Hiding a Java Applet until it’s fully loaded & ready to display

I recently designed & implemented an application for visualizing multiple data sets with interconnected many-to-many relationships – some real complex radial visualization type stuff. To satisfy the requirements, a Java applet was leveraged for the interactive UX. One nagging issue I had though was that, by default, when you load a Java applet on a web page, you only see the default Java loading animation (a coffee cup inside a blue spinner) while the JAR file is being downloaded & launched.

In my implementation though, I was leveraging the newer JNLP-based approach of defining the applet’s parameters; and not only is my JNLP dynamically generated server-side (based on end user inputs & interactions), contained within my JNLP are some attributes for loading data via CAPS (the CorasWorks API) calls. The issue is that the JNLP loading & CAPS calls all happen after the JAR has been loaded – leaving my users to stare at a blank screen for sometimes 5 seconds or more.

Enter the concept of Java status and event handlers (reference). Starting with the release of Java 7 (July, 2011), web developers can tap into key statuses and events of an applet on a page; and just like we often do elsewhere in our client-side development, we can then use those event handlers to improve the user experience. In my case, that meant:

  1. Keeping the Java applet invisible while it loaded everything
  2. Displaying my own loading image/animation while it loaded
  3. Hiding the loading content and making the applet visible once ready

And here’s how I did it…

First, I ensured that I had the “java_status_events” property on my parameters object set to true. Then I made sure I had an ID property & value for the applet specified in my attributes object. Something like this:

<div id="AppletContainer" style="visibility:hidden">
    <script src="//www.java.com/js/deployJava.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript">
        var attributes = {ID:'MyApplet',width:1000, height:700};
        var parameters = {
            jnlp_href: 'URL-to-JNLP-Service',
        deployJava.runApplet(attributes, parameters, '1.6');

Then I created a DIV, which I placed directly above my “AppletContainer” DIV:

<div id="LoadingContainer">
    <img src="images/Loader.gif">

Finally, I added an event handler to hide my “LoadingContainer” and display my “AppletContainer” when the applet is done loading:

$(function() {
    KTMApplet.onLoad(function() {
        $('#AppletContainer').css('visibility', 'visible');

There you go – a solution for showing my own custom loading animation while my Java applet loads, then displaying the applet as soon as its ready. There’s other events & statuses you can attach to, but chances are, this is the one you’ll use most often.

And in case you’re wondering, you do have to use the CSS ‘visibility’ property, as opposed to display (i.e. show/hide with jQuery) because an applet that is hidden – say in a DIV with a “display:hidden” style – will not register its event handlers, thus preventing your ability to display it when loaded.

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