Java Applets

It's difficult to say anything harsh about Java applets. They have so much going for them in terms of really dressing up a web site. Because they're programmable, they can do almost anything from helping you navigate your web site, rotating ad banners, providing terrific mouseover effects, displaying marquees and vertical text scrolls, and just about anything else you can imagine. They do have a few caveats, however, which I'll mention at the end of this topic.

First let me emphasize that Java applets are definitely for you!  They are available everywhere on the web and are easy to customize. You do NOT have to program your own! If you go to the Sites to Visit [Web Design] topic you'll find several good sources of free and for-sale applets. I'll be frequently adding more sites.

Before I continue, let's take a look at a fun page which I display on my son's web site around the year-end holidays. I'll pop it up in a new window so you can come right back here. But first I want to point out 3 elements you'll be seeing. There's a marquee at the top which I acquired free at Consultcom's site and a nice animated snowfall which I acquired from another web site. Finally, you'll see a really simple Javascript tidbit at the bottom which will close that window. Definitely view the source of that page and see what it's doing.

When I 're-modeled' my web site, I needed a navigation technique to place in my navigation frame on your left. My most important consideration was that it take up very little space and still allow you to navigate around 30 or more topics. And, I wanted it to be pretty. What an impossible wish-list ... until I found this amazing Java applet from Image Intelligence Ltd. And it was free!

It does exactly what I wanted and because it's programmable it can create it's own scroll box. I like to use frames, but I absolutely hate scroll bars. Having such a compact applet allows me to permit that frame to scroll, yet I know that most users make their browser window large enough to contain this, making a scroll bar unnecessary.

The applet comes in 7 preset colors which you can view by clicking the little colored icon on the top right of its menu bar. I chose the closest color I could live with. There's a version available for $$ which allows me an exact color match, plus other features. Are you as impressed as I am? How do you feel about frames and scroll bars? I should mention here that the applet's navigation elements are supplied by a single text file so that if I didn't use frames, I could place this applet on every single page and not have to change each page when my topics changed. Understand?  Anyway, that's the power of Java!

I'm going to take you now to my son's web site because I want to show you something. His site is mostly in frames and we get compliments on how easy it is to navigate. Yet, I wanted his opening page to have some real pizzazz and not be a frameset. When you go there, notice the marquee at the top. It's much more interesting than the one I just showed you, and I really like the most unusual navigation setup on the left which uses graphics. It's 'showoffy' but not at all offensive. (Both of these were purchased from CoffeeCup Software.) By the way, it's OK with my son if you want to keep that window open, look around and do some shopping.
Now that I've got you interested in Java, I have to give you a couple caveats: Performance and Caution.

Performance: After you install a Java applet, it's a good idea to assess whether it's a memory 'gobbler' and avoid one that is. My experience is that Java seems to require more resource from a Windows 95 or 98 computer than about anything else you could use.

The way to tell is to either run the 'Resource Meter' supplied by Microsoft as a System Tool. Or, you can right-click the 'My Computer' icon, click on properties and look at the System Resources % under the Performance Tab. Run the daylights out of your applet (either Netscape or Internet Explorer) and then come back and see the %, without closing your browser. A poor performing applet can drain system resources and that's not a nice thing to do to your readers, even if it's not your fault.

Caution: Be ever aware that some users do NOT have Java enabled in their browsers. Most browsers today will support Java but some users turn the feature off for performance reasons or simply because some web sites do not work properly with it turned on.

My point: Do not allow your web site to be dependent upon Java for it to work. The best example is my navigation tool on your left. It's one thing if you can't see the holiday snowfall applet and it's quite something else if you can't navigate my site. So ... what do we do about this? The solution is remarkably simple but it takes a little work.

Here's the HTML of my navigation tool:

<APPLET code="it3free.class" codebase=
"java/imintcom/itree/" width="155" height="260">
<PARAM name="copyright" value="Image Intelligence
 Ltd. 1998 (www.imint.com)">
<PARAM name="escapepage" value="escape.htm">
<PARAM name="colourscheme" value="3">
</APPLET>

Any HTML code that you place immediately after the last PARAM statement and before the closing </APPLET> statement will be used instead of the applet. The best way to see this in spades is to turn off Java in your browser, reload or refresh the window and see what happens to my nice navigation tool. Not as elegant, for sure, but my site still works and I shouldn't get any hate mail. Consider this for every Java applet you use.