JSpinner - A Simple Sequence Container

This document is a proposal for a new Swing component, JSpinner.

One of the most commonly requested new Swing components is a spinner - a single line input field that lets the user select an number or an object value from an ordered set. Spinners typically provide a pair of tiny arrow buttons for stepping through the possible values, the up/down arrow keys also cycle through the values. The user may also be allowed to type a (legal) value directly into the spinner. Although combo boxes provide similar functionality, spinners are sometimes preferred because they don't require a drop down list that can obscure important data.

Support for a spinner has been added to the list of features for the JDK 1.4 release of Java which is covered by Java Community Process JSR 59. This particular feature is listed on the JDC Bug Parade as bug 4290529.

A Short Catlog of Spinners

Spinners are common in modern GUIs. Here are some examples from some popular look and feels and from OpenWindows:

Windows CDE/Motif JLF (proposed) Mac Aqua OpenWindows

All of the spinners deliver very simple behavior: clicking on the arrow buttons changes the fields value and, when the spinner has the focus, the keyboard up and down arrow keys do the same. In some applications the spinners up or down arrow button is disabled when the upper or lower limit of the spinner has been reached, in other cases the spinner just resets its value to the opposite extreme.

JSpinner, SpinnerModel, SpinnerListModel

The JSpinner class is a simple Swing container that manages three children: two arrow buttons and a single component, called the editor that displays the spinner's value. The value displayed by the spinner is encapsulated by model of a sequence of objects called a SpinnerModel .

public interface SpinnerModel {
    Object getValue();
    void setValue(Object);
    Object getNextValue();
    Object getPreviousValue();
    void addChangeListener(ChangeListener x);
    void removeChangeListener(ChangeListener x);

The SpinnerModel interface is similar to ListModel - they both represent a sequence a values - however there are some important differences:

The relationship between the JSpinner and its model is simple. The editor component monitors the model with a ChangeListener and always displays the object returned by SpinnerModel.getValue(). The up and down arrow buttons update the value by calling setValue(getNextValue()) or setValue(getPreviousValue()) respectively. The getNextValue and getPreviousValue methods return null when the end or the beginning of the sequence has been reached, so the arrow button actions have to check for null before updating the models value. If the editor is a writable field of some kind, its responsible for honoring the constraints defined by the model or handling the IllegalArgumentException thrown by setValue for invalid values.

The SpinnerListModel provides support for two common mutable sequence types: java.util.List, and an array of objects. For example to create a JSpinner that lets the user choose a day of the week in the default locale one could write:

String[] days = new DateFormatSymbols().getWeekdays();
SpinnerModel model = new SpinnerListModel(days);
JSpinner spinner = new JSpinner(model);

In addition to initializing the model property of the spinner, these constructors create an editor component that displays the SpinnerModel's value and can be used to change it. The protected JSpinner.createEditor method is used for this and, by default, it creates a JFormattedTextField that has been configured to display the model.

To find or initialize a spinners current value one can either use the models value property or use the convenience JSpinner value property which just delegates to the model. For example, using the spinner configured in the example above, the following two statements are equivalent:

String selectedDay = spinner.getModel().getValue().toString();
String selectedDay = spinner.getValue().toString(); 

Setting the spinners value is similar. Attempts to set the SpinnerModel value to an object that the model doesn't support cause an IllegalArgumentException to be thrown.

Dates and numbers are two of the most common applications for a spinner component. To simplify spinning these types, two additional SpinnerModel implementation classes are provided: SpinnerDateModel and SpinnerNumberModel.


One of the most common uses of a spinner is to compactly present an editable date. Here's a simple example of creating a JSpinner that allows the user to enter a (fully localized) date:

    SpinnerDateModel model = new SpinnerDateModel();
    JSpinner spinner = new JSpinner(model);
    Date value = model.getDate();

In this example, the JSpinner constructor has created a JFormattedTextField editor that's configured for editing dates and it has added a ChangeListener to the SpinnerDateModel to keep the editor and the model in sync.

Here's the SpinnerDateModel API. We've added three new read/write properties: start, end, and stepSize and a read-only date property that returns the models value cast to a Date.

public class SpinnerDateModel extends AbstractSpinnerModel {
    public SpinnerDateModel(Date value, Comparable start, Comparable end, int stepSize)
    public SpinnerDateModel()
    public void setStart(Comparable start)
    public Comparable getStart()
    public void setEnd(Comparable end)
    public Comparable getEnd()
    public void setStepSize(int stepSize)
    public int getStepSize()
    public Object getNextValue()
    public Object getPreviousValue()
    public Date getDate()
    public Object getValue()
    public void setValue(Object value)

The startDate and endDate properties can be null to indicate that there is no lower or upper limit. The no-arguments SpinnerDateModel constructor initializes both the start and end date to null, the initial value of the model is the current date.

The value of the stepSize property must be one of the java.util.Calendar constants that specify a field within a Calendar. The getNextValue and getPreviousValue methods change the date forward or backwards by this amount. For example, if stepSize is Calendar.DAY_OF_WEEK, then nextValue produces a Date that's 24 hours after the current value, and previousValue produces a Date that's 24 hours earlier.

The legal values for stepSize are: Calendar.ERA, Calendar.YEAR Calendar.MONTH, Calendar.WEEK_OF_YEAR Calendar.WEEK_OF_MONTH, Calendar.DAY_OF_MONTH Calendar.DAY_OF_YEAR, Calendar.DAY_OF_WEEK Calendar.DAY_OF_WEEK_IN_MONTH, Calendar.AM_PM Calendar.HOUR, Calendar.HOUR_OF_DAY Calendar.MINUTE, Calendar.SECOND, or Calendar.MILLISECOND.

The default SpinnerDateModel editor adjusts the stepSize property based on the text cursor position. For example if the cursor moves into the editor's month subfield then the incrementSize would be changed to Calendar.DAY_OF_MONTH.


Spinners are often used to present editable integers and real numbers that represent everything from temperature to stock prices. The SpinnerNumberModel provides basic support for all of the basic Java Number types, from Byte to Double.

To create a spinner that allows the user to pick a real multiple of 1/8 between 0.0 and 1000.0, with an initial value of 500.0, one could write:

    SpinnerNumberModel model = new SpinnerNumberModel(500.0, 0.0, 1000.0, 0.625);
    JSpinner spinner = new JSpinner(model);
    double value = model.getNumber().doubleValue();

In this example, the JSpinner constructor has created a JFormattedTextField editor that's configured for editing real numbers and it has added a ChangeListener to the SpinnerNumberModel to keep the editor and the model in sync.

Here's a summary of the SpinnerNumberModel API. We've added three new read/write properties: minimum, maximum, and stepSize and a read-only number property that returns the models value cast to a Number.

public class SpinnerNumberModel extends AbstractSpinnerModel {
    public SpinnerNumberModel(Number value, Comparable minimum, Comparable maximum, Number stepSize)
    public SpinnerNumberModel(int value, int minimum, int maximum, int stepSize)
    public SpinnerNumberModel(double value, double minimum, double maximum, double stepSize)
    public SpinnerNumberModel()
    public void setMinimum(Comparable minimum)
    public Comparable getMinimum()
    public void setMaximum(Comparable maximum)
    public Comparable getMaximum()
    public void setStepSize(Number stepSize)
    public Number getStepSize()
    public Object getNextValue()
    public Object getPreviousValue()
    public Number getNumber()
    public Object getValue()
    public void setValue(Object value) 

As with the SpinnerDateModel, the minimum and maximum properties can be null to indicate that there is no lower or upper limit. The stepSize property just specifies how much to add or subtract from the value to compute the nextValue or the previousValue.

Summary of the Spinner APIs

Support for spinners adds six classes and one interface (SpinnerModel) to the javax.swing package:

Additionally we'll add SpinnerUI to the javax.swing.plaf package and BasicSpinnerUI to the javax.swing.plaf.basic package. The API's for these classes will be added to this specification when the JSpinner implementation is complete.

Last modified: Wed Dec 13 14:08:16 PST 2000