Since August, I have been working with the highly-talented development team that supports LimeWire, a P2P file-sharing application that leverages the Gnutella network for passing bits around to other clients. While LimeWire has been around since 2000, it has been our efforts in this latest release (which just became publicly available yesterday, albeit as an alpha build) that has finally given it a clean, stylish, modern look. I have been working in Swing application development for more years than I'd like to admit and I have to say that 6 months ago I wouldn't have believed what we have created was possible with the venerable toolkit.
The team I have been working with is made up of a mix of designers and developers who each brought focus to different aspects of the application. The designers have sweated over the look of the UI, obsessing on clean lines, separating areas of visual focus, colors and whitespace. It has been an iterative effort, following their design mock-ups for implementing the UI of new features, kicking the implementation back to them to evaluate and then revisiting the layout with new ideas for improvement. It has reminded me of the often heard quote about Michelangelo recognizing that great works of art were already present in blocks of marble and that all he needed to do was brush away the right bits from the stone so you could view them.
My own focus has been on implementing aspects of the UI, while the heavy lifting on the back-end was shouldered by other folks on the team. This has been a pleasant shift of focus for me because it has provided the opportunity to dive deeper into some of the murkier corners of Swing and the SwingX library, which (most unfortunately) recently had its funding cut-off by Sun.
My favorite new features in this release are private sharing lists and chat. I can't count the number of times I have wanted to send something to someone (maybe some software I was working on or pictures or whatever) that was just too big to fit as an email attachment. That problem is solved for me by being able to share whatever I want with only who I specify via the private share lists.
Give the tires a kick and keep your eyes peeled for the beta, which should be out shortly.