do some J2SE and J2ME development for my company. I don’t have experience with J2EE. Should I start wrestling with the J2EE specifications before I move to a larger city? Any insight will be appreciated.