TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Another Dimension
Volume Number:7
Issue Number:2
Column Tag:Developer's Forum

Programming In Another Dimension

By Joe Pillera, MacTutor Contributing Editor, The Environmental Research Institute of Michigan

Programming In Another Dimension

Introduction. As software development systems evolve, there is always a increasing level of abstraction away from the machine - and to the problem domain of the user. One tool for the Macintosh that exemplifies this is the 4th Dimension® (4D1) from Acius. 4D is an incredible tool, because it goes far beyond a database: rather than just producing GUI (graphical user interface) skeletons like other programs, 4D can generate finished, ready to ship programs, complete with all the necessary Macintosh user interface controls.

This is the story of MacTutor Phone Book (MTPB), a complete 4D program (which is a stand-alone Macintosh application when compiled with the 4D compiler) which features:

• Complete support of the Macintosh interface, including pull down menus, desk accessory support, modeless dialog boxes, and printing.

• Searching, sorting and printing of address labels.

Background.

When constructing MTPB, I wanted more than a flat-file database: I wanted an application that could stand alone by itself. While a phone book application may not be as exotic as killing viruses, it serves as a good example of what 4D is capable of; without it, I would have faced the prospect of writing thousands of lines of code, and undoubtedly reinventing the wheel several times in the process.

Developing in 4D. The first aspect to developing in 4D is to specify the table structures, and use the layout editor to paint your user interface. As can be seen in Figures 1 and 2, 4D gives you a rich set of GUI controls to design the look and feel of your program.

Figure 1. Construction a MTPB input disalog with the 4D layout editor

Figure 2. The repetoire of user interface controls available for a custom 4D application.

Once the database structures and your custom windows have been designed, the fun starts. 4D gives you a comprehensive script language to implement custom applications, and even comes with a symbolic debugger, as illustrated in Figure 3. This script language is very pascal-like (minus the Unit module encapsulation feature), and includes features such as arrays, functions and procedures (a 4D function is a procedure that returns a value in the variable $0), pointer manipulation, and string manipulation that reminds me of BASIC (BASIC has one of the richest string manipulation syntaxes available).

Figure 3. Debugging a 4D procedure.

After your application has been designed, you can compile it with the 4D Compiler, as illustrated in Figure 4.

Figure 4. How to build a stand-alone application out of MTPB with the 4D Compiler

MacTutor Phone Book. Refer to Figure 5: not only can MTPB manage your phone records - it’s a complete Macintosh application (when compiled with the 4D Compiler).

Figure 5. MTPB as a stand-alone Macintosh application.

Furthermore, one of the parallels between object oriented programming and 4D programming is that you can “inherit” functionality, without having to write any code to implement it. Refer to Figures 6 and 8: MTPB makes full use of searching, and label printing - but these are given to you by 4D, and not implemented by me. This kind of reuse of software allows you to concentrate on the problem at hand, rather than on implementing code that has been written many times before. When custom windows do need to be designed, they can be assembled very quickly with 4D’s layout editor, as illustrated in Figure 7.

Figure 6. Search for all addresses that are either in Ann Arbor or whose last name field starts with 'P'.

Figure 7. Sorting in MTPB with a custom dialog constructed with the 4D layout editor.

Figure 8. Printing labels with MTPB.

Suggestions for Improvement.

While 4D is an incredibly powerful tool, I would like to suggest two possible future improvements:

Hierarchical menus: would be very useful in the menu editor, and would allow for a more concise construction of 4D applications.

Procedure abstraction: in a large 4D application, it is easy to get buried by a plethora of “global procedures.” What would be extremely useful here is some sort of hierarchical way of cataloging procedures. For example, introducing a “module” concept (containing procedures with scope only visible to it) would make organizing your 4D code a lot easier.

The End... Please note that this month’s source code disk contains only the data files for MTPB - and not a stand-alone program. Because of licensing rules, you’ll need to compile it with your own copy of the 4D Compiler - and a 4D Runtime module - before ending up with a double-clickable application.

The technical support at Acius is outstanding, and the software very thorough. Compared to other development tools which also hammer out skeleton user interfaces, there’s no doubt that 4D costs more. But that age-old adage still applies here.

You get what you pay for.

Joe Pillera is a research scientist at the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Joe Pillera, and not of ERIM or its affiliates. The author can be reached electronically via the GEnie2 service by sending mail to JPILLERA.

1 4D is a registered trademark of Acius, Inc.

2 GEnie is a trademark of the General Electric Company.


Global Procedures for MTPB
© MacTutor Magazine, February 1991


f_format_number
 ‘Pretty-process a phone number
 ‘Examples: 
 ‘format_number(“3131234567”)->(313)123-4567
 ‘format_number(“3131234567”;”313")->123-4567
 ‘Arguments:$1 = raw phone number
 ‘ $2 = area code to drop, if any.
 ‘Return Value: $0 = formatted result.
If (Length($1)>0)
 If (Length($2)=3)
 ‘The caller wants to zap an area code...
 If (Substring($1;1;3)=$2)
 ‘Omit the area code    
 $0:=Substring($1;4;3)+ “-” +
 Substring($1;7;4)
 Else 
 ‘Keep it    
 $0:=”(“+Substring($1;1;3)+”) “ +
 Substring($1;4;3) + “-” +
 Substring($1;7;4)
    End if 
  Else 
 ‘Caller wants the area code no matter what
 $0:=”(“ + Substring($1;1;3)+”)” + 
 Substring($1;4;3) + “-” +
 Substring($1;7;4)
  End if 
End if 


p_display
‘Display all records in the phone book
DEFAULT FILE([Phone Book])
ALL RECORDS
OUTPUT LAYOUT([Phone Book];”Output Layout”)
MODIFY SELECTION


p_print_sel
‘Print the records last selected by the user
DEFAULT FILE([Phone Book])
If (Records in selection=0)
 ALERT(“You haven’t selected any records
   to print!”)
Else 
 OUTPUT LAYOUT([Phone Book];”Output Layout”)
 PRINT SELECTION([Phone Book])
End if 


p_print_tbl
‘Print all records in the phone book
DEFAULT FILE([Phone Book])
ALL RECORDS
OUTPUT LAYOUT([Phone Book];”Output Layout”)
PRINT SELECTION([Phone Book])


p_search
‘Let the user perform a search on the database
DEFAULT FILE([Phone Book])
SEARCH
If (OK=1)
 OUTPUT LAYOUT([Phone Book];”Output Layout”)
 DISPLAY SELECTION
End if 


p_sort
‘Permanently sort the database, and display
‘results to the user.
DEFAULT FILE([Phone Book])
OPEN WINDOW(110;100;390;260;0;”Sort The Database”)
DIALOG(“Sort Dialog”)
‘Note: the actual sorting takes place in the script
‘      associated with the “ok” button, but is
‘      omitted here for brevity.
CLOSE WINDOW
If (g_display=True)
  p_display 
End if 


p_labels
DEFAULT FILE([Phone Book])
ALL RECORDS
PRINT LABEL([Phone Book];” “)


p_new
‘Add new records(s) until the user cancels
DEFAULT FILE([Phone Book])
INPUT LAYOUT([Phone Book];”Input Layout”)
Repeat 
 ADD RECORD
Until (OK=0)

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

VOX 2.8.6 - Music player that supports m...
VOX just sounds better! 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 audio formats you should ever need.... Read more
MacUpdate Desktop 6.1.3 - Search and ins...
MacUpdate Desktop 6 brings seamless 1-click app installs and version updates to your Mac. With a free MacUpdate account and MacUpdate Desktop 6, Mac users can now install almost any Mac app on... Read more
ExpanDrive 5.4.1 - Access cloud storage...
ExpanDrive builds cloud storage in every application, acts just like a USB drive plugged into your Mac. With ExpanDrive, you can securely access any remote file server directly from the Finder or... Read more
Espionage 3.6.6 - Simple, state-of-the-a...
Espionage offers state-of-the-art encryption and plausible deniability for your confidential data. Sometimes, encrypting your data isn't enough to protect it. That's why Espionage 3 goes beyond data... Read more
Pinegrow Web Designer 2.94 - Mockup and...
Pinegrow Web Designer is desktop app that lets you mockup and design webpages faster with multi-page editing, CSS and LESS styling, and smart components for Bootstrap, Foundation, Angular JS, and... Read more
1Password 6.3.3 - Powerful password mana...
1Password is a password manager that uniquely brings you both security and convenience. It is the only program that provides anti-phishing protection and goes beyond password management by adding Web... Read more
Sublime Text 3126 - Sophisticated text e...
Sublime Text is a sophisticated text editor for code, markup, and prose. You'll love the slick user interface, extraordinary features, and amazing performance. Features Goto Anything. Use Goto... Read more
ForkLift 3.0 Beta 2 - Powerful file mana...
ForkLift is a powerful file manager and ferociously fast FTP client clothed in a clean and versatile UI that offers the combination of absolute simplicity and raw power expected from a well-executed... Read more
OmniFocus 2.7.1 - GTD task manager with...
OmniFocus helps you manage your tasks the way that you want, freeing you to focus your attention on the things that matter to you most. Capturing tasks and ideas is always a keyboard shortcut away in... Read more
CleanApp 5.1.1 - Application deinstaller...
CleanApp is an application deinstaller and archiver.... Your hard drive gets fuller day by day, but do you know why? CleanApp 5 provides you with insights how to reclaim disk space. There are... Read more

Leaf for Twitter (Social Networking)
Leaf for Twitter 1.0.1 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Social Networking Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Banner Saga 2 (Games)
Banner Saga 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The epic award winning story-based role-playing game continues its emotional journey across a breaking world. Lead your Viking... | Read more »
Concrete Jungle (Games)
Concrete Jungle 1.16 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.16 (iTunes) Description: A follow up to the puzzle hit 'MegaCity'! Concrete Jungle is a new take on the city building genre that swaps micro-... | Read more »
5 great apps for the budget traveller
Travelling abroad, or even within your home country, has never been easier thanks to our handy smartphone companions. There are hundreds of apps on the market that promise to make your world journeys hassle-free, but we've selected five of the... | Read more »
Zip—Zap (Games)
Zip—Zap 1.01 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.01 (iTunes) Description: Touch to contract.Release to let go.Bring the clumsy mechanical beings home. · · · over 100 levelsno adsno in-app-purchases Zip—... | Read more »
Paperback: The Game (Games)
Paperback: The Game 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: You are an author trying to finish kitschy paperback novels. Complete Westerns, Science Fiction, Romance or even a Crime... | Read more »
How to Rule With a Firm Hand in My Majes...
My Majesty is a kingdom management sim not unlike August’s magisterial hit, Reigns. It’s essentially a reskin of developer Tigrido’s previous management sim, Dictator. As supreme ruler of the land, you must consult with a number of subjects to... | Read more »
Our 5 Favorite iMessage Sticker Packs
At long last, iMessage joins the ranks of messaging apps the likes of LINE and Whatsapp, adding an impressive collection of stickers. They’re a great way to add a little something extra to your daily conversations. [Read more] | Read more »
How to get past Vulture Island's tr...
Vulture Island is a colorful and quirky mish-mash of platforming and puzzles. It’s creative and fresh, but sometimes the game can throw a curveball at you, leaving you stuck as to how you should progress. These tips will help you explore smoothly... | Read more »
The new Clash of Kings is just for Weste...
If you’ve played the original Clash of Kings, you’ll probably recognise the city building, alliance forging and strategic battles in Clash of Kings: The West. What sets this version apart is that it’s tailor made for a Western audience and the... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple refurbished Mac minis available startin...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac minis available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $80 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $928...
Overstock has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $927.99 including free shipping. Their price is $171 off MSRP. Read more
Buying McLaren Would Give Apple Instant Car C...
Apple “iCar” rumors have waxed and waned over the years, piquing interest and speculation as to whether Apple is seriously interested in getting into the automotobile business, either in a joint... Read more
Aetna to Transform Members’ Consumer Health E...
Health care benefits company Aetna, which has an estimated 46.3 million clients, today announced a new initiative to revolutionize members consumer health experience by combining the power of iOS... Read more
USB-IF Announces USB Audio Device Class 3.0 S...
USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), the support organization for the advancement and adoption of USB technology, today announced the USB Audio Device Class 3.0 specification to establish USB Audio over... Read more
Clearance 12-inch 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks, App...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 12″ 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks available for $1189, or $410 off original MSRP. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook, and shipping is free... Read more
Logitech SmartDock and Skype For Business Com...
Logitech has announced Logitech SmartDock, an AV meeting room solution designed in collaboration with Microsoft. Logitech SmartDock works with Skype for Business and qualified devices, including... Read more
27-inch iMacs on sale for up to $220 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 27″ Apple iMacs on sale for up to $200 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 27″ 3.3GHz iMac 5K: $2099 $200 off MSRP - 27″ 3.2GHz/1TB Fusion iMac 5K: $1899.99 $... Read more
Apple Macs and iPads available for up to $300...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad using Apple’s Education Store and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free, and... Read more
Save up to $600 with Apple refurbished Mac Pr...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac Pros available for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The following... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Chicago...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Raleigh...
Job Description:SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
User Support Specialist *Apple* Product Spe...
…Description:Ciber, Inc. is seeking a User Support Specialist - Apple Product Support in Nashville, TN!Responsibilities:Support, implementation, and upgrade of Read more
Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
US- *Apple* Store Leader Program - Apple (Un...
…Summary Learn and grow as you explore the art of leadership at the Apple Store. You'll master our retail business inside and out through training, hands-on Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.