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FXRuby: Create Lean and Mean GUIs with Ruby

By Peter Cooper / April 22, 2008

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FXRuby: Create Lean and Mean GUIs with Ruby (official page) is a new book written by Lyle Johnson and published by the Pragmatic Programmers. It walks you through using the FXRuby library, a bridge to the Fox Toolkit, a cross-platform, open source "widget toolkit" used to develop GUI-based applications. You may have seen FXRuby and the Fox Toolkit in action already if you've used the FreeRIDE Ruby IDE.

Johnson's FXRuby book is not, it claims, supposed to act as a comprehensive reference guide to FXRuby. It is, however, a guide that walks you quickly through the development of a basic photo book application, and then moves on to showing you how to use many of the GUI-application development features FXRuby and the Fox Toolkit offer. The techniques covered in the book are not particularly advanced but are easily combined, I feel, to produce significantly the more complex results you might require for your own projects. The book goes into reasonable depth on using widgets such as list views, tree views, tabs, labels, buttons, as well as dialog boxes, color and font pickers, form layouts and menus. It does not, however, cover Fox's OpenGL 2D and 3D drawing abilities, and focuses solely on the development of regular GUI-based applications.

For those who are not familiar with the Fox Toolkit, it provides a wide range of Windows 95/98 themed GUI components and works directly on Windows and UNIX operating systems (on X Windows, specifically). It does not currently appear to have a native OS X implementation, although with the hard-coded Windows-style theming, OS X developers may be turned off in any case. In Fox's defense, however, it's very easy to start using it, it provides a very wide range of widgets (unlike Tk), it's fast (unlike Swing on Java), and is under a LGPL license (unlike Qt). Windows and Linux Ruby developers, therefore, could find Fox, FXRuby and this book an excellent path into developing GUI applications with Ruby.

As with most Pragmatic titles, FXRuby: Create Lean and Mean GUIs with Ruby is a well produced and formatted book. It comes in at about 210 pages, and is available in both printed and e-book forms. The printed version is $24.39 at Amazon.com, and the e-book (PDF) version is $23 directly from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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