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Understanding the Process of MIDlet
The MIDlet Lifecycle
User Interface Architecture
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Working with the Low-Level API
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A Very Short Primer on Game Building
Building a J2ME Game
Defining Game Characteristics
TiledLayer
Sprites and LayerManager
Managing Layers
Sprites and Detecting Collisions
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Using Mobile Media API (MMAPI)
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User Interface Architecture


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User Interface Architecture

MIDP 2.0 provides UI classes in two packages, javax.microedition.lcdui and javax.microedition.lcdui.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T
game, where lcdui stands for liquid crystal display user interface (LCD UI). As expected, the game package contains classes for development of a wireless game UI. I will discuss this package in the next part of this series.

The UI classes of of MIDP 2.0's javax.microedition.lcdui package can be divided into two logical groups: the high- and low-level groups. The classes of the high-level group are perfect for development of MIDlets that target the maximum number of devices, because these classes do not provide exact control over their display. The high-level classes are heavily abstracted to provide minimal control over their look and feel, which is left for device on which they are deployed to manage, according to its capabilities. These classes are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1
Figure 1. High-level MIDP 2.0 UI classes

The classes of the low-level group are perfect for MIDlets where precise control over the location and display of the UI elements is important and required. Of course, with more control comes less portability. If your MIDlet is developed using these classes, it may not be deployable on certain devices, because they require precise control over the way they look and feel. There are only two classes in this group, and they are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2
Figure 2. Low-level MIDP 2.0 UI classes

There is another class in the low-level group called GameCanvas, which is not shown here, as it will be discussed in the next part of this series.

For you to be able to show a UI element on a device screen, whether high- or low-level, it must implement the Displayable interface. A displayable class may have a title, a ticker, and certain commands associated with it, among other things. This implies that both the Screen and Canvas classes and their subclasses implement this interface, as can be seen in Figure 3. The Graphics class does not implement this interface, because it deals with low-level 2D graphics that directly manipulate the device's screen.

Figure 3
Figure 3. Canvas and Screen implement the Displayable interface

A Displayable class is a UI element that can be shown on the device's screen while the Display class abstracts the display functions of an actual device's screen and makes them available to you. It provides methods to gain information about the screen and to show or change the current UI element that you want displayed. Thus, a MIDlet shows a Displayable UI element on a Display using the setCurrent(Displayable element) method of the Display class.

As the method name suggests, the Display can have only one Displayable element at one time, which becomes the current element on display. The current element that is being displayed can be accessed using the method getCurrent(), which returns an instance of a Displayable element. The static method getDisplay(MIDlet midlet) returns the current display instance associated with your MIDlet method.

A little bit of actual code here would go a long way in helping understand the MIDlet UI concepts that we have just discussed. Rather than write new code, let's try and retrofit our understanding on the Date-Time MIDlet example from part one, which is reproduced in Listing 1.

package com.j2me.part1;


import java.util.Date;


import javax.microedition.lcdui.Alert;

import javax.microedition.lcdui.Display;
import javax.microedition.midlet.MIDlet;


public class DateTimeApp extends MIDlet {

  Alert timeAlert;


  public DateTimeApp() {
    timeAlert = new Alert("Alert!");
    timeAlert.setString(new Date().toString());
  }

  public void startApp() {
    Display.getDisplay(this).setCurrent(timeAlert);
  }

  public void pauseApp() {
  }

  public void destroyApp(boolean unconditional) {
  }
}

Listing 1. DateTimeApp MIDlet

A Displayable UI element, an Alert, is created in the constructor. When the device's Application Management Software (AMS) calls the startApp() method, the current display available for this MIDlet is extracted using the Display.getDisplay() method. The Alert is then made the current item on display, by setting it as a parameter to the setCurrent() method.

As seen from Figure 1, there are four high-level UI elements that can be displayed on a MIDlet's screen. Let's discuss each of these elements in detail.



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