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Java menu knowledge base
Increasing speed
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Speed Issues: things you can do to increase speed
 
Quick checklist
  • Have you optimized the size of your index files and used multi-indices if necessary?
  • Have you checked out the speed parameters on the applet and set these correctly?
  • Have you used path substitutions in your index file?
  • Have you used a START: command in the first index to give the applet resources loading priority (see further below)?
  • Have you ensured that your whole page design is streamlined and bandwidth-friendly?
  • Have you seen and tried the option to load indices via parameters?
  • Applet resource sizes
     
    OK, it sounds obvious, but some people really overlook this. File downloading time is proportional to file size. Our applets mostly have sizes between 13 and 26 KB, which is pretty small and shouldn't hurt anyone. But you, as the designer, may also have to choose and configure a number of resource files for the applet. Your menu content may be in a separate index file. And you may have a number of graphics files to configure symbols, scrollbars, frames and backgrounds. It's possible, if you have configured everything neatly, to use an initial 10 KB or so for the text file, plus graphics files of only a few kilobytes each. You can have a really great implementation like that. But injudicious choices and organisation may leave you with 90 KB of index file and the same again in graphics, which is going to leave someone logging in from central Asia with a 14.400 modem hanging around for a long time before the applet finally gets going. You should also note that excessively large resource files will not only slow downloading time, but may also slow down performance at runtime.
     
    What should you watch out for when designing to avoid problems like this?
     
    1. Avoid external files. Our applets now offer the option of avoiding all these external resource files. You can, if you wish, have the index inserted into the parameters, which means that the index is actually downloaded before the applet as part of the HTML file. You can also have the applet create internal icons, buttons, scrolls, etc - these are rather simple and may not be to your taste - but the option exists.
     
    2. Optimize your external files. That means using well-optimized graphics and splitting your index into interlinked, separately downloaded index files. The website indexing system manages such splitting for you automatically, allowing you to have fast starting even if you have hundreds or thousands of links.
     
    Resource competition / Using the START: command
     
    If your HTML pages which load the applet are rich with huge graphics and other technological wonders, this may slow down the applet loading time enormously (if the applet, like ours, is one which also loads external resources from the server). Even if the applet is at the top of the page, the applet's own resource requests to the server (for its own graphics and menu source files) take a low priority. That means that the HTML page's requests are dealt with first. So if, for example, you have a large number of animations low down on your opening page, the applet is going to remain inactive until those animations are loaded. This applies even if the heavy graphics are in a separate frame. Add up the total bytes of graphics, audio and other download requests made by all your opening pages (the ones that open at the same time as the applet), think realistically about how fast your server is going to deliver all these bytes to your site visitor at peak time, and as a rule, if the result is over 20 KB, think hard about your loading priorities: do you want the applet to take priority, or your snazzy opening graphics and welcome music? (An internet connection has a finite speed).
     
    If you want the applet to have priority, you should include a link to your main welcome page in the first index file to be loaded into the applet. When editing your index with the website indexing system, you should check the "startpage" option for the link to your main page. This forces the link (your welcome page) to be loaded as soon as the applet has finished loading. You leave the loading of your real welcome page up to the applet, programming your HTML to initially just put up a fairly empty page (perhaps just a background image and a minimal amount of introductory text)in the main display frame. (If you are writing the index manually, look for the START: command in the documentation.) The result is a highly professional loading order on your main page. (If you'd like to see an example of this in action - albeit using a slightly different coding system, but with the same effect, try out this CCD Astronomy site. We don't check this link all that often, though...)
     
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