Java as an Applications Programming Language

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 Java as an Applications Programming Language  




  It's unfortunate that Java has gotten the reputation of being solely a Web programming language. It is a full-fledged application programming language. It contains all the features you need to write some pretty hefty programs-and they will all run on any system that runs Java!

Java is young and is still experiencing growing pains. One of these pains is the fact that although Java runs on multiple platforms, it doesn't quite run exactly the same on every platform. Most of the time, these differences are in the implementation of the AWT, causing the problems to appear more often in applets than applications (unless you're creating a graphical application, of course). Because most people see only the graphical programs, the platform-to-platform variations in Java look worse than they actually are.

The big difference between a Java application and a Java applet is the lack of security restrictions. Java applications are given free reign over the system (although they can't get around the operating system's security). A Java application is free to open a socket connection to any host it wants, open any file, and create its own custom class loaders. If you have been banging your head against a wall because you couldn't do these things in an applet, you might be tempted to turn your applets into applications (in other words, make them stand-alone) so you can have all these features. That is, of course, your choice. But you should seriously consider keeping the user interface and the application separate. For some quick hack program that isn't very significant, it probably won't matter. However, if you're writing a big commercial application, it does matter. There are many advantages to being able to run applets in a browser; one of the biggest advantages is that the browser performs automatic software distribution for you. You don't have to install the applet on a system ahead of time in order for someone to use it. If you start writing everything as a stand-alone application, you fall back into the old trap of trying to maintain a program on a large number of machines.

Java's database API, called JDBC, is a boon for application programming. You now have a standard interface for accessing a relational database. JDBC frees you from being tied to a specific database API, meaning you not only can create cross-platform applications, you can also create cross-database applications.

Java is a great language for handling little ten-minute hack programs, as well. You have immediate access to an excellent set of libraries that handle many tedious functions that you won't find in the standard library set of C or C++. You can buy these libraries for other languages, of course, but why bother if you get them free with Java? You may soon find that you are writing Java programs when you previously wrote C programs or Perl scripts.





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