February 9, 2000

Java 2D Graphics, The Point2D Class

Java Programming, Lecture Notes # 302

by Richard G. Baldwin


This lesson is primarily concerned with the use of the java.awt.geom.Point2D class.  It also illustrates the use of nested top-level classes in the Java 2D Graphics API.  This is a concept that was explained in an earlier tutorial lesson.  If you aren’t familiar with this concept, you should review the earlier tutorial that explains it.

What is a Point?

The concept of a point is central to most graphics models.  A point is a specification of a particular location in space.  It has neither height, nor width, nor depth.  Therefore, it cannot be rendered on your computer screen, although it might be possible to render a pixel on your screen that occupies a space generally specified by the point.

Although points can exist in three-dimensional space, that is not our interest in the current series of lessons.  This series of lessons in concerned with the Java 2D (two-dimensional) API.  Hence, a point in our 2D space represents a location in that space commonly specified by a pair of coordinate values, horizontal (x) and vertical (y).

You may already be familiar with the notion of performing graphic operations in Cartesian coordinates.  This is similar, except in Cartesian coordinates, the positive direction of y-displacement is normally up, while in our current frame of reference, the direction of positive y-displacement is down.  As in typical Cartesian coordinates, the direction of positive x-displacement is to the right.

So, an object of the java.awt.geom.Point2D class encapsulates a pair of coordinate values that specify a location in our coordinate system.  Many of the graphic objects that we will encounter later as we continue to pursue the Java 2D Graphics API are constructed on a foundation of points.  For example, four points could be used to specify the corners of a rectangle, and three points could be used to specify the apexes of a triangle.  A large number of points could be used to specify a curved line made up of many short straight-line segments.

Nested Top-Level Classes

The Point2D class demonstrates the use of nested top-level classes, which is an inheritance concept used throughout the 2D API.  This is a concept where one or more subclasses are defined as static classes inside their superclass.  The details of this concept were presented in an earlier tutorial lesson.

While an object of the Point2D class encapsulates the coordinates of a location in space, that class alone doesn’t specify how the coordinate values are stored.  Rather, two nested subclasses named Point2D.Double and Point2D.Float are used to actually store the coordinate information.  An object of the first subclass stores the coordinate information as type double while an object of the second subclass stores the coordinate information as type float.  Apparently, however, it is usually satisfactory to treat those objects as type Point2D, because many of the standard methods that use an object of the type Point2D will determine the actual subclass type and then behave accordingly.

What About the Point Class?

The Java 2D API became available with the release of JDK 1.2.  Prior to that time, the Java AWT included a class named Point that could also be used to specify the coordinates of a location in space.  Objects of the Point class have, since the beginning, specified the coordinate values as type int, and that is still the case.  With the release of the 2D API, the Point class now extends the Point2D class.  However, Point is not a nested subclass of Point2D.  It is simply a subclass of Point2D.

Methods of the Point2D Class

The Point2D class provides several methods that are inherited by its subclasses, and can be used to operate on objects instantiated from those subclasses.  Most of the methods have several overloaded versions.  Generally the methods provide the following capabilities:

The sample program that I will present later will make use of some of these capabilities.

Methods of the Nested Subclasses

The two nested subclasses provide (apparently overridden versions of) the set and get methods for setting and getting the coordinate values as the appropriate type.  The Point2D.Float class provides set methods for input parameters of either type double or type float.  Presumably if the coordinate values are provided as type double, they are converted to type float and saved as that type.

Curiously, the get methods of the Point2D.Float class do not provide an overridden version to return coordinate values of type float.  Rather, they return the coordinate values as type double even if this means returning inaccurate double results.  This is illustrated in the sample program that I will present later.

Both of the nested subclasses provide an overridden toString() method that returns a String that represents the type of object and the coordinate values of the point.

Methods of the Point Class

The Point class provides methods to accomplish generally the same behavior as described above for the new classes in the 2D API, although in some cases the syntax is different.  In addition, the Point class provides methods to

Since the Point class is not new to the Java 2D API, I probably won’t have much to say about it in this series of lessons.  The biggest difference between the Point class, which has existed since JDK 1.0, and the Point2D class that was released with JDK 1.2 is:

The sample program presented later will illustrate the use of the nested subclasses named Point2D.Double and Point2D.Float.

Sample Program

This sample program, named Point01.java is designed to illustrate the use of the two nested top-level classes that are contained in, and extend the class named Point2D.  I will break the program into fragments for discussion.  A complete listing of the program is provided at the end of the lesson.

The first fragment (Figure 1) shows an import directive to remind us that we are working with a class that belongs to the java.awt.geom package.

This fragment also shows the beginning of the definition of the controlling class named Point01.  Two instance variables are declared, each of type Point2D.  Later, these instance variables will be used to contain references to two objects, one of each of the nested subclass types.

The main() method

Figure 2 shows the beginning of the main() method.  This fragment also shows the instantiation of an object of the controlling class, and the storage of a reference to this object in the local reference variable named thisObj.  This object contains the two instance variables of type Point2D declared above, which can be used to refer to objects of the nested subclass types.

An object of the nested subclass Point2D.Double

Figure 3 instantiates an object of the nested subclass, Point2D.Double and stores a reference to that object in an instance variable named doublePointVar, which is an instance variable of the object of the controlling class (thisObj).  Note that this reference variable is not of the actual type of the object, but rather is of the type of its superclass named Point2D.  This is possible because in Java, a reference to an object can be stored in a reference variable of the actual class of the object, or of any superclass of the class of the object.

When the new object of the Point2D.Double class is instantiated, the x and y coordinate values are initialized with the following values respectively:


At least these would be the values if we had infinite precision.  In reality, these values are stored in the object with the precision afforded by the double type

An object of the nested subclass Point2D.Float

Similarly, Figure 4 instantiates an object of the Point2D.Float class, and stores its reference in a different instance variable of the controlling class named floatPointVar.  Again, this variable is not of the actual type of the object, but rather is of the superclass of the object, Point2D

This is a common theme used throughout the Java 2D API.  Objects are frequently instantiated from a nested subclass type and the references to those objects are stored in reference variables of the superclass type.

When this object is instantiated, its coordinate values are initialized with the same values described above (never ending 3’s and 6’s) except that in this case, the values are stored with precision afforded by the float type, which is considerably less than the precision afforded by the double type.

Note that a (float) cast is required to force the result of the division to be of type float in order to satisfy the parameter type requirements of the constructor for the Point2D.float class.

Getting and displaying coordinate values

Figure 5 applies the getX(), and getY() methods to the two instance variables containing references to the two objects of the nested-subclass types to get and display the coordinate values stored in those objects.

The output produced by this code fragment follows:

Data from the object of type Point2D.Double




Data from the object of type Point2D.Float



As mentioned earlier, the get methods for the Point2D.Float class return the stored coordinate information as type double.  However, as you can see, the returned values are not accurate beyond about the seventh significant digit in this case (I have highlighted the erroneous values in red).  The double values returned by the get method for the Point2D.Double class are accurate through about sixteen significant digits.

This fragment also ends the main() method and ends the controlling class.

Complete Program Listing

A listing of the complete program is provided in Figure 6

Richard Baldwin is a college professor and private consultant whose primary focus is a combination of Java and XML. In addition to the many platform-independent benefits of Java applications, he believes that a combination of Java and XML will become the primary driving force in the delivery of structured information on the Web.

Richard has participated in numerous consulting projects involving Java, XML, or a combination of the two.  He frequently provides onsite Java and/or XML training at the high-tech companies located in and around Austin, Texas.  He is the author of Baldwin's Java Programming Tutorials, which has gained a worldwide following among experienced and aspiring Java programmers. He has also published articles on Java Programming in Java Pro magazine.

Richard holds an MSEE degree from Southern Methodist University and has many years of experience in the application of computer technology to real-world problems.


Copyright 2000, Richard G. Baldwin.  Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without  express written permission from Richard Baldwin is prohibited.