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Introduce Animated Cursors to Java GUIs, Part 2

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Jeff Friesen continues his three-part series on a Java-based animated cursor library that extracts cursor images and other data from Windows-based .ani files. His second implementation of the library overcomes various problems with the implementation in part 1 of this series, including that version’s inability to work with certain kinds of .ani files. Prior to presenting this implementation, Jeff tours the Resource Interchange File Format and the RIFF-based ANI format.
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Most of Microsoft’s various Windows operating systems support animated cursors via internal infrastructure and .ani files—each .ani file stores an animated cursor’s images and animation data. These .ani-based animated cursors can be introduced easily into Java GUIs by using my animated cursor library. This library’s three implementations are the subject of this three-part series.

Part 1 introduced a Swing application for demonstrating all three implementations. This application’s source code revealed how easy it is to use the library. Part 1 also explored the basic implementation in terms of its AniCursor and BadAniException classes, which are located in the library’s ca.mb.javajeff.anicursor package.

This article, part 2 of the series, explores an improved implementation that also consists of a ca.mb.javajeff.anicursor package containing AniCursor and BadAniException classes. This second implementation fixes most of the problems with the basic implementation—I’ll point out these problems as we progress through this article.

Before revealing the second implementation, I’ll introduce you to the Resource Interchange File Format (RIFF), explore the ca.mb.javajeff.riff package, and describe the RIFF-based ANI format that defines the structure of .ani files. Collectively, this material will help you make sense of this latest library implementation.

The Resource Interchange File Format (RIFF)

Created by Microsoft and IBM, and debuting as part of the Microsoft Windows 3.0 multimedia extensions, the Resource Interchange File Format (RIFF) specifies a structured format for storing multimedia data in files. For example, digitized sounds are stored in .wav files, movies are stored in .avi files, and animated cursors are stored in .ani files.

RIFF Internals

The foundation of a RIFF file is the chunk data structure. A chunk contains a header consisting of identifier and size fields. The chunk also contains a data area field. The layout of these fields is conveniently expressed via the following C language code fragment:

typedef unsigned long DWORD;

typedef unsigned char BYTE;

typedef DWORD FOURCC;  // four-character code

typedef struct
  // The ckID and ckSize fields constitute the chunk’s header.

  FOURCC ckID;     // chunk ID
  DWORD ckSize;     // chunk size
  BYTE ckData [ckSize]; // chunk data area (not legal C code, but illustrative)

The ckID field contains four ASCII characters that identify the kind of data contained in the chunk’s data area. For example, the characters RIFF identify the chunk containing RIFF data. If a chunk ID is smaller than four characters, it’s padded on the right with space characters.

The ckSize field contains the length of the data stored in the ckData field, not including any padding byte added to the data. Furthermore, the sizes of the ckID and ckSize fields are not included in ckSize’s value.

The ckData field contains data that’s word-aligned within the RIFF file. If the data length is odd, an extra zero byte is appended to the data. The ckSize value doesn’t include this byte in its tally.

A RIFF file begins with a top-level chunk whose chunk ID is RIFF or RIFX. RIFF is specified if the file’s data is stored in the more common little-endian (low byte first) order; RIFX is specified if the file’s data is stored in big-endian (high byte first) order.

The top-level chunk’s data area begins with a form type field, which identifies the type of data in the file and its format. Examples of form type content include AVI and WAVE. Figure 1 illustrates the RIFF chunk’s organization.

Figure 1

Figure 1 The RIFF chunk’s data area is divided into a form type field and subchunks.

Figure 1 shows that the RIFF (and also RIFX) chunk’s data area (following the form type field) is divided into a sequence of subchunks that specify the actual data. One of these subchunks, which is commonly found in different kinds of RIFF files, is LIST.

Unlike other kinds of subchunks, a LIST subchunk contains a sequence of subchunks in its data area. This area begins with a list type field instead of a form type field. The list type field identifies the kind of data that LIST’s subchunks provide. Figure 2 shows a LIST subchunk.

Figure 2

Figure 2 The RIFF chunk reveals a single LIST subchunk in its data area.

To reinforce our understanding of RIFF internals, let’s explore the structure of richo.wav, a 2,436-byte RIFF-based WAVE file that stores a digitized richochet sound and is included with this article’s code. This file’s structure is shown in Listing 1.

Listing 1 The structure of richo.wav.

Chunk: RIFF
Chunk size: 2428
 Form type: WAVE

 Chunk: fmt
 Chunk size: 16

 Chunk: data
 Chunk size: 2317

 Chunk: LIST
 Chunk size: 66
  List type: INFO

  Chunk: ISFT
  Chunk size: 53

The structure begins with a parent RIFF chunk. This chunk’s header reveals the size of the data area (2,428 bytes). If you add this value to the sizes of the header fields, the result equals the file size—this is generally (but not always) true of RIFF files.

This chunk’s data area (between the { and } characters) consists of a form type field followed by a sequence of fmt , data, and LIST subchunks. These subchunks respectively store the digitized sound’s format, the sound’s data values, and metadata describing this WAVE file.

Although a LIST subchunk can contain various subchunks that store different kinds of metadata (a copyright string and a creation date are examples), the structure above reveals a single ISFT subchunk. This subchunk names the software package used to create this file.

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