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Release gives Java a new look

Sun Microsystems releases a key piece of the next version of Java that will give Java applications a variety of faces, or "looks and feels."

Sun Microsystems (SUNW) today released a key piece of the next version of Java that will give Java applications a variety of faces, or "looks and feels."

Version 1.2 of the Java programming language still is in beta testing, but a subset of it, the Java Foundation Classes 1.1, is ready now. JFC 1.1 consists mainly of graphical user interface components code-named Swing.

Codeveloped by Sun and Netscape Communications, the components include standard interface elements such as view options, tool bars, choosers, buttons, and menus that can be added to Java applications. Once a developer designs the interface, she can assign it a specific "look and feel" catering either to Windows, Macintosh, or Solaris. A brand-new Java "look and feel," nicknamed "Metal," also is an option.

The native "look-and-feel" options only can be used with their corresponding platforms. In other words, the Windows interface only works on Windows systems and Mac on Mac. However, the Java "Metal" presentation will run on any platform, according to a JavaSoft spokesman.

The Swing components already have been available in beta form, but today's final release means Java developers don't have to wait for the full release of the JDK 1.2 later this year to build slicker Java programs.

"It's the gem of the JDK 1.2," said Rick Ross, founder of the Java Lobby and developer of an all-Java navigational tool called Connectra. "This is the first step to seeing really cool Java applications emerge."

Also part of the JFC 1.1 release is the underlying code necessary to build special accessibility--the ability to magnify text, for example--into programs for physically impaired users.

JFC 1.1 is a subset of the upcoming JDK 1.2, which is due to be released in early summer, a JavaSoft spokesman said, adding that JDK 1.2 will include support for two-dimensional graphics, multimedia, and other system services, such as drag-and-drop.