Importance of Java Applets in Software Development

Instructor: Michelle DeSalvo

Michelle has been an academic librarian for over twenty years. She has a Master’s Degree in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Do you like websites with graphics and animation? In this lesson, you will learn how the Java Applet has made websites more interactive and dynamic. You will also learn about the history and future of Java Applets.


Have you ever wondered how videos or animation work on a website? Java applets help make the magic happen. You might think that that web page coding such as HTML is naturally interactive. But HTML and other markup language are static. Java applets are small pieces of code that work in another program. They help make a page more dynamic.

In addition to adding bling to a site, Java applets also add another layer of computer security. The biggest advantage of applets is that they can be used on multiple platforms. The slogan for Java is, ''Write once, run everywhere.''

The name Java brings many different images to mind, probably including your favorite coffee drink. Java was developed by Sun Microsystems and later acquired by the Oracle Corporation.

Java icon


Java Applet demonstrating solution of complex differential equation

Keep in mind that Java applets are a very simple tool. Yet, they require a lot of interaction with other codes, programs, and environments to run effectively. Java bytecode is one of the main parts of a Java applet. Computer coding is often compiled into an easier format. Java bytecode is any Java code that has been translated.

A tool called Java Virtual Machine (JVM) interprets and executes the bytecode. More security is added in the Java Virtual Machine environment. When thinking about the Java Virtual Machine, the keyword is virtual. The machine is truly online.

Applets also require another tool to run. This tool is the Java Runtime Environment (JRE). The Java Runtime Environment is a software package, which includes the Java Virtual Machine.

When using the Internet, have you ever had to install a Java Plug-in? Rather than using a Web browser, a Plug-in brings up applets using Java's Runtime Environment. A Java applet does not use a regular operating system. Applets need another program to properly run.

Applets also use a special environment called a Sandbox. The Sandbox is a safe environment for testing software and programs. A Sandbox is a place for both the applet and the markup language to interact together.


Atari Pong Game
Atari Pong Game

Do you like to play video games? Did you know that Java applets were used to make the first video game? The game was called Pong and made by Atari. The year was 1972. You could also make a simple video game. Instructions are available on the World Wide Web.


Applets became famous in 1995. Java applets have been used steadily for over twenty years. This is a remarkable feat considering that the industry is known for rapid change. Applets make devices such as calculators more dynamic as well.

If you look at the lines of applet coding, it would be difficult to see the creative side. One development that has been surprising is the creation of the Processing programming language by Ben Fry. The Processing program helps designers and artists. One goal of the program is to have the same image look identical in both Windows and Mac environments.

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