Java is the programming languages for masses and came into existence back in 1990 when Sun Microsystems released it as an open source language, acquired later by Oracle. Java ecosystem has grown huge ever since and there are countless Java frameworks available out there in the wild that offer ready to use libraries, components, proven architectural principles, code abstraction to handle core security concerns, enforce MVC* and much more.
In summary, use of Java frameworks speed up the development process, enforce best practices, are fun to work with and makes life easier for developers. Individual developers, small teams and large enterprises use one or the other java framework - open source, proprietary or a combination of both.
There are frameworks for everything including frameworks for web applications development, desktop apps development, network apps development, mobile apps development, REST APIs, web services deployment, games development and enterprise grade software applications development.
Which Java Frameworks Best Fit Your Requirements?
Different frameworks attempt to solve different problems and most of the times developers end up using multiple frameworks in a single project. Spring MVC for example is very useful in building loosely coupled web applications that enforce model view and controller design pattern to keep presentation and navigation segregated from the business logic.
Netti framework on the other hand is a different animal altogether and focuses more on network programming. It simplifies and speeds up the development of network protocol based server and client applications.
Talking about REST APIs development, Spark is a lightweight open source framework licensed under Apache license 2.0 and makes implementation of REST APIs an absolute breeze. If you are looking for something to develop thick clients or desktop based applications using JavaFX, then there are frameworks like JRebirth to look at.
Play framework is another widely used lightweight Java framework and comes with stateless and non blocking architecture. Play framework is used heavily by startups and enterprises for mobile and web apps development. Two other java frameworks that are raging at the moment and used heavily by enterprises include Vaadin and Grails. Grails also happens to be the new love of old time Spring fans.
In this article, we will cover the 10 best and most used Java Frameworks in the market that support speed development, feature rich, popular among community of developers, and are useful in creating small as well as enterprise grade big and complex software applications.
Grails - Java Framework
Inspired by Ruby on Rails - “coding by convention” rather than configuration is at the heart of Grails framework. Grails utilizes Apache’s Groovy language and improves development productivity multi-fold for creating web applications.
Java libraries and business logic classes can be directly used in Grails and for that reason it seamlessly integrates to your java development workflow and complements java web development.
Developers have welcomed Grails with arms wide open for below reasons -
- Almost flat learning curve for Java Developers
- Seamlessly integrates and interoperates with Java
- Dependency injection powered by Spring
- Out of the box ORM/Nosql support
- Easy Microservices facilitated by Spring boot
- Out of the box support for top IDEs like Eclipse, NetBeans, Sublime Intellij IDEA etc.
- Scalable by the use custom built plugins
Though Grails history dates back to 2005, it is only few years that it started to make a mark in the word of JVM based applications development. Grails is available as free to use, open source framework under Apache License 2.0, actively maintained as of today and gets regular updates with sponsorship from Object Computing, Inc (OCI).
Read more about Grails here at - Grails Java.
Spring Framework was first released back in June 2003 by Rod Johnson, as open source framework under Apache 2.0 License. Spring core is based on aspect oriented programming and comes with dependency injection support, messaging, web apps, transactions management, testing and much more.
Aspect oriented programming with Dependency injection is what makes spring powerful framework to create applications using different technologies and third party libraries, all the while providing a consistent programming model.
Spring frameworks can also be looked at as a system to work with multiple frameworks that can be used to build large scale and complex JavaEE applications. It supports all major frameworks and technologies around Java including Tapestry, EJB, Hibernate, Java Server Faces, Struts and many more.
Spring Framework’s runtime is organized into multiple components as below -
- Core Components include beans, core, context and SpEL
- APO, Aspects, Instrumentation and messaging
- Data Access/Integration Layer includes JDBC, ORM, OXM, JMS and Transactions
- And on the web it includes WebSocket, Servlet, Web and Portlet
- And finally the testing modules JUnit and TestNG to support unit testing and integration testing
You can check out organization and use of Spring components here at - Spring Components.
What is Java Spring MVC?
Spring MVC is one of the most popular modules of Spring Framework that facilitates rapid web applications development using the model view and controller paradigm.
Read more about Spring here at - Spring Framework.
Vaadin is one of the most powerful frameworks and has seen an unprecedented growth in the last couple of years. Vaadin framework can be used for creating simple websites as well as highly complex enterprise web applications.
Vaadin architecture allows both client side as well as server side development model. Its server side development model competes with Spring MVC and these are the two frameworks that have replaced Struts big time in the recent past. Server side model uses Ajax based client side engine to render the front end from the code developed solely on the server side.
Read more about Vaadin here at - Vaadin Enterprise Java Framework
Play Framework - (Simple Java Frameworks - 1)
Play framework is an open source web development framework that takes a modern approach and supports applications development in Java and Scala. Play is a very lightweight framework, stateless architecture, restful by default, comes with non blocking I/O and focuses on needs of both web and mobile apps.
Play grew in popularity among developer after its release back in 2007 and as of today many innovative websites are powered by Play framework. Some of the big names using Play Framework in one or the other of their web or mobile apps include LinkedIn, Klout, GILT, ZapTravel and theGuardian.
Read more about Play framework here at - Play Lightweight Java Framework.
Spark - (Java Frameworks for Web Services -1)
Spark is a tiny beast created originally by Per Wendel back in 2011 and makes development of REST APIs and web services an absolute breeze. It is an open source, sophisticated framework and handles URLs by easily defining routes consisting of verb, path and a callback.
Spark is best suited where you want to quickly build simple web applications or create Rest based web services grounds up with all the control in your hands. Your applications revolves round Spark framework while you can plug in external libraries and components, as required.
Spark has grown in popularity with the growth of micro services based architecture and as of now it is one of the most loved frameworks among the community of Java developers. It is built around Lambda philosophy of Java 8 and lets you create less verbose applications than other full stack Java frameworks.
Read more about Spark here at - Spark Java Framework for Web Services
Struts saw the peak a decade ago when it used to be the leader in Java web development market but lost its sheen over the period of time. Spring framework and other new comers have taken over lot of market share of Struts in the recent time but Struts is not down and out yet, the latest release of Struts is a great come back and many developers have started to look at Struts with an all new perspective.
Talking a bit more on Structs, it is a base Java MVC framework that can be used for developing modern web applications in java, again convention over configuration is the theme here. Struts framework is scalable by the use of custom plugins, some out of the box plugins include plugins for REST APIS, JSON and AJAX development.
The first version of struts1 was released back in 200 and is more or less out of the game now, Struts2 is keeping up with the modern web development frameworks like Spring, Vaadin and Grails etc.
Struts is here to stay and given below are some key features of Struts -
- Out of the box AJAX support for asynchronous requests and improved performance
- Integration options for other frameworks like Spring, Hibernate and Tiles etc.
- Actions based on plain old java objects (POJO)
- Ease of development using UI tags, control tags and data tags etc.
- MVC configuration using xml file, change and control everything from struts configuration file.
- Theme and templates support - xhtml, css xhtml and simple
You might not like to go with struts if you like the freedom to code and design your way since struts lacks a bit of flexibility and imposes its own thinking on to you.
Netty is a different animal altogether. Netty framework is for you if you are in the business of developing protocol servers and clients. Using Netty you can speed develop network applications that are asynchronous, event-driven, flexible and scalable without a compromising the performance.
Key features of Netty are as below -
- Support for various transport types with unified API - nonblocking and blocking socket.
- Customizable thread model, single thread or thread pools
- High performance ensuring low latency, better throughput, optimal memory copy and lesser resources consumption.
- Support for SSL/TSL and StartTLS to ensure security.
- Great documentation and helpful community.
Read more about Netty here at - Netty Framework.
JavaFX (Not a Framework)
If you are looking forward to built enterprise grade desktop applications or rich internet applications then JavaFX is the toolkit for you. Even though JavaFX itself can not be called as a frameworks but there are many popular frameworks like JRebirth which are built using JavaFX toolkit, and for that reason it is hard to leave JavaFX from this list.
JRebirth for example is fast becoming popular for creating JavaFX based desktop and powerful RIA applications. JRebirth is based on WB-CS-MVC pattern and uses wave, behavior, command, service, model, view and controller as abstraction layers.
JavaFX is the powerful toolkit which eventually seems to be replacing the popular Swing toolkit in the future, as of now the existing Swing applications can utilize new JavaFx features like embedded web content, media player with rich graphics and many more.
Read more about JavaFx here at - JavaFX
Looking for a framework to develop cross platform games in Java? LibGDX is the java game development framework that offers unified API to work with many supported platforms. The features and development environment offered by LibGDX helps to do rapid prototyping and reduces iterations time by using code hot-swapping feature of JVM.
Some of the key features of LibGDX include support for Spine for 2D skeleton animation, Nextpeer for multiplayer games, Saikoa and much more.
Read more about LibGDX here at - LibGDX Framework for Games Development in Java
JSF - Java Server Faces
Java Server Faces is Oracle sponsored framework and is widely used for developing server side components that can be directly used in web applications. JSF also follows the MVC development pattern using which developers can create reusable user interface components that connect to the server side event handlers and data sources. The JSF is a standards based framework and provides a unified API for developing widgets and UI components.
Read more about JSF here at - Java JSF Framework.
Read more about GWT here at - GWT Toolkit
Application area of Java is vast and for that reason there are many sophisticated Java framework that target to solve one or the other common problem in programming. You choose an area ranging from websites development, web apps development, microservices based architecture, mobile development or anything else - you would easily find a java framework that gives you jump start in your project.
Frameworks like Spring, Struts and Grails have ruled the world for Java programming for decades and are very scalable and reliable for applications development. There are new competitors as well that include Vaadin that have made their place in the java development stack at a very rapid pace.
With the rise of micro services architecture in the recent years, more lightweight and specialized frameworks like Play and Spark too have gained popularity and demand and can easily fit your development stack.
Cutting it short, whatever is your need, you can easily get down to 2-3 frameworks by referring articles like this, post which you should evaluate the shortlisted frameworks yourself to see if those match your development stack. Keep coding :)
Would be great if you share your experience with various Java frameworks and the framework of your choice via comments, cheers!!