Improving JTextPane Performance


After I started benchmarking how much time commands took to complete in Dungeon, I noticed that writing a full world map (a grid of colored ASCII characters) to the screen was reasonably slow. Then I set forth to find the solution to my problem.

Basically, there are two causes for slow JTextPane updates: each insertion triggers a re-rendering of the display and some methods in the DefaultStyledDocument class are synchronized, so there is the overhead of acquiring locks.

I worked on the first issue and was able to reduce the overhead of insertion substantially. I wrote a class that keeps two StyledDocuments: one inactive and one set to the JTextPane the class is responsible for. When text is written to this object, it will update the StyledDocument that is inactive, swap both documents, and then update the now inactive StyledDocument. Why keep two documents? Some insertions are just small increments, that really benefit from not having to rewrite a long passage of text multiple times.

How to make it faster? Instead of running the second document update (the user has already seen the update one because the swap has already taken place) on the same thread, delegate it to a worker thread. Note that this approach will block this object for a while. To keep it simple and avoid premature optimization, I did not even code this multithreaded version. But I am mentioning it here just in case someone (maybe me) needs it in the future.

For reference, the issue related to the post.