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Exploring Java

Previous Chapter 11
Using and Creating GUI Components

11.8 Dialogs

A Dialog is another standard feature of user interfaces. In Java, a Dialog is a kind of Window, which means that it's really a container into which you put other components. A Dialog can be either modal or nonmodal. A modal dialog seizes the attention of the user by staying in the foreground and grabbing all input until it is satisfied. A non-modal dialog isn't quite so insistent; you're allowed to do other things before dealing with the dialog. Dialog objects are useful for pop-up messages and queries or important user-driven decisions.

Most of the components we've seen so far have some special kinds of events associated with them. A Dialog doesn't have any special events. Of course, this doesn't mean that a dialog doesn't generate events. Since a dialog is a Window, it can generate any event that a Window can. However, there aren't any special events, like action events or item events, to worry about. When you're dealing with a Dialog, your primary concern will be events generated by the components that you put into the Dialog.

We'll do a quick example of a Dialog window and then take a look at FileDialog, a subclass of Dialog that provides an easy-to-use file-selector component. Our example will be a modal dialog that asks a simple question:

A Simple Query Dialog

import java.awt.*;
import java.awt.event.*;
class ModalYesNoDialog extends Dialog implements ActionListener {
    private boolean isYes = false;
    ModalYesNoDialog( Frame frame, String question ) {
        super(frame, true /* modal */);
        Label label = new Label(question);
        label.setFont( new Font("Dialog",Font.PLAIN,20) );
        add( "Center", label );
        Panel yn = new Panel();
        Button button = new Button("Yes");
        button.addActionListener( this );
        yn.add( button );
        button = new Button("No");
        button.addActionListener( this );
        yn.add( button );
        add("South", yn);
    synchronized public boolean answer() {
        return isYes;
    synchronized public void actionPerformed ( ActionEvent e ) {
        isYes = e.getActionCommand().equals("Yes");
    public static void main(String[] s) {
        Frame f = new Frame();
        f.add( "Center", new Label("I'm the application") );
        f.add( "South", new Button("Can you press me?") );
        ModalYesNoDialog query = new ModalYesNoDialog( f, "Do you love me?");
        if ( query.answer() == true )
            System.out.println("She loves me...");
            System.out.println("She loves me not...");

The heart of this example is a class called ModalYesNoDialog that implements a simple form with a question and two buttons. To create the Dialog, our class's constructor calls its superclass's constructor (super()), which is Dialog(). When we create the dialog, we must supply a parent Frame; we also specify that the Dialog is modal.

The rest of the constructor--for that matter, the rest of the class--doesn't have any surprises. We use a Label to display the question; we add a pair of buttons, labeled "Yes" and "No," for the user to give his answer. We provide an answer() method so we can ask the dialog which button the user pushed; and we provide an actionPerformed() method to receive the button events.

The rest of our program is an application that uses the ModalYesNoDialog. It creates a Frame, creates the ModalYesNoDialog, displays the dialog by calling its show() method, and reads the answer.

We used an application rather than an applet to demonstrate the Dialog because dialogs are somewhat unweildy in applets. You need to have a Frame to serve as the dialog's parent, and most applets don't need Frames. However, there's a simple workaround. There's no reason an applet can't use an invisible frame: just create a Frame, call its pack() method, but never call its show() method. The Frame won't be displayed, but will be able to serve as the parent to a dialog box.

Now let's talk briefly about nonmodal dialogs. The most obvious change is in the constructor: now you call

new Dialog(myFrame, false);

But there are a few other issues to think about. Using a nonmodal dialog is slightly more complex because it's asynchronous: the program doesn't wait until the user responds. Therefore, you might want to modify the answer() method so that it calls wait() to wait until the user replies. The code would look like this:

// add a new boolean for the answer() method
private boolean isAnswered = false; 
// add a wait() in the answer() method
synchronized public boolean answer() {
    while ( !isAnswered )
        try { wait(); } catch (InterruptedException e) { /* error */ }
    return isYes;

If you do this, you also need to modify actionPerformed() to call notifyAll() and terminate the wait():

    // add a notify() in the actionPeformed() method
    synchronized public void actionPerformed ( ActionEvent e ) {
        isYes = e.getActionCommand().equals("Yes");
        isAnswered = true;

File Selection Dialog

A FileDialog is a standard file-selection box. As with other AWT components, most of FileDialog is implemented in the native part of the AWT toolkit, so it looks and acts like a standard file selector on your platform.

Now selecting files all day can be pretty boring without a greater purpose, so we'll exercise the FileDialog in a mini-editor application. Editor provides a text area in which we can load and work with files. We'll stop just shy of the capability to save and let you fill in the blanks (with a few caveats). The FileDialog created by Editor is shown in Figure 11.6.

import java.awt.*;
import java.awt.event.*;
import java.io.*;
class Editor extends Frame implements ActionListener {
    TextArea textArea = new TextArea();
    Editor() {
        setLayout( new BorderLayout() );
        add("Center", textArea);
        Menu menu = new Menu ("File");
        menu.add ( makeMenuItem ("Load") );
        menu.add ( makeMenuItem ("Save") );
        menu.add ( makeMenuItem ("Quit") );
        MenuBar menuBar = new MenuBar();
        menuBar.add ( menu );
        setMenuBar( menuBar );
    public void actionPerformed( ActionEvent e ) {
        String command = e.getActionCommand();
        if ( command.equals("Quit") )
        else if ( command.equals("Load") )
        else if ( command.equals("Save") )
    private void loadFile () {
        FileDialog fd = new FileDialog( this, "Load File", FileDialog.LOAD );
        String file = fd.getFile();
        if ( file == null ) // Cancel
        try {
            FileInputStream fis = new FileInputStream ( fd.getFile() );
            byte [] data = new byte [ fis.available() ];
            fis.read( data );
            textArea.setText( new String( data ) );
        } catch ( IOException e ) { 
            textArea.setText( "Could not load file..." );
    private void saveFile() {
        FileDialog fd = new FileDialog( this, "Save File", FileDialog.SAVE );
        // Save file data...
    private MenuItem makeMenuItem( String name ) {
        MenuItem m = new MenuItem( name );
        m.addActionListener( this );
        return m;
    public static void main(String[] s) {
        new Editor().show();

Editor is a Frame that lays itself out with a TextArea and a pull-down menu. From the pull-down File menu, we can opt to Load, Save, or Quit. The action() method catches the events associated with these menu selections and takes the appropriate action.

The interesting parts of Editor are the private methods loadFile() and saveFile(). loadFile() creates a new FileDialog with three parameters: a parent frame (just as in the previous Dialog example), a title, and a directive. This parameter should be one of the FileDialog class's static identifiers LOAD or SAVE, which tell the dialog whether to load or save a file.

A FileDialog does its work when the show() method is called. Unlike most components, its show() method blocks the caller until it completes its job; the file selector then disappears. After that, we can retrieve the designated filename with the FileDialog's getFile() method. In loadFile(), we use a fragment of code from Chapter 8, Input/Output Facilities to get the contents of the named file. We then add the contents to the TextArea with setText(). You can use loadFile() as a roadmap for the unfinished saveFile() method, but it would be prudent to add the standard safety precautions. For example, you could use the previous YesNo example to prompt the user before overwriting an existing file.

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