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13.3. Java Applets

A few years ago, it seemed that the whole world was going Java crazy. Created by Sun Microsytems, this powerful programming language seemed to offer an end to cross-platform problems. Programs written in Java can run on any operating system: Mac, Unix, Windows, whatever. Java also offered programmers the opportunity to write sophisticated applications that could run in the form of a compact file, called an applet, within any browser. Java applets can provide sophisticated graphics and user interface elements that go well beyond what HTML can do. In fact, Java can be used not only for graphics and multimedia, but to build complete applications like word processors, spreadsheets, or mortgage calculators that can live right in a Web page. For loads of sample applets, visit http://www.javaboutique.com.

In the end, Applets didn't make as big a splash on Web pages as industry forecasters originally thought. One of Java's limitations is that its applets don't work unless a Web-page visitor has a special software program called a Java Virtual Machine. This program translates the Java code into instructions appropriate for the visitor's particular operating system. As with plug-ins, virtual machines require lengthy downloads and installations that scare off many potential users. In addition, unlike JavaScript, which is fairly easy to learn, Java is not for the faint of heart. It's a complex language that requires a lot of skill and practice to do well.


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