JavaScript Tutorial 4: Designing User Interfaces in JavaScript
Introduction
The jsui object allows you use JavaScript to design graphical user interface objects for use in the Max environment. The JavaScript implementation for the jsui object is similar to that used in the js object, with an added API that supports two- and three-dimensional vector graphics drawn with OpenGL commands. It also includes methods for handling mouse interaction in the jsui object window.
In addition to the advantages provided by JavaScript, jsui provides a number of built-in features that make UI development flexible:
This Tutorial assumes that you’ve already looked at the other JavaScript Tutorials. The jsui object bases most of its graphics language on OpenGL functions, the specifics of which are beyond the scope of this Tutorial. The OpenGL ‘Redbook’ is the standard reference for these functions. An online version is available at:

http://www.opengl.org/documentation/red_book/
The OpenGL API supported by jsui is contained in an object called jsui sketch. This object understands most OpenGL commands and symbolic constants. Converting between OpenGL code (e.g. as given in C in the ‘Redbook’ code examples) and sketch methods and properties for jsui JavaScript code is quite straightforward if you observe the following guidelines:
A number of higher-level drawing and shape commands are available which may speed up user interface development. The jsui sketch reference found in the Javascript in Max manual (and the help patch for the jsui object) contain lists of these commands.
jsui in Action
Open the tutorial.
Take a look at our tutorial patcher. You will see a jsui object containing a grid of light red circles against a green background. Clicking on a circle inside the object will change the circle’s color to a darker red. Clicking on the same circle again will change the color back to light red.
Click on some circles so that they are highlighted (in dark red). At the right of the patch, manipulate some of the slider objects above the router object. Note the correspondence between which circles are clicked and which slider objects below the router echo the values from above. Click on the message box labeled clear attached to the jsui object. The circles should all go to light red and the router object will no longer pass messages from the slider objects above. Click on the message box containing the list 0 0 1, 1 1 1, etc. The jsui object should update to show a diagonal row. The router object will now pass messages from the first slider above to the first slider below, and so on.
Our jsui object uses JavaScript code to emulate some of the functionality of the Max matrixctrl object. The columns represent the input to the router object; the rows specify the output. Our jsui communicates with the router object by sending lists (in the format input output state) that tell the router object to pass messages received at an inlet to all the appropriate outlets given the jsui object’s current configuration.
Like the js object, the jsui object gets its program from a file written in JavaScript saved somewhere in the search path. Because it is a graphical object, there is no object box to type in the name of the file. Instead, we set the JavaScript source file using the jsui object’s Inspector.
Unlock the tutorial patch and highlight the jsui object. Under the Object menu, select Get Info…. An Inspector should appear with the name of our jsui source file (‘mymatrix.js’) in the text field labeled ‘JavaScript File.’
You can also set the size of the object in the Inspector, as well as turn on or off a border around the object. Disabling the object border, combined with setting the background color of your Max patch to match that of your jsui object, can help you design a seamless user interface.
The Drawing Code
The jsui object is graphical, so double-clicking the object will not open the text editor as it does with the js object. Instead, click the message box labeled open. The text editor containing our JavaScript file (‘mymatrix.js’) will appear. Our JavaScript file is saved on disk in the same folder as the tutorial patch.
As with a js script, our code for the jsui object starts with a global block that allows us to define inlets and outlets for the object and global variables for our code. It is also where we type commands that we want to occur when the object is initialized:

// inlets and outlets
inlets = 1;
outlets = 1;
// global variables
var ncols=4; // default columns
var nrows=4; // default rows
var vbrgb = [0.8,1.,0.8,0.5];
var vmrgb = [0.9,0.5,0.5,0.75];
var vfrgb = [1.,0.,0.2,1.];
// initialize state array
var state = new Array(8);
for(i=0;i<8;i++)
{
state[i] = new Array(8);
for(j=0;j<64;j++)
{
state[i][j] = 0;
}
}
// set up jsui defaults to 2d
sketch.default2d();
// initialize graphics
draw();
refresh();
Our JavaScript code defines two global variables (ncols and nrows) which can be accessed by all functions, as well as a number of global Array objects that define colors for the drawing and a state array that we will use to hold information about which circles are ‘on’ and which are ‘off’ in our user interface.
Multi-dimensional arrays in JavaScript are allocated by an Array object in which each element of the Array is itself an Array object (and so on, if more than two dimensions are needed). This may seem somewhat unusual if you’ve worked in other programming languages where multi-dimensional arrays can be declared directly (e.g. C). The for() loops in our global block accomplish this allocation and initialize all the elements of the state array to 0. Once a multi-dimensional array is created, it can be referenced using common bracket notation, e.g. state[4][2].
Following our variable and array declarations, we find three commands that refer to the graphical behavior of the jsui object. The first, sketch.default2d(), tells our jsui object to initialize a number of default behaviors with the assumption that we will be giving it graphics commands for a two-dimensional scene. It sets a default view upon the OpenGL rendering context and performs a number of utility routines to make it easy for us to simply start placing graphical elements in the window. The draw() command (which could be named anything) refers to our main graphics function which we write to contain all the commands needed to draw the user interface of the jsui object. The refresh() command copies the OpenGL backbuffer (where the drawing is done initially to prevent flicker) to the actual screen display. Commenting out the refresh() command will prevent our jsui object from ever showing us anything.
Below the global block, examine the draw() function. This is the function that provides jsui with all the commands it needs to draw our screen interface:

// draw -- main graphics function
function draw()
{
with (sketch)
{
// set how the polygons are rendered
glclearcolor(vbrgb[0],vbrgb[1],vbrgb[2],vbrgb[3]); // set the clear color
glclear(); // erase the background
colstep=2./ncols; // how much to move over per column
rowstep=2./nrows; // how much to move over per row
for(i=0;i<ncols;i++) // iterate through the columns
{
for(j=0;j<nrows;j++) // iterate through the rows
{
moveto((i*colstep + colstep/2)-1.0, 1.0 - (j*rowstep + rowstep/2), 0.); // move the drawing point
if(state[i][j]) // set 'on' color
{
glcolor(vfrgb[0],vfrgb[1],vfrgb[2],vfrgb[3]);
}
else // set 'off' color (midway between vbrgb and vfrgb)
{
glcolor(vmrgb[0],vmrgb[1],vmrgb[2],vmrgb[3]);
}
circle(0.7/Math.max(nrows,ncols)); // draw the circle
}
}
}
}
The graphics commands (everything beginning with ‘gl’, as well as the circle() command) are all methods and properties of the sketch object, which encapsulates most of the OpenGL API, much as the Math object encapsulates most common math functions.
The JavaScript with() statement allows us to use properties and methods belonging to an object (in this case the sketch object that provides us with our OpenGL functionality) without having to reference ‘sketch’ in every command. Without the with(), we would have to write sketch.glcolor() instead of glcolor(), sketch.circle() instead of circle(), etc. This useful trick could also be implemented in functions that rely heavily on other objects (e.g. Task or Patcher).
Our draw() function sets some default drawing behaviors and clears the window with the color defined by the vbrgb array. It then iterates through our state array based on how many columns (ncols) and rows (nrows) we’ve defined for our object. If a particular state element is 0 (off), it draws a circle in the color defined by vmrgb. If an element is 1 (on), the circle is drawn in the vfrgb color. The position of the circles is determined by the number of rows and columns, and is based on boundaries of our OpenGL world, which are set to be between –1.0 and 1.0 on both axes (i.e. the middle of our jsui window in OpenGL coordinates is 0, 0).
The size of the world is not limited to coordinates in the range of –1.0 to 1.0; our default viewport merely sets us at the center of the scene whose y range is –1.0 to 1.0 and whose x range is scaled based on the aspect ration of the object. Because our object box happens to be square, our ranges are the same on both axes. Changing the viewport (by manipulating the position of our virtual “camera”, for example) will change what coordinates are visible in the jsui object’s box.
Setting Parameters
In the Tutorial patch, change the number box objects that set the rows and columns. Note that the object will dynamically add up to eight rows and columns of circles based on those values. Look at the rows() and cols() functions in the JavaScript code. Note that they call a bang() function after setting their variables.

// rows -- change number of rows in jsui
function rows(val)
{
if(arguments.length)
{
nrows=arguments[0];
bang(); // draw and refresh display
}
}
// cols -- change number of columns is jsui
function cols(val)
{
if(arguments.length)
{
ncols=arguments[0];
bang(); // draw and refresh display
}
}
The bang() function, which we call after nearly every change made to the object from Max (including mouse events), simply calls draw() and refresh() as we did in our global block, causing the jsui object to update its window to reflect any graphical changes.

// bang -- draw and refresh display
function bang()
{
draw();
refresh();
}
By only doing the drawing when necessary, we are able to reduce the amount of processor time the object uses.
In the tutorial patcher, change the swatch objects that set the frgb and brgb messages to our jsui object. Look at the corresponding functions (frgb() and brgb()) in the JavaScript code. Note that the array for the ‘off’ circle’s color (vmrgb) is midway between the colors set by frgb and brgb messages: // frgb -- change foreground (clicked) circle color
function frgb(r,g,b)
{
vfrgb[0] = r/255.;
vfrgb[1] = g/255.;
vfrgb[2] = b/255.;
vmrgb[0] = 0.5*(vfrgb[0]+vbrgb[0]);
vmrgb[1] = 0.5*(vfrgb[1]+vbrgb[1]);
vmrgb[2] = 0.5*(vfrgb[2]+vbrgb[2]);
bang(); // draw and refresh display
}
// brgb -- change background color
function brgb(r,g,b)
{
vbrgb[0] = r/255.;
vbrgb[1] = g/255.;
vbrgb[2] = b/255.;
vmrgb[0] = 0.5*(vfrgb[0]+vbrgb[0]);
vmrgb[1] = 0.5*(vfrgb[1]+vbrgb[1]);
vmrgb[2] = 0.5*(vfrgb[2]+vbrgb[2]);
bang(); // draw and refresh display
}
Color in OpenGL is represented as four floating-point values in the range 0.0-1.0, corresponding to the red, green, blue, and alpha (transparency) amounts, respectively. This is in contrast to many video systems that commonly refer to color in the integer 0-255 (with no alpha value). Most of the work in our frgb() and brgb() functions is to convert from the latter (used by the swatch object) into the former (understood by the jsui object).
Mouse Interaction
Unlock the tutorial patcher and resize the jsui object (the circles should resize dynamically). Lock the patcher and notice that the mouse clicks still change the states of the correct circles. Lock the patch again and look at the onclick() function in the JavaScript code.
The onclick(), ondblclick(), and ondrag() functions, when defined, tell our jsui object what to do when a user clicks, double-clicks, or drags the mouse across the object. The function is called with arguments for where in the object’s window the action occurred, as well as a number of flags (such as whether the mouse was depressed, the state of the shift key, etc.). In our onclick() function, we only use first two arguments, corresponding to the x and the y of the mouse click.

// onclick -- deal with mouse click event
function onclick(x,y)
{
worldx = sketch.screentoworld(x,y)[0];
worldy = sketch.screentoworld(x,y)[1];
colwidth = 2./ncols; // width of a column, in world coordinates
rowheight = 2./nrows; // width of a row, in world coordinates
x_click = Math.floor((worldx+1.)/colwidth); // which column we clicked
y_click = Math.floor((1.-worldy)/rowheight); // which row we clicked
state[x_click][y_click] = !state[x_click][y_click]; // flip the state of the clicked point
outlet(0, x_click, y_click, state[x_click][y_click]); // output the coordinates and state of the clicked point
bang(); // draw and refresh display
}
Our OpenGL graphics world is defined in terms of floating-point coordinates (in our case, between –1.0 and 1.0). The jsui mouse functions return coordinates based on which pixel (counting away from the upper left-hand corner of the object box) the mouse event occurred. We need to convert between these two systems (of world coordinates and screen coordinates, respectively) in order to properly evaluate the mouse events for our grid of circles. The sketch methods worldtoscreen() and screentoworld() perform these conversions for us:

worldx = sketch.screentoworld(x,y)[0];
worldy = sketch.screentoworld(x,y)[1];
Once we know the width and height where we clicked, we can subdivide it based on how many circles we have on each axis:

colwidth = 2./ncols; // width of a column, in world coordinates
rowheight = 2./nrows; // width of a row, in world coordinates
We can then plug in the coordinates of the mouse click to figure out which circle we clicked nearest to:

x_click = Math.floor((worldx+1.)/colwidth); // which column we clicked
y_click = Math.floor((1.-worldy)/rowheight); // which row we clicked
We then reverse the element of the state array corresponding to the circle we clicked:

state[x_click][y_click] = !state[x_click][y_click];
After we’ve set the state array correctly, we send out a list corresponding to the change out our jsui object’s outlet into Max. We then bang our own jsui object, updating the graphics to reflect the change:

outlet(0, x_click, y_click, state[x_click][y_click]);
bang();
Note that we have set our onclick() function to be local, so that it can’t be triggered from an onclick message sent from our Max patch.
Familiarize yourself with the JavaScript code and how it relates to the behavior of the jsui object in the patcher. Click on the toggle object to activate the metro object at the right of the patch. This will simulate some input from the slider objects. Place post() statements in the JavaScript code to help navigate the values as they are passed from mouse click to list output.
Conclusion
The jsui object is a powerful tool to allow you to design and implement customizable user interfaces using JavaScript as a programming language. The key points in the program involve the main drawing function (which defines a sequence of commands to describe the jsui object’s graphical display) and the mouse interaction functions onclick(), ondblclick(), and ondrag(). Important things to note are the differences in color representation (floating point vs. integer) and spatial coordinates (floating-point world coordinates vs. Cartesian pixel coordinates) between the OpenGL API used in the jsui sketch object and the Max environment, respectively.
Code Listing
// mymatrix.js
//
// simulates a simple grid of clickable widgets (a la matrixctrl)
//
// rld, 5.04
//
// inlets and outlets
inlets = 1;
outlets = 1;
// global variables
var ncols=4; // default columns
var nrows=4; // default rows
var vbrgb = [0.8,1.,0.8,0.5];
var vmrgb = [0.9,0.5,0.5,0.75];
var vfrgb = [1.,0.,0.2,1.];
// initialize state array
var state = new Array(8);
for(i=0;i<8;i++)
{
state[i] = new Array(8);
for(j=0;j<64;j++)
{
state[i][j] = 0;
}
}
// set up jsui defaults to 2d
sketch.default2d();
// initialize graphics
draw();
refresh();
// draw -- main graphics function
function draw()
{
with (sketch)
{
// set how the polygons are rendered
glclearcolor(vbrgb[0],vbrgb[1],vbrgb[2],vbrgb[3]); // set the clear color
glclear(); // erase the background
colstep=2./ncols; // how much to move over per column
rowstep=2./nrows; // how much to move over per row

for(i=0;i<ncols;i++) // iterate through the columns
{
for(j=0;j<nrows;j++) // iterate through the rows
{
moveto((i*colstep + colstep/2)-1.0, 1.0 - (j*rowstep + rowstep/2), 0.); // move the drawing point
if(state[i][j]) // set 'on' color
{
glcolor(vfrgb[0],vfrgb[1],vfrgb[2],vfrgb[3]);
}
else // set 'off' color (midway between vbrgb and vfrgb)
{
glcolor(vmrgb[0],vmrgb[1],vmrgb[2],vmrgb[3]);
}
circle(0.7/Math.max(nrows,ncols)); // draw the circle
}
}
}
}
// bang -- draw and refresh display
function bang()
{
draw();
refresh();
}
// rows -- change number of rows in jsui
function rows(val)
{
if(arguments.length)
{
nrows=arguments[0];
bang(); // draw and refresh display
}
}
// cols -- change number of columns is jsui
function cols(val)
{
if(arguments.length)
{
ncols=arguments[0];
bang(); // draw and refresh display
}
}

// list -- update our state to respond to a change from Max
function list(v)
{
if(arguments.length==3) // bail if incorrect number of arguments
{
state[arguments[0]][arguments[1]]=arguments[2]; // update our internal state based on the list
outlet(0, arguments[0], arguments[1], arguments[2]); // echo the list out the outlet
}
bang(); // draw and refresh display
}
// clear -- wipe the state clean
function clear()
{
for(i=0;i<ncols;i++)
{
for(j=0;j<nrows;j++)
{
state[i][j]=0; // wipe the state
}
}
outlet(0, “clear”); // clear the router or matrix~ downstream
bang(); // draw and refresh display
}
// frgb -- change foreground (clicked) sphere color
function frgb(r,g,b)
{
vfrgb[0] = r/255.;
vfrgb[1] = g/255.;
vfrgb[2] = b/255.;
vmrgb[0] = 0.5*(vfrgb[0]+vbrgb[0]);
vmrgb[1] = 0.5*(vfrgb[1]+vbrgb[1]);
vmrgb[2] = 0.5*(vfrgb[2]+vbrgb[2]);
bang(); // draw and refresh display
}
// brgb -- change background color
function brgb(r,g,b)
{
vbrgb[0] = r/255.;
vbrgb[1] = g/255.;
vbrgb[2] = b/255.;
vmrgb[0] = 0.5*(vfrgb[0]+vbrgb[0]);
vmrgb[1] = 0.5*(vfrgb[1]+vbrgb[1]);
vmrgb[2] = 0.5*(vfrgb[2]+vbrgb[2]);
bang(); // draw and refresh display
}
// onresize -- deal with a resized jsui box
function onresize(w,h)
{
bang(); // draw and refresh display
}
onresize.local = 1; // make function private to prevent triggering from Max

// onclick -- deal with mouse click event
function onclick(x,y)
{
worldx = sketch.screentoworld(x,y)[0];
worldy = sketch.screentoworld(x,y)[1];
colwidth = 2./ncols; // width of a column, in world coordinates
rowheight = 2./nrows; // width of a row, in world coordinates
x_click = Math.floor((worldx+1.)/colwidth); // which column we clicked
y_click = Math.floor((1.-worldy)/rowheight); // which row we clicked
state[x_click][y_click] = !state[x_click][y_click]; // flip the state of the clicked point
outlet(0, x_click, y_click, state[x_click][y_click]); // output the coordinates and state of the clicked point
bang(); // draw and refresh display
}
onclick.local = 1; // make function private to prevent triggering from Max
// ondblclick -- pass buck to onclick()
function ondblclick(x,y)
{
onclick(x,y);
}
ondblclick.local = 1; // make function private to prevent triggering from Max

See Also

Name Description
jsui Javascript user interface and OpenGL graphics
swatch Color swatch for RGB color selection and display