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Swing Chapter 3. (The basics) Frames, Panels, and Borders. Easy for reading, Click here!

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Swing Chapter 3. (The basics) Frames, Panels, and Borders. Easy for reading, Click here!

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Page: 2/3 

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Subpages: 1. Frames and Panels overview
2. Borders
3. Creating a custom border

3.2    Borders

package javax.swing.border

The border package provides us with the following border classes which can be applied to any Swing component:


A 3D border with a raised or lowered appearance.


A combination of two borders: an inside border and an outside border.


A transparent border used to define empty space (often referred to as white space) around a component.


A border with an etched lineappearance.


A flat border with a specified thickness and color.


A border consisting of either a flat color or tiled image.


A 3D border with a raised or lowered appearance, and rounded edges.


A border allowing a String title in a specific location and position. We can set the title font, color, justification, and position of the title text using TitleBorder methods and constants where necessary (see API docs).

To set the border of  a Swing component we simply call JComponent's setBorder() method. There is also a convenience class called BorderFactory, contained in the javax.swing package (not the javax.swing.border package as you might think), which contains a group of static methods used for constructing borders quickly. For example, to create an EtchedBorder we can use BorderFactory as follows:


The border classes do not provide methods set their dimensions, colors, etc. Insetad of modifying an existing border we are normally expected to create a new instance to replace the old one.

Figure 3.7 Simple Borders demonstration

<<file figure3-7.gif>>

The following code creates a JFrame containing twelve JPanels using borders of all types. Figure 3.7 illustrates:

The Code: BorderTest.java

see \Chapter3\1

import java.awt.*;

import javax.swing.*;

import javax.swing.border.*;

class BorderTest extends JFrame


  public BorderTest() {

    setTitle("Border Test");

    setSize(450, 450);

    JPanel content = (JPanel) getContentPane();

    content.setLayout(new GridLayout(6,2));

    JPanel p = new JPanel();

    p.setBorder(new BevelBorder (BevelBorder.RAISED));

    p.add(new JLabel("RAISED BevelBorder"));


    p = new JPanel();

    p.setBorder(new BevelBorder (BevelBorder.LOWERED));

    p.add(new JLabel("LOWERED BevelBorder"));


    p = new JPanel();

    p.setBorder(new LineBorder (Color.black, 5));

    p.add(new JLabel("Black LineBorder, thickness = 5"));


    p = new JPanel();

    p.setBorder(new EmptyBorder (10,10,10,10));

    p.add(new JLabel("EmptyBorder with thickness of 10"));


    p = new JPanel();

    p.setBorder(new EtchedBorder (EtchedBorder.RAISED));

    p.add(new JLabel("RAISED EtchedBorder"));


    p = new JPanel();

    p.setBorder(new EtchedBorder (EtchedBorder.LOWERED));

    p.add(new JLabel("LOWERED EtchedBorder"));


    p = new JPanel();

    p.setBorder(new SoftBevelBorder (SoftBevelBorder.RAISED));

    p.add(new JLabel("RAISED SoftBevelBorder"));


    p = new JPanel();

    p.setBorder(new SoftBevelBorder (SoftBevelBorder.LOWERED));

    p.add(new JLabel("LOWERED SoftBevelBorder"));


    p = new JPanel();

    p.setBorder(new MatteBorder (new ImageIcon("spiral.gif")));

    p.add(new JLabel("MatteBorder"));


    p = new JPanel();

    p.setBorder(new TitledBorder (

      new MatteBorder (new ImageIcon("spiral.gif")),

      "Title String"));

    p.add(new JLabel("TitledBorder using MatteBorder"));


    p = new JPanel();

    p.setBorder(new TitledBorder (

      new LineBorder (Color.black, 5),

      "Title String"));

    p.add(new JLabel("TitledBorder using LineBorder"));


    p = new JPanel();

    p.setBorder(new TitledBorder (

      new EmptyBorder (10,10,10,10),

      "Title String"));

    p.add(new JLabel("TitledBorder using EmptyBorder"));




  public static void main(String args[]) {

    new BorderTest();



UI Guideline:

Borders for Visual Layering. Use borders to create a visual association between components on a view. Bevelled borders are graphically very strong and can be used to strongly associate items. Windows Look & Feel does this. For example buttons use a RAISED BevelBorder and data fields use a LOWERED BevelBorder. If you want to visually associate components or draw attention to a component then you can create a visual layer by careful use of BevelBorder. If you want to draw attention to a particular button or group of buttons, you might consider thickening the RAISED bevel using BorderInsets discussed in 3.2.2

Borders for Visual Grouping. Use borders to create Group Boxes. EtchedBorder and LineBorder are particularly effective for this, as they are graphically weaker then BevelBorder. EmptyBorder is also very useful for grouping. It uses the power of negative (white) space to visually associate the contained components and draw the viewer eye to the group.

You may wish to create a visual grouping of attributes or simply signify the bounds of a set of choices. Grouping related Radio Buttons and Checkboxes is particularly useful.

Achieving Visual Integration and Balance using Negative Space. Use a compound border including an EmptyBorder to increase the Negative (white) Space around a Component or Panel. Visually, a Border sets what is known as a Ground (or area) for a Figure. The Figure is what is contained within the Border. It is important to keep Figure and Ground in balance. This is done by providing adequate white space around the Figure. The stronger the border, the more white space will be required e.g. a BevelBorder will require more white space than an EtchedBorder. Ref. Mullet 95 (see Appendix B).

Border for Visual Grouping with Layering. Doubly compounded borders can be used to group information and communicate hierarchy using Visual Layering. Consider the following implementation (fig 3-8). Here we are indicating a common belonging for the attributes within the border. They are both attributes of Customer. Because we have indicated the label Customer (top LHS) in the border title, we do not need to repeat the label for each field. We are further communicating the type of the Customer with the VIP label (bottom RHS).

Visual Layering of the hierachy involved is achieved by position and font.

(i) Position: In western cultures, the eye is trained to scan from top left to bottom right. Thus something located top left has a visual higher rank than something located bottom right.

(ii) Font: By bolding the Customer, we are clearly communicating it as the highest ranking detail.
What we are displaying is a Customer of type VIP. Not a VIP of type Customer. The positioning and re-inforcing with heavier font, clearly communicate this message

Figure 3.8 Visual Grouping with Layering

<<file figure3-8.gif>>

3.2.2    Inside Borders

It is important to understand that borders are not components. In fact AbstractBorder, the abstract class all border classes are derived from, directly extends Object. Thus we cannot attach action and mouse listeners, set tool tips, etc.

Note: This has certain side effects, one of which is that borders are much less efficient in painting themselves. There is no optimization support like there is in JComponent. We can do intersting things like use a very thick MatteBorder to tile a panel with an image, but this is an inefficient (and also unreliable) solution. In general don't use really large borders for anything. If you need an extremely large border consider simulating one using JLabels and a container managed by BorderLayout.

One major benefit of Borders not being components is that we can use a single Border instance with an arbitrary number of components. In large scale apps this can reduce a significant amount of overhead.

When a Swing component is assigned a border its Insets are defined by that border's width and height settings. When layout managers lay out JComponents, as we will see in the next chapter, they take into account their Insets and normally use JComponent's getInsets() method to obtain this information. Inside the getInsets() method, the current border is asked to provide its Insets using the getBorderInsets() method.

The Insets class consists of four publicly accessible int values: bottom, left, right, top. TitleBorder must compute its Insets based on its current font and text position which will not effect every side and requires handling for many different cases--without a doubt this is the most complex border provided by Swing. In the case of CompoundBorder, both its outer and inner Insets are retrieved through calls to getBorderInsets() and then summed. A MatteBorder's Insets are determined by the width and height of its image. BevelBorder and  EtchedBorder, have Insets values: 2, 2, 2, 2. SoftBevelBorder has Insets values: 3, 3, 3, 3. EmptyBorder's Insets are simply the values that were passed in to the constructor. Each of LineBorder's Insets values equals the thickness that was specified in the constructor (or 1 as the default).

Borders get painted last in the JComponent rendering pipeline to ensure that they always appear on top of their associated component. AbstractBorder defines methods to get a Rectangle representing the interior region of the component a border is attached to: getInteriorRectangle(). Any JComponent subclass implementing its own painting methods may be interested in this area. Combined with the Graphics clipping area, components may use this information to minimize their rendering work (refer back to chapter 2).

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