Chapter 1: The basics in Java

Chapter 2: Your first applet

Chapter 3: Threads and animation

Chapter 4: Images and parameters

Chapter 5: Mouse messages

Links to applets and source code


Basic Course in Special Effects and Game Programming in Java

by Aníbal Wainstein

Chapter 2
Your first applet

Last updated 1999-05-14


2.0 Your first applet

Now it is time to start programming your first applets. It is always a great experience to see your first creations in action.

2.0.1 Inheriting the Applet class 

We have earlier described what an applet is. In Java there is already a finished class called "Applet". This is used as the parent class (the base) for all the types of applets that you create. To do our own applet, we will overwrite some of the methods in it and put extra variables. This is called in Object Oriented Programming to inherit the Applet class.

import java.applet.*;

import java.awt.*;

public class myapplet extends Applet {


I know that this was a lot at once but we can start by describing "import" that makes sure that you have access to the Applet class and the AWT package. In the AWT package there is the class String and other important classes that you may need when you make applets. This is called importing a Java class package. The "public" declaration indicates that the applet will be able to be used by other classes (this is something that is necessary to have with some Java VM's). The "class" declaration indicates that the applets name will be "myapplet". The "extends" declaration means that the class "myapplet" will inherit the Applet class methods. The applet do not do anything right now, because we have not yet made any changes on the parent class.

2.0.2 Initializing with the init() method and how to write strings.

The first change we will do on our applet is to overwrite the init() method. This method is the first method executed in an applet.

import java.applet.*;

import java.awt.*;

public class myapplet extends Applet {

public void init()


    System.out.println("Hello Sweden!");


Here we use the built-in method println() (print-line) that exist in the class "out", which in turn exist in the Java package "System". With this we write the string "Hello Sweden!" on the Java console. The Java console is the communication window with the programmer, which you can display with your web browser when you test the applet. By using it, we can receive applet error messages and display our own messages like "Hello Sweden!".

2.0.3 How to compile and run your applet 

Save the code example in the last section as an ordinary text file (it must be in ASCII and not in Word or similar format). All the applets require that they are embedded in a HTML page in order to work. Write the following bit of HTML code into a separate file:

<HEAD><TITLE>My first applet</TITLE></HEAD> 
<APPLET CODE="myapplet.class" WIDTH=100 HEIGHT=100> 

Here we specify that the applet shall use the myapplet.class file as base and where the width and height is 100 pixels each. I guess that you already understand how HTML works so I will not explain what the rest of the text means.
Save and name the file to "myapplet.html" in the same folder as the Java file.

Depending if you have Sun's or Microsoft's Java development system, you open a DOS window in Windows and write the following into the folder where your Java and HTML files are: 

\pathtojavac\javac     (Sun's JDK) 
\pathtojvc\jvc   (Microsoft's SDK) 

The compilator will examine the file and notify you about the errors it finds and where they are. A common error that everyone may encounter is to forget the semi-colon after a Java statement.

Now you can open the HTML file "myapplet.html" with your favourite web browser. If you use Netscape, you can open the Java console under the program menu (look under tools in Netscape 4.X). The same thing applies to Internet Explorer 4.01 or 4.02. However in version 4.0 of Internet Explorer you must make sure the Java logging option is on before you look at the applet (this will you find under the IE advanced settings). The Java log is written as a text file under the c:\windows\Java\ folder. If you want to spare yourself of this trouble then just upgrade to version 4.01 or 4.02.

You can also click here to see the applet.

2.0.4 Quick ways to show results (showStatus() and println()) 

The Java method println() belongs to the PrintStream class, under the package (IO stands for "In Our" and is used to note communication with the user or the hard drive). You do not have to lay much thought on this, because when a Java Virtual Machine is started you have automatically a println() method ready under the System class and under it's communication class out. The class out is pointing on the Java console. By using out you can easily check the values of your variables.
In section 1.2.3 we looked at the arithmetic operators: 

int a = 4;

int b = 2;
//The number 6 will be stored in "c"

c = a + b;          


//The number 2 will be stored in "c"

c = a - b;        


//The number 8 will be stored in "c"

c = a * b;      

//The number 2 will be stored in "c"

c = a / b;           
Unfortunately we could not verify that the result was correct. The method println() exist for many types of variables. Write the following applet: 
import java.awt.*;

public class calculationapplet extends Applet {

public void init()


    int a = 4;

    int b = 2;

    c = a + b;              



After writing this and compiled it you will be able to see the number 6 on the Java console. Now you may wonder how it may be that the same println() could write a number, when the same method in the last example wrote a string. This is called function overloading. They are NOT the same methods even though they are named the same. If two methods are named the same but have different arguments, Java will see them as two unique methods. However you cannot have two functions that are named the same and where both require identical arguments. The following println() methods are some of the most used: 





When you run and applet on a web browser you have also access to the status window that is used to be located at the bottom of the screen. There is a method under the Applet class that is called showStatus(). With this you can show strings. Let us take the "Hello Sweden!" example in section 2.0.2 and rewrite it: 

import java.awt.*;  

import java.applet.*;  

public class myapplet extends Applet {

public void init()


    showStatus("Hello Sweden!");       


Compile it, run this applet on your web browser and look at the status window. Please note that depending on the web browser you have, this applet may fail because other system messages may overwrite your status bar message. Therefore showStatus() may not always be good to use if you do not update your message continously. We will later see how you can have fun with it anyway.


2.1 The basics for all the graphics programming in Java 

I think that the most popular area within the applet programming is without doubt the graphics programming. In these sections we will look at the most important functions that you must know in order to be a full fledged graphics programmer.

2.1.1 What is a pixel? 

A computer screen consist of something that you call pixels. A pixel is a color value that consist of a red, green and blue mix of colors (RGB). In your TV screen you can see how this works, since each dot consist of these three colors. By having different shades of these colors you can get different color. For instance red with green gives yellow, red with blue gives magenta, and so on. For every pixel in the computer screen you can set what mix it should use.

Depending on your graphics card configuration, you can have different types of resolutions. Two of the most common are 800x600 and 1024x768 pixels (pixels per width and pixels per height). You can also have different color resolutions, but this is nothing you have to worry about, since Java takes care of this automatically for you. In section 2.0.3 we had specified that we wanted an applet 100 times 100 pixels large. This area we call the applet screen and should generally not be larger than the computer screen's resolution.

2.1.2 How to mix colors in Java (The Color class) 

With the Color class in Java you can create any color type by specifying different shades of red, green and blue. Color has different constructors but we shall mostly work with the following:

public Color(int red, int green, int blue);

In the constructor we can specify a value between 0 and 255 for each color. Look at the following example: 

//gives black because the value of the three colors 

//is 0  

Color black = new Color( 0, 0, 0); 

//gives blue because all the values are 0 except

//the blue component  

Color blue = new Color( 0, 0, 255); 

//gives white because all the values are 255  

Color white = new Color( 255, 255, 255);               

The color class has default colors that you can use. These exist as Color variables inside the Color class. Since these variables are static variables, you do not need to create a Color object to be able to get to them. We will review static variables later in this course when we get real use of them. The following colors exist:

Color black =; 
Color blue =; 
Color cyan = Color.cyan; 
Color darkgray = Color.darkGray; 
Color gray = Color.gray; 
Color green = ; 
Color lightgray = Color.lightGray; 
Color magenta = Color.magenta; 
Color orange =; 
Color pink = ; 
Color red =; 
Color white= Color white; 
Color yellow = Color.yellow; 

2.1.3 How to draw on the applet screen with the paint() method (the Graphics class and the fillRect() method)
I said in section 2.0.2 that there was the init() method that was the first thing executed in a Java applet. The method that is called directly after init() in an applet is the paint() method:

public void paint(Graphics g)

With the paint() method you have full control over the applet screen thanks to the Graphics object that is included and that is connected to the screen. In the Graphics class there are methods to draw lines, circles, rectangles, texts, Images and more. You should always update a graphics applet by initializing the screen with a certaing background color. This we can do with the fillRect() method that will draw a filled rectangle. First we must specify a color that the applet's "pen" will work with.  
Let us say that we want blue color in our applet and that the applet size must be 200x100 pixels:
import java.applet.*;

import java.awt.*;

public class initbackground extends Applet {

public void paint(Graphics g)


     Color backgroundcolor = new Color(0,0,255);

     //setColor() in the Graphics class

     //sets the color of the pen


     //fillRect() fills a rectangular area with the

     //selected color. The method requires a horizontal

     //and vertival position (x and y position)




Note that all the communication with the applet screen is done with the graphics object "g". In the example above we have first set the color on the pen that the Graphics object will use to draw on the screen, in this case blue. Next step is to draw a rectangle that covers the entire screen with the color we have chosen. We wanted an applet with the dimensions 200x100, therefore we need to draw a rectangle that is drawn to the left and above (position 0,0) and has the same dimensions as the applet.  

NOTE that if you increase the vertical position y then the rectangle is moved downwards. An increase of the horizontal position x moves the rectangle to the right.

The fillRect() method's functionality.

Now make a file of the code text above and your own HTML file where CODE="initbackground.class" and where WIDTH=200 and HEIGHT=100.

You can also click here to see the applet. 

2.1.4 Other interesting methods in the Graphics class
In the last section we reviewed the Graphics methods setColor() and fillRect(). There are many methods that you have use for in Graphics. The following example shows what you can do with some of them.  

 import java.applet.*;

 import java.awt.*;

 public class risingsun extends Applet {

 public void paint(Graphics g)


     //Create the sky.


     g.fillRect( 0, 0, 200, 100);

     //Create the sun.


     //The method fillOval() draws a filled oval

     //in the middle of the screen with the height and

     //width 50.


     //Create the sun beams with fillArc(),

     //setColor() is not needed because the pen's

     //color will be the same.











     //Create the ground

     //Create brown color, there is no default brown color

     Color ground = new Color(128,64,0);


     //Fill the bottom part of the screen with brown

     g.fillRect( 0, 50, 200, 50);

     //Create a black text


     g.drawString("Hello Sweden!",70,50);


Compile the code above and make a HTML file, which should be an applet with the dimensions 200 times 100 pixels.

You can also click here if you want to see the end result.

We start by looking at the statements in the paint() method from the beginning. The setColor() method in the start, does the same thing that it did in the initbackground applet in the last section. The difference is that we now directly specify the color from the Color class, instead of making a reference to it first. The result is less code and it will be easier to understand for they who read it.
After that we set the pen color to yellow and draw a filled circle in the position (25,25) with the width and height 50. This we do with the help of the fillOval() method. The next step is to draw the sun's beams. These are drawn with the fillArc() method. The method is similar to fillOval() but with the difference that you can specify an angle (in degrees) that you want the beam to start from and also a angle width (in degrees).

How fillArc() works.

Now we fill the lower half of the applet with brown color that we will have to create for ourselves, since it does not exist as default color. We create a rectangle that have half the applet height (Dimensions 200x50) and move it down 50 pixels, which is half the screen.
Finally it is time to add a little greeting with the method drawString() that we draw in black. The method requires a string and one x and y position where the text will be positioned. Note that the y position is a bit misleading. It is the position for the baseline of the font!

The drawString() method draws strings from the base.

You must consider this when you are using drawString(). We will in later chapters show how you can change the font in the text too.

All the methods that we have reviewed here, are well documented in the API reference that you can download from the same place where you download the development packages. There, you will also find a description of other useful methods in the Graphics class. It is just as well that you get used to read the API reference, since it is a tool that is as important as the compiler. Your are not supposed to memorize all these functions. If you try that you will only get bored. In the next chapter we will review threads and you will start making your first special effects.



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