TweetFollow Us on Twitter

November 92 - Pointer-Counterpointer

Pointer-Counterpointer

Eric Berdhal and Jeff Alger

Eric,

    For eight years now, MacApp has been the only game in town. Sure, there's been Smalltalk V/Mac and the Think Class Library, but neither is a serious product for large-scale applications. Suddenly, we're going to have new, high-quality offerings from companies like Symantec, Taligent, Component Software, Visix, Electron Mining (see elsewhere in this issue), and not least Apple. There will be lots of cross-pollenation from technologies like X, Windows, Common Lisp and its bouncing new baby, Dylan, and other AI-derivatives. Where before we had strict parochialism, we will now have routine cross-platform development.

    What we're seeing is the emergence at long last of a competitive market economy in class libraries for the Macintosh. Ironically, it will come about roughly three years after the fall of central planning in eastern Europe, but hey, better late than never. Those of us who have lived with MacApp over the years (and no mistress could have been more loyal or more fickle!) are the keepers of the lore and should pass that lore along to the new generation. So, here goes.

    Apple has invested too little to do the job right but just enough to screw up the third-party market. One has to wonder whether a Taligent-sized effort within Apple years ago wouldn't have obviated the need for Taligent as a separate company. By changing compilers to suit MacApp Apple kept others constantly off-balance in language tools. By providing simplistic tools like ViewEdit, SourceBug, MPW, and MacBrowse free on ETO, but never really finishing them, Apple has hampered third-party vendors and products - Jasik's Debugger, AppMaker, Ad Lib, Object Master, to name just a few - that have consistently been better products, but lacked one critical attribute in the market: the Apple logo. Lurches in direction from version to version and even beta to beta have made it impossible for independent companies to recapture engineering costs. It has also discouraged people from writing books, developing training courses, or providing complementary class libraries. On reflection, I think Apple's resources would have been better used to set standards, enable technologies through technical assistance and seed funding, and provide a marketing umbrella for third-party products.

    As far as technology is concerned, I agree with you that versions 1.x and 2.x were quite well done, but that 3.x is basically a collection of features masquerading as an application framework.

    There were the expected number of misguesses for anything this complex. Compatibility with Object Pascal, in hindsight, was more harmful than helpful and looks a little silly now. Not using C++ version 3.x, pointer-based objects or multiple inheritance also looks increasingly like a big mistake. Backward compatibility with 2.x resulted in lots of redundancy but little benefit.

    There were good concepts backed by poor implementations. Behaviors, adorners, and certain aspects of event dispatch missed the more general (and simpler) principles of delegation and aggregation; they are also unevenly applied. Dependency management never quite settled into a coherent architecture and has been used in some positively bizarre ways. The 2.x view architecture was due for an overhaul and didn't get it. I can't agree with your praise of the dialog architecture, Eric. I'd like to see these areas rethought in future frameworks.

    There are glaring omissions: memory management, including garbage collection; data structures; object persistence and distribution; automated segmentation; data communications; and database support.

    MacApp 3.x suffers from a lack of architectural coherence. Learning MacApp is like walking into a house of mirrors. Eventually you learn your way around, but it's disorienting and you can't trust your senses. Even within MacApp there isn't a great deal of consistency, especially in the use of new features like behaviors, adorners and dependency management. One gets the impression that there just wasn't time to think things through.

    On the other hand, there are some things done very well in 3.x: exception handling, the overall approach to commands and events (though the implementation is not well-factored), instantiate-by-name and other uses of metainformation, support of System 7 features, printing (my favorite!), streams, the menu architecture, and the mechanics of windoids and tear-off menus. These should be studied seriously by any newcomer to the field.

    Despite the problems, I don't blame the MacApp team itself, for they accomplished a remarkable amount with limited resources. On balance, I'd grant an A+ for effort but only C++ for the outcome and a generous D for Apple management. The new kids on the block would be well-advised to study the reasons.

Jeff

Friend Jeff,

    I've been thinking over the conversations we've had about MacApp over the years, and we have had some barn burners, haven't we? Now that Apple is moving beyond MacApp, we have something new to consider: What can we learn from MacApp and take with us to the future?

    One thing I've always admired about MacApp is its vision and philosophy. I think the first thing I liked about MacApp was that is was a decent factoring of a Macintosh application. Even back in the days of MacApp 1.x, there were interesting features aimed at being factors of a Mac App: a rudimentary document structure, an encapsulation of a display, and some basic support for utility objects like lists.

    When MacApp turned 2.x, there was yet another factoring of a Mac App, one that was significantly different and better. The document structure was still not fantastic, but it did exist and allowed basic default functionality to be easily accessed. The hierarchical view system modeled the way developers want to display information fairly well. In many ways, the 2.x cycle brought MacApp close to a quantum leap in technology, where software development could truly leverage object technology.

    Then came 3.x. Unfortunately, I think 3.x consists of a variety of features that were grafted onto 2.x technology. MacApp deserved better and could have easily been the unarguably superior development environment. As it is it's still head and shoulders above the crowd, but the question remains: What can we learn from MacApp? More importantly, what is MacApp? Once we have the answer to that question, I think the rest will come easily.

    I see MacApp as a collection of interesting features, a few frameworks, and a couple architectures all thrown together in a package. In short order, here's the way I view the MacApp world.

    One of the oldest and most interesting architectures I see in MacApp is the View architecture. Although it is essentially unchanged since 2.x, it is still a fine piece of work. Views allow developers to display information to the user in a rather rich format. Look at this, now I'm spewing Apple marketing information at you.

    Built on this architecture is what is possibly one of the best ideas to come around, MacApp dialogs. After doing dialogs with MacApp, I can't see going back to using the toolbox. MacApp actually makes it rather pleasant to deal with this score. Well, I like it anyway.

    Then there are adorners. These objects, really lightweight views, look like an interesting experiment, but I'm not sure it was a success. I've always thought that they were too light to be true lightweight views and too heavy to just adorn a view. I'm also not thrilled that they require so much direct support from the view system, almost like they were shoe horned into place. Behaviors, yet another MacApp feature, have many of the same problems, but I feel less strongly about them.

    The other framework that is really cool is the command structure. How else do you encapsulate the Macintosh undo metaphor? This is a textbook example of how simple, obvious classes can solve what would otherwise be exceedingly difficult problems. What MacApp has done is even more impressive, setting the commands as the basic unit of work in an application.

    Then there are systems and architectures that are expected to be found in a mature object system. MacApp implements very nice access to the metainformation available from Object Pascal. Dependency management and a stream architecture is another one of those features you get used to seeing in object based systems. MacApp's implementation of these isn't entirely world class, but they are very usable even though they're not completely integrated into the underlying MacApp frameworks.

    Finally, MacApp has a lot of debugging and antibugging code. Another thing that MacApp dealt with mostly head on is the admission that exception handling has to be a part of the mainstream code of an application. The consequence is that debugging code and failure handling permeates MacApp and MacApp based applications, something noticeably absent elsewhere.

    So, with all these pieces, we should be able to find something that we can take with us, either in code, analysis, or lessons.

Stirring regards,
Eric

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Kodi 15.0.beta1 - Powerful media center...
Kodi (was XBMC) is an award-winning free and open-source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub that can be installed on Linux, OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android, featuring a 10-foot user... Read more
DiskCatalogMaker 6.4.12 - Catalog your d...
DiskCatalogMaker is a simple disk management tool which catalogs disks. Simple, light-weight, and fast. Finder-like intuitive look and feel. Super-fast search algorithm. Can compress catalog data... Read more
Macs Fan Control 1.3.0.0 - Monitor and c...
Macs Fan Control allows you to monitor and control almost any aspect of your computer's fans, with support for controlling fan speed, temperature sensors pane, menu-bar icon, and autostart with... Read more
Lyn 1.5.11 - Lightweight image browser a...
Lyn is a lightweight and fast image browser and viewer designed for photographers, graphic artists and Web designers. Featuring an extremely versatile and aesthetically pleasing interface, it... Read more
NeoOffice 2014.11 - Mac-tailored, OpenOf...
NeoOffice is a complete office suite for OS X. With NeoOffice, users can view, edit, and save OpenOffice documents, PDF files, and most Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. NeoOffice 3.x... Read more
LaunchBar 6.4 - Powerful file/URL/email...
LaunchBar is an award-winning productivity utility that offers an amazingly intuitive and efficient way to search and access any kind of information stored on your computer or on the Web. It provides... Read more
Remotix 3.1.4 - Access all your computer...
Remotix is a fast and powerful application to easily access multiple Macs (and PCs) from your own Mac. Features Complete Apple Screen Sharing support - including Mac OS X login, clipboard... Read more
DesktopLyrics 2.6.6 - Displays current i...
DesktopLyrics is an application that displays the lyrics of the song currently playing in "iTunes" right on your desktop. The lyrics for the song have to be set in iTunes; DesktopLyrics does nothing... Read more
VOX 2.5.1 - Music player that supports m...
VOX is a beautiful music player that supports many filetypes. The beauty is in its simplicity, yet behind the minimal exterior lies a powerful music player with a ton of features and support for all... Read more
NetNewsWire 4.0.0 - RSS and Atom news re...
NetNewsWire is the best way to keep up with the sites and authors you read most regularly. Let NetNewsWire pull down the latest articles, and read them in a distraction-free and Mac-like way. Native... Read more

Biz Builder Delux (Games)
Biz Builder Delux 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Ah, there's nothing like the rhythmic bustle of a burgeoning business burg... especially when you're the one building it... | Read more »
Auroch Digital is Bringing Back Games Wo...
| Read more »
Carbo - Handwriting in the Digital Age...
Carbo - Handwriting in the Digital Age 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Productivity Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Draggy Dead (Games)
Draggy Dead 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Ditch your dead end job and take up a rewarding career in Grave Robbing today!Guide the recently deceased to a fun filled life of... | Read more »
Bad Dinos (Games)
Bad Dinos 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
The Apple Watch isn't Great as a Fi...
| Read more »
Show the World What You See With Stre.am...
Live broadcasting is getting popular on mobile devices, which is why you can now get Stre.am, by Infinite Takes. [Read more] | Read more »
PhotoTime's 2.1 Update Adds Apple W...
The latest PhotoTime update is adding even more functionality to the handy photo organizing app. Yep, including Apple Watch support. [Read more] | Read more »
Oh My Glob! Adventure Time Puzzle Quest...
Finn and Jake are taking over D3 Go!'s popular puzzle game series in the upcoming Adventure Time Puzzle Quest. [Read more] | Read more »
Earthcore: Shattered Elements - Tips, Tr...
At first glance, Earthcore: Shattered Elements seems like a rather simple card-battling game. Once you’re introduced to skills that will change quite a bit. Even more so once you start to acquire hero cards. But it’s not so complicated that we... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Memorial Day Weekend Sale: New 27-inch 3.3GHz...
Best Buy has the new 27″ 3.3GHz 5K iMac on sale for $1899.99 this weekend. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for online orders only, in-store prices may vary... Read more
OtterBox Maximizes Portability, Productivity...
From the kitchen recipe book to the boarsroom presentation, the OtterBox Agility Tablet System turns tablets into one of the most versatile pieces of handheld technology available. Available now, the... Read more
Launch of New Car App Gallery and Open Develo...
Automatic, a company on a mission to bring the power of the Internet into every car, has announced the launch of the Automatic App Gallery, an app store for nearly every car or truck on the road... Read more
Memorial Day Weekend Sale: 13-inch 1.6GHz Mac...
Best Buy has the new 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $849 on their online store this weekend. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for online orders... Read more
Memorial Day Weekend Sale: 27-inch 3.5GHz 5K...
Best Buy has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2099.99 this weekend. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for online orders only, in-store prices may vary.... Read more
Sale! 16GB iPad mini 3 for $349, save $50
B&H Photo has the 16GB iPad mini 3 WiFi on sale for $349 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
Price drop on 2014 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros by $200. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799.99 save $200 - 15″ 2.5GHz... Read more
With a Mission to Make Mobile Free, Scratch W...
Scratch Wireless, claiming to be the world’s first truly free mobile service, has announced the availability of a new Scratch-enabled Android smartphone, the Coolpad Arise. The smartphone is equipped... Read more
First-Ever Titanium Alloy Curved iPhone 6 Scr...
One of the most common problems with mobile phones is damage to the screens. The slightest drop can cause a dreaded spider web of gashes and cracks in the glass panel surface that can cost $hundreds... Read more
Preorder new 12-inch MacBook, $10 off, save o...
Adorama has new 12″ Retina MacBooks available for preorder for $10 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. For a limited time, Adorama will include a free Apple USB-C to USB... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Architect / Senior Software Engineer, *Apple...
Changing the world is all in a day039s work at Apple . If you love innovation, here039s your chance to make a career of it. You039ll work hard. But the job comes with Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
*Apple* Pay Support Readiness Project Manage...
Changing the world is all in a day039s work at Apple . If you love innovation, here039s your chance to make a career of it. You039ll work hard. But the job comes with Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.