Our experience with Webswing
Since 2011 we have been developing a java-based application to handle consumables ordering at our laboratory. We initially designed the system to run as a Java client that connect to a MySQL database running on a server. One of the advantages of using Java was that it provided platform-independent clients, as our lab used both Windows and MacOS computers. With the passing years, other labs started using our system, and today the software is used by the whole de Duve Institute. Researchers can pass orders, administrative collaborators can create order forms and encode invoice, logistic supports can handle package reception and distribution, and more. But with this increased usage and user pool came new issues: installation of the software can be complicated for more and more cases (no access to some protected directories, multiple Java versions installed, security checks of modern OSes, etc), database connections (e.g. some people are connected to WIFI networks that don’t have access to university servers) and regular updates that users have to download and install (today people are more used to web apps that are “silently” updated).
Having a web-based solution would have solved all those issues, but the development cost of reimplementing the whole system is far too great for us. In our search for a better solution, we stumbled across Webswing (webswing.org) and to our great surprise, it only took a few hours to get the client-side running as a web-delivered application. The application works without problems without any adjustments needed in the code. From the perspective of the user's comfort of work, there is no difference whether he works on an application launched as standard in the operating system or in a web browser. But with Webswing, updates can be applied on the server side and there is no need to ask IT to install it on each workstation.
In conclusion, the ability to use older applications that are still functional in today's browser-based environment is very useful and saves a lot of time due to the simplification of software distribution and updating.