Help screens are a necessity for making any application user-friendly. This article will show how the JEditorPane and JFrame classes, along with HTML files, can be used to create help windows for any Java application. This is a project-oriented article that will walk the reader through all the code needed for development. Some familiarity with Java is assumed.
HTML files are often used to display help for desktop applications. For example, the help files that accompany many Windows applications are usually made up of compiled HTML files. Using HTML with Java is relatively easy because Java has built-in HTML capabilities. You can control the way text appears in components by using HTML coding. For example, if you want to bold the text of a JButton the following code will do this for you:
JButton mybutton = new JButton();
Given that Java has this innate capability it is not difficult to develop a class that will display help files in HTML format. In this article we will take you through the steps necessary to create such a class and, because the actual help files will be independent of the application, you will be able to use this class with any Java application.
Before looking at the code, let’s clearly state what we want our class to do. It will provide help information for any application by browsing local HTML files. To keep things simple we will navigate using a home page that is a list of hyperlinks to specific help files. Pages may exceed the size of the screen so our application will need to be able to scroll.