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Java: Applets

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Why no applets in these notes

These notes were originally written using applets almost entirely. However, all applet examples are being changed to applications.

  • The only really portable applets are written in Java 1.1 because this is the minimum assumption about what is installed on a user's computer. Java has moved far beyond that. I'm not interested in programs that are limited to the older, and seriously inferior, AWT. Yes, Java plugins can be used for the more recent versions, but it can still be a problem. To get around this, many books that teach applets suggest using the appletviewer program thereby negating the supposed applet advantages.
  • In a controlled environment, such as a large company, it's possible to use later versions of applets, but they aren't the best idea for general examples.
  • Many current applets should instead be animated GIFs, JavaScript, or Flash.
  • Assuming the later versions of Java are used, most applet source will look similar to application code. However, there are some divergences that are annoying: the common practice of init instead of a contructors, the fixed size as opposed to using pack, lack of I/O capability (without permissions), ... It's even worse when using Java 1.1 because the lack of a content pane distorts the program.
  • Java WebStart is a better solution to web distributed software.
  • The primary use of Java has turned out to be applications, not applets as predicted by the initial hype.

Converting Applets to Applications

To make an applet into an application, add a main()method to the applet's class -- you don't have to create a new class. It may seem a little strange that adding a main method to a class will make it into an application, but that's the most common way of doing it. An application is any program that has a main() method. This new main() does what a browser does.

The main method should do the following:

  1. Create a window (JFrame) to hold the applet.
  2. Make the window's close box stop the applet.
  3. Create a new applet object, and add it to the window.
  4. Start the applet by calling init(), then start().
  5. Finalize the layout.
  6. Make the window (with the applet in it) visible.


------ Continues (click the link below)

Here is a very small applet, which just displays some text.

import javax.swing.*;

public class SampleApplet extends JApplet {
    public SampleApplet() {
        add(new JLabel("This is an Applet."));

Add a main() method, and it can be used as either an application or an applet.

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

public class SampleApplet extends JApplet {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        JFrame myWindow = new JFrame("SampleApplet Application");
        SampleApplet theApplet = new SampleApplet(); // Create a new object.
        myWindow.setContentPane(theApplet);  // Add to the window.
        //theApplet.init();           // Needed if defined in applet
        //theApplet.start();          // Needed if defined in applet
        myWindow.pack();              // Arrange the components.
        myWindow.setVisible(true);    // Make the window visible.
    // Constructor
    public SampleApplet() {
        add(new JLabel("This is an Applet and and Application!"));
  • You can use this as an applet and the browser will ignore main().
  • Although SampleApplet is the name of the class, we need to create an instance of it. An applet is a kind of panel, so it can be used for the contentPane in a JFrame.
  • Usually only applets which do animation have a start() method. If your applet doesn't have a start() method, you don't need this call, although it won't cause problems because JApplet has defined a version that does nothing. Similarly with init() which is commonly used in applets, altho a constructor would be a better choice. If there is no init(), there's no need to call it.

Some applets may use features that require additional work.

  • An applet can call getCodeBase() to find out where it was loaded from to get additional classes, images, or other data, then use the return value to get more things. If an applet does this, then you must define getCodeBase().
  • If an applet gets parameters from the web page, you will have to provide a getParameter() method.
  • The showStatus() method must be supplied if used by the applet.

The HTML tag

You need to specify the following values in an applet tag.

  • width="nn" height="mm", where nn and mm are the width and the height of the area the applet will occupy on the web page. Applets are not resizeable (except when run with the appletview application. But if you're using appletviewer, why are you writing an applet?
  • Class file location. There are several possibities.
    Simple class files
    Jar file

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