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GUI Architectures (2006) (martinfowler.com)
135 points by mercer on May 2, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 28 comments

At first I was amazed there is no mention of Functional Reactive Programming. Then again this is from 2006 when there were no fast, powerful, and practical FRP frameworks.

I suspect we will see somewhat of a revolution in terms of client side development in the coming years - with a vast reduction in complexity and huge increase of programmer productivity.

My team tried using RxJava for our Android app with mixed results. While it's easier to model some UI problems with reactive streams, and certainly more fun to write, we found it's really easy to introduce subtle bugs and performance problems due to the high learning curve. Debugging is also worse.

Same. The problem is that RxJava shoehorns FRP into, well, Java. A language built for it (Haskell, et al) might have just as steep a learning curve but probably a higher plateau.

Frege looks promising for Android, in particular: https://github.com/Frege/frege

> with a vast reduction in complexity

That is very optimistic looking at the current state of client side development with it's ever changing Javascript, Babel, Typescript, whatever script, Webpack, with HMR?, React or Vue? Angular? Flux? Redux? Isomorphic? Linters? Testing? CI? CSS/???SS or inline?, some NPM modules maybe?, and so on.. Sorry for me being a bit more pessimistic here.

Elm. No, really, elm. It goes away with all the js fatigue, your code is clean, readable and reliable, and does not produce runtime errors. You don't need npm (though it's probably a good idea for development, since you get hot-reload for free). Linter, testing and ci is a must, regardless of which kind of development we are talking about. Of course, linting with elm is a no-brainer with elm-format, and testing is much easier when you don't have side-effects. Plus you get fuzz testing "by default".

I was just as pessimistic as you wrt frontend development, I had dropped it off altogether. Elm made frontend dev enjoyable again. Can't recommend it enough.

If someone wants to talk about elm and how it is to develop with it, feel free to drop me a line. Email is on profile.

Thanks, this is interesting.

I think what this person is talking about is simplicity in the actual UI pattern, and thinking about them. The problems you mention are JavaScript problems, not UI problems.

Have you ever tried to build a UI with Qt or JUCE?

Isn't JUCE music-app only (or, mostly)? Also, I am having a hard time figuring out whether you are mentioning Qt and JUCE in a positive light, or a negative one...

JUCE is mostly for music, but otherwise fully flexible UI-wise and with tons of helper stuff for all kinds of things.

And the parent is obviously implying QT/JUCE are much harder to create a GUI than js/html/css/etc.

Many of these are particular implementations of FRP, not FRP itself. That's like saying MVC is complex because there are 50,000 implementations. It's a non sequitur.

The life on native client side development is more peaceful.

I'm waiting for cycle.js to become the framework du jour.

Was just re-reading this paper [0], where they discuss how they "addressed some familiar limitations of the FRP model" in a research language called KScript. The defining constraint of the STEPS project was to make an entire personal computing system in 20,000 lines.


The limitations discussed in that paper should be fully addressed by a modern FRP framework like Reflex.

The existence of STEPS is actually one of the very few things that keeps me motivated to continue programming - maybe all that complexity isn't so essential after all. :)

The article cites papers for some of the architectures, and FRP papers have been around since the 90s. AFAIK the first mention of "functional reactive" is FRAN, written in Haskell, in 1997.

TBAG was close enough to the idea (maybe closer than most JS implementations!), in C++ in 1994.

For papers see http://conal.net/papers

I would not be surprised to see article on GUI architecture in 2028 which does not mention FRP either. FRP is in no way a silver bullet.

Why should it be mentioned? FRP itself isn't an architecture. And as far as I know a lot of RxJava would easily fit into the "Observer pattern" (which is mentioned in the article)

When you read Trygve Reenskaug's original 1979 paper "MODELS - VIEWS - CONTROLLERS" -- it is very short, simple, and crystal-clear -- (http://heim.ifi.uio.no/~trygver/1979/mvc-2/1979-12-MVC.pdf), it obvious what Trygve meant:

* The MODEL is something like a web server

* The VIEW is something like a browser

* The CONTROLLER is something like the Windows start menu

Trygve literally writes:

"A view (=browser) is attached to its model (=server) and gets the data necessary for the presentation from the model by asking questions (=submitting queries). It may also update the model (=posting) by sending appropriate messages. A controller (=start menu) provides the user with input (=menu items) by arranging for relevant views (=windows) to present themselves in appropriate places on the screen."

I feel this demonstrates why the MVC nomenclature is too vague and overloaded to be very useful any more. When every person has their own interpretation of the terms, they've lost meaning.

Case in point: to you, it seems obvious that the controller is like the Windows start menu. To me, that doesn't make any sense at all.

He literally writes these things but none of it really suggests your analogy. 'Controller = start menu' seems particularly iffy.

Taskbar might be more appropriate. Or even browser tabs, given he went with the browser.

Browser tabs are the same thing as a start menu conceptually.

Hardly the best example of an MVC controller (even if they still are controllers).

In common^W my sense, controller is a thing that rules the views in a non-data plane. E.g. in master-detail scheme someone has to switch detail datasets once user selects new master row. Controller is the one responsible, cause data has no knowledge of how it is presented — master-detail vs. tree-unfold vs. edit-dialog. Controller emerges from the fact that a single data item can be presented on many different forms with different behavior rules. The last sentence is pretty straightforward on that.

So, I would think in that case - in our sense :) - that the "C" would better be served by being called a "Coordinator" instead of "Controller".

Wow, thank you! That is enlightening. It makes me think of a Nintendo (model) plugged into a TV (view) with a controller (controller) plugged into the Nintendo.

Contoller is a toolbar I would say

It seems more like:

Model: JavaScript

View: HTML templates and css

Controller: Browser engine

with WebAssembly we should be able to compile applications written in qt/gtk/sdl and use javascript to render their gui to a canvas and send the mouse events back the the apps, and html will just be a layout engine that places those apps, similar to xwindows.

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