CS 338: Graphical User Interfaces

Course Syllabus

Professor: Dario Salvucci
Email: salvucci @ cs.drexel.edu
Office: University Crossings 142
Office Hours: Thursday 11-12 or email for appointment


A vast number of today's computer applications have user interfaces through which users enter information, analyze data, play games, etc. In this course we will explore how to implement common user interfaces that we all use in everyday life. The majority of the course looks in detail at the specific components of a user interface and the integration of these components into a usable system. The course also discusses design and evaluation issues that arise during implementation in order to understand the context in which interfaces are developed.

Goals and Objectives

This course aims for students to (1) implement basic user interfaces using a high-level programming language and interface toolkit; (2) understand and apply concepts of interface layout and event handling; (3) understand and apply concepts of various interface components such as buttons, lists, and windows; and (4) understand and appreciate the larger context in which interfaces are designed, implemented, and ultimately used.


The official prerequisite to this course is CS 350 (Software Design, formerly Object-Oriented Programming). In addition, the class will assume basic familiarity with Java and a UNIX environment. Students familiar with C++ but not Java should be able to pick up the necessary Java skills through lectures and assignments.


Lectures are intended to be interactive, and class participation is highly encouraged -- please ask questions early and often! Topics covered in class will include the following:


There is no required textbook for this course; the lecture notes handed out in class will serve as the primary study resource, and we may hand out additional sources during the term. Optionally, you may also find it helpful to purchase a Java and/or Java Swing reference book. Feel free to choose whatever suits you best; there are many books to choose from, including:

The Java Tutorial, Third Edition (2000), by Mary Campione, Kathy Walrath, & Alison Huml.  Addison-Wesley; ISBN 0201703939.
The JFC Swing Tutorial: A Guide to Constructing GUIs (1999), by Kathy Walrath & Mary Campione. Addison-Wesley; ISBN 0201433214.
However, before you purchase additional books, please note that the Web contains many on-line resources that may serve just as well, such as Sun's on-line Java Tutorial.


Homework assignments will involve both programming and writing to solidify and expand on topics presented in lectures. The majority of the assignments involve implementation of a user interface in the Java programming language and the standard Swing package; lectures will introduce whatever knowledge of Java is needed to complete the assignments. For writing assignments, we will be analyzing the user needs that go into interface implementations and describing specifications for these user needs.


The course will include an multi-week individual project that brings together all aspects of the learned material. You will have the option of working on one of several suggested projects or creating your own project independently. The final week will include demonstration sessions in which everyone will present their projects and results to the class.


We will have two exams during the term. The exams will test knowledge and skills developed in lectures, readings, and assignments. The exams will stress deep understanding of the concepts involved rather than more superficial aspects of programming.


All aspects of this course are important for developing an understanding of and appreciation for building user interfaces. The grading breakdown will be as follows: Assignments turned in up to one day late incur a 50% penalty; assignments turned in more than one day late cannot be accepted and receive a score of 0. Missed exams also receive a score of 0. Make-up exams will only be allowed in extreme circumstances.


The instructor will disseminate important announcements by email through the course mailing list, and also post these announcements on the course web site. Also, the web site contains a timeline with links to all information (lecture slides, assignments, etc.) relevant to the course.