The best approach?
Swing is powerful; it can get a lot done with a few lines of code. The examples shown in this book are reasonably simple, and for learning purposes it makes sense to write them by hand. You can actually accomplish quite a bit by combining simple layouts. At some point, however, it stops making sense to hand-code GUI forms; it becomes too complicated and is not a good use of your programming time. The Java and Swing designers oriented the language and libraries to support GUI building tools, which have been created for the express purpose of making your programming experience easier. As long as you understand whats going on with layouts and how to deal with the events (described next), its not particularly important that you actually know the details of how to lay out components by hand; let the appropriate tool do that for you (Java is, after all, designed to increase programmer productivity).