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Using the Codename One Designer Tool to Create Apps Visually

By Aldo Ziflaj

In our last article on CodenameOne I discussed basic usage of its Designer tool. In this article we will look at The tool and it’s usage in more detail.

CodenameOne UI basics

Every UI element within CodenameOne is a subclass (directly or indirectly) of the Component class. If you are familiar with Android development, you can think of the Component class as the View class. Every Component has four style objects:

  1. Selected
  2. Unselected
  3. Disabled
  4. Pressed

Each of these styles contains information about the UI, such as font, colors, border, etc.

By default, CodenameOne applications use the running platforms Native UI, but this can be changed. CodenameOne defines a constant called includeNativeBool. When it is set to true, the Native UI is used. Otherwise, you can create themes that will look the same in every platform, such as the Leather Theme.

Layout Managers

Layout Managers deal with positioning UI elements in a view. Every layout manager has a base abstract class, Layout. Developers can create their own layout managers. Codename One comes with the following predefined layout managers:

  • FlowLayout – Places components using their set size and line breaks. It’s simplistic and doesn’t always break lines properly. This is the default manager.
  • BoxLayout X/Y – Places components in a column/row given the set size on the inverse axis and stretching them on the main axis. The X version doesn’t cause line breaks and aligns better than flow layout.
  • GridLayout – Places components on an even grid where all the elements have an even size.
  • TableLayout – Places components in a table with constraints row/column spanning etc.
  • BorderLayout – Places components in one of 5 positions, one of the 4 borders or the center. Supports absolute center mode where the center component isn’t stretched.

You can learn more about the usage of layouts in this video.

Integrating the Design Tool with Java Code

Create a new CodenameOne project. I will call mine FirstExample, I’m going to use the native theme and the Hello World (Visual) theme. After the project is created, open the Designer tool by double clicking the theme.res file. You can change the view you see by choosing an item on the Native Theme menu. If using the iOS6 theme, the initial view would be this:

App Overview Screen

We are about to change this. To add other items, drag them from Core Components to the view. You can change the text of the components by double clicking them.

Now change the header (I’m setting it to “Hello CodenameOne”) and the “Hi World” label. Add a Text Field and a Button, finally making the view like this:

App Window with button and search text

To change the layout (I would prefer the UI elements in the middle of the screen, one above the other), select the Main[Form], and then search for Layout on the Properties tab. The layout is set to FlowLayout, but we can change it by clicking it. Set the layout to Box Layout Y:

Setting Box Layout Options

Now you can see that the UI components are aligned vertically, on the Y axis.

App Elements better Aligned

Run this in the simulator (don’t forget to save first). You will notice that the button doesn’t work, since there is no code attached to it’s click event.

Connecting UI components with Java code

The Designer tool is helpful for adding event listeners to UI components. We will now use it to add an ActionEvent listener to the button.

Change the variable names for the field and the button. call the text field nameField and the button helloButton. To add a listener to the button, select the button, go to the Events tab and click Action Event. This will create a protected method called onMain_HelloButtonAction(Component c, ActionEvent event) that will be executed every time the button is clicked.

We want to show a dialog when the button is clicked that says “Hello User”, but showing the user’s name instead of “User”. To accomplish this, add the below code inside the method created above:

TextField nameField = (TextField) findByName("nameField", c);

String userName = nameField.getText();
String greet = "Hello, "+userName+"!";
Dialog.show("Greetings", greet, "OK", null);

The findByName() method is the equivalent of findViewById() in Android. It receives two arguments, the name of the UI component (defined using the Designer tool), and the rootComponent, which is the container (the view).

I used Dialog.show() to make the dialog visible. The first argument is the Dialog title, the second is the body, the third is the okText and the last is the cancelText (which I set to null).

Now when running the application in the simulator, you will see the below:

Theme Comparison in Emulator

Conclusion

The Designer tool is a powerful part of the Codename One toolset. Have any of you used it for a project?

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