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Java AWT Reference

By John Zukowski
The Abstract Window Tookit (AWT) provides the user interface for Java programs. Unless you want to construct your own GUI or use a crude text-only interface, the AWT provides the tools you will use to communicate with the user. Although we are beginning to see some other APIs for building user interfaces, like Netscape's IFC (Internet Foundation Classes), those alternative APIs will not be in widespread use for some time, and some will be platform specific. Likewise, we are beginning to see automated tools for building GUIs in Java; Sun's JavaBeans effort promises to make such tools much more widespread. (In fact, the biggest changes in Java 1.1 prepare the way for using the various AWT components as JavaBeans.) However, even with automated tools and JavaBeans in the future, an in-depth knowledge of AWT is essential for the practicing Java programmer.
The major problem facing Java developers these days is that AWT is a moving target. Java 1.0.2 is being replaced by Java 1.1, with many significant new features. Java 1.1 was released on February 18, 1997, but it isn't clear how long it will take for 1.1 to be accepted in the market. The problem facing developers is not just learning about the new features and changes in Java 1.1, but also knowing when they can afford to use these new features in their code. In practice, this boils down to one question: when will Netscape Navigator support Java 1.1? Rumor has it that the answer is "as soon as possible"--and we all hope this rumor is correct. But given the realities of maintaining a very complex piece of software, and the fact that Netscape is currently in the beta process for Navigator 4.0, there's a possibility that "as soon as possible" and "soon" aren't the same thing. In other words, you should expect Java 1.0.2 to stick around for a while, especially since Web users won't all replace their browsers as soon as Navigator has 1.1 support.
This state of affairs raises obvious problems for my book. Nothing would have made me happier than to write a book that covered AWT 1.1 only. It would be significantly shorter, for one thing, and I wouldn't have to spend so much effort pointing out which features are present in which release. But that's not the current reality. For the time being, programmers still need to know about 1.0.2. Therefore, this book covers both releases thoroughly. There are many examples using 1.0.2; many more examples that require 1.1; and more examples showing you how to update 1.0.2 code to use 1.1's features.
Sun has done a good job of maintaining compatibility between versions: 1.0 code runs under Java 1.1, with very few exceptions. All of the 1.0 examples in this book have been tested under Java 1.1. However, Java 1.1--and particularly, AWT 1.1--offer many advantages over older releases. If nothing else, I hope this book convinces you that you should be looking forward to the day when you can forget about writing code for Java 1.0.2.

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