Applet: Definition & Uses

Instructor: Lyna Griffin

Lyna has tutored undergraduate Information Management Systems and Database Development. She has a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters degree in Information Technology.

In the lesson we will examine the definition of an applet. We will understand its basic uses in varying web-based applications and the different ways interactions take place with the user.

What Is An Applet?

An applet is a tiny program that is used within a main application to enhance a user's interaction within that application. Typically, it is embedded in web browsers and is designed to perform specific tasks using less code. This makes a web page more dynamic and less of a screen full of monotonous text.

Applets provide sound, graphics and animation in various forms and formats for web pages. They are used in games, gaming consoles, commercial websites, learning tools and many more. Applets are completely dependent on the host application for functioning and cannot function as an independent unit.

In the olden days, children's dolls were wooden or plastic, with flat, blank mono expressions. The children, in order to make their toy playing an enjoyable time, had to formulate every conceivable movement, noise or emotion within the limitations of their imagination and bring their dolls or toy playing world to life.

Without being in the child's presence, a parent always knew when a child was playing with their toys. The sounds of talking, laughing, horn blowing, and emotional exclamations could be clearly heard. Today, animated toys have revolutionized that. Battery-operated toys could make sounds, movements and life-like interactions with the child. Technology is to animate toys - what applets are to program applications.

Let us examine the ways in which applets make a web page dynamic using its various uses and applications.

Uses Of Applets

There many types of web applications and numerous ways in which applets may be applied. We will narrow down our illustrations to the learning environment. One thing that has revolutionized teaching skills on the Internet is the use of dynamic content. Let us examine the uses and applications of applets within this math web application called

Applets Generates: A Lesson Example

Experiment: Equilibrium

In one of the lessons at, the concept of equilibrium is explained and illustrated by an applet.

The lesson text reads: Equal weights on a balance beam create a state of equilibrium while unequal weights create an imbalance. The statement is simple to understand, but an animated representation will drive the point home much faster.

The following image illustrates the animated process of adding weight to the balance beam till a state of equilibrium (an equal amount of weight on each side) is achieved. With start and stop buttons, the student can progressively see the system go from an imbalanced state to a state of equilibrium when the correct amount of weight is applied. Animation will hold the attention of even the most versed student of the subject. The effects of excess weight will also be appreciated, making the learning process a fun time.


One would think that an applet that animates what's written in the text, by generating graphics and motions, would have an appreciable file size like any similar video format. This is, however, not the case since the applet taps into the already existing functionalities found within the web browser. This characteristic makes the applet generate rich functionality, but with less code.

Interactive Forms: Test Delivery

Every lesson taught is followed by test questions. These questions are constructed to ensure that the concept being taught has been completely understood. A popup screen with relevant questions at the end of the lesson can be generated by the applet. This is illustrated below.


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