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Keywords: Java, Swing, desktop applications
Title: Filthy Rich Clients
Author: Chet Haase and Romain Guy
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Verdict: A great resource for Swing developers
You've just got to love this title. It conjures up images of fat cats sipping cool drinks by the pool and chomping on huge Havana cigars. But no, dear reader, drop those enticing images from your mind. The Filthy Rich Clients of the title are in fact ultra fat client applications coded in Java. Where some people are looking at thin client web applications, this is firmly focused on those desktop Java applications coded in Swing and featuring highly graphical interfaces.
It should go without saying that this isn't a book that is a beginner tutorial on writing your first GUI application with Swing. Although there's a quick intro at the beginning of the book, there's a certain level of knowledge assumed in the reader. With an emphasis on custom rendering, animations, clever effects and high performance, this is really in the intermediate to advanced category for sure.
The authors take a firmly practical approach to their subject, which means that there are lots of examples, with code in the text and samples available for download. This also means that there's not much in the way of computer science graphics - so no complex algorithms, linear algebra for doing transformations and so on (though you can't avoid maths altogether, not even here!). Instead the aim is to enable the reader, following along with the examples, to get the best out of the Java 2D/Swing libraries. The book is organised into four sections: graphics and GUI fundamentals; advanced graphics rendering; animation and finally a section on effects.
The writing is informal but clear, with good use of diagrams and screen shots to illustrate what the code is doing. Gotchas are discusses throughout, and there is a constant reference to performance issues. After all, there's no point in having the best GUI in the world if it runs so slow you can grow your own coffee while it refreshes the screen.
Swing has had a bad press, and with all the focus on Ajax and web applications it's possible to forget that Java can produce some highly effective and sexy front ends for applications. Anyone who needs persuading ought to take a look at this book, along with Swing Hacks. If you're coding Java desktop applications and you need the GUI spruced up, there's plenty to learn with this book.