JavaFX Menus

May 13, 2010

I knew those JavaFX menus looked familiar!


1Password is indispensable

December 14, 2009

1Password is an absolutely indispensable tool. My family is currently in the process of moving, so we had to pack up all our paper work. I needed a way to securely store my account numbers, logins and serial numbers so that I would have access to that info during the move — I went searching for a tool. 1Password was by far the front runner in my search. It is the most polished of the apps I came across, it is super secure and they’ve just released a fresh 3.0 version.

1Password wouldn’t be of much use if you couldn’t access your info from any computer with zero configuration. Fortunately, they integrate perfectly with Dropbox, so setting up 1Password on all your computers to point to the same data is a cinch.

In the Getting Things Done ethos, 1Password will help you get your info out of your head and into a secure tool. You’ll never have to click an “I forgot my password” link again!

Heading to Apple

December 4, 2009

Big news! I’ve accepted a job at Apple and will be starting there on Monday, December 7th, 2009. This is an absolutely fantastic opportunity and I am very much looking forward to contributing to the Mac platform. I don’t yet know what this will mean for Mac Widgets for Java or this blog, but I’ll keep you posted.

As promised, here is the code to create the iTunes navigation header button. It’s not a perfect replica, but it’s as close as is practical.

iTunes uses hand drawn artwork, which is not easy to replicate in code. The inner shadows, for example, are simulated in the my code and look decent, but are not a perfect facsimile of the original. These subtle details are almost invisible when you look at the component, but without these details, the component looks cheap and amateurish.

Some highlights of what’s going on in the code:

  • Inner shadow simulation on the left, top and bottom sides of the selected button.
  • Upward pointing shadow under the text.

See the comments in the code provide further explanation of these items. To actually create the iTunes navigation header component, you can adapt the code from my last post, with TriAreaComponent.

public class ITunesHeaderButtonUI extends BasicButtonUI {

    private static Color TEXT_COLOR = Color.WHITE;
    private static Color TEXT_SHADOW_COLOR = Color.BLACK;

    // the gradient colors for when the button is selected.
    private static Color SELECTED_BACKGROUND_COLOR_1 = new Color(0x141414);
    private static Color SELECTED_BACKGROUND_COLOR_2 = new Color(0x1e1e1e);
    private static Color SELECTED_BACKGROUND_COLOR_3 = new Color(0x191919);
    private static Color SELECTED_BACKGROUND_COLOR_4 = new Color(0x1e1e1e);

    // the border colors for the button.
    private static Color SELECTED_TOP_BORDER = new Color(0x030303);
    private static Color SELECTED_BOTTOM_BORDER = new Color(0x292929);

    // the border colors between buttons.
    private static Color LEFT_BORDER = new Color(255,255,255,21);
    private static Color RIGHT_BORDER = new Color(0,0,0,125);

    private static final Color SELECTED_INNER_SHADOW_COLOR_1 = new Color(0x161616);
    private static final Color SELECTED_INNER_SHADOW_COLOR_2 = new Color(0x171717);
    private static final Color SELECTED_INNER_SHADOW_COLOR_3 = new Color(0x191919);

    protected void installDefaults(AbstractButton button) {
        button.setBackground(new Color(0,0,0,0));

    public void paint(Graphics g, JComponent c) {
        // if the button is selected, paint the special background now.
        // if it is not selected paint the left and right highlight border.
        AbstractButton button = (AbstractButton) c;
        if (button.isSelected()) {
            paintButtonSelected(g, button);
        } else {
            // paint the border and border highlight if the button isn't
            // selected.
            g.drawLine(0, 1, 0, button.getHeight()-2);
            g.drawLine(button.getWidth()-1, 1,
                    button.getWidth()-1, button.getHeight()-2);

        super.paint(g, c);

    protected void paintText(Graphics g, AbstractButton button,
                             Rectangle textRect, String text) {
        // we need to override the paintText method so that we can paint
        // the text shadow. the paintText method in BasicButtonUI pulls
        // the color to use from the foreground property -- there is no
        // way to change this during the painting process without causing
        // an infinite sequence of events, so we must implement our own 
        // text painting.

        FontMetrics fontMetrics = g.getFontMetrics(button.getFont());
        int mnemonicIndex = button.getDisplayedMnemonicIndex();

        // paint the shadow text.
        BasicGraphicsUtils.drawStringUnderlineCharAt(g, text, mnemonicIndex,
                textRect.x + getTextShiftOffset(),
                textRect.y + fontMetrics.getAscent() + getTextShiftOffset() - 1);

        // paint the actual text.
        BasicGraphicsUtils.drawStringUnderlineCharAt(g, text, mnemonicIndex,
                textRect.x + getTextShiftOffset(),
                textRect.y + fontMetrics.getAscent() + getTextShiftOffset());

     * Paints the selected buttons state, also used as the pressed state.
    private void paintButtonSelected(Graphics graphics, AbstractButton button) {
        // calculate the middle of the area to paint.
        int midY = button.getHeight()/2;

        Paint topPaint = new GradientPaint(0, 0, SELECTED_BACKGROUND_COLOR_1,
                0, midY, SELECTED_BACKGROUND_COLOR_2);
        ((Graphics2D) graphics).setPaint(topPaint);
        graphics.fillRect(0, 0, button.getWidth(), midY);

        // paint the top half of the background with the corresponding
        // gradient.
        Paint bottomPaint =
                new GradientPaint(0, midY + 1, SELECTED_BACKGROUND_COLOR_3,
                        0, button.getHeight(), SELECTED_BACKGROUND_COLOR_4);
        ((Graphics2D) graphics).setPaint(bottomPaint);
        graphics.fillRect(0, midY, button.getWidth(), button.getHeight());

        // draw the top and bottom border.
        graphics.drawLine(0, 0, button.getWidth(), 0);
        graphics.drawLine(0, button.getHeight() - 1,
                button.getWidth(), button.getHeight() - 1);

        // paint the outter part of the inner shadow.
        graphics.drawLine(0, 1, 0, button.getHeight()-2);
        graphics.drawLine(0, 1, button.getWidth(), 1);
        graphics.drawLine(button.getWidth()-1, 1,
                button.getWidth()-1, button.getHeight()-2);

        // paint the middle part of the inner shadow.
        graphics.drawLine(1, 1, 1, button.getHeight()-2);
        graphics.drawLine(0, 2, button.getWidth(), 2);
        graphics.drawLine(button.getWidth()-2, 1,
                button.getWidth()-2, button.getHeight()-2);

        // paint the inner part of the inner shadow.
        graphics.drawLine(2, 1, 2, button.getHeight()-2);
        graphics.drawLine(0, 3, button.getWidth(), 3);
        graphics.drawLine(button.getWidth()-3, 1,
                button.getWidth()-3, button.getHeight()-2);

    protected void paintButtonPressed(Graphics graphics, AbstractButton button) {
        paintButtonSelected(graphics, button);

MacGraPhoto app bundle

November 19, 2009

I’m not usually into those Mac application bundles (like MacHeist) because they tend to include a bunch of unrelated stuff I don’t want along with one app that I do want.

The MacGraPhoto app bundle is a little different though. It includes 7 applications related to image editing, a couple of which received Apple Design Awards. Below are the two apps that make this bundle absolutely worth it to me:


Can anyone say “gorgeous”? Not only is this app beautiful, but it’s also snappy and simple to use. DrawIt will let you create vector art and then export it to a format of your choosing. This app is an absolute must for anyone drawing icons.


Picturesque is a simple app, with very targeted functionality. It will let you transform images in various ways, like adding perspective, reflections and drop shadows. For me, this app stream lines my image editing workflow when I want to adjust images for blog posts or presentations.

A bundle worth buying!

itunes_navigation_barRecently, someone asked me what the best way to create the iTunes navigation header (seen in the iTunes music store — the black shiny bar at the top) would be. Here was my response:

The navigation header’s most prominent feature is it’s multi-stop gradient. There are four colors used in the gradient as illustrated below:


But to really capture the subtleties of the navigation header we need to look closer at the top and bottom of the component, where you’ll notice an inner shadow, and an inner glow. The inner shadow and inner glow are what make the component visually interesting.


I chose to hard code the inner shadow and inner glow sizes to 3 pixels (top) and 2 pixels (bottom) rather than produce the real effects. Real inner shadows and glows aren’t straight forward to create (I talked about them here), and are computationally expensive to recompute because they aren’t currently computed on the graphics card. So I decided to hard code the inner shadow and inner glow colors to the exact colors seen in iTunes. You could figure out their grayscale and alpha values to make them reusable — I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Here’s the code:

public class ITunesNavigationHeader extends JComponent {

    // the hard-coded preferred height. ideally this would be derived
    // from the font size.
    private static int HEADER_HEIGHT = 25;

    // the background colors used in the multi-stop gradient.
    private static Color BACKGROUND_COLOR_1 = new Color(0x393939);
    private static Color BACKGROUND_COLOR_2 = new Color(0x2e2e2e);
    private static Color BACKGROUND_COLOR_3 = new Color(0x232323);
    private static Color BACKGROUND_COLOR_4 = new Color(0x282828);

    // the color to use for the top and bottom border.
    private static Color BORDER_COLOR = new Color(0x171717);

    // the inner shadow colors on the top of the header.
    private static Color TOP_SHADOW_COLOR_1 = new Color(0x292929);
    private static Color TOP_SHADOW_COLOR_2 = new Color(0x353535);
    private static Color TOP_SHADOW_COLOR_3 = new Color(0x383838);

    // the inner shadow colors on the bottom of the header.
    private static Color BOTTOM_SHADOW_COLOR_1 = new Color(0x2c2c2c);
    private static Color BOTTOM_SHADOW_COLOR_2 = new Color(0x363636);

    public Dimension getPreferredSize() {
        return new Dimension(-1, HEADER_HEIGHT);

    protected void paintComponent(Graphics g) {
        Graphics2D graphics = (Graphics2D) g.create();

        // calculate the middle of the area to paint.
        int midY = getHeight()/2;

        // paint the top half of the background with the corresponding
        // gradient. note that if we were using Java 6, we could use a
        // LinearGradientPaint with multiple stops.
        Paint topPaint = new GradientPaint(0, 0, BACKGROUND_COLOR_1,
                0, midY, BACKGROUND_COLOR_2);
        graphics.fillRect(0, 0, getWidth(), midY);

        // paint the top half of the background with the corresponding
        // gradient.
        Paint bottomPaint = new GradientPaint(0, midY + 1, BACKGROUND_COLOR_3,
                0, getHeight(), BACKGROUND_COLOR_4);
        graphics.fillRect(0, midY, getWidth(), getHeight());

        // draw the top inner shadow.
        graphics.drawLine(0, 1, getWidth(), 1);
        graphics.drawLine(0, 2, getWidth(), 2);
        graphics.drawLine(0, 3, getWidth(), 3);

        // draw the bottom inner shadow.
        graphics.drawLine(0, getHeight() - 3, getWidth(), getHeight() - 3);
        graphics.drawLine(0, getHeight() - 2, getWidth(), getHeight() - 2);

        // draw the top and bottom border.
        graphics.drawLine(0, 0, getWidth(), 0);
        graphics.drawLine(0, getHeight() - 1, getWidth(), getHeight() - 1);


A common misconception is that Mac apps must look like Apple’s own apps. A lot of developers misinterpret Mac users’ high visual standards as a call for plain Cocoa apps only, with no visual innovation or interpretation. What Mac users are really saying, is:

Give me an app that looks at least as good as what Apple produces

In fact, Apple is the first to break from using standard Cocoa (think iTunes). Do users let this slide only because it’s Apple? I don’t think so. Here are a number of applications (including iTunes) that don’t look like standard apps, and are well received by the Mac community.

Lightroom 3 (beta)
Lightroom 3 has a completely non-standard UI and interaction model, and I love it! The UI is dark and stays out of your way. The “links” in the top right of the window (e.g. Library, Develop etc.) let you quickly adjust your workflow to the task at hand. Overall, the UI is polished, snappy and a pleasure to use.

Panic’s Coda may look like a Mac app at first, but it was one of the first apps to successfully embrace the one-window paradigm, which was very non-standard for Mac apps when it was released (more recently, Adobe has adopted this concept). Coda also helps you switch workflows by changing the active “tab” (the buttons above the document area). This concept was, and still is, something very unique to Coda. Coda won an Apple Design Award, and is lauded as a truly fantastic Mac app.

Pixelmator offers a clean, crisp UI for editing photos. They’ve played off Apple’s Heads Up Display (HUD) concept, but pushed it throughout the app to everything including the document window’s chrome. I think their UI is gorgeous and unobtrusive — it makes me want to use it just so I can look at it.

iTunes, though one of Apple’s own products, is consistently different from the core platform. Even though it’s not consistent with other apps, I’m happy with it because it looks good. I enjoy being able to see what UI changes are in the pipeline, as iTunes has been a proving ground for more general user interface changes across the platform.

I could keep going, but I think the point is clear. User interface innovation is widely accepted by Mac users so long as it is an innovation and not sloppiness.