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Tuesday, 5 November 2013

JComboBox with Highlighted AutoComplete Using Multiple Object Attributes

I haven't posted for a while especially a Swing post so here is one which may prove useful. The standard Swing JComboBox is useful but is a bit bare bones. It doesn't really cater for what the modern user expects. Thanks to Google users now expect to start typing in a text field and for multiple options to appear in the drop down as they type.

This blog sets out to provide that functionality with a slight twist in that the searching can take place on object attributes and as matches are made the matched text is highlighted in the drop down. As an example of how this might be useful, imagine a hardware store which sells many products. Each product has a product code, a name and a description. A customer might come to the shop desk asking do you have any 6 inch nails, now one shop assistant might immediately know the product code and begin to type it and the matching entry would be displayed (see below):

User enters the known product code

Now another assistant might not be aware of the exact product code but knows all nail product codes start with NW so types that and two possible nails are displayed (see below):


User enters NW which all nail product code start with

So the combo box can search on the product code but also it searches on the product name. If a customer comes in to the shop and starts asking about wood, the assistant can enter 'wood' in to the field and a list of product with 'wood' in the name will be shown (yes I know there aren't many products in my shop!)

User enters 'wood' and that matches on two products names

Ah but the customers was only interested in Birch wood. Now in this example somebody forgot to put Birch in the product name but each product also has a description, maybe birch will be in the description of one of the products so the assistant types 'birch':

User enters 'birch' and now a match is found against a products description

So the field has now found a match on a product description, it would have shown multiple products if any other matches had been found. As an example if the user just enters the character 'a' that matches on multiple products via the codes and names.

Match on 'a' matches codes and names

As can be seen the field both autocompletes as the user types and also highlights on the string that it is matching on against each product.


So how is this achieved ?

Firstly I've decided not to copy out the code in the blog, you can check it out by downloading it in the link below. Instead I will describe how the code was put together to achieve what I wanted.

Firstly I created a data class called Product, this simply has get methods on it for code, name and description. For the demo I created a handful of Product object instances to allow the JComboBox to be tested.

I then created a class called ProductWordMatch, this has get methods for matchingString and Product. An instance of ProductWordMatch is created for each Product that has a match on code, name or description for what the user has typed so far. This class is used by the JComboBox model, more on that soon.

I then created a the ProductComboModelHelper class. Simply put this class is given the complete list of Products and when a user types a key is scans though the Products building up a list Products that have a match and for each unique one creates a new instance of ProductWordMatch. It then loads the ProductWordMatch instances into a ListComboBoxModel<ProductWordMatch>. In effect as the user is typing the model used by the JComboBox is being updated.

I next created a RegexTestHighlightPainter, this class extends the SwingX libraries AbstractPainter. This painter is used within the JComboBox drop down to highlight matching text on each matching product. As can be seen by the pictures it highlights the matching text in Orange. The painter is used to paint the background of a JXLabel which is used by the JComboBox renderer.

I finally created the ProductComboBox class which extends JComboBox. This class makes use of unique renderer and editor classes to display the items in the drop down. The Renderer uses two JXLabels, one used on the left for displaying product codes and names and one on the right to display the matching text string, this label also has the RegexTestHighlightPainter set as a background painter. The KeyType and KeyPress methods are also overridden so that as the user types the model is updated using the ProductComboModelHelper and matching data and the editor text are updated as appropriate.

Try the WebStart code to see what it's all about. If it doesn't work for you due to security permission download the code and unzip it so you can take a look and build it yourself.

There are lots of enhancements that could be made to make the code more flexible and also more performant if a lot of products existed. Also the demo simply uses products as a way of showing what the JComboBox is capable of but it could be used for many many other tasks.




Try it out (Webstart security permissions might cause issues with later versions of java):





You can download the code from here have a look and figure it out.

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