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Java Reference Library

Java Reference Library

If you are a Java developer, you are no doubt familiar with O'Reilly and Associates and their line of books. One of the first Java books on the market was O'Reilly's "Java in a Nutshell". Although there had been a couple of "how-to" books published, there were no Java reference books available for the professional programmer. The Nutshell series is not for beginners, but rather for seasoned code-jockeys who will dog-ear the book in no time flat. But the funny thing was, even beginners started to sing the praises of the Nutshell book.

O'Reilly has taken the "Java in a Nutshell" book and made something even more valuable out of it for Java developers. The new Deluxe edition not only contains the complete printed book, but it also contains five additional books in CD-ROM format:

  • Java in a Nutshell
  • Exploring Java
  • Java Language Reference
  • Java Fundamental Classes Reference
  • Java AWT Reference

    The library also comes with a one-year subscription to the online version of the Java Reference Library, which may then be accessed throughout the year. After logging into the O'Reilly Web site - which requires you to go through a free registration process - you must log in further using the password that is provided on a card inside the book. In this manner, the books may be accessed online and the very latest material may always be accessed. The books may also be searched so finding information about a specific topic is a snap.

    "Java in a Nutshell" Part I: Introducing Java
    Since the Java Reference Library is based on the "Java in a Nutshell" book, we'll take a detailed look at it here. Although it is not a book for beginners, it does have a couple of chapters to get C and C++ programmers up to speed. The first chapter, Getting Started With Java, is written for programmers who have been living in a cave - or so it seems. It covers exactly what Java is and where it came from; the usual introductory material. Most Java programmers will probably skip this chapter. Chapter 2, How Java Differs From C, and Chapter 3, Classes and Objects in Java, are chapters that C++ programmers will probably devour before moving on to the meat of the book.

    Part II: Introducing Java 1.1
    Chapter 4, What's New in Java 1.1, goes into a detailed discussion of the 23 packages that make up the core API for Java 1.1, explaining the packages and the changes which have been made. Chapter 5, Inner Classes and Other New Language Features explores how the programmer is to define and utilize each of the four new types of classes. These two chapters get the programmer up to date on the changes made in the latest release. The book approaches some of the problems that the programmer is likely to notice upon compilation and describes how to fix them.

    Part III: Programming with the Java 1.1 API
    Chapters 6 through 12 discuss the programming examples, which use the new features of Java 1.1. The examples are yours to do with as you wish and programmers are encouraged to adapt them for their own programs. The applets and applications themselves may be downloaded from the Web site as well. If you'd like to be able to read the source for these example programs, you'd better purchase this edition as author David Flanagan has indicated that he will probably be taking the example section out altogether in the next release of the book simply for space (and cost) reasons. He feels that the book is already too large and says that he may even produce another book specifically on the Java Enterprise APIs which will go into database connectivity, remote method invocation and the security features of Java 1.1.

    Part IV: Java Language Reference
    The chapters which make up Part 4 focus on the very basic information you'll need to start coding and include basic reference material about the Java programming language. Chapter 13 contains summary tables of Java syntax. The rest of Part 4 is stuff that most programmers will already have down pat - Java system properties, HTML code for including applets on a Web page, compiler options. Always good to have around in case you wake up one morning after an all night code session and can't remember how to compile your source code.

    Part V: API Quick Reference
    This section is the core of this book and takes up the majority of the pages. It provides the programmer with a quick-reference guide to the Java API and goes into each of the packages in detail. Included are chapters on:

  • The java.applet Package
  • The java.awt Package
  • The java.awt.datatransfer Package
  • The java.awt.event Package
  • The java.awt.image Package
  • The java.awt.peer Package
  • The java.beans Package
  • The java.io Package
  • The java.lang Package
  • The java.lang.reflect Package
  • The java.math Package
  • The java.net Package
  • The java.text Package
  • The java.util Package
  • The java.util.zip Package

    Flanagan's writing style is both technical and personal at the same time; he introduces the packages by making the reader familiar with the basic features, as he does in this excerpt from Chapter 21:

    "The java.awt.image package is, by any standard, a confusing one. The purpose of the package is to support image processing, and the classes in the package provide a powerful infrastructure for that purpose. Most of the classes are part of the infrastructure, however, and are not normally used by ordinary applications that have only simple image manipulation requirements.

    To understand this package, it is first important to note that the Image class itself is part of the java.awt package, not the java.awt.image package. Furthermore, the java.awt.image classes are not the source of images; they simply serve to manipulate images that come from somewhere else. The Applet.getImage() method is perhaps the most common method for obtaining an image in Java - it downloads the image from a specified URL. In a stand-alone application, the URL.getContent() method can be used to obtain an ImageProducer object, which can then be passed to the Component.createImage() method to obtain an Image object."

    One of the great things about the Deluxe Edition of "Java in a Nutshell" is that not only can you access the entire text and examples from the book online, but you can read the printed version while you're sipping your morning coffee. "Java in a Nutshell" is the best choice O'Reilly could have made for a printed reference book to go with the CD version of the other four books. The first of these online books, "Exploring Java", is an introductory book about the fundamentals of the Java programming language.

    "Exploring Java"
    This book, written by Patrick Niemeyer and Joshua Peck, breaks down the Java language, its class libraries, programming techniques and idioms into a readable, easy to understand format. It also provides realistic, though simplistic, examples that hint at what can be done with Java. Chapters include:

  • Yet Another Language?
  • A First Applet
  • Tools of the Trade
  • The Java Language
  • Objects in Java
  • Threads
  • Basic Utility Classes
  • Input/Output Facilities
  • Network Programming
  • Understand the Abstract Windowing Toolkit
  • Using and Creating GUI Components
  • Layout Managers
  • Drawing With the AWT
  • Working With Images

    Chapter 3, for example, is about the tools which you need to be familiar with in order to program in Java. It covers the Java interpreter and discusses the manner in which it works, and also goes into how you'll need to set up your class path and how to use the JDK compiler. It also gives into a detailed explanation of how to compile Java source code using Netscape's own interpreter and how to include applets in your own web pages, along with all the possible parameters of such.

    "Java Language Reference"
    "Java Language Reference", written by Mark Grand, is a serious reference guide for Java programmers. It goes into detailed explanations of how the Java language works in particular situations. The book does cover some basic stuff, such as how to compile or run an applet, etc. It becomes a bit redundant when it's combined with the rest of this set. You'll probably find yourself referring to this book but it won't be to find out how to compile your first applet, or how to add an applet to a Web page. It's more likely to be when you are trying to find the answers to specific questions, such as how Java selects the method that's invoked by method call expressions, or how the multiplication operator works when using floating-point data.

    "Java Language Reference" covers all aspects of the Java language and includes small examples where appropriate. It describes the syntax for all Java statements, exception handing, multithreaded programming and also contains reference material on the classes in the java.lang package. Consider this a backup for when you want even more material than you can instantly find in the "Java in a Nutshell" book.

    "Java Fundamental Classes Reference"
    "Java Fundamental Classes Reference", also written by Mark Grand and co-author Jonathan Knudsen, is the companion book for the Java Language Reference. It is a reference for the fundamental, or core, classes of the Java 1.1 API. That includes all the classes in the JDK that programmers are likely to need (not including the AWT, which is covered in a separate book, the Java AWT Reference). The following packages are covered, first with a detailed description of the class as a whole, then with a complete description of every variable, constructor and method which is defined by the class:

  • java.io Package
  • java.lang Package
  • java.lang.reflect Package
  • java.math Package
  • java.net Package
  • java.text Package
  • java.util Package
  • java.util.zip Package

    Other topics include strings and related classes, threads, exception handling, I/O, networking and security. These are discussed in a tutorial fashion and include examples that show how to use these features. Since the entire text is searchable, it makes it very easy to locate specific information about a core Java class in a hurry.

    "Java AWT Reference"
    The "Java AWT (Abstract Window Toolkit) Reference", by John Zukowski, is a book you'll want to become familiar with, at least if you care about what your applet or application looks like. The AWT provides the application with its graphical user interface (GUI). This book covers the Java 1.0.2 to Java 1.1 AW, and discusses the differences between them, including the many changes which have been made to the method names. Again, as with the other books in this set, examples are given as appropriate. Among other things, the book covers basic graphics, fonts and colors, events, components and containers, image processing, errors, data transfer and printing.

    "Java AWT Reference" also has an appendix section which may be very useful - especially the Platform-Specific Event Handling appendix. An appendix to image loading, which covers the hidden classes in the sun.awt.image package, is also included.

    Conclusion
    While owning the CD-ROM version of these books isn't quite the same as owning the printed copies, it's in many ways better. You are able to search the entire book for specific words and can have instant access to the specific information you are looking for. Also, the most up-to-date versions of the books are available online, so they never go out of date. "Java in a Nutshell' is by and large the best quick reference for Java you'll find. By combining it with the other four books which make up the Java Reference Library, O'Reilly has developed a reference set which will be well used by the serious Java programmer.

  • More Stories By Ed Zebrowski

    Edward Zebrowski is a technical writer based in the Orlando, Florida, area. Ed runs his own Web development company, ZebraWeb

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