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)

 
AAPL
$103.30
Apple Inc.
+0.80
MSFT
$45.09
Microsoft Corpora
-0.34
GOOG
$577.33
Google Inc.
+5.73

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

TextSoap 7.4.0 - Flexible text editing u...
TextSoap is for people who work with text. TextSoap effortlessly cleans up text from endlessly different formats. Wash away unwanted characters, spaces, tabs. Fix paragraphs with hard returns at the... Read more
NetShade 6.0.2 - Browse privately using...
NetShade is an Internet security tool that conceals your IP address on the web. NetShade routes your Web connection through either a public anonymous proxy server, or one of NetShade's own dedicated... Read more
Mac DVDRipper Pro 5.0 - Copy, backup, an...
Mac DVDRipper Pro is the DVD backup solution that lets you protect your DVDs from scratches, save your batteries by reading your movies from your hard disk, manage your collection with just a few... Read more
pwSafe 3.1 - Secure password management...
pwSafe provides simple and secure password management across devices and computers. pwSafe uses iCloud to keep your password databases backed-up and synced between Macs and iOS devices. It is... Read more
StatsBar 1.8 - Monitor system processes...
StatsBar gives you a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the following areas of your Mac: CPU usage Memory usage Disk usage Network and bandwidth usage Battery power and health (MacBooks only)... Read more
Path Finder 6.5.5 - Powerful, award-winn...
Path Finder is a file browser that combines the familiar Finder interface with the powerful utilities and innovative features. Just a small selection of the Path Finder 6 feature set: Dual pane... Read more
QuarkXPress 10.2.1 - Desktop publishing...
With QuarkXPress, you can communicate in all the ways you need to -- and always look professional -- in print and digital media, all in a single tool. Features include: Easy to Use -- QuarkXPress is... Read more
Skype 6.19.0.450 - Voice-over-internet p...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
VueScan 9.4.41 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
Cloud 3.0.0 - File sharing from your men...
Cloud is simple file sharing for the Mac. Drag a file from your Mac to the CloudApp icon in the menubar and we take care of the rest. A link to the file will automatically be copied to your clipboard... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Modern Combat 5 Gets a Major Multiplayer...
Modern Combat 5 Gets a Major Multiplayer Update Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 2nd, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Alien Creeps TD Review
Alien Creeps TD Review By Jennifer Allen on September 2nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: EXPENSIVE DEFENSESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Alien Creeps TD would be a fun if unremarkable Tower Defense game, but its heavy focus on... | Read more »
The Journey Down: Chapter Two Review
The Journey Down: Chapter Two Review By Jennifer Allen on September 2nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: DARK YET ENTICINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad It’s a little dark, in every sense of the word, but The Journey Down:... | Read more »
Function Space, a Social Network App for...
Function Space, a Social Network App for Science, Launches on iOS Posted by Ellis Spice on September 2nd, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Stupidfast – How Taylor Martinez Switche...
How do you make an Endless Running game more than just another Endless Running game? By adding real life prizes to it, of course! That’s the thinking behind StupidFast: a game designed for football enthusiasts, and the brainchild of former college... | Read more »
Little Raiders: Robin’s Revenge Review
Little Raiders: Robin’s Revenge Review By Jennifer Allen on September 2nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: CASUAL RAIDINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Combining simple combat with village building is a potent combination for... | Read more »
Treasure Tombs: Ra Deal Coming from Bulk...
Treasure Tombs: Ra Deal Coming from Bulkypix and Dark Tonic This Fall Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 2nd, 2014 [ permalink ] Dark Tonic and | Read more »
Pirate Bash Review
Pirate Bash Review By Nadia Oxford on September 2nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: BAD PIRATES, GOOD TIMESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Pirate Bash’s turn-based battles add an intriguing twist to a typical physics game.   | Read more »
Tiny Tower Vegas Review
Tiny Tower Vegas Review By Jennifer Allen on September 2nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: STEADY DEVELOPMENTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Build a huge tower again but Vegas-style in Tiny Tower Vegas.   | Read more »
The Manhattan Project Review
The Manhattan Project Review By Andrew Fisher on September 2nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: ROCKET SCIENCEUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad The Manhattan Project offers a great Euro-style gameplay experience, but it is totally... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple refurbished iPads available for up to $...
Apple is offering Certified Refurbished iPad Airs for up to $140 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free. Stock tends to come and go with some of these... Read more
Are We Now In The Post-Post-PC Era?
A longtime and thoroughgoing laptop aficionado, I was more than a little dismayed by Steve Jobs’s declaration back in 2010 when he sprang the iPad on an unsuspecting world. that we’d entered a “post-... Read more
PC Outlook Improves, But 2014 Shipments Still...
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, worldwide PC shipments are expected to fall by -3.7 percent in 2014. To hat’s actually an improvement from the... Read more
IDC Lowers Tablet Sales Projections for 2014...
Following a second consecutive quarter of softer than expected demand, International Data Corporation (IDC) has lowered its worldwide tablet plus 2-in-1 forecast for 2014 to 233.1 million units. The... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 21-inch 1.4GHz...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 21″ 1.4GHz iMacs for $929 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is $170 off the cost of new models,... Read more
Save $50 on the 2.5GHz Mac mini, on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 2.5GHz Mac mini on sale for $549.99 including free shipping. That’s $50 off MSRP, and B&H will also include a free copy of Parallels Desktop software. NY sales tax only. Read more
Save up to $300 on an iMac with Apple refurbi...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $300 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. These are the best prices on... Read more
The Rise of Phablets
Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group, a businesses and technology consulting firm focused solely on the financial services industry, has released an infographic depicting the convergence of... Read more
Bad Driver Database App Allows Good Drivers t...
Bad Driver Database 1.4 by Facile Group is a new iOS and Android app that lets users instantly input and see how many times a careless, reckless or just plain stupid driver has been added to the... Read more
Eddy – Cloud Music Player for iPhone/iPad Fre...
Ukraine based CapableBits announces the release of Eddy, its tiny, but smart and powerful cloud music player for iPhone and iPad that allows users to stream or download music directly from cloud... 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
*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
*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
*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
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.