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Introduction to Web Programming
Event Listeners  
  • In the JDK 1.0 event model discussion, we described how you could subclass an object and implement handleEvent() to catch events. We also explained how events were propagated up to superclasses and also up the component chain from children to their parents.

  • The listener event model is a bit different. Instead of events automatically posting to components, their parents, and their superclasses, you must explicitly request an event to receive it.

  • So, events aren't posted to all sorts of methods that determine if they want to handle them. Instead they are only posted to interested parties.

  • In the listener event model, an object that wants to listen for events explicitly notifies the object that generates them that it's interested in receiving those events. The object will add the listener to a list of listeners and inform the listener group whenever an event occurs.

Becoming a Listener

  • As we have learned, a button posts an action event when it is pressed. Thus to listen for a button press, you can inform the button that you are interested in receiving button press events. To do so, you must call the addActionListener() method for that button (or whatever component you want to listen to). Here is a sample call in which "listener" is the name of the object who will be listening for button events:


  • This tells the button that when it generates an event, it should notify the listener of the event.

  • To inform a listener of an event, the button will call the listener's actionPerformed() method.

  • But wait! Where did the actionPerformed() method come from?

  • To ensure that the target object has an actionPerformed() method, the button only talks with objects that implement the ActionListener interface. The ActionListener interface looks like this:

    public interface ActionListener
           extends EventListener
      public void actionPerformed(ActionEvent e);

Oh, by the way, the listener interfaces and event classes are contained in the java.awt.event package. Thus to use these classes you should import the event package like this:

import java.awt.event.*;

  • Thus, if you want to be a listener of buttons you must implement the ActionListener interface that requires that you implement a single method, actionPerformed().

  • Here is a more complete example of creating a dialog that listens for action events from a push button. Notice that the MyDialog class implements the ActionListener interface and, as such, defines the actionPerformed() method:

    class MyDialog extends Dialog
          implement ActionListener
    private Button _okButton;
    public void MyDialog()
        ... initialization code ...
        _okButton = new Button("OK");
        ... more initialization code ...
    public void actionPerformed(ActionEvent event)
        if (event.getSource() == _okButton)
            System.out.println("OK button was pressed");

  • One benefit of the listener model is that it allows an outsider to look at a component and by looking at its methods, know what events it posts.

  • For example, if you look at the Component class, you will find a number of methods to add and remove listeners including:

    public void addFocusListener(FocusListener l);
    public void addKeyListener(KeyListener l);
    public void addMouseListener(MouseListener l);
    public void removeFocusListener(FocusListener l);
    public void removeKeyListener(KeyListener l);
    public void removeMouseListener(MouseListener l);

  • You can use these methods to listen for focus, key, and mouse events from any component. To listen for one of these events, add the object that you want to receive the event as a listener and implement the interface corresponding to the given event.

  • The JDK contains a large number of listener interfaces that can be implemented to listen for different types of events. Consider the following list of listener classes and the interfaces they define.

Listener Methods you must Implement
ActionListener actionperformed()
AdjustmentListener adjustmentValueChanged()
ComponentListener componentResized()
ContainerListener componentAdded()
FocusListener focusGained()
ItemListener itemStateChanged()
KeyListener keypressed()
MouseListener mouseEntered()
MouseMotionListener mouseMoved()
TextListener textValueChanged()
WindowLstener windowOpened()

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