Applets: Advantages & Disadvantages

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 this lesson, we will be examining the definition of an applet, understanding its applications and analyzing its related advantages and disadvantages.

What Is an Applet?

An applet is a small application. It is designed to run within another program or application. It is normally not an entire application by itself that can be executed from an operating system, but rather designed to run within an application. Typically, it is packaged within any webpage to enable the user to interact and do additional tasks not handled by their browser. These user requests are not sent to the hosting server on the backend to be executed, but are handled by the applet. It is platform independent.

Retreat: Applet Practical Example

The applet facilitates user interaction in the browsing environment. We have all indulged in a little online game at some point. Playing a game always involves a lot of user interactions. Let us take an online game called Retreat. In this game, soldiers have completed their field mission and are to make their way back to the barracks. This journey is plagued with obstacles. Obstacles include rivers, ditches, remnants of the enemy, land mines, wild animals and bad weather conditions. The soldier is armed with a gun, knife and his skill set.

The solder must be animated to move forwards, backwards, left and right. He must be able to walk, run, stoop, jump and stand. He must be able to use his knife and gun. All these actions are initiated by the mouse click or keystroke of the user. Being a gaming environment, each action initiated is accompanied by corresponding graphics and/or sound effects. Examples are a smoking gun, sounds of gun shots, sounds of running boots and breaking twigs. With the aid of applets, these added animations and sound effects bring the game to life making the environment dynamic.

The most common programming language for creating web pages is HTML, and for application distribution is Java. A marriage of these two birthed the popular Java applet. We will examine the advantages and disadvantages of applets using Java applets as our reference point.

Applets: Advantages

1. Cross Platform

Applets are platform independent. This means that they are designed to work across various platforms. The same Java applet supporting our Retreat game on a Windows system can also work on Linux and OSI systems.

2. Compatibility

We all have different levels of alertness in keeping our computers updated. Java applets, however, can work on any installed version of the Java plug-in that exists on the computer. The most recent plug-in is not necessarily required. The user is only forced to do an update if the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) is outdated.

3. Quick Execution

The process of caching is employed by computers to temporarily store in memory frequently accessed data to shorten program runtimes. As such, applets are normally cached, making their execution across web browsers faster.

4. Scalable Work

The ability for certain functions to be moved from the server-side to the client-side has enabled application development to be scalable with the use of applets. If there was an upgrade on our online game Retreat, which has 2 million subscribers of varying PC specifications, then the deployment file will be a fraction of its size due to the burden taken off by the use of applets. This reduces the installation time on the client-side.

5. Trust

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