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X-Windows
Volume Number:7
Issue Number:4
Column Tag:The Cross Developer

X Windows for Mac Programmers

By Paul Hyman, Fullerton, CA

Note: Source code files accompanying article are located on MacTech CD-ROM or source code disks.

X Windows for Mac Programmers

[Paul Hyman is a software engineer with Hughes Aircraft Company in Fullerton, CA. He is currently writing X window applications on Sun workstations and is developing demos of proposed software on a Mac using Supercard. He has written several public domain and shareware applications for the Mac.]

Introduction

Porting programs between windowing systems, particularly between the Mac and Microsoft Windows on PC’s has become common recently. With the X window system established as the principal windowing system for Unix workstations, there is beginning to be interest in porting Macintosh applications to that environment. This article explains many of the differences between writing an application for the Mac and for X windows for people who are familiar with Macintosh programming but not with X windows.

As a sidelight, this article takes a brief look at Apple’s implementation of X windows under A/UX 2.0. The Mac is, after all, capable of being used as a Unix workstation, and Apple has done an excellent job of integrating the Mac and Unix (and X) environments.

The X window system was developed as part of project Athena at MIT. X was the outgrowth of another project called “W” (for Windows), with the version upgraded from W to X. Part of project Athena involved finding ways to use graphics on a network, where programs could run on one machine and display graphics on another. Since its adoption by industry, X standards are now controlled by the X Consortium, a group of interested companies.

Basics of X Windows

The X window system is not a complete environment like the Macintosh. There is, for example, no such thing as a Finder equivalent for managing files and launching applications or a Chooser for selecting a printer. To perform such functions, users must rely on the capabilities provided by the operating system of the computer they are using, or the application must provide these functions.

The original specifications for X windows included nothing regarding user interfaces. X simply provided a library of routines to handle drawing functions, window creation and related operations, and event handling. There was nothing corresponding to the Macintosh user interface toolbox routines provided by the Dialog manager, Menu manager, etc.

The main reason for the lack of user interface routines was probably that in order for the system to be accepted by a wide variety of workstation manufacturers, the implementors of X could not dictate a particular user interface, since whatever they picked would probably conflict with someone or other’s proprietary user interface. Recently, however, user interface toolkits have become available for X. Included with the X release is a library of routines called the X intrinsics. These provide a means to create Widgets, which are user interface elements such as buttons, text editors, selection lists, menus, etc. Also included with the X release is the Athena widget set, which is a set of widgets that illustrate the use of the intrinsics. Although functional, the Athena widgets are not generally used in commercial programs.

Two commercial widget sets, Open Look and Motif, are much more extensive than the Athena set and are generally used for commercial applications. In addition to widgets, Motif and Open Look also provide window managers, which are applications that allow the user to move and resize windows and provide other useful functions as well. (In contrast with the Mac, moving and resizing windows is not handled by the application which owns the window. Instead, a window manager handles this and notifies the owing application via events when the windows have been changed.) Although the X standard doesn’t specify anything about user interfaces, Motif and Open Look do have user interface standards. Motif currently seems to be the most popular one, and is the one discussed in this article but many vendors are creating both Motif and Open Look versions of their programs. Just to complicate matters a little bit, there are two versions of Open Look - an intrinsics based widget set from AT&T, and the XView toolkit from Sun Microsystems which is not based on the intrinsics.

Clients and Servers

One of the most important characteristics of X windows is that the process which does the actual drawing (the server process) is separate from the program which is giving the drawing commands (the client process). They may reside on the same or different machines, but they are always different processes. This, however, is invisible to the application programmer. As far as the programmer is concerned, calls to library routines perform drawing functions and/or return status or event information, just as on the Mac. The only time that the separation becomes important is in the case of certain things such as pixmaps, which reside in the server’s memory and therefore are not directly accessible to the application program. Also, drawing directly to the video buffer is impossible, since it may reside on another machine. All inter-client communication must be handled via the server as well, since the clients may well be on different machines (even different kinds of machines).

The release from MIT contains X servers for many types of workstations. These servers are considered to be samples, and are written with portability and clarity in mind, rather than efficiency. Most manufacturers adapt the X servers to their own machines. The real standard is not the code, but the definitions of the library routines (called XLIB) which the user (client) programs call, and the protocol which is used to send the client requests from XLIB to the server and to send responses and event notifications from the server to the client.

The X and Mac Environments

Many of the calls to XLIB look very much like Quickdraw calls and perform similar functions. In listing 1 is a program which creates a window, displays the string “Hello World” with a green rectangle around the letters, and exits when the mouse is clicked or the letter “Q” is typed. As this program requires no menus, dialog boxes, or other user interface components, it can be written entirely using XLIB.

Unlike the Mac, there is no single menu bar on the screen. If an application creates a menu bar, it appears inside an application window.

Windows in X are different in nature from Mac windows. An X window is simply a rectangular area on the screen, possibly with a simple border around it. It has no title bar, close box, or other features. X windows have parents, except for the root window which covers the background of the screen. Windows which are children of the root window are the most like Macintosh windows. Windows which are children of other windows are not moveable under window manager control, but are moved along with their parent windows. Most X applications have lots of windows - in fact every widget has its own window. Although an X window has no title bar, close box, or other components, a window manager may add such things to the application windows. Actually, it doesn’t add these things. Rather it reparents the application’s top window, making it not a child of the root, but the child of a window created by the window manager, which also contains windows which provide the title bar and other things. All of these manipulations are invisible to the application program.

Note that the example programs are written in C. XLIB, the sample servers, and the X intrinsics are all written in C, and therefore all of the required header files which define the routines and data types are available for C only. While there may be vendors supplying bindings for other languages, it would complicate the situation to try to port an application written in a language other than C to X windows.

As was stated before, an application does not control the size or position of its windows. This is handled by a special application called a window manager. If no window manager is running, windows may not be moved or resized. In the program in listing 1, the program sets up some hints for the window manager, suggesting a size and position, and passes them in the XCreateSimpleWindow call. The window manager may or may not pay attention to these hints. The Motif window manager, for example, has different user-selectable modes. One of these puts the window where the application requested and uses the application’s suggested size, while another lets the user select the size and position.

Events

In the program in listing 1, note that no drawing is done until an Expose event is received. An Expose event is equivalent to a Macintosh Update event. The reason for not doing any drawing first, is that a window is not necessarily placed on the screen at the time the request (the XMapRaised call in the example) is made. At the time of the call, the window manager may allow the user to place the window and it could be a considerable period of time before the window is actually displayed.

There are many types of X events. The only three this program handles are the Expose, ButtonPress, and KeyPress. These all have Mac equivalents. The buttonpress event returns, in addition to the location of the button press, which button was pressed, although the example program doesn’t bother to check. X assumes a three button mouse, and the Motif Style Guide assigns functions to each of the buttons.

If you’ve looked ahead at the example program using Motif, you will have noticed that it looks very different from the first program. Programs written using only XLIB look similar in structure to Mac programs, with a main event loop. Programs written using a toolkit, such as Motif, are generally made up of event handling routines which are registered with the toolkit to be called when specific events happen.

Graphics Operations

Notice the call the XCreateGC in the first sample program. A GC is a Graphics Context, and it contains much of the same information that a Grafport contains, such as pen characteristics and color settings. There are several functions, such as XSetForeground, which alter fields in the GC.

Most of the same drawing functions exist in X and in Quickdraw, although sometimes there are more options in one environment than the other.

Regions in X consist of areas defined by intersecting rectangles. Arbitrary regions defined by drawing commands as with Quickdraw are not supported.

Color

Unlike Mac programs, X programs don’t need to worry about whether color is available or not, since all Xlib routines are available on all X servers. On monochrome screens, colors are mapped to black or white depending on their darkness. Also, users can’t change the pixel depth of the screen in the middle of an application the way they can on the Mac.

User selection of colors is generally handled differently in X programs than in Mac programs. There is no equivalent of the Color Picker dialog in any of the widget sets. There is, however, a set of named colors (with corresponding RGB values) in a text file which is always in a known place, so that applications can read it. While some systems may augment this list with extra names, there is a basic set of names always present. The example program uses one of these names (“MediumForestGreen”) in a call to XAllocNamedColor. It is necessary to call XAllocNamedColor before a color can be used, since it adds the color to the color map (if it’s not already there) and returns a pixel value to be used in subsequent calls such as to XSetForeground.

Fonts

The call to XLoadQueryFont is used to get information about a particular font, and the call to XSetFont establishes it as the current font in the GC. In the sample program, the font used is 14 point Courier. The fonts have rather long, involved names in most cases (there are some earlier fonts which exist in only one size and style which have simple names), and the name includes the font family, the size, and the style. Unlike the Mac, X will not create different sizes or styles if they do not exist. To use 18 point helvetica bold, for example, the font name must be known. Fortunately, the names have a predictable pattern so that it is relatively easy to determine the name, given the font family name, size, and style.

Printing

One of the big difficulties in using X, in contrast to the Mac, is in the area of printing. X provides no printing facilities. To print to a postscript printer, an application has to generate the postscript itself. In addition, choosing which printer to use may have to be included in the application as well, if the program is to be user-friendly. Otherwise, the user would have to use commands provided by the operating system to choose the printer.

Cutting and pasting between applications.

The original X standards did not address inter-client communication, but a document called the ICCCM (inter-client Communication Conventions Manual) has been released by the X Consortium. The inter-client communication standards are somewhat complicated, but basically define methods by which clients can exchange data with each other through the X server.

When using a widget set such as Motif, application developers generally do not have to be concerned with how to cut and paste text between applications. The Text widgets, which are used where Text Edit records would be used in Mac applications, take care of handling things that affect them, such as character entry and deletion, and cutting and pasting.

Although transferring text between applications is pretty well defined, there is no standard picture format, such as PICT, for transferring graphics. Except for bitmaps, copying and pasting pictures between applications is not possible, unless the applications are from a single vendor and understand a common format. There is also no equivalent to the Quickdraw DrawPicture call, and therefore no easy way to save and re-execute a series of drawing commands.

The preferred method of cutting and pasting is through a process called Selections, which involves communications between the current owner of a selection and an application which wants to obtain it. This is in contrast to the Mac clipboard which passes data between programs without having the programs directly communicate.

Widgets

Widgets are the user interface building blocks. The widgets in the available toolkits (Motif, Open Look, and Athena) are written in an object-oriented fashion (although implemented in C), with classes and subclasses of widgets where the subclasses inherit behavior and appearance characteristics from their superclasses. Writing a program using a widget set is different from writing a pure Xlib program, in that the program generally does not have its own event loop, but makes a call to XtMainLoop and then exits. XtMainLoop dispatches events, calling appropriate routines to handle them, until one of the routines causes the program to terminate. Widgets have routines which are invoked by XtMainLoop when events occur within the widget window, and therefore widgets take care of handling button presses, key presses, mouse movements, and other actions which affect them. This is in contrast to typical Mac programs where the application handles events and calls appropriate routines, such as Textedit routines, when events happen.

Most widgets allow the programmer to specify callback routines to be called when certain things happen. For example, pushbutton widgets will call a programmer-specified routine when the user clicks the mouse inside the pushbutton.

Some widgets don’t handle user actions directly, but serve to manage other widgets. For example, a Form widget positions its child widgets and rearranges them when the window it is in is resized. This can be very useful in something such as a dialog box containing a list, where the user is allowed to resize the dialog box and the list will enlarge correspondingly, while buttons will not. The actions of the widgets inside a widget such as a Form when the window is resized are all specified by the programmer by setting various attributes of the Form and its children. (In the Motif sample program in listing 2, a bulletin board widget is used. This widget keeps its children at fixed locations regardless of the window size.) All of the resizing and moving of widgets when an window is resized is handled without any application code being called. This sort of thing has no equivalent in the Macintosh environment.

A feature of X which is used extensively by the intrinsics and the widgets based on them is the use of resources. These are not the same as Mac resources. They are user-settable attributes which can be changed by editing a text file which specifies the values for the attributes. Most widgets allow setting such things as colors, patterns, and fonts via resource specifications, unless the programmer explicitly provides the values in the code. Allowing changes to the widget attributes without having to change the source code of the program is a very useful feature, very similar in nature to allowing changes to the text of menus and dialog boxes on the Mac by using ResEdit.

UIL

One feature provided by Motif which the other widget sets do not have is UIL, the user interface language. Originally developed by Digital Equipment Corporation for use in DecWindows, UIL provides a means for the programmer to define the widgets and their characteristics for a program without embedding the definitions in the program code. Typically, far fewer UIL statements are needed to define a widget than are necessary in program code. In addition, the UIL can be changed and recompiled without the necessity of relinking the program, which can be a big time saver during development.

Apple’s Implementation of X under A/UX

There are two different X servers available under A/UX. One is a standard X11 release 4 server. (The current version of X is referred to as X11, and release 4 is the latest one to come out.) The other is a product called MacX, which runs under Mac OS as well as in the Mac environment under A/UX.

When using the X11 server, the Macintosh acts entirely as a Unix/X windows system. There is absolutely nothing Mac-like about it - no menu bar, no desk accessories, no Mac applications. Just a friendly Xterm terminal emulation window in which you can type Unix commands.

With MacX, the situation is different. Since MacX is a Macintosh application, it runs under Multifinder along with other applications. MacX has two basic modes of operation - rooted or rootless. In the rootless mode, each time an X client program makes a request to open a window, MacX creates a Macintosh window for it. In the rooted mode, MacX creates a large window and places the X windows inside it. In this mode, it is necessary to run an X window manager in order to move or resize the X windows. In the rootless mode, a separate window manager is not used since the user may move and resize the windows using the normal Mac conventions.

When running MacX under Mac OS, X clients can not run on the Macintosh. Xlib and the required communication facilities exist only under Unix. In this setup, the Mac must be connected via a network to other machines where the X clients can run. Under A/UX however, the X clients may run on the Mac along with Mac applications. The MacX-A/UX environment integrates X windows and the Macintosh very nicely, although there can not be much interaction between X and Mac applications due to the different way in which they handle graphics, cutting&pasting, etc. The main disadvantage of MacX compared with the standard X11 server is slowness - the X11 server is quite a bit faster. There are a few other difficulties, such as the fact that fonts are defined differently in MacX than in the normal X environment and programs which rely on using special fonts which they attempt to add to the font search path in the usual way will not work. In general, however, MacX does an excellent job of running X windows in the Mac environment.

The main problem with X windows on the Mac is not a technical one. The problem is that virtually no commercial software exists. Software vendors generally write Mac applications to run under Mac OS and X windows applications to run on Suns or other workstations. Although porting an X application from another Unix machine to A/UX should be relatively easy, vendors will not do it unless a market exists and there doesn’t appear to be much of a market now. Mac users generally have no motivation to buy Unix software, which is generally high priced, when they can get the same application (or an equivalent one) which runs in the Mac environment for much less.

Conclusion

The main differences between the X windows environment and the Macintosh are due to two factors: There is not a single user interface standard under X because a single company does not control the market as with the Macintosh, and X windows does not provide a complete application environment as the Mac does.

Porting an application to X windows therefore generally means that some things that Mac OS did will have to be included in application code (Postscript support, for example), and it also means that two versions of the program, one for Motif and one for Open Look, may be necessary in order to be competitive.

Listing 1, “Hello World” using XLIB:

#include        <stdio.h>
#include        <X11/Xlib.h>
#include        <X11/Xutil.h>

Display * mydisplay;
Window mywindow;
GC mygc;
XEvent myevent;
KeySym mykey;
XSizeHints myhint;
int     myscreen;
unsigned long   myforeground,
                mybackground;
XFontStruct * font_struct;

/* declarations */
char    window_title[] = {“Hello World”};

main (argc, argv)
int     argc;
char  **argv;
{
    int     i;
    char    text[10];
    int     done;
 XColor  greencolor;
 XColor  rgb;

    mydisplay = XOpenDisplay (“”);
    myscreen = DefaultScreen (mydisplay);

    /* default pixel values */
    mybackground = WhitePixel (mydisplay, myscreen);
    myforeground = BlackPixel (mydisplay, myscreen);

    /* default program-specified window position and size */
    myhint.x = 10;
    myhint.y = 10;
    myhint.width = 250;
    myhint.height = 150;
    myhint.flags = PPosition | PSize;

    /* window creation */
    mywindow = XCreateSimpleWindow (mydisplay,
     DefaultRootWindow (mydisplay),
     myhint.x, myhint.y, myhint.width,
 myhint.height,
     5, myforeground, mybackground);
    XSetStandardProperties (mydisplay, mywindow, window_title, window_title, 
None, argv, argc, &myhint);

    /* GC creation and initialization */
    mygc = XCreateGC (mydisplay, mywindow, 0, 0);
    XSetBackground (mydisplay, mygc, mybackground);
    XSetForeground (mydisplay, mygc, myforeground);
    XAllocNamedColor(mydisplay, DefaultColormap(mydisplay, myscreen),
   “MediumForestGreen”, &greencolor, &rgb);

    /* font initialization */
    font_struct = XLoadQueryFont (mydisplay, “*courier-bold-r-normal--14*”);
    XSetFont (mydisplay, mygc, font_struct -> fid);

    /* input event selection */
    XSelectInput (mydisplay, mywindow,
     ButtonPressMask | KeyPressMask | ExposureMask);

    /* window mapping */
    XMapRaised (mydisplay, mywindow);
    XFlush (mydisplay);

    /* main event-reading loop */
    done = 0;
    while (done == 0) {

 /* read the next event */
 XNextEvent (mydisplay, &myevent);
 switch (myevent.type) {

 /* repaint window on expose events */
     case Expose: 
 XSetForeground(mydisplay, mygc, myforeground);
 XDrawString (mydisplay, mywindow, mygc, 10, 60, “Hello, World”, 12);
 XSetForeground(mydisplay, mygc, greencolor);
 XDrawRectangle(mydisplay, mywindow, mygc, 5, 47, 150, 15);
 if (myevent.xexpose.count == 0)
 XFlush (mydisplay);
 break;

 /* process mouse-button presses */
     case ButtonPress: 
 done = 1;
 break;

 /* process keyboard input */
     case KeyPress: 
 i = XLookupString (&myevent, text, 10, &mykey, 0);
 if (i == 1 && text[0] == ‘q’)
 done = 1;
 break;

     default: 
 break;

 } /* switch (myevent.type) */
    }   /* while (done == 0) */

    /* termination */
    XFreeGC (mydisplay, mygc);
    XDestroyWindow (mydisplay, mywindow);
    XCloseDisplay (mydisplay);
    exit (0);
}
Listing 2, C program for “Hello World” using Motif:

#include <X11/Xlib.h>
#include <Mrm/MrmAppl.h>

#define WINDOWNAME “Hello World”
#define MYCLASS “HWclass”

static MrmHierarchy hierarchy_id;
static char *uid_file [] = {“uil.uid”};
static MrmType widget_class;
static MRMRegisterArg names_list[] =
{
{“hwpushbuttoncb”, (caddr_t)hwpushbuttoncb },
{0, 0}
};

Widget shellwidget;
Widget bulletinBoard0;

/* Callback routine for the pushbutton */
void hwpushbuttoncb(w, client, call)
Widget w;
int client;
XmAnyCallbackStruct *call;
{
    exit(0);
}

/* MAIN PROGRAM */
main(argc, argv)
int argc;
char **argv;
{
  Display *display;

    shellwidget = XtInitialize(argv[0], “HelloWorld”,NULL,0,&argc,argv);
    MrmInitialize();
    MrmOpenHierarchy((MrmCount)(1),uid_file,0, &hierarchy_id);
    MrmRegisterNames(names_list,
        (sizeof(names_list)/sizeof(MRMRegisterArg))-1);
    MrmFetchWidget(hierarchy_id, “bulletinBoard0”,shellwidget,
        &bulletinBoard0, &widget_class);
    MrmCloseHierarchy(hierarchy_id);
    XtManageChild(bulletinBoard0);
    XtRealizeWidget(shellwidget);
    XtMainLoop();
}
Listing 3, UIL code for “Hello World” using Motif:

module helloworld
version = ‘V1.0’
names = case_sensitive

include file ‘XmAppl.uil’; 

procedure hwpushbuttoncb();

object bulletinBoard0 : XmBulletinBoard widget {
    arguments {
        XmNborderWidth = 0; 
        XmNmarginWidth = 1; 
        XmNmarginHeight = 1; 
        XmNresizePolicy = XmRESIZE_NONE; 
        XmNx = 0; 
        XmNy = 0; 
        XmNwidth = 152; 
        XmNheight = 96; 
    };
    controls {
       XmPushButton pushButton5 ;
    };
};
object pushButton5 : XmPushButton widget {
    arguments {
        XmNbackground = color(‘MediumForestGreen’); 
        XmNfontList = font(‘*helvetica-bold-r-normal--14*’); 
        XmNlabelString = ‘Hello, World’; 
        XmNx = 18; 
        XmNy = 18; 
    };
    callbacks {
        XmNactivateCallback =  procedure hwpushbuttoncb();
    };
};
end module;

 
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 B&H Photo has new MacBook Pros on sale for up to $300 off MSRP as part of their Holiday pricing. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1699... Read more
Holiday sale: Mac minis available for up to $...
 B&H Photo has new 2014 Mac minis on sale for up to $80 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $459 $40 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $629 $70 off... Read more
Google Search App For iOS Gets A Major Makeov...
Google has given iOS users an early Christmas present with a substantial update of it’s not-very-often-upgraded Google Search app. Google Search has been my go-to tool for Web searches since it was... Read more
ShopKeep Apple Pay And Chip Card Reader Avail...
ShopKeep, a cloud-based technology provider to more than 10,000 small business owners to manage retail shops and restaurants with iPads, has released its new Apple Pay and chip card reader. This... Read more
Holiday sale! 27-inch 5K iMac for $2299, save...
 B&H Photo has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac in stock today and on sale for $2299 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for... 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...
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 (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
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
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