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Learning Java, 4th Edition

Cover of Learning Java, 4th Edition by Daniel Leuck... Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.
  1. Learning Java
  2. Preface
    1. Who Should Read This Book
    2. New Developments
      1. New in This Edition (Java 6 and 7)
    3. Using This Book
    4. Online Resources
    5. Conventions Used in This Book
    6. Using Code Examples
    7. Safari® Books Online
    8. How to Contact Us
    9. Acknowledgments
  3. 1. A Modern Language
    1. Enter Java
      1. Java’s Origins
      2. Growing Up
    2. A Virtual Machine
    3. Java Compared with Other Languages
    4. Safety of Design
      1. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify...
      2. Type Safety and Method Binding
      3. Incremental Development
      4. Dynamic Memory Management
      5. Error Handling
      6. Threads
      7. Scalability
    5. Safety of Implementation
      1. The Verifier
      2. Class Loaders
      3. Security Managers
    6. Application and User-Level Security
    7. A Java Road Map
      1. The Past: Java 1.0–Java 1.6
      2. The Present: Java 7
      3. The Future
      4. Availability
  4. 2. A First Application
    1. Java Tools and Environment
    2. Configuring Eclipse and Creating a Project
      1. Importing the Learning Java Examples
    3. HelloJava
      1. Classes
      2. The main() Method
      3. Classes and Objects
      4. Variables and Class Types
      5. HelloComponent
      6. Inheritance
      7. The JComponent Class
      8. Relationships and Finger Pointing
      9. Package and Imports
      10. The paintComponent() Method
    4. HelloJava2: The Sequel
      1. Instance Variables
      2. Constructors
      3. Events
      4. The repaint() Method
      5. Interfaces
    5. HelloJava3: The Button Strikes!
      1. Method Overloading
      2. Components
      3. Containers
      4. Layout
      5. Subclassing and Subtypes
      6. More Events and Interfaces
      7. Color Commentary
      8. Static Members
      9. Arrays
      10. Our Color Methods
    6. HelloJava4: Netscape’s Revenge
      1. Threads
      2. The Thread Class
      3. The Runnable Interface
      4. Starting the Thread
      5. Running Code in the Thread
      6. Exceptions
      7. Synchronization
  5. 3. Tools of the Trade
    1. JDK Environment
    2. The Java VM
    3. Running Java Applications
      1. System Properties
    4. The Classpath
      1. javap
    5. The Java Compiler
    6. JAR Files
      1. File Compression
      2. The jar Utility
      3. The pack200 Utility
    7. Policy Files
      1. The Default Security Manager
      2. The policytool Utility
      3. Using a Policy File with the Default Security Manager
  6. 4. The Java Language
    1. Text Encoding
      1. Javadoc Comments
    3. Types
      1. Primitive Types
      2. Reference Types
      3. A Word About Strings
    4. Statements and Expressions
      1. Statements
      2. Expressions
    5. Exceptions
      1. Exceptions and Error Classes
      2. Exception Handling
      3. Bubbling Up
      4. Stack Traces
      5. Checked and Unchecked Exceptions
      6. Throwing Exceptions
      7. try Creep
      8. The finally Clause
      9. Try with Resources
      10. Performance Issues
    6. Assertions
      1. Enabling and Disabling Assertions
      2. Using Assertions
    7. Arrays
      1. Array Types
      2. Array Creation and Initialization
      3. Using Arrays
      4. Anonymous Arrays
      5. Multidimensional Arrays
      6. Inside Arrays
  7. 5. Objects in Java
    1. Classes
      1. Accessing Fields and Methods
      2. Static Members
    2. Methods
      1. Local Variables
      2. Shadowing
      3. Static Methods
      4. Initializing Local Variables
      5. Argument Passing and References
      6. Wrappers for Primitive Types
      7. Autoboxing and Unboxing of Primitives
      8. Variable-Length Argument Lists
      9. Method Overloading
    3. Object Creation
      1. Constructors
      2. Working with Overloaded Constructors
      3. Static and Nonstatic Initializer Blocks
    4. Object Destruction
      1. Garbage Collection
      2. Finalization
      3. Weak and Soft References
    5. Enumerations
      1. Enum Values
      2. Customizing Enumerations
  8. 6. Relationships Among Classes
    1. Subclassing and Inheritance
      1. Shadowed Variables
      2. Overriding Methods
      3. Special References: this and super
      4. Casting
      5. Using Superclass Constructors
      6. Full Disclosure: Constructors and Initialization
      7. Abstract Methods and Classes
    2. Interfaces
      1. Interfaces as Callbacks
      2. Interface Variables
      3. Subinterfaces
    3. Packages and Compilation Units
      1. Compilation Units
      2. Package Names
      3. Class Visibility
      4. Importing Classes
    4. Visibility of Variables and Methods
      1. Basic Access Modifiers
      2. Subclasses and Visibility
      3. Interfaces and Visibility
    5. Arrays and the Class Hierarchy
      1. ArrayStoreException
    6. Inner Classes
      1. Inner Classes as Adapters
      2. Inner Classes Within Methods
  9. 7. Working with Objects and Classes
    1. The Object Class
      1. Equality and Equivalence
      2. Hashcodes
      3. Cloning Objects
    2. The Class Class
    3. Reflection
      1. Modifiers and Security
      2. Accessing Fields
      3. Accessing Methods
      4. Accessing Constructors
      5. What About Arrays?
      6. Accessing Generic Type Information
      7. Accessing Annotation Data
      8. Dynamic Interface Adapters
      9. What Is Reflection Good For?
    4. Annotations
      1. Using Annotations
      2. Standard Annotations
      3. The apt Tool
  10. 8. Generics
    1. Containers: Building a Better Mousetrap
      1. Can Containers Be Fixed?
    2. Enter Generics
      1. Talking About Types
    3. “There Is No Spoon”
      1. Erasure
      2. Raw Types
    4. Parameterized Type Relationships
      1. Why Isn’t a List<Date> a List<Object>?
    5. Casts
    6. Writing Generic Classes
      1. The Type Variable
      2. Subclassing Generics
      3. Exceptions and Generics
      4. Parameter Type Limitations
    7. Bounds
      1. Erasure and Bounds (Working with Legacy Code)
    8. Wildcards
      1. A Supertype of All Instantiations
      2. Bounded Wildcards
      3. Thinking Outside the Container
      4. Lower Bounds
      5. Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic
      6. <?>, <Object>, and the Raw Type
      7. Wildcard Type Relationships
    9. Generic Methods
      1. Generic Methods Introduced
      2. Type Inference from Arguments
      3. Type Inference from Assignment Context
      4. Explicit Type Invocation
      5. Wildcard Capture
      6. Wildcard Types Versus Generic Methods
    10. Arrays of Parameterized Types
      1. Using Array Types
      2. What Good Are Arrays of Generic Types?
      3. Wildcards in Array Types
    11. Case Study: The Enum Class
    12. Case Study: The sort() Method
    13. Conclusion
  11. 9. Threads
    1. Introducing Threads
      1. The Thread Class and the Runnable Interface
      2. Controlling Threads
      3. Death of a Thread
    2. Threading an Applet
      1. Issues Lurking
    3. Synchronization
      1. Serializing Access to Methods
      2. Accessing class and instance Variables from Multiple Threads
      3. The wait() and notify() Methods
      4. Passing Messages
      5. ThreadLocal Objects
    4. Scheduling and Priority
      1. Thread State
      2. Time-Slicing
      3. Priorities
      4. Yielding
    5. Thread Groups
      1. Working with ThreadGroups
      2. Uncaught Exceptions
    6. Thread Performance
      1. The Cost of Synchronization
      2. Thread Resource Consumption
    7. Concurrency Utilities
      1. Executors
      2. Locks
      3. Synchronization Constructs
      4. Atomic Operations
    8. Conclusion
  12. 10. Working with Text
    1. Text-Related APIs
    2. Strings
      1. Constructing Strings
      2. Strings from Things
      3. Comparing Strings
      4. Searching
      5. Editing
      6. String Method Summary
      7. StringBuilder and StringBuffer
    3. Internationalization
      1. The java.util.Locale Class
      2. Resource Bundles
    4. Parsing and Formatting Text
      1. Parsing Primitive Numbers
      2. Tokenizing Text
    5. Printf-Style Formatting
      1. Formatter
      2. The Format String
      3. String Conversions
      4. Primitive and Numeric Conversions
      5. Flags
      6. Miscellaneous
    6. Formatting with the java.text Package
      1. MessageFormat
    7. Regular Expressions
      1. Regex Notation
      2. The java.util.regex API
  13. 11. Core Utilities
    1. Math Utilities
      1. The java.lang.Math Class
      2. Big/Precise Numbers
      3. Floating-Point Components
      4. Random Numbers
    2. Dates and Times
      1. Working with Calendars
      2. Time Zones
      3. Parsing and Formatting with DateFormat
      4. Printf-Style Date and Time Formatting
    3. Timers
    4. Collections
      1. The Collection Interface
      2. Iterator
      3. Collection Types
      4. The Map Interface
      5. Collection Implementations
      6. Hash Codes and Key Values
      7. Synchronized and Unsynchronized Collections
      8. Read-Only and Read-Mostly Collections
      9. WeakHashMap
      10. EnumSet and EnumMap
      11. Sorting Collections
      12. A Thrilling Example
    5. Properties
      1. Loading and Storing
      2. System Properties
    6. The Preferences API
      1. Preferences for Classes
      2. Preferences Storage
      3. Change Notification
    7. The Logging API
      1. Overview
      2. Logging Levels
      3. A Simple Example
      4. Logging Setup Properties
      5. The Logger
      6. Performance
    8. Observers and Observables
  14. 12. Input/Output Facilities
    1. Streams
      1. Basic I/O
      2. Character Streams
      3. Stream Wrappers
      4. Pipes
      5. Streams from Strings and Back
      6. Implementing a Filter Stream
    2. File I/O
      1. The Class
      2. File Streams
      3. RandomAccessFile
      4. Resource Paths
    3. The NIO File API
      1. FileSystem and Path
      2. NIO File Operations
      3. Directory Operations
      4. Watching Paths
    4. Serialization
      1. Initialization with readObject()
      2. SerialVersionUID
    5. Data Compression
      1. Archives and Compressed Data
      2. Decompressing Data
      3. Zip Archive As a Filesystem
    6. The NIO Package
      1. Asynchronous I/O
      2. Performance
      3. Mapped and Locked Files
      4. Channels
      5. Buffers
      6. Character Encoders and Decoders
      7. FileChannel
      8. Scalable I/O with NIO
  15. 13. Network Programming
    1. Sockets
      1. Clients and Servers
      2. author="pat” timestamp="20120926T110720-0500” comment="one of those sections I hate to get rid of but is less relevant in terms of the example... should probably find a more modern example...”The DateAtHost Client
      3. The TinyHttpd Server
      4. Socket Options
      5. Proxies and Firewalls
    2. Datagram Sockets
      1. author="pat” timestamp="20120926T141346-0500” comment="I actually rewrote this as a standalone client but then decided to leave it as an applet”The HeartBeat Applet
      2. InetAddress
    3. Simple Serialized Object Protocols
      1. A Simple Object-Based Server
    4. Remote Method Invocation
      1. Real-World Usage
      2. Remote and Nonremote Objects
      3. An RMI Example
      4. RMI and CORBA
    5. Scalable I/O with NIO
      1. Selectable Channels
      2. Using Select
      3. LargerHttpd
      4. Nonblocking Client-Side Operations
  16. 14. Programming for the Web
    1. Uniform Resource Locators (URLs)
    2. The URL Class
      1. Stream Data
      2. Getting the Content as an Object
      3. Managing Connections
      4. Handlers in Practice
      5. Useful Handler Frameworks
    3. Talking to Web Applications
      1. Using the GET Method
      2. Using the POST Method
      3. The HttpURLConnection
      4. SSL and Secure Web Communications
      5. URLs, URNs, and URIs
    4. Web Services
      1. XML-RPC
      2. WSDL
      3. The Tools
      4. The Weather Service Client
  17. 15. Web Applications and Web Services
    1. Web Application Technologies
      1. Page-Oriented Versus “Single Page” Applications
      2. JSPs
      3. XML and XSL
      4. Web Application Frameworks
      5. Google Web Toolkit
      6. HTML5, AJAX, and More...
    2. Java Web Applications
      1. The Servlet Lifecycle
      2. Servlets
      3. The HelloClient Servlet
      4. The Servlet Response
      5. Servlet Parameters
      6. The ShowParameters Servlet
      7. User Session Management
      8. The ShowSession Servlet
      9. The ShoppingCart Servlet
      10. Cookies
      11. The ServletContext API
      12. Asynchronous Servlets
    3. WAR Files and Deployment
      1. Configuration with web.xml and Annotations
      2. URL Pattern Mappings
      3. Deploying HelloClient
      4. Error and Index Pages
      5. Security and Authentication
      6. Protecting Resources with Roles
      7. Secure Data Transport
      8. Authenticating Users
      9. Procedural Authorization
    4. Servlet Filters
      1. A Simple Filter
      2. A Test Servlet
      3. Declaring and Mapping Filters
      4. Filtering the Servlet Request
      5. Filtering the Servlet Response
    5. Building WAR Files with Ant
      1. A Development-Oriented Directory Layout
      2. Deploying and Redeploying WARs with Ant
    6. Implementing Web Services
      1. Defining the Service
      2. Our Echo Service
      3. Using the Service
      4. Data Types
    7. Conclusion
  18. 16. Swing
    1. Components
      1. Peers and Look-and-Feel
      2. The MVC Framework
      3. Painting
      4. Enabling and Disabling Components
      5. Focus, Please
      6. Other Component Methods
      7. Layout Managers
      8. Insets
      9. Z-Ordering (Stacking Components)
      10. The revalidate() and doLayout() Methods
      11. Managing Components
      12. Listening for Components
      13. Windows, Frames and Splash Screens
      14. Other Methods for Controlling Frames
      15. Content Panes
      16. Desktop Integration
    2. Events
      1. Event Receivers and Listener Interfaces
      2. Event Sources
      3. Event Delivery
      4. Event Types
      5. The java.awt.event.InputEvent Class
      6. Mouse and Key Modifiers on InputEvents
      7. Focus Events
    3. Event Summary
      1. Adapter Classes
      2. Dummy Adapters
    4. The AWT Robot!
    5. Multithreading in Swing
  19. 17. Using Swing Components
    1. Buttons and Labels
      1. HTML Text in Buttons and Labels
    2. Checkboxes and Radio Buttons
    3. Lists and Combo Boxes
    4. The Spinner
    5. Borders
    6. Menus
    7. Pop-Up Menus
      1. Component-Managed Pop Ups
    8. The JScrollPane Class
    9. The JSplitPane Class
    10. The JTabbedPane Class
    11. Scrollbars and Sliders
    12. Dialogs
      1. File Selection Dialog
      2. The Color Chooser
  20. 18. More Swing Components
    1. Text Components
      1. The TextEntryBox Application
      2. Formatted Text
      3. Filtering Input
      4. Validating Data
      5. Say the Magic Word
      6. Sharing a Data Model
      7. HTML and RTF for Free
      8. Managing Text Yourself
    2. Focus Navigation
      1. Trees
      2. Nodes and Models
      3. Save a Tree
      4. Tree Events
      5. A Complete Example
    3. Tables
      1. A First Stab: Freeloading
      2. Round Two: Creating a Table Model
      3. Round Three: A Simple Spreadsheet
      4. Sorting and Filtering
      5. Printing JTables
    4. Desktops
    5. Pluggable Look-and-Feel
    6. Creating Custom Components
      1. Generating Events
      2. A Dial Component
      3. Model and View Separation
  21. 19. Layout Managers
    1. FlowLayout
    2. GridLayout
    3. BorderLayout
    4. BoxLayout
    5. CardLayout
    6. GridBagLayout
      1. The GridBagConstraints Class
      2. Grid Coordinates
      3. The fill Constraint
      4. Spanning Rows and Columns
      5. Weighting
      6. Anchoring
      7. Padding and Insets
      8. Relative Positioning
      9. Composite Layouts
    7. Other Layout Managers
    8. Absolute Positioning
  22. 20. Drawing with the 2D API
    1. The Big Picture
    2. The Rendering Pipeline
    3. A Quick Tour of Java 2D
      1. Filling Shapes
      2. Drawing Shape Outlines
      3. Convenience Methods
      4. Drawing Text
      5. Drawing Images
      6. The Whole Iguana
    4. Filling Shapes
      1. Solid Colors
      2. Color Gradients
      3. Textures
      4. Desktop Colors
    5. Stroking Shape Outlines
    6. Using Fonts
      1. Font Metrics
    7. Displaying Images
      1. The Image Class
      2. Image Observers
      3. Scaling and Size
    8. Drawing Techniques
      1. Double Buffering
      2. Limiting Drawing with Clipping
      3. Offscreen Drawing
    9. Printing
  23. 21. Working with Images and Other Media
    1. Loading Images
      1. ImageObserver
      2. MediaTracker
      3. ImageIcon
      4. ImageIO
    2. Producing Image Data
      1. Drawing Animations
      2. BufferedImage Anatomy
      3. Color Models
      4. Creating an Image
      5. Updating a BufferedImage
    3. Filtering Image Data
      1. How ImageProcessor Works
      2. Converting an Image to a BufferedImage
      3. Using the RescaleOp Class
      4. Using the AffineTransformOp Class
    4. Saving Image Data
    5. Simple Audio
    6. Java Media Framework
  24. 22. JavaBeans
    1. What’s a Bean?
      1. What Constitutes a Bean?
    2. The NetBeans IDE
      1. Installing and Running NetBeans
    3. Properties and Customizers
    4. Event Hookups and Adapters
      1. Taming the Juggler
      2. Molecular Motion
    5. Binding Properties
      1. Constraining Properties
    6. Building Beans
      1. The Dial Bean
      2. Design Patterns for Properties
    7. Limitations of Visual Design
    8. Serialization Versus Code Generation
    9. Customizing with BeanInfo
      1. Getting Properties Information
    10. Handcoding with Beans
      1. Bean Instantiation and Type Management
      2. Working with Serialized Beans
      3. Runtime Event Hookups with Reflection
    11. BeanContext and BeanContextServices
    12. The Java Activation Framework
    13. Enterprise JavaBeans and POJO-Based Enterprise Frameworks
  25. 23. Applets
    1. The Politics of Browser-Based Applications
    2. Applet Support and the Java Plug-in
    3. The JApplet Class
      1. Applet Lifecycle
      2. The Applet Security Sandbox
      3. Getting Applet Resources
      4. The <applet> Tag
      5. Attributes
      6. Parameters
      7. ¿Habla Applet?
      8. The Complete <applet> Tag
      9. Loading Class Files
      10. Packages
      11. appletviewer
    4. Java Web Start
    5. Conclusion
  26. 24. XML
    1. The Butler Did It
    2. A Bit of Background
      1. Text Versus Binary
      2. A Universal Parser
      3. The State of XML
      4. The XML APIs
      5. XML and Web Browsers
    3. XML Basics
      1. Attributes
      2. XML Documents
      3. Encoding
      4. Namespaces
      5. Validation
      6. HTML to XHTML
    4. SAX
      1. The SAX API
      2. Building a Model Using SAX
      3. XMLEncoder/Decoder
    5. DOM
      1. The DOM API
      2. Test-Driving DOM
      3. Generating XML with DOM
      4. JDOM
    6. XPath
      1. Nodes
      2. Predicates
      3. Functions
      4. The XPath API
      5. XMLGrep
    7. XInclude
      1. Enabling XInclude
    8. Validating Documents
      1. Using Document Validation
      2. DTDs
      3. XML Schema
      4. The Validation API
    9. JAXB Code Binding and Generation
      1. Annotating Our Model
      2. Generating a Java Model from an XML Schema
      3. Generating an XML Schema from a Java Model
    10. Transforming Documents with XSL/XSLT
      1. XSL Basics
      2. Transforming the Zoo Inventory
      3. XSLTransform
      4. XSL in the Browser
    11. Web Services
    12. The End of the Book
  27. A. The Eclipse IDE
    1. The IDE Wars
    2. Getting Started with Eclipse
      1. Importing the Learning Java Examples
    3. Using Eclipse
      1. Getting at the Source
      2. The Lay of the Land
      3. Running the Examples
      4. Building the Ant-Based Examples
      5. Loner Examples
    4. Eclipse Features
      1. Coding Shortcuts
      2. Autocorrection
      3. Refactoring
      4. Diffing Files
      5. Organizing Imports
      6. Formatting Source Code
    5. Conclusion
  28. B. BeanShell: Java Scripting
    1. Running BeanShell
    2. Java Statements and Expressions
      1. Imports
    3. BeanShell Commands
    4. Scripted Methods and Objects
      1. Scripting Interfaces and Adapters
    5. Changing the Classpath
    6. Learning More . . .
  29. Glossary
  30. Index
  31. About the Authors
  32. Colophon
  33. Copyright
O'Reilly logo


In the tradition of introductory programming texts, we will begin with Java’s equivalent of the archetypal “Hello World” application, HelloJava.

We’ll end up taking four passes at this example before we’re done (HelloJava, HelloJava2, etc.), adding features and introducing new concepts along the way. But let’s start with the minimalist version:

    public class HelloJava {
      public static void main( String[] args ) {
        System.out.println("Hello, Java!");

This five-line program declares a class called HelloJava and a method called main() . It uses a predefined method called println() to write some text as output. This is a command-line program, which means that it runs in a shell or DOS window and prints its output there. That’s a bit old-school for our taste, so before we go any further, we’re going to give HelloJava a graphical user interface (GUI). Don’t worry about the code yet; just follow along with the progression here, and we’ll come back for explanations in a moment.

In place of the line containing the println() method, we’re going to use a JFrame object to put a window on the screen. We can start by replacing the println line with the following three lines:

    JFrame frame = new JFrame( "Hello, Java!" );
    frame.setSize( 300, 300 );
    frame.setVisible( true );

This snippet creates a JFrame object with the title “Hello, Java!” The JFrame is a graphical window. To display it, we simply configure its size on the screen using the setSize() method and make it visible by calling the setVisible() method.

If we stopped here, we would see an empty window on the screen with our “Hello, Java!” banner as its title. We’d like our message inside the window, not just scrawled at the top of it. To put something in the window, we need a couple more lines. The following complete example adds a JLabel object to display the text centered in our window. The additional import line at the top is necessary to tell Java where to find the JFrame and JLabel classes (the definitions of the JFrame and JLabel objects that we’re using).

    import javax.swing.*;

    public class HelloJava {
      public static void main( String[] args ) {
        JFrame frame = new JFrame( "Hello, Java!" );
        JLabel label = new JLabel("Hello, Java!", JLabel.CENTER );
        frame.setSize( 300, 300 );
        frame.setVisible( true );

Now to compile and run this source, select the ch02/ class from the package explorer along the left and click the Run button in the toolbar along the top. The Run button is a green circle with a white arrow pointing to the right. See Figure 2-4.

Running the HelloJava application

Figure 2-4. Running the HelloJava application

You should see the proclamation shown in Figure 2-5. Congratulations, you have run your first Java application! Take a moment to bask in the glow of your monitor.

The output of the HelloJava application

Figure 2-5. The output of the HelloJava application

Be aware that when you click on the window’s close box, the window goes away, but your program is still running. (We’ll fix this shutdown behavior in a later version of the example.) To stop the Java application in Eclipse, click the big red button in the console window. If you are running the example on the command line, type Ctrl-C. Note that nothing stops you from running more than one instance (copy) of the application at a time.

HelloJava may be a small program, but there is quite a bit going on behind the scenes. Those few lines represent the tip of an iceberg. What lies under the surface are the layers of functionality provided by the Java language and its foundation class libraries. Remember that in this chapter, we’re going to cover a lot of ground quickly in an effort to show you the big picture. We’ll try to offer enough detail for a good understanding of what is happening in each example, but will defer detailed explanations until the appropriate chapters. This holds for both elements of the Java language and the object-oriented concepts that apply to them. With that said, let’s take a look now at what’s going on in our first example.


The first example defines a class named HelloJava.

    public class HelloJava {

Classes are the fundamental building blocks of most object-oriented languages. A class is a group of data items with associated functions that can perform operations on that data. The data items in a class are called variables, or sometimes fields; in Java, functions are called methods. The primary benefits of an object-oriented language are this association between data and functionality in class units and also the ability of classes to encapsulate or hide details, freeing the developer from worrying about low-level details.

In an application, a class might represent something concrete, such as a button on a screen or the information in a spreadsheet, or it could be something more abstract, such as a sorting algorithm or perhaps the sense of ennui in a video game character. A class representing a spreadsheet might, for example, have variables that represent the values of its individual cells and methods that perform operations on those cells, such as “clear a row” or “compute values.”

Our HelloJava class is an entire Java application in a single class. It defines just one method, main() , which holds the body of our program:

    public class HelloJava {
      public static void main( String[] args ) {

It is this main() method that is called first when the application is started. The bit labeled String [] args allows us to pass command-line arguments to the application. We’ll walk through the main() method in the next section. Finally, we’ll note that although this version of HelloJava does not define any variables as part of its class, it does use two variables, frame and label, inside its main() method. We’ll have more to say about variables soon as well.

The main() Method

As we saw when we ran our example, running a Java application means picking a particular class and passing its name as an argument to the Java virtual machine. When we did this, the java command looked in our HelloJava class to see if it contained the special method named main() of just the right form. It did, and so it was executed. If it had not been there, we would have received an error message. The main() method is the entry point for applications. Every standalone Java application includes at least one class with a main() method that performs the necessary actions to start the rest of the program.

Our main() method sets up a window (a JFrame) to hold the visual output of the HelloJava class. Right now, it’s doing all the work in the application. But in an object-oriented application, we normally delegate responsibilities to many different classes. In the next incarnation of our example, we’re going to perform just such a split—creating a second class—and we’ll see that as the example subsequently evolves, the main() method remains more or less the same, simply holding the startup procedure.

Let’s quickly walk through our main() method, just so we know what it does. First, main() creates a JFrame, the window that will hold our example:

    JFrame frame = new JFrame("Hello, Java!");

The word new in this line of code is very important. JFrame is the name of a class that represents a window on the screen, but the class itself is just a template, like a building plan. The new keyword tells Java to allocate memory and actually create a particular JFrame object. In this case, the argument inside the parentheses tells the JFrame what to display in its title bar. We could have left out the “Hello, Java” text and used empty parentheses to create a JFrame with no title, but only because the JFrame specifically allows us to do that.

When frame windows are first created, they are very small. Before we show the JFrame, we set its size to something reasonable:

    frame.setSize( 300, 300 );

This is an example of invoking a method on a particular object. In this case, the setSize() method is defined by the JFrame class, and it affects the particular JFrame object we’ve placed in the variable frame. Like the frame, we also create an instance of JLabel to hold our text inside the window:

    JLabel label = new JLabel("Hello, Java!", JLabel.CENTER );

JLabel is much like a physical label. It holds some text at a particular position—in this case, on our frame. This is a very object-oriented concept: using an object to hold some text, instead of simply invoking a method to “draw” the text and moving on. The rationale for this will become clearer later.

Next, we have to place the label into the frame we created:

    frame.add( label );

Here, we’re calling a method named add()to place our label inside the JFrame. The JFrame is a kind of container that can hold things. We’ll talk more about that later. main()’s final task is to show the frame window and its contents, which otherwise would be invisible. An invisible window makes for a pretty boring application.

    frame.setVisible( true );

That’s the whole main() method. As we progress through the examples in this chapter, it will remain mostly unchanged as the HelloJava class evolves around it.

Classes and Objects

A class is a blueprint for a part of an application; it holds methods and variables that make up that component. Many individual working copies of a given class can exist while an application is active. These individual incarnations are called instances of the class, or objects. Two instances of a given class may contain different data, but they always have the same methods.

As an example, consider a Button class. There is only one Button class, but an application can create many different Button objects, each one an instance of the same class. Furthermore, two Button instances might contain different data, perhaps giving each a different appearance and performing a different action. In this sense, a class can be considered a mold for making the object it represents, something like a cookie cutter stamping out working instances of itself in the memory of the computer. As you’ll see later, there’s a bit more to it than that—a class can in fact share information among its instances—but this explanation suffices for now. Chapter 5 has the whole story on classes and objects.

The term object is very general and in some other contexts is used almost interchangeably with class. Objects are the abstract entities that all object-oriented languages refer to in one form or another. We will use object as a generic term for an instance of a class. We might, therefore, refer to an instance of the Button class as a button, a Button object, or, indiscriminately, as an object.

The main() method in the previous example creates a single instance of the JLabel class and shows it in an instance of the JFrame class. You could modify main() to create many instances of JLabel, perhaps each in a separate window.

Variables and Class Types

In Java, every class defines a new type (data type). A variable can be declared to be of this type and then hold instances of that class. A variable could, for example, be of type Button and hold an instance of the Button class, or of type SpreadSheetCell and hold a SpreadSheetCell object, just as it could be any of the simpler types, such as int or float, that represent numbers. The fact that variables have types and cannot simply hold any kind of object is another important feature of the language that ensures the safety and correctness of code.

Ignoring the variables used inside the main() method for the moment, only one other variable is declared in our simple HelloJava example. It’s found in the declaration of the main() method itself:

    public static void main( String [] args ) {

Just like functions in other languages, a method in Java declares a list of variables that it accepts as arguments or parameters, and it specifies the types of those variables. In this case, the main method is requiring that when it is invoked, it be passed a list of String objects in the variable named args. The String is the fundamental object representing text in Java. As we hinted earlier, Java uses the args parameter to pass any command-line arguments supplied to the Java virtual machine (VM) into your application. (We don’t use them here.)

Up to this point, we have loosely referred to variables as holding objects. In reality, variables that have class types don’t so much contain objects as point to them. Class-type variables are references to objects. A reference is a pointer to or a handle for an object. If you declare a class-type variable without assigning it an object, it doesn’t point to anything. It’s assigned the default value of null, meaning “no value.” If you try to use a variable with a null value as if it were pointing to a real object, a runtime error, NullPointerException, occurs.

Of course, object references have to come from somewhere. In our example, we created two objects using the new operator. We’ll examine object creation in more detail a little later in the chapter.


Thus far, our HelloJava example has contained itself in a single class. In fact, because of its simple nature, it has really just served as a single, large method. Although we have used a couple of objects to display our GUI message, our own code does not illustrate any object-oriented structure. Well, we’re going to correct that right now by adding a second class. To give us something to build on throughout this chapter, we’re going to take over the job of the JLabel class (bye bye, JLabel!) and replace it with our own graphical class: HelloComponent. Our HelloComponent class will start simple, just displaying our “Hello, Java!” message at a fixed position. We’ll add capabilities later.

The code for our new class is very simple; we added just a few more lines:

    import java.awt.*;

    class HelloComponent extends JComponent {
      public void paintComponent( Graphics g ) {
        g.drawString( "Hello, Java!", 125, 95 );

You can add this text to the file, or you can place it in its own file called If you put it in the same file, you must move the new import statement to the top of the file, along with the other one. To use our new class in place of the JLabel, simply replace the two lines referencing the label with:

    frame.add( new HelloComponent() );

This time when you compile, you will see two binary class files: HelloJava.class and HelloComponent.class (regardless of how you arranged the source). Running the code should look much like the JLabel version, but if you resize the window, you’ll notice that our class does not automatically adjust to center the code.

So what have we done, and why have we gone to such lengths to insult the perfectly good JLabel component? We’ve created our new HelloComponent class, extending a generic graphical class called JComponent. To extend a class simply means to add functionality to an existing class, creating a new one. We’ll get into that in the next section. Here we have created a new kind of JComponent that contains a method called paintComponent(), which is responsible for drawing our message. Our paintComponent() method takes one argument named (somewhat tersely) g, which is of type Graphics. When the paintComponent() method is invoked, a Graphics object is assigned to g, which we use in the body of the method. We’ll say more about paintComponent() and the Graphics class in a moment. As for why, you’ll understand when we add all sorts of new features to our new component later on.


Java classes are arranged in a parent-child hierarchy in which the parent and child are known as the superclass and subclass, respectively. We’ll explore these concepts fully in Chapter 6. In Java, every class has exactly one superclass (a single parent), but possibly many subclasses. The only exception to this rule is the Object class, which sits atop the entire class hierarchy; it has no superclass.

The declaration of our class in the previous example uses the keyword extends to specify that HelloComponent is a subclass of the JComponent class:

    public class HelloComponent extends JComponent { ... }

A subclass may inherit some or all the variables and methods of its superclass. Through inheritance, the subclass can use those variables and methods as if it has declared them itself. A subclass can add variables and methods of its own, and it can also override or change the meaning of inherited methods. When we use a subclass, overridden methods are hidden (replaced) by the subclass’s own versions of them. In this way, inheritance provides a powerful mechanism whereby a subclass can refine or extend the functionality of its superclass.

For example, the hypothetical spreadsheet class might be subclassed to produce a new scientific spreadsheet class with extra mathematical functions and special built-in constants. In this case, the source code for the scientific spreadsheet might declare methods for the added mathematical functions and variables for the special constants, but the new class automatically has all the variables and methods that constitute the normal functionality of a spreadsheet; they are inherited from the parent spreadsheet class. This also means that the scientific spreadsheet maintains its identity as a spreadsheet, and we can use the extended version anywhere the simpler spreadsheet could be used. That last sentence has profound implications, which we’ll explore throughout the book. It means that specialized objects can be used in place of more generic objects, customizing their behavior without changing the underlying application. This is called polymorphism and is one of the foundations of object-oriented programming.

Our HelloComponent class is a subclass of the JComponent class and inherits many variables and methods not explicitly declared in our source code. This is what allows our tiny class to serve as a component in a JFrame, with just a few customizations.

The JComponent Class

The JComponent class provides the framework for building all kinds of user interface components. Particular components—such as buttons, labels, and list boxes—are implemented as subclasses of JComponent.

We override methods in such a subclass to implement the behavior of our particular component. This may sound restrictive, as if we are limited to some predefined set of routines, but that is not the case at all. Keep in mind that the methods we are talking about are ways to interact with the windowing system. We don’t have to squeeze our whole application in there. A realistic application might involve hundreds or thousands of classes, with legions of methods and variables and many threads of execution. The vast majority of these are related to the particulars of our job (these are called domain objects). The JComponent class and other predefined classes serve only as a framework on which to base code that handles certain types of user interface events and displays information to the user.

The paintComponent() method is an important method of the JComponent class; we override it to implement the way our particular component displays itself on the screen. The default behavior of paintComponent() doesn’t do any drawing at all. If we hadn’t overridden it in our subclass, our component would simply have been invisible. Here, we’re overriding paintComponent() to do something only slightly more interesting. We don’t override any of the other inherited members of JComponent because they provide basic functionality and reasonable defaults for this (trivial) example. As HelloJava grows, we’ll delve deeper into the inherited members and use additional methods. We will also add some application-specific methods and variables specifically for the needs of HelloComponent.

JComponent is really the tip of another iceberg called Swing. Swing is Java’s user interface toolkit, represented in our example by the import statement at the top; we’ll discuss it in some detail in Chapters 16 through 18.

Relationships and Finger Pointing

We can correctly refer to HelloComponent as a JComponent because subclassing can be thought of as creating an “is a” relationship, in which the subclass “is a” kind of its superclass. HelloComponent is therefore a kind of JComponent. When we refer to a kind of object, we mean any instance of that object’s class or any of its subclasses. Later, we will look more closely at the Java class hierarchy and see that JComponent is itself a subclass of the Container class, which is further derived from a class called Component, and so on, as shown in Figure 2-6.

In this sense, a HelloComponent object is a kind of JComponent, which is a kind of Container, and each of these can ultimately be considered to be a kind of Component. It’s from these classes that HelloComponent inherits its basic GUI functionality and (as we’ll discuss later) the ability to have other graphical components embedded within it as well.

Part of the Java class hierarchy

Figure 2-6. Part of the Java class hierarchy

Component is a subclass of the top-level Object class, so all these classes are types of Object. Every other class in the Java API inherits behavior from Object, which defines a few basic methods, as you’ll see in Chapter 7. We’ll continue to use the word object (lowercase o) in a generic way to refer to an instance of any class; we’ll use Object to refer specifically to the type of that class.

Package and Imports

We mentioned earlier that the first line of our example tells Java where to find some of the classes that we’ve been using:

    import javax.swing.*;

Specifically, it tells the compiler that we are going to be using classes from the Swing GUI toolkit (in this case, JFrame, JLabel, and JComponent). These classes are organized into a Java package called javax.swing. A Java package is a group of classes that are related by purpose or by application. Classes in the same package have special access privileges with respect to one another and may be designed to work together closely.

Packages are named in a hierarchical fashion with dot-separated components, such as java.util and Classes in a package must follow conventions about where they are located in the classpath. They also take on the name of the package as part of their “full name” or, to use the proper terminology, their fully qualified name. For example, the fully qualified name of the JComponent class is javax.swing.JComponent. We could have referred to it by that name directly, in lieu of using the import statement:

    public class HelloComponent extends javax.swing.JComponent {...}

The statement import javax.swing.* enables us to refer to all the classes in the javax.swing package by their simple names. So we don’t have to use fully qualified names to refer to the JComponent, JLabel, and JFrame classes.

As we saw when we added our second example class, there may be one or more import statements in a given Java source file. The imports effectively create a “search path” that tells Java where to look for classes that we refer to by their simple, unqualified names. (It’s not really a path, but it avoids ambiguous names that can create errors.) The imports we’ve seen use the dot star (.*) notation to indicate that the entire package should be imported. But you can also specify just a single class. For example, our current example uses only the Graphics class from the java.awt package. So we could have used import java.awt.Graphics instead of using the wildcard * to import all the Abstract Window Toolkit (AWT) package’s classes. However, we are anticipating using several more classes from this package later.

The java. and javax. package hierarchies are special. Any package that begins with java. is part of the core Java API and is available on any platform that supports Java. The javax. package normally denotes a standard extension to the core platform, which may or may not be installed. However, in recent years, many standard extensions have been added to the core Java API without renaming them. The javax.swing package is an example; it is part of the core API in spite of its name. Figure 2-7 illustrates some of the core Java packages, showing a representative class or two from each.

Some core Java packages

Figure 2-7. Some core Java packages

java.lang contains fundamental classes needed by the Java language itself; this package is imported automatically and that is why we didn’t need an import statement to use class names such as String or System in our examples. The java.awt package contains classes of the older, graphical Abstract Window Toolkit; contains the networking classes; and so on.

As you gain more experience with Java, you will come to realize that having a command of the packages available to you, what they do, when to use them, and how to use them is a critical part of becoming a successful Java developer.

The paintComponent() Method

The source for our HelloComponent class defines a method, paintComponent(), that overrides the paintComponent() method of the JComponent class:

    public void paintComponent( Graphics g ) {
        g.drawString( "Hello, Java!", 125, 95 );

The paintComponent() method is called when it’s time for our example to draw itself on the screen. It takes a single argument, a Graphics object, and doesn’t return any type of value (void) to its caller.

Modifiers are keywords placed before classes, variables, and methods to alter their accessibility, behavior, or semantics. paintComponent() is declared as public, which means it can be invoked (called) by methods in classes other than HelloComponent. In this case, it’s the Java windowing environment that is calling our paintComponent() method. A method or variable declared as private is accessible only from its own class.

The Graphics object, an instance of the Graphics class, represents a particular graphical drawing area. (It is also called a graphics context.) It contains methods that can be used to draw in this area, and variables that represent characteristics such as clipping or drawing modes. The particular Graphics object we are passed in the paintComponent() method corresponds to our HelloComponent’s area of the screen, inside our frame.

The Graphics class provides methods for rendering shapes, images, and text. In HelloComponent, we invoke the drawString() method of our Graphics object to scrawl our message at the specified coordinates. (For a description of the methods available in the Graphics class, see Chapter 20.)

As we’ve seen earlier, we access a method of an object by appending a dot (.) and its name to the object that holds it. We invoked the drawString() method of the Graphics object (referenced by our g variable) in this way:

    g.drawString( "Hello, Java!", 125, 95 );

It may be difficult to get used to the idea that our application is drawn by a method that is called by an outside agent at arbitrary times. How can we do anything useful with this? How do we control what gets done and when? These answers are forthcoming. For now, just think about how you would begin to structure applications that respond on command instead of by their own initiative.

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