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Stack Translators
Volume Number:10
Issue Number:3
Column Tag:Hypercard

Related Info: File Manager Apple Event Manager Resource Manager

Stack Translators for Hypercard 2.2

Transmogrification, another trick up your sleeve

By Kevin Calhoun, Apple Computer, Inc.

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

About the author

Kevin is a member of the HyperCard team at Apple. In his spare time, oh, wait a minute, what spare time?

HyperCard developers have frequently asked, reasonably and rightly, for a version of HyperCard which could build standalone applications, often calling it a “HyperCard compiler”. They have also asked for a cross-platform version of HyperCard, particularly one for Microsoft Windows. Recently, they have requested versions that can build QuickTime movies, Newton applications, and ScriptX projects. Perhaps soon I’ll be hearing about HyperCard for OpenDoc, Magic Cap, and Taligent.

HyperCard’s ease of use and breadth of functionality make it an attractive choice among software development tools. Until recently, HyperCard’s ease of use has also carried the limitation of only running on Macintosh. Ideally, software developers could develop with HyperCard and avoid the limitations imposed by HyperCard’s runtime requirements. Why should HyperCard be present in order to run stackware? Furthermore, why should a Macintosh be required?

While HyperCard 2.2 doesn’t directly target other platforms and technologies, it can get you closer. It still only builds stacks, and they require HyperCard to run. However, it offers an open interface for add-on components, called “stack translators,” which can translate stacks into other forms. Given the appropriate stack translators, you can use HyperCard 2.2 as a development tool for runtime environments other than its own. In addition, HyperCard 2.2 ships with a stack translator that builds standalone Macintosh applications, called StackToApp.

You can create your own stack translators to turn HyperCard stackware into running applications for any of the platforms and runtime environments I’ve mentioned above. You can also use them to extract data from HyperCard stacks and store them in alternate forms for use by other applications or platforms. For example, you could put styled text from text fields into word processing documents. You might extract AppleScript scripts from stacks and save them as script files on the desktop. Anything that a stack might contain - data, links between data, interface objects, configurations of interface objects, scripted functionality, etc. - can be extracted by stack translators and munged and transformed into just about any form you can imagine. As for me, I’d like to see a stack translator that takes my various stacks and merges data within them into the data stored on my Newton.

The User Experience

HyperCard’s stack translators are Component Manager components. HyperCard 2.2 finds translators any of three ways. First, the System registers all components (files of type 'thng' in the System Folder or the Extensions folder) during startup. Second, HyperCard registers components it finds in files of type 'thng' and type 'STAK'. These can be in the HyperCard folder, or a sub-folder called “Stack Translators”. Third, XCMDs can also register and unregister a component, so you can choose when it’s available.

The names of all registered stack translators appear in a popup menu in the standard file dialog HyperCard displays when the user chooses “Save a copy...” from the File menu.

When the user chooses a stack translator from the popup menu and clicks the “Save” button in that dialog, HyperCard calls the appropriate stack translator to translate the current stack. HyperCard passes the component the data and resource forks reference numbers, as well as an FSSpec for the destination file.

To write a stack translator, there’s not much you need to know about the Component Manager. It helps to have some experience in writing standalone code resources, and you can read much more about components in Inside Macintosh QuickTime Components.

Components are standalone code resources with a single entry point, and have the calling interface defined by the Component Manager, as follows:

  FUNCTION ComponentEntrypoint(VAR params:ComponentParameters;
 storage: Handle): ComponentResult;

Every component has this entry point, and uses the parameters to dispatch to the right subroutine. The ComponentParameters record contains everything you need to know to decide how to respond to a call to your component. In particular, the what field of a ComponentParameters record is the selector for your component routines. If what is negative, it represents one of the standard selectors defined by the Component Manager, of which six are currently defined: selectors for 1) opening, 2) closing, and 3) registering the component, 4) inquiring whether a component supports a given selector value, 5) requesting the version number of the component, and 6) informing the component that it has been “captured” by a descendent component. Routines for handling each of these selectors also have calling interfaces defined by the Component Manager.

If the what field of a ComponentParameters record is non-negative, it represents a selector defined by the component. The Component Manager leaves wide open both what your component does with these selectors and the data it expects to be passed in order to do it. However, for each standard type of component, each of which is identified by a four-character code, there is a set of selectors and a corresponding set of routines with calling interfaces that all components of that type are expected to support. Each component of a particular type has a subtype, which is also a four-character code, which should be unique among components of the same type.

The code resource that contains the implementation of a component must be accompanied by several additional resources. The most important of these is of type 'thng', which identifies the component’s type, subtype, and manufacturer . It also tells the Component Manager where to look to find the component’s code, name, description, and icon (if any).

The Stack Translation Interface

The component type for stack translators is 'STRN'. In addition to the standard component routines, each stack translator must implement a routine for the selector CONST kTranslateStack = 0. Subtypes 'STKP' and 'SCFT' are already defined, so don’t use these.

When HyperCard calls you with selector kTranslateStack, it passes parameters as follows:

FUNCTION TranslateStack (componentSubtype: OSType;
 stackFile: INTEGER;
 stackResFile: INTEGER;
 fileSpecPtr: FSSpecPtr): ComponentResult;

componentSubtype is useful if you use the same code resource for more than one stack translator.

stackFile is the stack’s data fork file reference number, which is open and usable for File Manager routines.

stackResFile is the stack’s resource fork file reference number, which is open and usable for Resource Manager routines.

fileSpecPtr is a pointer to an FSSpec that describes the location of the file your translator should write to. The file is not open, and may or may not already exist. If it does exist, the user will already have confirmed that the file is to be replaced, and you should overwrite it.

A Sample Stack Translator

StackToText is an example of a stack translator. In addition to demonstrating the calling conventions for stack translators, it introduces a technique for implementing the main portion of a stack translator in HyperTalk. HyperTalk contains all of the necessary constructs for iterating through all of the elements of a stack, and it has the necessary commands for putting text into a text file, so why do all of that in Pascal or C? Instead, StackToText tells HyperCard (via AppleEvents from the translator to HyperCard) to go to the stack in which its HyperTalk script is stored, and then it invokes the script, passing parameters along that tell the script which stack to translate and where the resulting text file should reside on disk. StackToText expects its resources to be stored in the same stack resource fork where its HyperTalk script resides.

The sole entry point for the code resource is the routine TranslatorComponent. It’s the routine the Component Manager calls to talk to our component. TranslatorComponent examines the what field of the ComponentParameters record and dispatches to its internal routines depending on the value of what. The Component Manager uses CallComponentFunction and CallComponentFunctionWithStorage to do the dispatching. DoTranslatorOpen demonstrates how to allocate storage for the component and how to inform the Component Manager about it. DoTranslatorClose demonstrates how to pass the component’s storage handle to a component function. It also deallocates the storage before the Component Manager closes the component. Because our component relies on System 7 and the Apple Event Manager, DoTranslatorRegister demonstrates the way a component tells the Component Manager whether it’s safe to register itself.

The meat of the component is in the routine DoTranslateStack. DoTranslateStack doesn’t actually translate a stack - instead it collects the necessary data for invoking the HyperTalk script that does the translation, wraps the data into Apple events, and sends the Apple events to HyperCard.

First, DoTranslateStack needs to know what file HyperCard is calling the component to translate. That’s easy - HyperCard passes it an access path reference number for the data fork of the stack. However, File Manager reference numbers aren’t very helpful in HyperTalk scripts, which are more at home with full path names for files. Therefore, DoTranslateStack calls our handy utility routine, FRefToFSSpec, which returns a file specification for a file given its access path reference number.

DoTranslateStack needs to know where the stack that contains its HyperCard script is on disk. Even though the component’s resources reside in the stack, finding out where the stack is on disk is a little tricky. The Component Manager doesn’t give you direct access to this information. After some pondering, I decided to use the Component Manager call OpenComponentResFile to get a resource file reference number for the component’s resource file and to go from there. I don’t need to look at anything in that resource file; I just need to know where the file is so I can construct my Apple events. Also, you might be interested in the method I use to determine whether a call to open a resource file opens a new access path to it. This is useful for knowing whether to close it. I won’t take credit for this trick. I learned it from the good folks in Developer Technical Services when I asked them, back in 1989, how to do this.

Now that DoTranslateStack knows everything it needs to know to call the HyperTalk script, it creates and sends an Apple event that causes HyperCard to open the stack that contains the script. It uses the standard “open documents” Apple event for this purpose. While the component is running, HyperCard is the current process but isn’t in its main event loop, and therefore the Apple event ought to be addressed to the current process and not to HyperCard by its TargetID or its actual ProcessSerialNumber. Using an address descriptor that contains the generic ProcessSerialNumber for the current process causes the Apple Event Manager to jump directly to the application’s event handler when the event is sent instead of putting the event in a queue, where it would await a call to WaitNextEvent. This is good for us; we can’t afford to wait until HyperCard calls WaitNextEvent in order to process our Apple event, because it won’t do that until after we’ve left the component and returned control to HyperCard!

I should mention before I go on that although StackToText does a reasonable job of checking errors, it doesn’t work very hard to determine what went wrong when an error is reported. For example, it doesn’t ask for a reply event from HyperCard when it sends Apple events - if it did, it could look in the reply for a descriptive error string when an error occurs. To keep the sample code small I didn’t include complete error handling.

Once DoTranslateStack sends the “open documents” event to HyperCard, it creates and send the Apple event that will invoke our custom script. The name of the message we want to send is “translatestack”, and we want it to be sent with parameters that describe the stack to be translated, the file to be created, and the type of file to create. Fortunately, an Apple event for this purpose has been defined and is supported by HyperCard 2.2. It allows Apple event clients to invoke handlers in scripts by name with parameters. It’s called the “subroutine event”, and its class, ID, and keywords are defined in the interface files for OSA and for AppleScript, which are available from Apple in the latest interface files for MPW and also from Symantec with THINK C 6.0. The name of the handler is given in the parameter with keyword keyASSubroutineName. The direct object of the event is a list of parameters, in first-to-last order.

You might note that even though our HyperTalk script expects to receive full path names for the stack to be translated and the file to create, DoTranslateStack adds those parameters to its “subroutine event” as FSSpecs. That’s because HyperCard automatically converts several types of Apple event descriptors to text in order to allow HyperTalk scripts to work with them, including numeric forms and forms that describe files on disk.

These sources are compatible with MPW Pascal 3.3. Build it like this:

/* 1 */
Pascal "StackTranslatorComponent.p"
Link -o "StackToText" "StackTranslatorComponent.p.o" 
        "{Libraries}Interface.o" 
        -sg StackTranslator -rt PROC=128 -t STAK 

©Kevin Calhoun 1993.  All Rights Reserved.

UNIT StackBasedStackTranslator;

USES Types, Memory, Files, Resources, Errors, Packages, AppleEvents, 
ASRegistry, OSA, Components, GestaltEqu, SysEqu;

FUNCTION  TranslatorComponent(VAR params: ComponentParameters;
               storage: Handle): ComponentResult;


TYPE StorageHandle = ^StoragePtr; { Our private storage }
     StoragePtr = ^StorageRecord;
     StorageRecord = RECORD      
       self: ComponentInstance;   { We don't need much }
     HandlePtr = ^Handle;

CONST kComponentVersion = $01000100; { Our version number }
      kTranslateStack = 0; { our stack translation component selector}

{ Forward declarations for our private routines. }
FUNCTION  DoTranslatorCanDo(selector: INTEGER):
 ComponentResult; FORWARD;  
FUNCTION  DoTranslatorClose(storageHndl: Handle;
           self: ComponentInstance): ComponentResult; FORWARD;
FUNCTION  DoTranslatorOpen(self: ComponentInstance):
 ComponentResult; FORWARD;
FUNCTION  DoTranslatorRegister: ComponentResult; FORWARD;
FUNCTION  DoTranslateStack(storageHndl: StorageHandle;
           componentSubType: OSType;
           stackFile: INTEGER;
           stackResFile: INTEGER;
           fileSpecPtr: FSSpecPtr): ComponentResult; FORWARD;
 VAR spec: FSSpec): OSErr; FORWARD;
PROCEDURE MyDisposeDesc(VAR desc: AEDesc); FORWARD;
PROCEDURE MyDisposHandle(VAR hndl: Handle); FORWARD;

FUNCTION TranslatorComponent(VAR params: ComponentParameters;
                 storage: Handle): ComponentResult;
{ The sole entrypoint for the component. }
  IF params.what < 0 THEN  { component manager values}
    CASE params.what OF
      kComponentRegisterSelect: TranslatorComponent :=
      kComponentVersionSelect: TranslatorComponent := 
      kComponentCanDoSelect: TranslatorComponent :=
      kComponentCloseSelect: TranslatorComponent :=
      kComponentOpenSelect: TranslatorComponent :=
        TranslatorComponent := badComponentSelector;
  ELSE  { Our component-specific routines }
      IF params.what = kTranslateStack
      THEN TranslatorComponent :=
      ELSE TranslatorComponent := badComponentSelector;

FUNCTION DoTranslatorCanDo(selector: INTEGER): ComponentResult;
{ Called  when the component is asked whether it supports a particular 
selector. }
  IF (selector >= kComponentRegisterSelect) 
 & (selector <= kTranslateStack)
  THEN DoTranslatorCanDo := 1   { valid request }
  ELSE DoTranslatorCanDo := 0;  { invalid request }

FUNCTION DoTranslatorClose(storageHndl: Handle;
              self: ComponentInstance): ComponentResult;
{Called when the component is closed.
 We allocate global storage when we're opened, so we'll deallocate it 
here. }
  DoTranslatorClose := noErr;

FUNCTION DoTranslatorOpen(self:ComponentInstance):
{Called when the component is opened.
 This component uses global storage, so we allocate it here. }
VAR storageHndl: Handle;
  DoTranslatorOpen := noErr;
  storageHndl := NewHandle(SizeOf(StorageRecord));
  StorageHandle(storageHndl)^^.self := self; { Remember it }
  { Tell the Component Mgr to remember our storage handle. }

FUNCTION DoTranslatorRegister: ComponentResult;
{ Return FALSE if it's OK to register this component. }
VAR theWorld:   SysEnvRec;
    gestaltInfo: LongInt;
    dummyResult: INTEGER;
    registerOK: BOOLEAN;
  { this component needs System 7 and the Apple Event Manager. }
  dummyResult := SysEnvirons(1,theWorld);
  registerOK := (theWorld.systemVersion >= $0700)   { 7.x system }
   & (Gestalt(gestaltAppleEventsAttr,gestaltInfo) = noErr)  
   & BTST(gestaltInfo,gestaltAppleEventsPresent);{ AEM is present }
  DoTranslatorRegister := ORD(NOT registerOK);

FUNCTION DoTranslateStack(storageHndl: StorageHandle;
                     componentSubType: OSType;
                     stackFile: INTEGER;
                     stackResFile: INTEGER;
                     fileSpecPtr: FSSpecPtr): ComponentResult;
{ Handles requests for translating stacks. }
VAR thisComponent: Component;
    saveTopMapHndl: Handle;
    hyperPSN: ProcessSerialNumber;
    addressDesc: AEDesc;
    appleEvt: AppleEvent;
    replyEvt: AppleEvent;
    fileList: AEDescList;
    paramList: AEDescList;
    msgStr: Str255;
    compFSSpec: FSSpec;
    stackFSSpec: FSSpec;
    compResFile: INTEGER;
    result: OSErr;
    ignoreResult: OSErr;

  PROCEDURE CleanExit;
  { Dispose of everything we allocated before exiting. }

  PROCEDURE CheckError(err: LongInt);
  { If an error occurred, set our return value and call CleanExit. } 

    IF err <> noErr THEN 
        DoTranslateStack := err;
  DoTranslateStack := noErr;  { assume success }

  {Set everything to nil now that we need to allocate later.  This will 
tell us on an
 error exit what we've allocated and what we haven't. }
  addressDesc.dataHandle := NIL;
  appleEvt. dataHandle := NIL;
  replyEvt.dataHandle := NIL;
  fileList.dataHandle := NIL;
  paramList.dataHandle := NIL;
 { Get FSSpec of stack to be translated. }

 { Get FSSpec of the stack that contains the HyperTalk script; this is 
the same
    as the FSSpec for the component resource file. }

 { Open the component's resource fork. }
 { We saved this little nugget in DoTranslatorOpen. }
 thisComponent := Component(storageHndl^^.self);  
  IF thisComponent = NIL THEN CheckError(badComponentInstance);
 { Remember what TopMapHndl is just before we open the resource file. 
  saveTopMapHndl := HandlePtr(TopMapHndl)^;
  compResFile := OpenComponentResFile(thisComponent);
  IF compResFile = -1 THEN CheckError(resFNotFound);
 { Get file spec for this component and close the resource file. }
  result := FRefToFSSpec(compResFile,compFSSpec);
 { If TopMapHndl changed when the component's resource file was opened,
    then we opened a new access path to it, and therefore we should close 
it. }
  IF saveTopMapHndl <> HandlePtr(TopMapHndl)^
  THEN ignoreResult := CloseComponentResFile(compResFile);
  { We've got our FSSpecs; now use Apple events to make HyperCard go 
to the
    stack in which this component resides and, once the stack is opened,
    execute the custom 'translatestack' handler stored within the stack. 

{ Create address descriptor for HyperCard (which is the current process) 
and then
  create an "open documents" Apple event for sending to the current process. 
  hyperPSN.highLongOfPSN := 0;
  hyperPSN.lowLongOfPSN := kCurrentProcess;
{ Create list of documents to open and put it into the direct parameter. 
  MyDisposeDesc(fileList); { AEPutParamDesc copied it into the Apple
   event, so we don't need this anymore. }
{ Send "open documents" Apple event to HyperCard. }
 kAENoReply + kAEDontRecord,

  MyDisposeDesc(replyEvt);{ desc should be null but can't hurt to make 
sure }

 { Now create &send our custom scripting message, "translatestack", with 
parameters. }
  { Put message name into "subroutine name" parameter. }
  msgStr := 'translatestack';
  { Create list of parameters to "translate stack" message. }
  { Send subroutine event to HyperCard }

{ Convert a file reference number for an open access path to an FSSpec 
for the file.
  Returns a file spec for a currently open file. }
VAR fcbPBlock:  FCBPBRec;
    nameStr:    Str255;
    result:     INTEGER;
    ioCompletion := NIL;
    ioNamePtr := @nameStr;
    ioVRefNum := 0;
    ioRefNum := fRefNum;
    ioFCBIndx := 0;
  result := PBGetFCBInfo(@fcbPBlock,FALSE);
  IF result = noErr THEN
      spec.vRefNum := fcbPBlock.ioFCBVRefNum;
      spec.parID := fcbPBlock.ioFCBParID; := nameStr;
  FRefToFSSpec := result;

PROCEDURE MyDisposeDesc(VAR desc: AEDesc);
{ Dispose of an Apple event descriptor, if it's non-nil, and then set 
the dataHandle 
  field to nil.  Prevents accidental double-disposals of handles. }
VAR result: OSErr;
  IF desc.dataHandle <> NIL THEN result:=AEDisposeDesc(desc);
  desc.dataHandle := NIL;
  desc.descriptorType := typeNull;

PROCEDURE MyDisposHandle(VAR hndl: Handle);
{ Dispose of a handle, if it's non-nil, and then set it to nil.  Prevents 
  double-disposals of handles. }
  IF hndl = NIL THEN EXIT(MyDisposHandle);
  hndl := NIL;


Rez Source For StackToText

Every component requires a 'thng' resource to tell the Component Manager about our component’s type, subtype, manufacturer, executable code resource, name, description string, and icon. We also want to tell the Component Manager to check with us before the component is registered. The 'thng' resource allows us to do all of this. HyperCard gets the string for the popup in Standard File from the componentName fields. The strings and icon can be marked purgeable.

/* 2 */
data 'thng' (129, "StackToText") {
   "STRN" /* componentType: 'STRN' */
   "STTT" /* componentSubType: 'STTT' */
   "KCAL" /* componentManufacturer: 'KCAL' */
   $"80000000" /* componentFlags: cmpWantsRegisterMessage */
   $"00000000" /* componentFlagsMask: 0 */
   "PROC" /* component Type: 'PROC' */
   $"0080"/* component ID: 128 */
   "STR " /* componentName Type: 'STR ' */
   $"0080"/* componentName ID: 128 */
   "STR " /* componentInfo Type: 'STR ' */
   $"0081"/* componentInfo ID: 129 */
   "ICON" /* componentIcon Type: 'ICON' */
   $"0080"/* componentIcon ID: 128 */

HyperTalk Source For StackToText

Our translatestack handler loops through all of the cards in the stack to be translated, writing the text of all of the card fields and the background fields on each card. It could do a great deal more - add headers for each field, for example. But this is enough for illustrative purposes.

/* 3 */
on translateStack stackName,newFileName,componentSubType
  open file newFileName
  if the result is not empty then
    answer the result
    exit translateStack
  end if
  lock screen
  lock messages
  lock recent
  push card
  go stack stackName
  if the result is not empty then exit translateStack
  push card
  repeat with i = 1 to the number of cards
    go card i
    repeat with j = 1 to the number of card fields
      write card field j & return & return to file newFileName
    end repeat
    repeat with k = 1 to the number of bg fields
      write bg field k & return & return to file newFileName
    end repeat
  end repeat
  close file newFileName
  pop card
  pop card
  unlock recent
  unlock messages
  unlock screen
  close card window
end translateStack

Beyond StackToText

StackToText demonstrates a simple stack translator, but it doesn’t show how to extract more than text from HyperCard stacks. You can do more with XCMDs than with HyperTalk, but even that doesn’t get you all the way there. Many other pieces of information about objects stored within stacks are not easily available either via HyperTalk or the XCMD interface. So how is it possible for stack translators to extract all of the relevant data from stacks?

The answer, I hope, has already been suggested to you by StackToText. As you’ve seen, stack translators can communicate with HyperCard via Apple events. And HyperCard 2.2 supports a generous Apple event interface, through which the contents and properties of all objects stored within HyperCard stacks are available in their richest formats, including styled text and compiled OSA scripts. Therefore stack translators can obtain their data via Apple events. For a list of the Apple events and Apple event objects supported by HyperCard 2.2, open HyperCard's Apple event dictionary with the AppleScript Script Editor. For further examples of the use of Apple events and Apple event objects for communicating with HyperCard from standalone code resources, see the article tentatively entitled “Advanced XCMD Techniques: Apple Events”, coming soon to a MacTech issue near you.


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schoettler Software has announced CalcTape 1.2, an update to their desktop calculator for macOS. When it comes to adding long columns of numbers, doing complex calculations or playing around with... Read more
New MacBooks And MacBook Pros WIth Kaby Lake...
Digitimes’ Joseph Tsai cites a Chinese-language Economic Daily News (EDN) report that unnamed market watchers are predicting Apple MacBook shipments to grow 10 percent in 2017, and projecting 15... Read more
New 2016 13-inch MacBook Pros on sale for up...
B&H Photo has the new 2016 13″ MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.9GHz/512GB Touch Bar MacBook Pro... Read more
New 15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock a...
B&H Photo has the new 2016 15″ Apple Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* & PC Desktop Support Technician...
Apple & PC Desktop Support Technician job in Los Angeles, CA Introduction: We have immediate job openings for several Desktop Support Technicians with one of our Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (Multi-L...
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 - Apple,...
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* & PC Desktop Support Technician...
Apple & PC Desktop Support Technician job in Stamford, CT We have immediate job openings for several Desktop Support Technicians with one of our most well-known Read more
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