Event Hookups and Adapters

Beans use events to communicate. As we mentioned in Chapter 16, events are not limited to GUI components but can be used for signaling and passing information in more general applications. An event is simply a notification; information describing the event and other data are wrapped up in a subclass of EventObject and passed to the receiving object by a method invocation. Event sources register listeners that want to receive the events when they occur. Event receivers implement the appropriate listener interface containing the method needed to receive the events. This is Java’s general event mechanism in a nutshell.

It’s often useful to place an adapter between an event source and a listener. An adapter can be used when an object doesn’t know how to receive a particular event; it enables the object to handle the event anyway. The adapter can translate the event into some other action, such as a call to a different method or an update of some data. One of the jobs of NetBeans is to help us hook up event sources to event listeners. Another job is to produce adapter code that allows us to hook up events in more complex ways.

Taming the Juggler

Let’s get our juggler under control with the following steps:

  1. Using the Properties pane, change the label of your button to read “Start.”

  2. Now click the small Connection Mode icon at the top of the GUI builder (the second icon, showing two items with arrows pointing at one another).

  3. After pressing the button, NetBeans is waiting for us to select two components to “hook up.” Click first on the Start button and then on the Juggler. NetBeans pops up the Connection Wizard, indicating the source component (the button) and prompting you to choose from a large list of events (see Figure 22-4). Most of them are standard Swing events that can be generated by any kind of JComponent. What we’re after is the button’s action event.

  4. Expand the folder named action, and select actionPerformed as the source event.

  5. At the bottom of the dialog box NetBeans indicates the name of an event handler method that it will generate for us. Leave the method name as is. Click Next to go to the Specify Target Operation screen for the Juggler.

  6. The wizard prompts us to choose a property to set on the Juggler, as shown in Figure 22-5. The display shows three of the Juggler’s properties. Choose the juggling property as the target and click Next.

  7. Enter true in the Value field and click Finish. NetBeans takes you to the source view and shows you the method it has generated to respond to the button action.

We have completed a hookup between the button and the Juggler. When the button fires an action event, the juggling property of the Juggler is set to true.

Scroll around the source view and take a look at the code that NetBeans has generated to make this connection for us. Specifically, in the initComponents() method of our class, it has created an anonymous inner class to serve as the ActionListener for ActionEvents from our button (which it has named jButton1):

    jButton1.addActionListener(new java.awt.event.ActionListener() {
        public void actionPerformed(java.awt.event.ActionEvent evt) {

The adapter calls a private method that sets the property on our Juggler:

    private void jButton1ActionPerformed(java.awt.event.ActionEvent evt) {
Selecting a source event in the Connection Wizard

Figure 22-4. Selecting a source event in the Connection Wizard

Specifying a target operation in the Connection Wizard

Figure 22-5. Specifying a target operation in the Connection Wizard

You’ll notice that most of the code that was written for us is shaded grey to indicate that it is autogenerated code and can’t be directly modified. The body of the private method is open, however, and we could modify it to perform arbitrary activities when the button is pushed. In NetBeans, the hookup is just a starting point.

This may all seem a little obtuse. After all, if we had made the Juggler an ActionListener in the first place, we would expect to hook it directly to the button. The use of adapters provides a great deal of flexibility, however, as we’ll see next.

To complete our example, click the Design button, then repeat the process, adding a second JButton labeled “Stop.” We could implement the Stop button in the same way that we did the Start button, by passing a specific value to the juggling method, but we’re going to try an alternative here. Click the Connection Wizard icon; select the Stop button and the Juggler as its target. Again, choose the actionPerformed method as the source, but this time, instead of selecting a property on the Juggler, click the Method Call radio button to see a list of available methods on the Juggler bean. Scroll all the way down and select the stopJuggling() method. Click Finish to complete the hookup, and look at the generated code if you wish. With this, we have seen an example of hooking up a source of action events to generate an arbitrary method call on a bean. (Of course, there is a startJuggling() method as well, which we could have used for the first button.)

Running the example

Now, the Juggler will do our bidding. Right-click on the LearningJava1.java file in the Projects tab of the Explorer pane (or in the source view of the file) and select Run File. Watch as NetBeans compiles and runs our example. You should be able to start and stop the juggler using the buttons! When you are done, quit the juggler application and return to the GUI editor. Close this example by closing its tab in the workspace, and let’s move on. (There is no need to save the file explicitly; NetBeans saves automatically as you edit.)

Molecular Motion

Let’s look at one more interesting example, shown in Figure 22-6. Create a new file in our project as before, choosing Java GUI Forms from the Categories pane and JFrame Form in the File Types pane. Call this file LearningJava2.

Grab a Molecule bean and place it in the workspace. (The default BorderLayout maximizes its area if you place the bean in the center.) If you run the example now, you will see that by dragging the mouse within the image, you can rotate the model in three dimensions. Try changing the type of molecule by using the Properties pane: ethane is fun.[45]

Let’s see what we can do with our molecule. Grab a Timer bean from the palette. Timer is a clock.[46] Every so many milliseconds, Timer fires an event. The timer is controlled by an long property called delay, which determines the number of milliseconds between events. Timer is an “invisible” bean; it is not derived from a JComponent and doesn’t have a graphical appearance, just as an internal timer in an application doesn’t normally have a presence on the screen. NetBeans shows these invisible beans just like any other bean in the Navigator pane on the left. When you wish to select the Timer, click on it in the tree in the Navigator pane.

Let’s hook the Timer to our Molecule. Start the Connection Wizard and select the Timer (from the tree) and then the Molecule. Choose the Timer’s timerFired() event from the list (expand the folder to display it). Click Next and select the Method Call radio button. Find and select the rotateOnX() method and click Finish. Run the example. Now the Molecule should turn on its own every time it receives an event from the timer. Try changing the timer’s delay property. You can also hook the Timer to the Molecule’s rotateOnY() method. Use a different instance of Timer and, by setting different delay values, make it turn at different rates in each dimension. Fun!

The Molecule bean and the Timer

Figure 22-6. The Molecule bean and the Timer

[45] As of this writing, Sun’s Molecule example has some problems when used in NetBeans. Selecting a molecule type other than the default causes a compile-time error. You can use the Preview Design button on the NetBeans form editor to try the other molecule types.

[46] A Timer bean used to come with the NetBeans distribution but disappeared in version 4.0, so we’ve added our own replacement. We won’t discuss it here, but the source code is with the other bean examples and there is nothing special that isn’t covered elsewhere.

Get Learning Java, 4th Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.