Geertjan's Blog

  • October 25, 2005

How Do I Enable Matisse?

Geertjan Wielenga
Product Manager
Matisse is the code name for the project of making Java GUI design with NetBeans an easy and intuitive task. A side effect of this project was the creation of a new layout manager called GroupLayout. It makes the otherwise complex world of GUI development a piece of cake. It is a work of art, hence the name. Inside the IDE, the layout manager is called 'Free Design'. This is how you select it (click to enlarge):

That's it. (By the way, I just received a comment from Tomas Pavek on nbusers—"Note this is only needed if you have a form from previous NetBeans version. If you create a new form, it has the new layout for Matisse set automatically.")

Now you can drag and drop items from the Palette without worrying about the layout manager. You can pretend you're using DreamWeaver—no knowledge of the components is required and alignment is simple and intuitive. Still not sure that you're using Matisse? Select a component and then notice the cool handlebars (and changed cursor) that you can use for resizing the item:

Now read the GUI Building in NetBeans IDE 5.0 tutorial. It shows you the coolest features of the new layout manager.

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Comments ( 6 )
  • Sean Clarke Tuesday, October 25, 2005
    Been playing with the NB 5.0 beta for the last week or so.. Wow! - I'm actualy very, very impressed. Speed, usability, features all greatly improved and Matisse is the "cherry on the cake". It really is a cracking little utility, does the donkey work of GUI building with ease, leaving me to concentrate on other stuff.
    How impressed am I? - well, put it this way, my projects have now been moved to NetBeans and I haven't fired up Eclipse in a week!
    The only issue I have has been with some complicated (well, not really VERY complicated) GUI building when I have had exceptions when laying out and moving components - nothing major, I just "undo" and redo slightly differently and that clears it - well, it is a beta!
    On the whole, a very productive IDE.
  • Geertjan Tuesday, October 25, 2005
    Hi Sean, yes, it's all really very cool. Recently I was in Holland at the JFall conference (I reported on that a few blog entries ago) and the only problem I had when speaking to people who came to the NetBeans table was that I kept thinking that they might think that my raving about NetBeans was because of the fact that I work for NetBeans. But it really wasn't (and isn't). The point is just that the product is just so good (and getting better) and there is such a massive interest in what actual users think (i.e., user-driven) that my enthusiasm about the product is genuinely unfeigned. Ah, well. Only someone who hasn't actually used NetBeans can doubt my motives. About your other point—yes, I've experienced those exceptions too while using Matisse. But, like you say, it's Beta (and a really strong Beta—apart from the Matisse exceptions, I haven't had any other problems so far and use it daily). Anyway, thanks for the comment and kind words. Drop by and share your experiences once in a while, would be interesting to see how your impression develops.
  • Charles Ditzel Tuesday, October 25, 2005
    Quick question : What happens to the layout flags we used to have to put in the netbeans.conf file in the Beta. Do we stop doing that ? I am using the latest builds.
  • Arseniy Kuznetsov Tuesday, October 25, 2005
    The command-line switch was a temporary measure for the early Matisse bits -- it's no longer necessary and Matisse capabilities are now enabled by default in the IDE
  • Alex Kotchnev Thursday, November 17, 2005
    I was just wondering: is there a tutorial or something (other than the "GUI Building in Netbeans 5.0) that can help get a better grasp on how Matisse works ? I spent at least several hours the other day trying to put together a fairly simple UI in Matisse (that I could have probably put together with a GridBagLayout in 15 minutes).. And the biggest problem I had was that I could not understand what all the little arrows and mini icons in Matisse meant : when a component is anchored to a particular position, when it is relative, when it'll stretch.. etc.. I kept hitting a problem where Matisse would change the behavior of the component based on the sequence of action (e.g. if I dropped a component on the left side and extended it to the right would behave differently than if I drop a component on the right and extend it to the left)..
  • Geertjan Thursday, November 17, 2005
    Good comment, Alex. Thanks. I've passed this on to the whole docs group for discussion. Will let you know what transpires.
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