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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

HelloJava2: The Sequel

Now that we’ve got some basics down, let’s make our application a little more interactive. The following minor upgrade allows us to drag the message text around with the mouse.

We’ll call this example HelloJava2 rather than cause confusion by continuing to expand the old one, but the primary changes here and further on lie in adding capabilities to the HelloComponent class and simply making the corresponding changes to the names to keep them straight (e.g., HelloComponent2, HelloComponent3, and so on). Having just seen inheritance at work, you might wonder why we aren’t creating a subclass of HelloComponent and exploiting inheritance to build upon our previous example and extend its functionality. Well, in this case, that would not provide much advantage, and for clarity we simply start over.

Here is HelloJava2:

    import java.awt.*;
    import java.awt.event.*;
    import javax.swing.*;

    public class HelloJava2
      public static void main( String[] args ) {
        JFrame frame = new JFrame( "HelloJava2" );
        frame.add( new HelloComponent2("Hello, Java!") );
        frame.setDefaultCloseOperation( JFrame.EXIT_ON_CLOSE );
        frame.setSize( 300, 300 );
        frame.setVisible( true );

    class HelloComponent2 extends JComponent
        implements MouseMotionListener
      String theMessage;
      int messageX = 125, messageY = 95; // Coordinates of the message

      public HelloComponent2( String message ) {
        theMessage = message;

      public void paintComponent( Graphics g ) {
        g.drawString( theMessage, messageX, messageY );

      public void mouseDragged(MouseEvent e) {
        // Save the mouse coordinates and paint the message.
        messageX = e.getX();

        messageY = e.getY();

      public void mouseMoved(MouseEvent e) { }

Two slashes in a row indicate that the rest of the line is a comment. We’ve added a few comments to HelloJava2 to help you keep track of everything.

Place the text of this example in a file called and compile it as before. You should get new class files, HelloJava2.class and HelloComponent2.class, as a result.

Run the example using the following command:

    C:\> java HelloJava2

Or, if you are following in Eclipse, click the Run button. Feel free to substitute your own salacious comment for the “Hello, Java!” message and enjoy many hours of fun, dragging the text around with your mouse. Notice that now when you click the window’s close button, the application exits; we’ll explain that later when we talk about events. Now let’s see what’s changed.

Instance Variables

We have added some variables to the HelloComponent2 class in our example:

    int messageX = 125, messageY = 95;
    String theMessage;

messageX and messageY are integers that hold the current coordinates of our movable message. We have crudely initialized them to default values that should place the message somewhere near the center of the window. Java integers are 32-bit signed numbers, so they can easily hold our coordinate values. The variable theMessage is of type String and can hold instances of the String class.

You should note that these three variables are declared inside the braces of the class definition, but not inside any particular method in that class. These variables are called instance variables, and they belong to the class as a whole. Specifically, copies of them appear in each separate instance of the class. Instance variables are always visible to (and usable by) all the methods inside their class. Depending on their modifiers, they may also be accessible from outside the class.

Unless otherwise initialized, instance variables are set to a default value of 0, false, or null, depending on their type. Numeric types are set to 0, Boolean variables are set to false, and class type variables always have their value set to null, which means “no value.” Attempting to use an object with a null value results in a runtime error.

Instance variables differ from method arguments and other variables that are declared inside the scope of a particular method. The latter are called local variables. They are effectively private variables that can be seen only by code inside the method. Java doesn’t initialize local variables, so you must assign values yourself. If you try to use a local variable that has not yet been assigned a value, your code generates a compile-time error. Local variables live only as long as the method is executing and then disappear, unless something else saves their value. Each time the method is invoked, its local variables are recreated and must be assigned values.

We have used the new variables to make our previously stodgy paintComponent() method more dynamic. Now all the arguments in the call to drawString() are determined by these variables.


The HelloComponent2 class includes a special kind of a method called a constructor. A constructor is called to set up a new instance of a class. When a new object is created, Java allocates storage for it, sets instance variables to their default values, and calls the constructor method for the class to do whatever application-level setup is required.

A constructor always has the same name as its class. For example, the constructor for the HelloComponent2 class is called HelloComponent2(). Constructors don’t have a return type, but you can think of them as creating an object of their class’s type. Like other methods, constructors can take arguments. Their sole mission in life is to configure and initialize newly born class instances, possibly using information passed to them in these parameters.

An object is created with the new operator specifying the constructor for the class and any necessary arguments. The resulting object instance is returned as a value. In our example, a new HelloComponent2 instance is created in the main() method by this line:

    frame.add( new HelloComponent2("Hello, Java!") );

This line actually does two things. We could write them as two separate lines that are a little easier to understand:

    HelloComponent2 newObject = new HelloComponent2("Hello, Java!");
    frame.add( newObject );

The first line is the important one, where a new HelloComponent2 object is created. The HelloComponent2 constructor takes a String as an argument and, as we have arranged it, uses it to set the message that is displayed in the window. With a little magic from the Java compiler, quoted text in Java source code is turned into a String object. (See Chapter 10 for a complete discussion of the String class.) The second line simply adds our new component to the frame to make it visible, as we did in the previous examples.

While we’re on the topic, if you’d like to make our message configurable, you can change the constructor line to the following:

    HelloComponent2 newobj = new HelloComponent2( args[0] );

Now you can pass the text on the command line when you run the application using the following command:

    C:\> java HelloJava2 "Hello, Java!"

args[0] refers to the first command-line parameter. Its meaning will become clearer when we discuss arrays later in the book. If you are using an IDE, such as Eclipse, you will need to configure it to accept your parameters before running it.

HelloComponent2’s constructor then does two things: it sets the text of theMessage instance variable and calls addMouseMotionListener(). This method is part of the event mechanism, which we discuss next. It tells the system, “Hey, I’m interested in anything that happens involving the mouse.”

    public HelloComponent2(String message) {
      theMessage = message;
      addMouseMotionListener( this );

The special, read-only variable called this is used to explicitly refer to our object (the “current” object context) in the call to addMouseMotionListener(). A method can use this to refer to the instance of the object that holds it. The following two statements are therefore equivalent ways of assigning the value to theMessage instance variable:

    theMessage = message;


    this.theMessage = message;

We’ll normally use the shorter, implicit form to refer to instance variables, but we’ll need this when we have to explicitly pass a reference to our object to a method in another class. We often do this so that methods in other classes can invoke our public methods or use our public variables.


The last two methods of HelloComponent2, mouseDragged() and mouseMoved(), let us get information from the mouse. Each time the user performs an action, such as pressing a key on the keyboard, moving the mouse, or perhaps banging his or her head against a touch screen, Java generates an event. An event represents an action that has occurred; it contains information about the action, such as its time and location. Most events are associated with a particular GUI component in an application. A keystroke, for instance, can correspond to a character being typed into a particular text entry field. Pressing a mouse button can activate a particular button on the screen. Even just moving the mouse within a certain area of the screen can trigger effects such as highlighting or changing the cursor’s shape.

To work with these events, we’ve imported a new package, java.awt.event, which provides specific Event objects that we use to get information from the user. (Notice that importing java.awt.* doesn’t automatically import the event package. Packages don’t really contain other packages, even if the hierarchical naming scheme would imply that they do.)

There are many different event classes, including MouseEvent, KeyEvent, and ActionEvent. For the most part, the meaning of these events is fairly intuitive. A MouseEvent occurs when the user does something with the mouse, a KeyEvent occurs when the user presses a key, and so on. ActionEvent is a little special; we’ll see it at work later in this chapter in our third version of HelloJava. For now, we’ll focus on dealing with MouseEvents.

GUI components in Java generate events for specific kinds of user actions. For example, if you click the mouse inside a component, the component generates a mouse event. Objects can ask to receive the events from one or more components by registering a listener with the event source. For example, to declare that a listener wants to receive a component’s mouse-motion events, you invoke that component’s addMouseMotionListener() method, specifying the listener object as an argument. That’s what our example is doing in its constructor. In this case, the component is calling its own addMouseMotionListener() method, with the argument this, meaning “I want to receive my own mouse-motion events.”

That’s how we register to receive events. But how do we actually get them? That’s what the two mouse-related methods in our class are for. The mouseDragged() method is called automatically on a listener to receive the events generated when the user drags the mouse—that is, moves the mouse with any button pressed. The mouseMoved() method is called whenever the user moves the mouse over the area without pressing a button. In this case, we’ve placed these methods in our HelloComponent2 class and had it register itself as the listener. This is entirely appropriate for our new text-dragging component. More generally, good design usually dictates that event listeners be implemented as adapter classes that provide better separation of GUI and “business logic.” We’ll discuss that in detail later in the book.

Our mouseMoved() method is boring: it doesn’t do anything. We ignore simple mouse motions and reserve our attention for dragging. mouseDragged() has a bit more meat to it. This method is called repeatedly by the windowing system to give us updates on the position of the mouse. Here it is:

    public void mouseDragged( MouseEvent e ) {
      messageX = e.getX();
      messageY = e.getY();

The first argument to mouseDragged() is a MouseEvent object, e, that contains all the information we need to know about this event. We ask the MouseEvent to tell us the x and y coordinates of the mouse’s current position by calling its getX() and getY() methods. We save these in the messageX and messageY instance variables for use elsewhere.

The beauty of the event model is that you have to handle only the kinds of events you want. If you don’t care about keyboard events, you just don’t register a listener for them; the user can type all she wants and you won’t be bothered. If there are no listeners for a particular kind of event, Java won’t even generate it. The result is that event handling is quite efficient.[3]

While we’re discussing events, we should mention another small addition we slipped into HelloJava2:

    frame.setDefaultCloseOperation( JFrame.EXIT_ON_CLOSE );

This line tells the frame to exit the application when its close button is pressed. It’s called the “default” close operation because this operation, like almost every other GUI interaction, is governed by events. We could register a window listener to get notification of when the user pushes the close button and take whatever action we like, but this convenience method handles the common cases.

Finally, we’ve danced around a couple of questions here: how does the system know that our class contains the necessary mouseDragged() and mouseMoved() methods (where do these names come from)? And why do we have to supply a mouseMoved() method that doesn’t do anything? The answer to these questions has to do with interfaces. We’ll discuss interfaces after clearing up some unfinished business with repaint().

The repaint() Method

Because we changed the coordinates for the message (when we dragged the mouse), we would like HelloComponent2 to redraw itself. We do this by calling repaint(), which asks the system to redraw the screen at a later time. We can’t call paintComponent() directly, even if we wanted to, because we don’t have a graphics context to pass to it.

We can use the repaint() method of the JComponent class to request that our component be redrawn. repaint() causes the Java windowing system to schedule a call to our paintComponent() method at the next possible time; Java supplies the necessary Graphics object, as shown in Figure 2-8.

This mode of operation isn’t just an inconvenience brought about by not having the right graphics context handy. The foremost advantage to this mode of operation is that the repainting behavior is handled by someone else while we are free to go about our business. The Java system has a separate, dedicated thread of execution that handles all repaint() requests. It can schedule and consolidate repaint() requests as necessary, which helps to prevent the windowing system from being overwhelmed during painting-intensive situations like scrolling. Another advantage is that all the painting functionality must be encapsulated through our paintComponent() method; we aren’t tempted to spread it throughout the application.

Invoking the repaint() method

Figure 2-8. Invoking the repaint() method


Now it’s time to face the question we avoided earlier: how does the system know to call mouseDragged() when a mouse event occurs? Is it simply a matter of knowing that mouseDragged() is some magic name that our event-handling method must have? Not quite; the answer to the question touches on the discussion of interfaces, which are one of the most important features of the Java language.

The first sign of an interface comes on the line of code that introduces the HelloComponent2 class: we say that the class implements the MouseMotionListener interface.

    class HelloComponent2 extends JComponent
        implements MouseMotionListener

Essentially, an interface is a list of methods that the class must have; this particular interface requires our class to have methods called mouseDragged() and mouseMoved(). The interface doesn’t say what these methods have to do; indeed, mouseMoved() doesn’t do anything. It does say that the methods must take a MouseEvent as an argument and return no value (that’s what void means).

An interface is a contract between you, the code developer, and the compiler. By saying that your class implements the MouseMotionListener interface, you’re saying that these methods will be available for other parts of the system to call. If you don’t provide them, a compilation error will occur.

That’s not the only way interfaces impact this program. An interface also acts like a class. For example, a method could return a MouseMotionListener or take a MouseMotionListener as an argument. When you refer to an object by an interface name in this way, it means that you don’t care about the object’s actual class; the only requirement is that the class implements that interface. addMouseMotionListener() is such a method: its argument must be an object that implements the MouseMotionListener interface. The argument we pass is this, the HelloComponent2 object itself. The fact that it’s an instance of JComponent is irrelevant; it could be a Cookie, an Aardvark, or any other class we dream up. What’s important is that it implements MouseMotionListener and, thus, declares that it will have the two named methods. That’s why we need a mouseMoved() method, even though the one we supplied doesn’t do anything: the MouseMotionListener interface says we must have one.

The Java distribution comes with many interfaces that define what classes have to do. This idea of a contract between the compiler and a class is very important. There are many situations like the one we just saw where you don’t care what class something is, you just care that it has some capability, such as listening for mouse events. Interfaces give us a way of acting on objects based on their capabilities without knowing or caring about their actual type. They are a tremendously important concept in how we use Java as an object-oriented language, and we’ll talk about them in detail in Chapter 4.

We’ll also see shortly that interfaces provide a sort of escape clause to the Java rule that any new class can extend only a single class (“single inheritance”). A class in Java can extend only one class, but can implement as many interfaces as it wants; our next example implements two interfaces and the final example in this chapter implements three. In many ways, interfaces are almost like classes, but not quite. They can be used as data types, can extend other interfaces (but not classes), and can be inherited by classes (if class A implements interface B, subclasses of A also implement B). The crucial difference is that classes don’t actually inherit methods from interfaces; the interfaces merely specify the methods the class must have.

[3] Event handling in Java 1.0 was a very different story. Early on, Java did not have a notion of event listeners and all event handling happened by overriding methods in base GUI classes. This was both inefficient and led to poor design with a proliferation of highly specialized components.

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