TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Review-Core Java

Volume Number: 15 (1999)
Issue Number: 5
Column Tag: Programmer's Bookshelf

Review: Core Java, Fundamentals

by Paul E. Sevinç, Switzerland

4th edition covering Java 2

About This Article...

This article reviews volume 1 of the 4th edition of Core Java [Horstmann and Cornell 1999].

Core Java is a two-volume book-set written by Cay Horstmann and Gary Cornell, and published by Sun Microsystems Press and Prentice Hall. Volume 1, subtitled Fundamentals, has been available since December 1998. Volume 2, subtitled Advanced Topics, will be available some time in 1999.

For simplicity, the 4th edition of the 1st volume of Core Java will be referred to only as Core Java in the remainder of this review.

About The Book...

Core Java is an introduction to Java 2 Platform -formerly named JDK 1.2- by Sun Microsystems. (Note: The first printing still refers to it as JDK 1.2.)

According to the authors, Core Java has been written for experienced programmers, i.e. programmers with experience in at least one procedural programming language (e.g., C or Pascal). I'll let you know who I personally think this book is well suited for at the end of the article.

Core Java consists of 12 chapters and 3 appendices as well as an accompanying CD. The major topics are: object-oriented programming (OOP), graphical user interfaces (GUIs), programming for the WWW, exception handling, and input/output (I/O). The CD contains all of the book's source code and freeware & shareware tools in Solaris and Windows (no Mac OS) versions.

Throughout the book, when appropriate, the authors compare Java to Visual Basic and C++. Not being a Windows developer, the Visual Basic notes were of no use to me. The C++ notes, on the other hand, ease the transition from C++ to Java. Here is a simple example: after the integer types have been introduced, a C++ programmer is told that there are no unsigned integers in Java.

Also, when a new standard Java class is introduced, it is followed by an abbreviated version of its interface which allows for a quick overview of its most important methods. Reprinting all of them in alphabetical order at the end of the book would have been a nice thing.

Introducing Java

The first chapter, An Introduction to Java, is about Java in general: Java's history, how Java relates to the Internet, misconceptions about Java, etc. What I really liked about this chapter is that the authors don't mislead the beginner by blindly following the Java hype. Instead, they state that Java is a good programming language but could have been better, and they also point out that some of the concepts Java is famous for have been around for decades (e.g., Niklaus Wirth made platform-independent compilation popular in the seventies).

Chapter 2, The Java Programming Environment, is Windows specific and can be skipped by Mac-only developers.

Java & OOP

Chapter 3, Fundamental Programming Structures in Java, is the chapter that relies most strongly on former experience in procedural programming (e.g., it explains how variables are declared, not what variables are). It covers data types (primitive data types and strings) and their operators, constants and variables, arrays, flow control (conditional statements and loops), and basic console I/O. In Horstmann's and Cornell's opinion, C++ programmers can skim through this chapter; I don't think so. The differences between Java and C++ are big (or rather subtle) enough to cause annoyances. By investing a little time in carefully reading this material, most of them can be avoided. Programmers with a different background (Pascal, say) probably need to read certain paragraphs -or even the whole chapter- more than once, but they shouldn't have any serious problems either. I missed two things only in this chapter: a short explanation of the difference between do-while and repeat-until loops, and that a simple statement can also act as the body of a loop.

The 4th, 5th, and 6th chapters, Objects and Classes, Inheritance, and Interfaces and Inner Classes, are an introduction to the OOP paradigm and how it is supported by Java. Chapter 4 shows how abstract data types (ADTs) are implemented in Java. But first, some OOP vocabulary is introduced and illustrated using clear analogies. (By the way, the authors also recommend two books on object-oriented design and the Unified Modeling Language; the best introduction to OOP I know is [Mössenböck 1998] which, alas, is not available in English at the time of this writing.) Finally, Java's package concept is explained.

Chapter 5 is likely going to split the Core Java readers into two groups. Those in the first group have some basic experience with OOP and love how fast Horstmann and Cornell get to the point. Those in the second group don't have any OOP knowledge prior to reading Core Java and are confused when done with Chapter 5. So should you forget about Core Java if you're going to be in the second group? Not necessarily; just skip the last two paragraphs about run-time type identification (RTTI) and reflection (these are topics I would rather have expected in volume 2). Matters should become clearer when you see object orientation in action.

Chapter 6 is a short chapter on interfaces (Java's construct for multiple inheritance), inner classes, and cloning (deep copying). In the inner-classes sections, the reader also learns about some compilation techniques and possible bytecode security risks.


Despite its importance, the first third of the book isn't very exciting - after all, we do not use PowerMacs because we're fond of console I/O. And even though the core language isn't fully covered yet (exception handling is still missing), a really cool topic is the content of the next three chapters: how to design and implement GUIs.

Chapter 7, Graphics Programming, answers fundamental questions regarding GUIs: What are windows in Java? How can different fonts be used when showing text? Etc. What's important to know is that when there is a choice between a Swing class and an AWT class (UI classes where the former replace the latter which were the only ones in Java 1), the Swing class is used. This future-oriented approach is good unless you have to maintain old Java code. The chapter ends with some simple drawing routines.

Chapter 8, Event Handling, covers the Java event model. As a Mac OS programmer, you're already used to event-driven programming, but Java's events are comparatively high-level (objects vs. constants). Horstmann and Cornell make the whole process of learning about broadcasters, listeners, and multicasting so painless that at the end of the chapter, these concepts almost look trivial.

The 9th chapter, User Interface Components With Swing, is by far the biggest, with more than 150 pages. Every UI element I could spontaneously think of is covered: radio buttons, menus, dialogs, text areas, and many more. (Note: volume 2 will cover some components, such as toolbars, too.) At the beginning of the chapter, the model-view-controller (MVC) pattern is introduced (design patterns are to OOP what algorithms & data structures are to procedural programming [Mössenböck 1998]). Knowledge of MVC is especially necessary for some advanced modifications (i.e., subclasses) of the elements. But these advanced sections can safely be skipped and the authors also say so.

More Core

Chapter 10, Applets, shows what changes are necessary in order to turn an application into an applet - that's the easy part. The tedious part is how to make the applet behave properly on different platforms using different browsers. It's not the authors' fault that this is tedious; actually, they do a pretty good job of showing the possibilities one has with the Java plug-in or with older versions of Java.

Chapter 11, Exceptions and Debugging, could -from a purely technical point of view- directly follow Chapter 6 in order to cover the whole language before the Java classes. But from a pedagogical point of view it was smarter to arrange the chapters the way they are; more so because, oddly enough, exceptions are hardly an issue before Chapter 12. After Java's strict rules concerning exceptions and exception syntax and use have been covered, some debug advice is given. Its essence is: either make no mistakes when coding (...) or get a commercial debugger.

The 12th and last chapter, Streams and Files, is mainly about storing information in files. Again, some of the more technical issues (e.g., how does object serialization work in detail) can be skipped. Some security issues are discussed, too. What's going to be useful beyond file manipulation are the sections about streams, but how they relate to network programming is another topic to be found in volume 2.


Core Java is a book that evolved with Java, throwing away text of older editions to replace it with up-to-date information. It is well suited for self-study (beware: there are no exercices), but if most of your books end with "for Dummies", don't even think about buying this one. The examples are very illustrative, even though I would still consider them toy examples.

Programmers with some OOP experience will find it most useful; for those familiar with Java 1.1 it's overkill. Beginners with little practical programming experience might be overwhelmed unless learning procedural programming was no challenge.

If Core Java: Fundamentals is not the best book about this topic, it is still one of the better. And I am certainly going to take a look at Core Java: Advanced Topics. What about you?


  • [Horstmann and Cornell 1999] HORSTMANN, Cay, CORNELL, Gary. Core Java: Fundamentals. Sun Microsystems Press / Prentice Hall, 4th edition 1999.
  • [Mössenböck 1998] MÖSSENBÖCK, Hanspeter. Objektorientierte Programmierung in Oberon-2. Springer, 3rd edition 1998.

Paul E. Sevinç is an EE student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) -where he recently designed and implemented a C++ framework for multiobjective optimization with genetic algorithms- and a student member of the IEEE. He is very interested in Compiler Construction, Operating Systems, and Cryptology, but he also likes working as a swimming coach. You can reach him at


Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Garmin Express - Manage your Gar...
Garmin Express is your essential tool for managing your Garmin devices. Update maps, golf courses and device software. You can even register your device. Update maps Update software Register your... Read more
Duet - Use your iPad as an exter...
Duet is the first app that allows you to use your iDevice as an extra display for your Mac using the Lightning or 30-pin cable. Note: This app requires a $14.99 iOS companion app. Version Read more
Apple iTunes 12.5.2 - Play Apple Music a...
Apple iTunes lets you organize and stream Apple Music, download and watch video and listen to Podcasts. It can automatically download new music, app, and book purchases across all your devices and... Read more
Pinegrow Web Designer 2.95 - Mockup and...
Pinegrow Web Designer is desktop app that lets you mockup and design webpages faster with multi-page editing, CSS and LESS styling, and smart components for Bootstrap, Foundation, Angular JS, and... Read more
jAlbum Pro 13.6 - Organize your digital...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. You can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly... Read more
jAlbum 13.6 - Create custom photo galler...
With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly, with pro results - Simply drag and drop photos into groups, choose a design... Read more
TextMate 2.0-beta.12.26 - Code/markup ed...
TextMate is a versatile plain text editor with a unique and innovative feature set which caused it to win an Apple Design Award for Best Mac OS X Developer Tool in August 2006. A rapidly growing... Read more
VMware Fusion 8.5.1 - Run Windows apps a...
VMware Fusion 8 and Fusion 8 Pro--the latest versions of its virtualization software for running Windows on a Mac without rebooting--include full support for Windows 10, OS X El Capitan, and the... Read more
Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.3 - Professiona...
Apple Final Cut Pro X is a professional video editing solution.Completely redesigned from the ground up, Final Cut Pro adds extraordinary speed, quality, and flexibility to every part of the post-... Read more
Civilization VI 1.0.0 - Next iteration o...
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is the next entry in the popular Civilization franchise. Originally created by legendary game designer Sid Meier, Civilization is a strategy game in which you attempt to... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Plants vs. Zombies Heroes guide: How to...
Plants vs. Zombies Heroes might look cute and cuddly, but it's actually a very complex deck builder that requires a lot of time to master. While there's a bit of a learning curve, it's easy for people of any skill level to have fun with the game. | Read more »
Roofbot: Puzzler On The Roof (Games)
Roofbot: Puzzler On The Roof 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: Guide Roofie through gorgeous, meditative rooftops and try to get the right color energy balls into the... | Read more »
The 4 best food delivery apps
As the temperatures continue to drop, so does the motivation to venture outside. Sometimes you still want to eat a nice meal from that sushi place down the road though. Thankfully in these trying times, there are a number of fine food delivery... | Read more »
Toca Life: Farm (Education)
Toca Life: Farm 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Work and play the farmer's way! Milk your cow, gather eggs from your hens and raise your crops. Have a picnic, play the... | Read more »
The Lost Shield (Games)
The Lost Shield 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: The Lost shield is a brick break/adventure game. You play as a hero who must return a powerful but dangerous magic shield... | Read more »
The Forgotten Room (Games)
The Forgotten Room 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: Play as paranormal investigator John “Buster of Ghosts” Murr as he explores yet another mysteriously creepy house. This... | Read more »
5 Halloween mobile games for wimps
If you're anything like me, horror games are a great way to have nightly nightmares for the next decade or three. They're off limits, but perhaps you want to get in on the Halloween celebrations in some way. Fortunately not all Halloween themed... | Read more »
The 5 scariest mobile games
It's the most wonderful time of the year for people who enjoy scaring themselves silly with haunted houses, movies, video games, and what have you. Mobile might not be the first platform you'd turn to for quality scares, but rest assured there are... | Read more »
Lifeline: Flatline (Games)
Lifeline: Flatline 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: The Lifeline series takes a terrifying turn in this interactive horror experience. Every decision you make could help... | Read more »
Game of Dice is now available on Faceboo...
After celebrating its anniversary in style with a brand new update, there’s even more excitement in store for Game of Dice has after just being launched on Facebook Gameroom. A relatively new platform, Facebook Gameroom has been designed for PC... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

WaterField Unveils Syde MacBook Pro Touch Bar...
The new WaterField Designs Syde Case for Apple’s new MacBook Pro Touch Bar combines the top-notch laptop protection of a sleeve with the functionality and handsome look of an over-the-shoulder or... Read more
Apple Unveils Redesigned MacBook Pro With Tou...
October 27, 2016 – Apple today introduced the thinnest and lightest MacBook Pro yet, along with a new interface innovation that replaces the traditional row of function keys with a Retina-quality... Read more
Apple Unveils New TV App for Apple TV, iPhone...
October 27, 2016 – Apple today introduced a new TV app, offering a unified experience for discovering and accessing TV shows and movies from multiple apps on Apple TV, iPhone and iPad. The TV app... Read more
Price drops on select refurbished 2015 13″ Re...
Apple dropped prices on select Certified Refurbished 2015 13″ Retina MacBook Pros by as much as $90. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.7GHz/256GB... Read more
Apple reveals new next-generation 15″ and 13″...
Apple today revealed their next-generation 15″ and 13″ MacBook Pros. The new models are thinner and lighter than before with a new aluminum design featuring an enhanced keyboard with retina, multi-... Read more
Worldwide Smartphone Shipments Up 1.0% Year o...
According to preliminary results from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped a total of 362.9 million smartphones worldwide in the third... Read more
TuneBand Arm Band For iPhone 7 and 7 Plus Rel...
Grantwood Technology has added the TuneBand for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus to its smartphone armband series. The TuneBand provides a lightweight and comfortable way to wear the iPhone while running,... Read more
1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $449, save $50
Adorama has the 1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $50 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini (Apple sku# MGEM2LL/A): $449 $50 off MSRP To purchase a mini at... Read more
21-inch 1.6GHz iMac on sale for $999, save $1...
B&H has the 21″ 1.6GHz Apple iMac on sale for $999 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Macs’ Superior Enterprise Deployment Cost Eco...
IBM’s debunking of conventional wisdom and popular mythology about the relative cost of using Apple Mac computers as opposed to PCs running Microsoft Windows at the sixth annual Jamf Nation User... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Lead *Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple (...
# Lead Apple Solutions Consultant Job Number: 52812906 Houston, Texas, United States Posted: Oct. 18, 2016 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** The Lead ASC is an Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple (United...
# Apple Solutions Consultant Job Number: 52812872 Houston, Texas, United States Posted: Oct. 18, 2016 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Software Engineering Intern: UI Applications...
Job Summary Apple is currently seeking enthusiastic interns who can work full-time for a minimum of 12-weeks between Fall 2015 and Summer 2016. Our software Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.