TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Mac Prog FAQ Review

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 2
Column Tag: Tools Of The Trade

Macintosh Programming FAQs

By Edward Ringel

Lots of information in a good package

Needed: A Guide for the Perplexed

Recalling my undergraduate course in organic chemistry, my textbook went through a rather lengthy description of a synthesis. I would read it and I would think I understood it. I'd then go on to the next page, and an equally daunting process would be left as "an exercise for the reader," implying that at this point the logic should be pretty straightforward and any dummy should be able to figure it out. It would be at this point that I would realize that I wasn't as smart as I thought.

So it is with Mac programming. The first time I tried to put a list in a dialog I carefully read through Inside Macintosh, Volume IV, and I crashed and burned when they started talking about event filter procedures and drawing procedures, with implementation left as an exercise for the programmer.

Things are different from 1986 and 1987, when the List Manager was young, and System 3.2/Finder 5.3 was new and exciting. There are numerous books and good examples of introductory techniques. There are very good guides to the proper construction of a Mac GUI, using standard design elements. Apple has improved its sample code considerably, and I would argue that it is fairly easy to get started if you are willing to spend the time.

The road gets rockier when we get to the next level of sophistication. How do you customize a menu? How do you get the Notification Manager to notify the user? How do you add the little things that make a program special and professional? Certainly, there is an accumulated lore and body of experience which is available on the Internet, in various college and university repositories, the Apprentice CD series, and even from Apple. However, the information is diffuse, often poorly documented, and highly variable in quality and content. For the "every man" mainstream programmer, the person using an unmodified MacHeader straight from Metrowerks or Symantec, bootstrapping to the next level of sophistication can involve an unreasonably steep learning curve.

Enter Mac Programming FAQs

Mac Programming FAQs, by Stephen Baker with Dave Mark, is this needed organized repository of more advanced programming techniques. It is a wonderful book. It consists of a 600 plus page book plus a CD (we'll get back to the CD contents in a bit.) After an introduction, the book consists of 650 frequently asked questions about Macintosh programming, each answered concisely and usually illustrated with code.

I enjoyed this book for several reasons. First, it is simply well written. Baker and Mark are a good team, and they used a terse, but easy to read style. There was little ambiguity in the presentation, but at the same time it was not technical or handbook-like; the information flowed freely from the page. Second, it is written in a single voice; the approach is that of one individual, and it is easy to stay tuned to the presentation. Third, the information was accurate. While there were a few typos and misstatements, there were very few errors of fact. Fourth, this book is a gold mine of information. I learned a heck of a lot of new stuff, and got a bunch of questions on some murky topics (for me, at least) answered concisely.

The book purports to address the needs of a wide spectrum of programming skill. While a few of the questions are those posed at the beginner level, the bulk of the book addresses advanced and intermediate programming techniques. I suspect that a beginning programmer who tried to attack this book would certainly get something out of it, but the experience would be akin to learning to swim at the deep end of the pool.

Topics

This book covers questions about mainstream programming. It does not cover networking issues, writing PCI card drivers, maximizing efficiency of QuickDraw GX printer drivers, etc. It does cover events, dialogs, lists, menus, printing, notification, windows, resources and the like. The book is organized along the lines of the various Managers. Typical questions include:

"How do I get the full path of a file referenced by a vRefNum, parent directory ID, and filename?" (File Manager.)

"How do I attach an icon to an application?" (Finder and Desktop.)

"How do I change the title of a menu in the menu bar after it has been installed?" (Menus.)

"Why can't I access QuickDraw globals like ‘thePort' anymore?" (QuickDraw: Drawing.)

"Given a handle to a resource, how can I determine which resource file it came from?" (Resources.)

"How do I draw dimmed (grayed out) text?" (Text: Fonts and Drawing.)

"How do I put a list in a Macintosh model dialog box?" (Lists and the List Manager.)

Some only take a line or two of text to answer. Others, such as the list question, took three or four pages. In general, I had a pretty good idea of how to do something once I had read the answer to the question. Questions are cross-referenced, with respect both to specific FAQs and other more general topics. The only serious criticism I have of this book is that it tries to address the Apple Event issue. I have found this to be one of the most difficult areas of mainstream Macintosh programming, and it seems almost silly to have a few pages of FAQs about this incredibly complex Manager. Fortunately, the authors have the sense to direct the reader to more appropriate, in-depth resources, and acknowledge the limited scope of coverage in the book.

Code

The great majority of articles include some code, even if it just shows how to call a Toolbox function. The code varies from a snippet to a short program, but in my experience it a) always illustrated the point and b) worked when ran. Examples tended to be simple enough to follow, but complex enough not to be trivial and to illustrate the demonstration points successfully. Baker and Mark resisted the temptation to throw in tricks and to hot dog; I think Apple would approve of just about every technique demonstrated. All coding and examples are in ANSI C. There is a short series of FAQs about Pascal versus C, which was the only departure from this observation.

A CD Too!

The CD has three components. First, it contains complete projects (Code Warrior) for the longer examples. This means source, project file, and resource, as well as a compiled executable. Second, snippets are contained within Simple Text files for use in any environment. Third, there is a searchable database that includes every question asked in the book, with its answer, similarly cross referenced. As I said above, I experimented extensively with the code, compiled and ran as advertised; the quality assurance on this material was very good. The database worked well and delivered as promised. If you like working from the screen and using a search engine better than using a book and an index, you'll be very happy with the database.

Can I Ask for Better?

Not really. Frankly, I think this is the best forty bucks I've spent in a long time. I feel as though I have the resources to make my programs more professional in appearance, and I will waste less time in future projects. Indeed, I suspect that it is people such as myself, the serious hobbyist/intermediate level programmer who will find this book the most valuable, precisely for the reasons I just stated. Enjoy!

Mac Programming FAQs, by Stephen H. Baker with Dave Mark. IDG Books, Foster City, CA. Copyright 1996. ISBN 0-7645-4001-7. List price $39.95.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

ExpanDrive 5.4.6 - $49.99
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
Apple Pages 6.1.1 - Apple's word pr...
Apple Pages is a powerful word processor that gives you everything you need to create documents that look beautiful. And read beautifully. It lets you work seamlessly between Mac and iOS devices, and... Read more
Apple Numbers 4.1.1 - Apple's sprea...
With Apple Numbers, sophisticated spreadsheets are just the start. The whole sheet is your canvas. Just add dramatic interactive charts, tables, and images that paint a revealing picture of your data... Read more
Apple Keynote 7.1.1 - Apple's prese...
Easily create gorgeous presentations with the all-new Keynote, featuring powerful yet easy-to-use tools and dazzling effects that will make you a very hard act to follow. The Theme Chooser lets you... Read more
Espresso 5 - Powerful HTML, XML, CSS, an...
Espresso is back. For people who make delightful, innovative, and fast websites -- in an app to match. Espresso helps you write, code, design, build, and publish with flair and efficiency.... Read more
Vitamin-R 2.47 - Personal productivity t...
Vitamin-R creates the optimal conditions for your brain to work at its best by structuring your work into short bursts of distraction-free, highly focused activity alternating with opportunities for... Read more
Dash 4.0.3 - Instant search and offline...
Dash is an API documentation browser and code snippet manager. Dash helps you store snippets of code, as well as instantly search and browse documentation for almost any API you might use (for a full... Read more
Posterino 3.3.6 - Create posters, collag...
Posterino offers enhanced customization and flexibility including a variety of new, stylish templates featuring grids of identical or odd-sized image boxes. You can customize the size and shape of... Read more
Together 3.8.3 - Store and organize all...
Together helps you organize your Mac, giving you the ability to store, edit and preview your files in a single clean, uncluttered interface. Features Smart storage. With simple drag-and-drop... Read more
iClock Pro 3.4.9 - Customize your menuba...
iClock Pro is a menu bar replacement clock for Apple's default clock. iClock Pro is an update, total rewrite and improvement to the popular iClock. Have the day, date and time in different fonts and... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Minimalist puzzle game, Cuts, free on iO...
If you're looking for a gorgeous puzzle experience on iOS devices, developer Gamebra.in's aesthetically interesting puzzler, Cuts, is discounted to free on the iOS App Store right now. [Read more] | Read more »
Anime tactical RPG, War of Crown, comes...
If you're looking for another tactical RPG fix to go alongside your Fire Emblem Heroes campaigns check out Gamevil's newest, anime-inspired tactics RPG, War of Crown, which comes out tomorrow. [Read more] | Read more »
Fantasy MMORPG MU Origin adds new modes,...
MU Origin, Webzen’s highly popular fantasy MMORPG is getting ready to shake things up for the second time this year, as a new update makes its way to the Google Play and App Store from today. Introducing new systems, modes, and events, the land of... | Read more »
Blizzard is looking to hire a mobile dev...
A new thread on the popular video game rumor forum, NeoGAF, uncovered an interesting job listing over at Blizzard Entertainment. It appears the studio behindStarCraft, World of WarCraft, Hearthstone,andOverwatch is looking to bring on a new hire... | Read more »
Legend of Zelda meets Cooking Mama in ne...
Dungeon Chef is what happens when you mix the RPG elements (and style) of a Legend of Zelda game, with cooking elements. Although, now that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild also has cookingelements, so maybe the gameplay is not so novel.... | Read more »
ChordFlow (Music)
ChordFlow 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $6.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: ChordFlow is a chord sequencer with a unique 4-track polyphonic arpeggiator, extensive chord library, MIDI out and Ableton Link... | Read more »
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is out...
The newest season of Telltale Games'The Walking Dead is well underway. After the release of the third episode, "Above the Law" about a month ago, episode four, "Thicker Than Water" is hot and ready for more zombies and gut-wrenching emotional... | Read more »
Best games we played this week
Another week, another new wave of mobile games do dive into. We've dug through the list of apps that came out this week to tell you which apps are worth your sweet time. And while there weren't too many games this week, there were some big ones.... | Read more »
Vignettes (Games)
Vignettes 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: Vignettes is a casual but unique exploration game without text or characters, where objects shapeshift as you spin them around... | Read more »
Get Me Outta Here is an 80s retro shoote...
Are you ready to fight some aliens? Because Crescent Moon Games has released the retro shooter Get Me Outta Here on iOS devices today. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

HyperX Ships Pulsefire FPS Gaming Mouse, Winn...
Your reporter is a longtime fan of gaming mice for general purpose coomnputing use, finding them typically superior in comfort and performance. HyperX, a division of Kingston Technology Company, Inc... Read more
Penske Truck Leasing Unveils “Penske Fleet” M...
Penske Truck Leasing has introduced a free mobile app called “Penske Fleet” to benefit its full-service truck leasing and contract maintenance customers. The mobile app enables Penske’s customers to... Read more
DEVONthink To Go 2.1.3 For iOS Adds New Declu...
DEVONtechnologies has updated DEVONthink To Go, its iOS companion to DEVONthink for Mac. Enhancements and bug fixes in Version 2.1.3 include DEVONtechnologies’ new decluttering service for clipping... Read more
Use Apple’s Education discount to save up to...
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: -... Read more
Apple refurbished Apple Watches available sta...
Apple is now offering Certified Refurbished Series 1 and Series 2 Apple Watches for 14-16% off MSRP, starting at $229. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each watch. Shipping is free: Series... Read more
15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros, Apple refurbi...
Apple is offering Certified Refurbished 2016 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros for $360 to $420 off original MSRP. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 15″ 2.6GHz... Read more
13-inch MacBook Airs on sale for up to $150 o...
Overstock.com has 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP including free shipping: - 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air (sku MMGF2LL/A): $869.99 $130 off MSRP - 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air (sku... Read more
15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for $1...
B&H Photo has the new 2016 15″ Apple Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar... Read more
15-inch 2.7GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale...
Amazon has 2016 15″ 2.7GHz Apple Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for $150-$200 off MSRP. Shipping is free: - 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pro Space Gray (sku MLH42LL/A): $2599 $200... Read more
Apple now offering Certified Refurbished 13-i...
Apple is now offering Certified Refurbished 2016 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros for $270-$300 off original MSRP. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.9GHz... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Mac Computer Technician - GeekHampto...
…complex computer issues over the phone and in person? GeekHampton, Long Island's Apple Premium Service Provider, is looking for you! Come work with our crew 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* Solutions Consultant - Apple (United...
# Apple Solutions Consultant Job Number: 56881986 Middletown, NY, New York, United States Posted: Apr. 17, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** As an Apple Read more
*Apple* Mobile Master - Best Buy (United Sta...
**489879BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobile Master **Location Number:** 000402-Utica-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Best Buy Apple Mobile Master do?** At Read more
Music Marketing Lead, iTunes & *Apple*...
# Music Marketing Lead, iTunes & Apple Music Job Number: 56868140 Culver City, California, United States Posted: Apr. 17, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.