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You can use the ArcObjects Software Development Kit (SDK) for the Java Platform to successfully build custom desktop applications. There is a wide variety of applications that can be built, ranging from graphical user interface (GUI) applications to command line, batch-driven applications. GUI applications use the extensive ArcGIS Engine controls. These controls include the requirements to build a sophisticated front-end application. You can leverage the Java platform to integrate the ArcGIS Engine controls with other third-party components and create a unique user interface for your custom ArcGIS Engine application.
The following screen shot shows an application built using the MapControl, PageLayoutControl, ToolbarControl, and TOCControl:
ArcMap, one of the ArcGIS Desktop applications, is an excellent way to create data and author maps for use in custom applications. The MapControl and PageLayoutControl provided with ArcGIS Engine can work with map documents created in ArcMap. SceneControl and GlobeControl can display documents authored in the ArcScene and ArcGlobe applications. Using the ArcGIS Desktop applications to create and manage maps used in custom applications can save development time and effort. ArcGIS Desktop also provides tools to build and manage geodatabases, shapefiles, and other forms of spatial data.
ArcGIS Desktop provided support for geoprocessing tools, scripts, and models inside ArcGIS Engine applications. ArcGIS Desktop is a great way to interactively create geoprocessing models using ModelBuilder.
The underlying components of ArcGIS Desktop are the same ArcObjects components that make up ArcGIS Engine. This allows every ArcGIS Desktop user the ability to run ArcGIS Engine applications. You can develop applications based on ArcGIS Engine and deploy the applications to ArcGIS Desktop without installing or licensing the ArcGIS Engine Runtime.
ArcGIS Server administrators can provide server objects and Web services to ArcGIS Engine applications. This allows the integration of desktop functionality with server functionality. It is also important to remember the geographic information system (GIS) functionality exposed via the ArcObjects that compose ArcGIS Engine is the same in ArcGIS Server. This means that ArcGIS Server, ArcGIS Engine, and ArcGIS Desktop have the same core ArcObjects. See the following illustration: