June 23, 2005
"Swing Hacks": Tips and Tools for Killer GUIs
Sebastopol, CA--It could be the result of faster computers and faster
video cards, but users expect more from interfaces today, certainly more
than a web page can deliver. Software developers are feeling the pressure
as they hit the technology and interface limitations of web applications.
The movement now is toward new desktop software that promises greater
integration between the Web, external devices, and PCs--whether it's RSS
readers, iPods, photo collaboration, or gaming with servers or cell
"That's the future of desktop software," claims Joshua Marinacci, coauthor
of Swing Hacks (Adamson and Marinacci, O'Reilly, US $29.95). "As people
use computers more, and as more things fall under the general category of
'computers'--such as cell phones and console game machines--it's our duty
as developers to make higher quality software. That means applications
should look great, perform well, and be easy to use. Java Swing is a great
choice. It gives you the potential to build a richer interface."
Swing Hacks is not an exhaustive compendium on Java Swing, which
contains all the classes and components for creating Graphical User
Interfaces, but a handy resource for experienced and enthusiastic
programmers who want to push the boundaries of what a Java client
application can do.
"This book is a reference to the cool stuff," says coauthor Chris Adamson,
editor of ONJava and java.net. "We want to show that it's possible and
essential to create Java GUIs that are pleasant, even fun to use. Swing is
just a small part of desktop Java, but we feel it's the focal point--the
place where desktop technology (AWT, Java2D, JavaSound), network
technology (web services, XML, JXTA), and device technology (iPods, cell
phones, TVs) all converge. Many of the hacks in this book are not strictly
about Swing, but about using Swing to do cool things with the rest of the
The book contains hacks for using various Swing components, such as trees
and tables, windows, dialogs and frames, transparent and animated windows,
text components, rendering, drag-and-drop support, audio components, and
more. With Swing Hacks, readers will learn how to apply the Swing API in
situations that require a more advanced touch. In other words, the book
teaches how to use and extend the Swing component set in ways that Swing's
originators never imagined--whether it's a visual enhancement to make
software look better, or a functional improvement to make software do
something it couldn't do before.
"Some of our tricks are meant for fun, but others are meant to show how to
do things in Swing as well or better than with native applications,"
Adamson explains. "We have a number of drag-and-drop hacks--getting URLs
and images from native applications, showing translucent drag
images--which we think are a great way to work with data, and yet are
wildly underused in Swing applications."
Marinacci, who also covers topics in Java client-side and web development
in his "Java Sketchbook" column for java.net, adds, "After years of
working with Swing, you start to learn what the API is good at and what it
lacks. Some days you learn something that makes your life as a developer
easier. That's what we put into this book. Some days you learn a
workaround for a long-standing bug or a missing feature that you've been
dying to have. We put that stuff in the book, too. It's about the
interesting things you learn over the years, the weird hacks that make you
say, 'I didn't know you could even do that!'"
As with all books in O'Reilly's Hack Series, each hack stands on its own,
giving readers the freedom to browse sections that interest them most.
Each hack in the book also has a thermometer icon to indicate its relative
complexity: beginner, moderate, or expert.
"We hope 2005 will be a watershed year for Java on the desktop," Marinacci
says. "Apple just announced that they are switching from PowerPC chips to
Intel. All native applications will have to be recompiled, but Swing
applications will work right away with no changes whatsoever. I think that
says a lot about the strength of writing one-hundred percent Java
applications. If you buy our book, you will be able to make your
applications look and feel cooler. Period."
Joshua Marinacci and Chris Adamson
ISBN: 0-596-00907-0, 544 pages, $29.95 US, $41.95 CA
O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.
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