This document describes the input method framework for the Java Development Kit, release 1.2. This framework enables developers of text editing components to interact with input methods that enable text input for languages with large character sets. JDK 1.2 uses native input methods of the host platform as well as (through a IIIMP adapter) server-based input methods. The framework is designed to be easily extended in a future JDK version to enable input methods written in the Java programming language.
This document does not provide a complete overview of input methods and their implementations on the different platforms. This information can be found in the following literature:
For detailed API definitions, refer to the separate API documents generated by javadoc. To see how to use these APIs, refer to the sample code.
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Input methods are software components that interpret user operations such as typing keys, speaking, or writing using a pen device to generate text input for applications. The most common input methods are the ones that let users type text in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, languages that use thousands of different characters, on a regular-sized keyboard. The text is typed in a form that can be handled by regular-sized keyboards, for example, in a romanized form, and then converted into the form that's really intended. Typically a sequence of several characters needs to be typed and then converted in one chunk, and conversion may have to be retried because there may be several possible translations. Similarly, for hand-writing recognition, the user may write a series of characters, convert them, and select the correct text from several possible conversion results.
While this "composition" process is going on, the text logically belongs to the input method, but still needs to be displayed to the user. Input method frameworks cooperate with input methods to provide at least two ways to do this: They enable modern text editing components to display the text in the context of the document that it will eventually belong to, albeit in a style that indicates that the text still needs to be converted or confirmed by the input method. This is called "on-the-spot editing". And they provide a separate window to display the text as a fall-back if a not-so-modern text editing component can't deal with the text until it's confirmed. We call this "root-window editing".
In the JDK 1.1 release, text input using input methods was only
supported for the AWT
TextArea components, using the native platform input
method functionality. Starting with JDK 1.1.6, lightweight text
components (such as the Swing text components) can receive text input
from input methods using root-window style input.
The Input Method Framework in JDK 1.2 defines classes and interfaces that enable all text editing components to receive text through input methods. Components can actively use the input method API to support the on-the-spot input style, otherwise the framework provides root-window style input as a fallback. JDK 1.2 uses native input methods of the host platform as well as (through an adapter for the Internet-Intranet Input Method Protocol) server-based input methods. The framework is designed to be easily extended in a future JDK version to enable input methods written in the Java programming language.
Text editing components that use the input method framework run on any Java application environment and support any text input methods available on that Java application environment without modifying or recompiling the text editing component. The framework provides text editing components with an API that is platform independent, and maps to the platform APIs if necessary to use native input methods.
The input method framework provides a language independent API for handling input to satisfy the needs of fully international applications. Although input methods are generally used for entering East Asian text, they may be useful for other languages as well. For example, a transliteration input method might be developed to allow Greek to be entered using Latin characters.
The framework handles input methods for different languages at the same time for truly multilingual text editing. The text can have language attributes so that applications can perform language sensitive operations on the text.
Likewise, the framework isolates text editing components from differences in various input method engines. In particular, it provides only one programming model for interacting with input methods. This lets developers write to a single input method API and users to choose whatever input method they prefer.
Although language and engine independence will be important to most developers, some high-end developers may want access to language specific or engine specific features. The framework allows this access, although at the obvious cost of generality for the application.
The input method framework is designed to accommodate many possible input devices. Although keyboards are the predominant way of entering text today, other devices are gaining importance. For some platforms, pen-based input is the only way to enter text. Also, voice input is becoming more and more popular. In future releases, it will be possible to support these alternate devices.
The input method framework is designed as an integral part of the Java platform. New classes that are necessary to exchange text between input methods and text components are designed to also support communication between other text-related frameworks, such as Java 2D and the Swing text components. Support for input method highlight drawing is integrated into Java 2D, so that text components can treat composed text just like any other text and the highlights just like any other style. Java 2D interacts with the input method framework to determine appropriate visual styles for input method highlights depending on the platform. The Swing text components use the input method framework to implement the best possible user interface with minimal additional programming.
In general, some languages require editing of text before actually incorporating the text into the application. This editing is called composition (or preedit). When composing input text, input methods require that segments of the input text be highlighted to indicate which part of the text is being processed. The process of inputting text with highlighting is called composing input text and the produced intermediate text is called composed (input) text.
When composition of input text is complete by the user, the final input text is sent to the application. This action is called committing input text and the produced final input text is called committed (input) text.
When drawing composed input text, it may not be possible to keep the entire composed text visible. For this case, an input method may provide the application with hints which parts of the composed text is currently most important to keep visible. The framework passes this information on from the input method to the application.
In general, the caret position represents an insertion position in the application's backing store. However, when composing input text, the caret position is located within composed text and the position is managed by input method. The input method informs the application about the current caret position.
The Input Method Framework must be able to support different levels of application needs. Some text applications might not want to deal with input methods, while some want to provide the best user interfaces to support them. A few programs, such as games, want direct low-level keyboard input without interference from an input method. The framework lets programs choose one of the following levels of text input support.
Modern programs intended to be used with East Asian languages usually provide a fully integrated user interface for text input operations and show the text being composed embedded in the document text. While converting text, the current candidate is highlighted, and when the user chooses a different candidate, the previous candidate text is replaced with the new one. This user interface support for input methods is known as on-the-spot mode (or inline mode). The input method framework API lets text editing components implement such a user interface.
For programs that do not want to deal with the user interface for text input operations, only final input text is sent to the application. In this case, the framework provides a user interface for input operations in a separate composition window outside the application. This is known as root-window mode (an X Window term). It is less convenient because the user has to move his/her eyes between the input window and the application window.
In this case, the application receives the input text as a sequence of key events. Therefore, there is no way to receive any information associated with the input text, such as grammatical information. Also, surrogate pairs (as defined in the Unicode Standard, version 2.0) are received as two separate key events.
Some applications, such as game software, may need only raw key input and no input method support. The framework provides a way to explicitly disable input method support.
The Input Method Framework allows applications to support multiple concurrent input operations. The state of each input operation is maintained separately. For example, in the middle of entering text into a document, the user might want to deal with a file and enter the file's name in a separate input operation.
The following picture shows the overall structure of the framework and its clients. Note that only parts outlined in bold are actually integrated with the input method framework as part of JDK 1.2.
The Input Method API defines the classes and interfaces that text
editing components can use to implement on-the-spot text input. The
AWT text components
provide on-the-spot or over-the-spot composition, depending on
implementation. The Swing text components provide on-the-spot
composition. The context management manages communication paths
between the text editing components and input methods. JDK 1.2 uses
primarily native input methods integrated with the host input method
manager. An adapter translates information between the data models
used by native input methods and the input method framework. The
framework also works with the native input method managers to provide
parts of the user interface for text composition, especially the root
window. JDK 1.2 also includes an adapter that makes it possible to
use server-based input methods through the Internet-Intranet Input
Method Protocol (IIIMP). In future versions of the JDK, the Input
Method Engine API will support input methods written in the Java
The clients of the input method framework are text editing components of all kinds. Applications don't really exist for the framework. Corresponding to the service levels described above, there are three kinds of components:
Text components that support on-the-spot editing and others that do not may coexist in the same window. The input method framework, therefore, needs to determine the capabilities of text components and switch between on-the-spot and root-window editing as the focus changes from one component to another.
Text components are not responsible for drawing candidate lists or for user interface elements that control the input method's behavior. Depending on the platform, this responsibility rests with input methods, the host input method manager, or the input method framework.
InputContext instances manage communication contexts
between client components and input methods. The main task of an
input context is to maintain the connection from the current text
component to its current input method. It dispatches input events
such as key and mouse events from the component to the current input
method, and input method events from the input method to the client
component. It also dispatches requests for information from the input
method to the client component.
In addition, the following functionality is provided by this class:
InputContextobject and switched back to it if the component requests the same one.
By default, one
InputContext instance is created per
Window instance, and this input context is shared by all components
within the window's containment hierarchy. If necessary, components
can create private input contexts. A component that doesn't have its
own input context uses the one used by its parent.
The input context creates an input method instance for each input method engine that its client components need to use. The instances are kept until the window is closed, so that the instances can keep information about the text that was entered in the window.
In many situations, no input composition is desired, and key events should be handled directly by the component's key event listener. If this is a temporary situation - for example, German text is typed on the keyboard -, this is handled in JDK 1.2 by switching from an input method to regular keyboard handling using the host's switching mechanism. If a component never wants to use input composition - for example, a game wants to interpret keys directly -, it can disable input methods.
For text components that do not support on-the-spot editing, the input context provides a default user interface for text composition. When an input method starts composing text for this text component, the input context opens an input window for root-window style input. When the text is committed, the text is sent to the text component as a series of key events. When all text in the input window is committed, the window is closed. If the window containing the focused text component loses the focus while text is being composed, the input window is hidden until the window regains the focus, so that the user will never have two input windows in view at the same time.
The following diagrams show the flow of events in the input method framework. There are three alternatives, for active clients, for passive clients, and for non-clients.
Non-clients don't have input contexts, so all events go straight to the component's listeners (here, the key listener):
For both active and passive clients, input events such as
MouseEvent are sent to the
current input method through the
InputContext object. If
the input event is used to perform the input text service, the input
event is consumed by the input method and will result in generating
an input method event to the component.
Active clients must have registered an
InputMethodListener so they can handle
InputMethodEvents coming from the input method. Composed
and committed text is sent to the input method listener as input
Passive clients don't have input method listeners, so the input method event is given to the root window, which simulates an active client. The root window translates committed text into key events for the actual client's key event listener. Only KEY_TYPED events are sent. Note that for host input methods the root window is typically provided by the host input method manager.
JDK 1.2 supports native input methods integrated with the host input method managers. These are: the Input Method Manager on Win32, the Text Services Manager on MacOS, and XIM on Solaris. The host input method adapter plays the role of an input method within the input method framework, and translates events and requests between the data models used by AWT and the input method framework on one side and the host's input method manager on the other side. It also cooperates with the input context in managing the root window - for host input methods, typically the root window provided by the host input method manager is used. The adapter passes on requests for particular input methods to the host, but users can also use the host's selection mechanism to select input methods.
Separate host adapter instances are created for each
InputContext instance, so that each
InputContext instance is mirrored by its own instance of
the host system's input context data structure.
For server-based input methods, JDK 1.2 provides a client-side adapter for the Internet-Intranet Input Method Protocol. IIIMP is a network protocol that lets client applications use server-based input methods over the network. The first client-side implementation of IIIMP is currently used in JavaOS. The adapter in JDK 1.2 is a subset of the implementation in JavaOS - it provides a full implementation of the protocol as well as user interface support for status and lookup choice information, but does not support lightweight input methods. The IIIMP adapter in JDK 1.2 is provided as a separate extension, and may not be included in all Java application environments derived from JDK 1.2.
Users need to provide the client adapter with information about the IIIMP server in a properties file. The file can be named ".iiimp" and located in the user's home directory, or "iiimp.properties" and located in the JDK's "lib" directory. If both files exist, the one in the user's home directory takes precedence. The file has a one-line entry:
where servername is the name of the host running the IIIMP server, and portid the port id used by the IIIMP server.
If the extension is included in the Java application environment and valid server information is found, the JDK provides a user interface that lets users choose between host platform input methods and server-based input methods. On Windows and Motif systems, a menu item is added to the menu attached to window titles (called the "system menu" on Windows and "window menu" on Motif). Choosing this menu item brings up a popup-menu, from which host input methods (as a group) or server-based input methods (by locale) can be selected. The user still uses the host system's selection mechanism to choose between different host input methods.
Separate IIIMP adapter instances are created for each
InputContext instance, so that each
InputContext instance is mirrored by its own instance of
the server's input context data structure.
The framework needs mechanisms to invoke a component's methods (a.k.a. callback) from an input method to notify the component of changes in input text or to request information from the component. The framework uses two different invocation models:
InputMethodEventsare typically dispatched synchronously to the component's methods, while the event dispatch for other AWT events is asynchronous through the event queue.
InputMethodRequests- to be implemented by the client component. The input method will invoke methods in the interface to request information from the client component. This invocation is synchronous. Just like input method event dispatching, request methods are invoked indirectly through the input context.
The framework uses the
java.text.AttributedCharacterIterator interface to
represent text moving in either direction between client component
and input method. Both character attributes and range attributes may
be used to provide input method highlights. Also, range attributes
can be used to represent information depending on an input method,
The Input Method API makes it possible for text components to:
By default, all components that process key events are clients of
the input method framework, that is, input method support is enabled
for them. In some cases, components may not want to have their input
processed by input methods. For example, games may want to interpret
keyboard events directly. These components should call
enableInputMethods(false), so that events do not get
forwarded to input methods.
The Input Method API makes it possible for client components to implement on-the-spot editing. The API defines events and methods that facilitate the communication between a client component and an input method. It also lets the client component request an input method for a particular language.
Since the API doesn't make any assumptions about how and where the text is drawn, it can also be used to implement other input styles such as over-the-spot editing. In this style, the composed text is drawn over surrounding text and covers it instead of being integrated and formatted with it.
Any client component class can become an active client of the input method API and thus support on-the-spot editing by performing the following steps:
InputMethodListenerinterface to handle incoming
InputMethodEventsgenerated by the current input method, and register the listener.
InputMethodRequestsinterface and override
getInputMethodRequeststo return the request handler.
InputMethodHighlightattributes along with composed text and pass them on to the drawing routines.
Optionally, the client component can also use the following functionality:
Client components don't need to deal with setting up input contexts, activating or deactivating contexts, or dispatching events to input methods, since all this is handled automatically by AWT.
In addition to the JDK 1.1 AWT events, the input method framework
provides a new event class,
InputMethodEvent, to support
the communication between input methods and text components. The
class has two separate event kinds: text changed and caret changed. A
new event listener interface,
supports these two events. An active client component must implement
InputMethodListener interface, register the
listener, and handle both kinds of events.
InputMethodEvent instances are sent to the client
component when there is a change to the user's input text or to the
caret location within the composed text. The event sent for
caret-only changes is a simplified version of the one for text
changes (it just doesn't have text information), so the following
discussion assumes the text-changed event.
An event reporting a text change has a reference to an instance of
AttributedCharacterIterator that represents either
composed text or committed text or both together.
When composing text, any visual change made by the user is sent as composed input text to the client component. The composed text is to be inserted at the current insertion position of the component's text if there is no previous composed text. If there is previous composed text, the entire previous text must be replaced with the new composed text being sent. The client component is responsible for redrawing the updated text.
Committed text is formed by an input method when composed text has been committed, for example, when the user confirmed converted text. The entire previous composed text must be replaced with this committed text. The insertion position must move to the end of this committed text.
If the composed text has been partially committed by the user,
both the committed and the remaining composed text is sent in a
InputMethodEvent. In this case, the client
component must process the committed text first, then the
remaining composed text. The semantic of processing this event is:
The cases above can be determined by examining the value of the committed character count. If the value is 0 (zero), the entire text is composed text. If the value is equal to the length of the iterator's text, the entire text is committed. Otherwise, the value (in number of characters) represents the length of partially committed text, and the rest of the text is composed text.
The event also contains information about the current caret location within the the composed text (null if no caret is to be displayed), and about the part of the composed text that is most important to keep in view (null if the input method doesn't have a recommendation).
The text component generally draws the composed text as part of the text being edited, using its regular text layout and drawing functionality. However, it needs to add certain highlight style attributes to the composed text to indicate the current state of the composition. The framework defines these style attributes as abstract styles (for example, "unconverted unselected text" or "converted selected text"), and maps them internally to platform-dependent concrete styles (for example, 2-pixel gray underline).
Abstract highlight styles are represented by the
InputMethodHighlight class. Instances of this class are
used as attribute values of the AttributedCharacterIterator instances
representing composed text. Text components must store these
attributes with the composed text and pass them on to the drawing
routines when drawing composed text. They can use either the new
drawString methods that accept AttributedCharacterIterator, or create
a TextLayout from the iterator and use its draw method. These new
drawing methods interact with the input method framework to map
abstract to concrete highlight styles. Text components using these
methods therefore generally do not need to be concerned with the
internal details of the input method highlights.
Here's information for text components that need more detail:
InputMethodHighlights have three fields: a Boolean
selected, an integer
state, and an integer
Selected indicates whether the
text range is the one that the input method is currently working on,
for example, the segment for which conversion candidates are
currently shown in a menu.
State represents the
conversion state. State values are defined by the input method
framework and should be distinguished in all mappings from abstract
to concrete styles. Currently defined state values are unconverted
and converted. The
variation field allows future input
methods written in the Java programming language to express
additional information about the conversion results. Renderers should
negotiate the concrete style with the input method or ignore this
Some input methods may treat highlights as "annotations".
Annotations are attributes that apply to a specified range of text,
but not to subranges or the concatenation of ranges. They are
represented by wrapping the
instance into a
java.text.Annotation instance. Input
methods may use annotation highlights to separate text segments that
will be converted as separate units. On some platforms, these
highlights are rendered so as to make the segments visible, for
example, by using underlines with short breaks between the segments.
Text components have to be able to handle input method highlights
whether they are wrapped in
Annotation instances or not.
If a text component implements line wrapping, special care needs to
be taken when the range to which a highlight annotation applies
crosses a line boundary: The normal behavior (implemented, for
java.text.AttributedString) would be to
discard the attribute because it doesn't apply to subranges. But,
since in this case there's only a visual break and not a logical
break, the highlight needs to be preserved - it has to be treated as
if it applied to the subranges that are rendered on separate lines.
One way to do this is by implementing the
java.text.AttributedCharacterIterator in a way that
returns highlight annotations even for subranges of the intended
An input method needs to access component information to perform input operations. For example, an input method needs to know the location where a list of possible choices can be shown.
An active client component therefore must implement the
InputMethodRequests interface, and override
getInputMethodRequests to return the request handler.
The interface includes methods to:
Input methods typically recognize some user actions that end input
operations, for example, an operation that commits all uncommitted
text. However, there are also user actions that start operations for
which input operations should be ended, but that an input method
cannot recognize. Saving the document containing the text is one such
example. In these cases, the component has to explicitly call the
In addition to the input method highlight information, input
methods may also attach other attributes to the text they send to a
text component. These attributes may be useful information for the
component. They may also improve the input method's performance if
returned by the
InputMethodRequest methods. For the
latter reason, it is recommended that text components keep this
attribute information around while the text is being edited, and
return it with any text requested.
defines the following common attributes:
LANGUAGE- the language of the text, specified as a Locale object.
READING- a phonetic representation (yomi in Japanese), specified as a String object.
INPUT_METHOD_SEGMENT- segmentation information used by input methods.
Future input methods written in the Java programming language may define additional attributes.
By default, one
InputContext instance is created per
Window instance, and this input context is shared by all components
within the window's containment hierarchy. This reduces the number of
instances created overall, and lets input methods combine information
about all the text entered in this window (input methods often use
information about previously entered text to improve their conversion
accuracy). It means, however, that only one input operation is
possible at any one time within a window, and that the text needs to
be committed when moving the focus from one text component to
another. If this is not desired, text components can create their own
input context instances and override
return them. A component that doesn't have its own input context uses
the one used by its parent.
Text components can use the input context's
selectInputMethod operation to select an input method
for a given language or locale. This may be helpful, for example, if
the user clicks in text that is written in that language, since it's
likely that she wants to continue in the same language. Or, the text
component may know that the application only allows text in a certain
language to be entered.
Text components can use the input context's
setCharacterSubsets operation to tell input methods
which characters can be meaningfully entered. For example, a database
application may know that certain fields should only receive input in
hiragana (one of the syllabic subscripts used in Japanese), another
one only Latin characters, a third one any kind of characters.
Passing on this information to input methods may allow the input
methods to limit the range of characters that can be entered, or to
switch to a different input mode that particularly supports the
specified character subsets. However, applications cannot rely on
this call having the desired effect, since this setting cannot be
passed on to all host input methods - applications still need to
apply their own character validation.
This chapter summarizes the changes made to other Java platform frameworks in JDK 1.2 in order to integrate the input method framework.
AttributedCharacterIterator interface is added as
a standard way of communicating text information with attributes
between frameworks. It lets text readers access text without having
to know how the text is stored in the information provider. Attribute
information may include font and style attributes as well as language
tags and grammatical annotations.
Window class is modified to create an initial
input context for the window, and to dispose this input context for
the window when the window is disposed. Explicitly disposing input
contexts allows to free up the (often substantial) resources
allocated by native input methods.
Component class has new methods to handle input
contexts and input method request handlers. Newly created
Component instances other than windows initially share
the input context of their containing window. The event handling in
the Component class is modified to redirect incoming
events to the input context associated with the component, and only
pass them on to the component's listeners if they have not been
consumed by an input method. Focus changes are communicated to the
input context so it can activate or deactivate input methods.
The classes that have knowledge of event or listener classes are
modified to handle the new
Graphics2D classes have
drawString methods that accept
AttributedCharacterIterator instances as input.
Instances of the new
TextLayout class can be constructed
AttributedCharacterIterator instances and used to
draw text with input method highlights. Both ways of drawing text
recognize input method highlights as range attributes for the text,
and call back into the input method framework to convert abstract
into concrete highlight styles.
The Swing text components in JDK 1.2 by default are active clients of the input method framework. That means, applications using these text components will use the on-the-spot input mode by default. Applications developers are still responsible for ending input operations when some other operation is started that requires the text to be committed. They may also use the input method framework's methods to create a private input context, to select an input method, or to set an expected character subset.
The following enhancements are planned for future JDK releases. Note that the order of enhancement items does not prioritize the functionality.
This API enables the implementation of input method engines in the Java programming language. This API will also include a facility to manage multiple input methods in the Java application environment.
Currently, TextArea and
TextField use platform peers
and therefore the platform text input systems for text input. They
can therefore not use input methods implemented in the Java
programming language. Eventually, as Swing and AWT get merged,
TextField will become
lightweight components. At that point, input through input methods
implemented in the Java programming language will magically become
The framework has to be able to support multi-layer input methods. For example, text entered through a hand-writing recognition input method may need to also go through kana-kanji conversion before becoming committed text.