Painters in LWUIT 1.1

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LWUIT 1.1 for Java ME Developers

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Create great user interfaces for mobile devices

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by Biswajit Sarkar | August 2009 | Java Open Source

All LWUIT components have a multi-layered structure. The frst layer erases a visually obsolete widget, and the subsequent layers then paint the background followed by the constituent parts of the new version. As a matter of fact, the background too can be made up of several layers, and that is not all. After a form has been fully rendered, we can place a layer above it that can be drawn upon regardless of any changes or animations that may be taking place in the form below. Such a layer—known as a GlassPane—is usually transparent or translucent so that the form under it remains visible.

The classes that work as a background painter or a glass pane must implement the Painter interface. In case more than one background painter is used, they can be formed into a chain through the PainterChain class so that the background can be rendered layer-by-layer. Similarly, a glass pane also can have many layers.

In this article by Biswajit Sarkar, we shall familiarize ourselves with the Painter interface and the PainterChain class. We shall also learn, with the help of examples, how background painters and glass panes can be used.

The Painter interface

Painter defnes the fundamental interface for all objects that are meant to draw backgrounds or to render on a glass pane. This interface declares  only one method—public void paint(Graphics g, Rectangle rect)—for drawing inside the bounding rectangle (specifed by rect) of a component. The library provides a class that implements Painter and is used as a default background painter for widgets and containers. This is the BackgroundPainter class that has (you guessed it) just the one method paint, which either paints the background image if one has been assigned or fills in the bounding rectangle of the component with the color set in its style.

When we want to paint a background ourselves, we can write our own class that implements Painter, and set it as the background painter for the relevant component. The DemoPainter MIDlet, discussed in the next section, shows how this is done.

The DemoPainter application

This application creates a combo box and uses a theme to set the style for the various elements that are displayed. When the application is compiled without setting a custom background painter, the combo box looks as shown in the following screenshot:

LWUIT-combo box

The MIDlet code has the following statement commented out in the MIDlet. When uncommented, this statement sets an instance of ComboBgPainter as the background painter for the combo box.

combobox.getStyle().setBgPainter(new ComboBgPainter(0x4b338c));

The recompiled application produces the following display showing the new background color:

LWUIT-background color

The class responsible for drawing the background is ComboBgPainter, which implements Painter. The constructor for this class takes the color to be used for background painting as its only parameter. The paint method determines the coordinates of the top-left corner of the rectangle to be painted and its dimensions. The rectangle is then flled using the color that was set through the constructor.

class ComboBgPainter implements Painter
{
private int bgcolor;
public ComboBgPainter(int bgcolor)
{
this.bgcolor = bgcolor;
}
public void paint(Graphics g, Rectangle rect)
{
g.setColor(bgcolor);
int x = rect.getX();
int y = rect.getY();
int wd = rect.getSize().getWidth();
int ht = rect.getSize().getHeight();
g.fillRect(x, y, wd, ht);
}
}

Drawing a multi-layered background

In actual practice, there is hardly any point in using a custom painter just to paint a background color, because the setBgColor method of Style will usually do the job. Themes too can be used for setting background colors. However, painters are very useful when intricate background patterns need to be drawn, and especially if multiple layers are involved. PainterChain, described in the next section, is a class designed for handling such requirements.

The PainterChain class

It is possible to use more than one painter to render different layers of a background. Such a set of painters can be chained together through the PainterChain class. The only constructor of this class has the form public PainterChain(Painter[] chain) where the parameter chain is an array of painters. The contents of chain will be called sequentially during the painting of a background, starting from the element at index 0 to the last one.

There are two methods of the PainterChain class that provide support for adding painters to the array underlying the chain. A new painter can be added either to the top (the prependPainter method) or at the end (the addPainter method) of the array. The array itself can be accessed through the getChain method.

PainterChain implements Painter so that the setBgPainter method can be used to set a PainterChain as well as a lone painter, which means the paint method also is present here. The function of paint in PainterChain is to call the paint methods of the painter array elements one by one starting at index 0.

The DemoPainterChain application that comes up next shows how a chain of painters can be used to draw the multiple layers of a background.

The DemoPainterChain application

The DemoPainterChain example uses alphaList to show a painter chain in action. After organizing the form and the list, we set up a painter array to hold the three painters that we shall deploy.

Painter[] bgPainters = new Painter[3];

Once we have the array, we create three painters and load them into the array. The frst (lowest) painter, which will fll the bounding rectangle for the list with a designated color, goes in at index 0. The next (middle) layer, at index 1, will draw an image at the center of the list. Finally, the topmost layer for writing a text a little below the center line of the list is inserted at index 2.


bgPainters[0] = new Eraser(0x334026);
try
{
bgPainters[1] = new ImagePainter(Image.createImage(
"/a.png"));
}
catch(java.io.IOException ioe)
{
}
bgPainters[2] = new TextPainter("This is third layer");

Now we are ready to instantiate a PainterChain object, and install it as a background painter for the list.

PainterChain bgChain = new PainterChain(bgPainters);
alphaList.getStyle().setBgPainter(bgChain);

The list itself will be drawn on top of these three layers, and the background layers will be visible only because the list is translucent as determined by the transparencyvalue 100, set by the AlphaListRenderer instance used to render alphaList. The list now looks as shown in the following screenshot:

LWUIT-list

A close inspection of the screenshot that we have just seen will show that the layers have indeed been drawn in the same sequence as we had intended. The three painters are very similar in structure to the ComboBgPainter class we came across in the previous example. The Eraser class here is virtually identical to ComboBgPainter. The other two classes work in the same way, except for the fact that TextPainter draws a line of text, while ImagePainter draws an image.

class TextPainter implements Painter
{
private String text;
TextPainter(String text)
{
//set the text to be written
this.text = text;
}
public void paint(Graphics g, Rectangle rect)
{
//get the dimension
//of background
int wd = rect.getSize().getWidth();
int ht = rect.getSize().getHeight();
//create and set font for text
Font textFont = Font.createSystemFont(
Font.FACE_PROPORTIONAL,Font.STYLE_BOLD,Font.SIZE_LARGE);
g.setFont(textFont);
//set text color
g.setColor(0x0000aa);
//position text slightly below centerline
int textX = wd/2 - textFont.stringWidth(text)/2;
int textY = ht/2 - textFont.getHeight()/2 + 3;
//write text
g.drawString(text, textX, textY);
}
}

class ImagePainter implements Painter
{
private Image bImage;
ImagePainter(Image bImage)
{
//set the image to be drawn
this.bImage = bImage;
}
public void paint(Graphics g, Rectangle rect)
{
//get the dimensions
//of background
int wd = rect.getSize().getWidth();
int ht = rect.getSize().getHeight();
//position image at center
int imageX = wd/2 - bImage.getWidth()/2;
int imageY = ht/2 - bImage.getHeight()/2;
//draw image
g.drawImage(bImage, imageX, imageY);
}
}

When an image is used on the background of a form, we have seen that it is scaled to occupy the entire form real estate. But if the same image is used as an icon for a label, then it is drawn in its actual size. This task of scaling the image for backgrounds is taken care of by BackgroundPainter, which is used as the default bgPainter.

LWUIT 1.1 for Java ME Developers Create great user interfaces for mobile devices
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The scaleImage attribute of Style determines whether the background image of a component should be scaled (scaleImage == true) or tiled (scaleImage == false), and its default value is true. When required, scaleImage can be set to any value by calling the setScaleImage method of Style. Before drawing the background image, the default background painter calls the isScaleImage method of Style. If the returned value is true and the dimensions of the background image are not the same as those of the background (specified by the parameter rect of paint method), then the image is scaled to the same size as that of the rectangle to be drawn into. This image is then set as the background image so that the scaling does not have to be done over and over again.

In our case, we need not check the scaleImage attribute, as we have already decided that scaling is required. So all we need to do is compare the dimensions of the image with those of the background we are drawing on and scale it if required. Then we save the scaled version so that it will not be necessary to scale it the next time this method is called. In order to see the effect of scaling, we replace the paint method of the ImagePainter class with the following version. The highlighted code does the scaling.

public void paint(Graphics g, Rectangle rect)
{
//get the dimensions and position
//of background
int imageX = rect.getX();
int imageY = rect.getY();
int wd = rect.getSize().getWidth();
int ht = rect.getSize().getHeight();
//check if image dimension different
//from component background dimension
if (bImage.getWidth() != wd || bImage.getHeight() != ht)
{
//scale image and save
bImage = bImage.scaled(wd, ht);
}
//draw image
g.drawImage(bImage, imageX, imageY);
}

The new paint method creates the following list. Note the change in background color, which is now the same as that of the image, as it has been scaled up to cover the original background.

LWUIT-new list

Using a glass pane

A glass pane is indeed like a fully transparent and distortion free glass sheet placed over a form. We can draw whatever we want on the pane, and only the part of the form under that pattern will be obscured. The rest of the form will be visible. Also, the pattern drawn on the glass pane will not be affected by any transition, animation, or change of any kind that may take place on the form below.

In the world of LWUIT, a glass pane is also a painter. However, unlike the painters we have used so far, a glass pane can only be used with a form. Let us see, with the help of the DemoGlassPane example, how to install a glass pane.

The DemoGlassPane application

For this application as well, the basic building block is alphaList on which we shall place a glass pane with text written on it. The action required is very simple as the following snippet shows:

try
{
demoForm.setGlassPane(new ImagePainter(Image.createImage(
"/text.png")));
}
catch(java.io.IOException ioe)
{
}

We just created an instance of our old friend ImagePainter and installed it as a glass pane on demoForm. The statement invoked for installing the glass pane is one of the two that can be used. We could have used the static method of PrinterChain shown below to get the same result.

PainterChain.installGlassPane(demoForm, new ImagePainter(Image.
createImage("/text.png")));

The glass pane that is created by the previous code is shown in the next screenshot. As expected, we find that only the portion of alphaList directly below the text is obscured, but the rest of the list is clearly visible.

LWUIT-glass pane

The fact that we have used ImagePainter to render text does not mean that it is mandatory for a glass pane to incorporate an image, as we could also have used a TextPainter object. It is just that writing diagonally positioned text is very easy when an image is used. In general, any valid painting activity can be used for glass panes.

In order to illustrate the ease with which image orientation can be changed, let us write the same string as in the previous screenshot but rotated by 90°. In order to do this, replace the statement within the try block in the code shown earlier for installing the glass pane with the one shown below:

demoForm.setGlassPane(new ImagePainter(Image.createImage(
"/text.png").rotate(90)));

The following screenshot shows the new Glass Pane:

LWUIT-new glass pane

The rotate method used above assumes that the image to be rotated is a square one. A word of caution here, rotating images through angles that are not multiples of 90° is rather inefficient and should be avoided as far as possible. Also, such angles may not be supported on all platforms.

A GlassPane with multiple layers

A glass pane, like a background, can have as many layers as we want. Our next example, DemoLayeredGP, has two layers. The first layer draws a circle at the center of the pane, and the second draws a six pixel wide band right across its middle. Obviously, the glass pane that we want has to be a painter chain, and we create this chain exactly as we had created the chain for background painters.

Painter[] glassPanes = new Painter[2];
glassPanes[0] = new CirclePainter();
glassPanes[1] = new BandPainter();
PainterChain gpChain = new PainterChain(glassPanes);

Then the painter chain is installed using the same approach as the one for a single layer glass pane in the previous example.

//install glass pane
//using either of the following statements

//PainterChain.installGlassPane(demoForm, gpChain);
demoForm.setGlassPane(gpChain);

The glass pane will now look like the following screenshot with the band over the circle. Observe that both these figures remain stationary even if the list beneath is scrolled.

LWUIT-multilayered glass pane

We can reverse the order of the two panes simply by changing the respective indices in the painter array

glassPanes[1] = new CirclePainter();
glassPanes[0] = new BandPainter();


The circle will now be drawn over the band, as shown in the following screenshot:

LWUIT-reverse multilayered glass pane

Summary

Painters are essentially layers on which we can paint. Such a layer can be placed under the visual elements of a component forming its background. It can also be placed above a form as a normally transparent pane through which the form can be seen. Anything that is rendered on such a pane remains unaffected by changes (such as animations) in the form below.

Painters are convenient tools, for example, when we want custom patterns to be used as backgrounds. This is especially true when we need to support different combinations of such patterns in a range of components. Such variability can be easily programmed by arranging the constituents in layer sets that can be formed into PainterChains. A chain can then be selected for use, depending on the required combination.

There are many instances when a message needs to be superimposed on a UI. Consider an email client, which shows a message overlay that first says "Sending mail..." when the Send command is executed and then changes to "Your mail was successfully sent" upon completion of the activity. Glass panes are very useful for implementing such effects. As in the case of background painters, chains of glass panes can be used to form varied combinations of a set of texts, images, or rendered elements.

In this article, we have studied painters and their applications quite extensively. The four examples have demonstrated the use of both background painters and glass panes—single layered as well as chained.

LWUIT 1.1 for Java ME Developers Create great user interfaces for mobile devices
Published: August 2009
eBook Price: $26.99
Book Price: $44.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

About the Author :


Biswajit Sarkar

Biswajit Sarkar is an electrical engineer with a specialization in Programmable Industrial Automation. He has had extensive experience across the entire spectrum of Industrial Automation – from hardware and firmware designing for general and special purpose Programmable Controllers to marketing and project management and also in leading a team of young and highly talented engineers engaged in product development (both hardware and software). He has been associated with a wide variety of automation projects including controls for special-purpose machines, blast furnace charge control, large air-pollution control systems, controls for cogeneration plants in sugar factories, supervisory control for small hydroelectric plants, turbine governors, and substation automation including associated SCADA.

Currently Biswajit consults on Industrial Automation and Java ME-based applications. He has written extensively for Java.net on Java Native Interface, Java ME and LWUIT. He has taught courses on mathematics and analytical reasoning at a number of leading institutes in India. Biswajit has also taught a specially designed course on Java for MS and Ph.D. students as well as post doctoral fellows at the Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia (USA).

Biswajit, originally from Calcutta, now lives in Nashik, India with his wife.

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