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Chapter: Java The Complete Reference : Introducing GUI Programming with JavaFX : Introducing JavaFX GUI Programming

JavaFX Basic Concepts

In general, the JavaFX framework has all of the good features of Swing. For example, JavaFX is lightweight. It can also support an MVC architecture.

JavaFX Basic Concepts


In general, the JavaFX framework has all of the good features of Swing. For example, JavaFX is lightweight. It can also support an MVC architecture. Much of what you already know about creating GUIs using Swing is conceptually applicable to JavaFX. That said, there are significant differences between the two.

From a programmer’s point of view, the first differences you notice between JavaFX and Swing are the organization of the framework and the relationship of the main components. Simply put, JavaFX offers a more streamlined, easier-to-use, updated approach. JavaFX also greatly simplifies the rendering of objects because it handles repainting automatically. It is no longer necessary for your program to handle this task manually. The preceding is not intended to imply that Swing is poorly designed. It is not. It is just that the art and science of programming has moved forward, and JavaFX has received the benefits of that evolution. Simply put, JavaFX facilitates a more visually dynamic approach to GUIs.


The JavaFX Packages


The JavaFX elements are contained in packages that begin with the javafx prefix. At the time of this writing, there are more than 30 JavaFX packages in its API library. Here are four examples: javafx.application, javafx.stage, javafx.scene, and javafx.scene.layout.


Although we will only use a few of these packages in this chapter, you will want to spend some time browsing their capabilities. JavaFX offers a wide array of functionality.


The Stage and Scene Classes


The central metaphor implemented by JavaFX is the stage. As in the case of an actual stage play, a stage contains a scene. Thus, loosely speaking, a stage defines a space and a scene defines what goes in that space. Or, put another way, a stage is a container for scenes and a scene is a container for the items that comprise the scene. As a result, all JavaFX applications have at least one stage and one scene. These elements are encapsulated in the JavaFX API by the Stage and Scene classes. To create a JavaFX application, you will, at minimum, add at least one Scene object to a Stage. Let’s look a bit more closely at these two classes.



Stage is a top-level container. All JavaFX applications automatically have access to one Stage, called the primary stage. The primary stage is supplied by the run-time system when a JavaFX application is started. Although you can create other stages, for many applications, the primary stage will be the only one required.

As mentioned, Scene is a container for the items that comprise the scene. These can consist of controls, such as push buttons and check boxes, text, and graphics. To create a scene, you will add those elements to an instance of Scene.


Nodes and Scene Graphs


The individual elements of a scene are called nodes. For example, a push button control is a node. However, nodes can also consist of groups of nodes. Furthermore, a node can have a child node. In this case, a node with a child is called a parent node or branch node. Nodes without children are terminal nodes and are called leaves. The collection of all nodes in a scene creates what is referred to as a scene graph, which comprises a tree.

There is one special type of node in the scene graph, called the root node. This is the top-level node and is the only node in the scene graph that does not have a parent. Thus, with the exception of the root node, all other nodes have parents, and all nodes either directly or indirectly descend from the root node.


The base class for all nodes is Node. There are several other classes that are, either directly or indirectly, subclasses of Node. These include Parent, Group, Region, and Control, to name a few.




JavaFX provides several layout panes that manage the process of placing elements in a scene. For example, the FlowPane class provides a flow layout and the GridPane class supports a row/column grid-based layout. Several other layouts, such as BorderPane (which is similar to the AWT’s BorderLayout), are available. The layout panes are packaged in javafx.scene.layout.


The Application Class and the Life-cycle Methods


A JavaFX application must be a subclass of the Application class, which is packaged in javafx.application. Thus, your application class will extend Application. The Application class defines three life-cycle methods that your application can override. These are called init( ), start( ), and stop( ), and are shown here, in the order in which they are called:


void init( )


abstract void start(Stage primaryStage) void stop( )


The init( ) method is called when the application begins execution. It is used to perform various initializations. As will be explained, however, it cannot be used to create a stage or build a scene. If no initializations are required, this method need not be overridden because an empty, default version is provided.

The start( ) method is called after init( ). This is where your application begins and it can be used to construct and set the scene. Notice that it is passed a reference to a Stage object. This is the stage provided by the run-time system and is the primary stage. (You can also create other stages, but you won’t need to for simple applications.) Notice that this method is abstract. Thus, it must be overridden by your application.

When your application is terminated, the stop( ) method is called. It is here that you can handle any cleanup or shutdown chores. In cases in which no such actions are needed, an empty, default version is provided.


Launching a JavaFX Application


To start a free-standing JavaFX application, you must call the launch( ) method defined by Application. It has two forms. Here is the one used in this chapter:


public static void launch(String ... args)


Here, args is a possibly empty list of strings that typically specify command-line arguments. When called, launch( ) causes the application to be constructed, followed by calls to init( ) and start( ). The launch( ) method will not return until after the application has terminated. This version of launch( ) starts the subclass of Application from which launch( ) is called. The second form of launch( ) lets you specify a class other than the enclosing class to start.

Before moving on, it is necessary to make an important point: JavaFX applications that have been packaged by using the javafxpackager tool (or its equivalent in an IDE) do not need to include a call to launch( ). However, its inclusion often simplifies the test/debug cycle, and it lets the program be used without the creation of a JAR file. Thus, it is included in all of the JavaFX programs in this book.

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