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

Apple GarageBand 10.1 - Complete recordi...
The new GarageBand is a whole music creation studio right inside your Mac -- complete with keyboard, synths, orchestral and percussion instruments, presets for guitar and voice, an entirely... Read more
Duplicate Annihilator 5.7.7 - Find and d...
Duplicate Annihilator takes on the time-consuming task of comparing the images in your iPhoto library using effective algorithms to make sure that no duplicate escapes. Duplicate Annihilator... Read more
OS X Server 4.1.3 - For OS X 10.10 Yosem...
Designed for OS X and iOS devices, OS X Server makes it easy to share files, schedule meetings, synchronize contacts, develop software, host your own website, publish wikis, configure Mac, iPhone,... Read more
pwSafe 4.1 - 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
Kodi 15.0.rc1 - Powerful media center to...
Kodi (was XBMC) is an award-winning free and open-source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub that can be installed on Linux, OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android, featuring a 10-foot user... Read more
Coda 2.5.11 - One-window Web development...
Coda is a powerful Web editor that puts everything in one place. An editor. Terminal. CSS. Files. With Coda 2, we went beyond expectations. With loads of new, much-requested features, a few surprises... Read more
Bookends 12.5.7 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Access the power of Bookends directly from Mellel, Nisus Writer Pro, or MS Word (... Read more
Maya 2016 - Professional 3D modeling and...
Maya is an award-winning software and powerful, integrated 3D modeling, animation, visual effects, and rendering solution. Because Maya is based on an open architecture, all your work can be scripted... Read more
RapidWeaver 6.2.3 - Create template-base...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
MacFamilyTree 7.5.2 - Create and explore...
MacFamilyTree gives genealogy a facelift: it's modern, interactive, incredibly fast, and easy to use. We're convinced that generations of chroniclers would have loved to trade in their genealogy... Read more

Rage of Bahamut is Giving Almost All of...
The App Store isn't what it used to be back in 2012, so it's not unexpected to see some games changing their structures with the times. Now we can add Rage of Bahamut to that list with the recent announcement that the game is severely cutting back... | Read more »
Adventures of Pip (Games)
Adventures of Pip 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** ONE WEEK ONLY — 66% OFF! *** “Adventures of Pip is a delightful little platformer full of charm, challenge and impeccable... | Read more »
Divide By Sheep - Tips, Tricks, and Stre...
Who would have thought splitting up sheep could be so involved? Anyone who’s played Divide by Sheep, that’s who! While we’re not about to give you complete solutions to everything (because that’s just cheating), we will happily give you some... | Read more »
NaturalMotion and Zynga Have Started Tea...
An official sequel to 2012's CSR Racing is officially on the way, with Zynga and NaturalMotion releasing a short teaser trailer to get everyone excited. Well, as excited as one can get from a trailer with no gameplay footage, anyway. [Read more] | Read more »
Grab a Friend and Pick up Overkill 3, Be...
Overkill 3 is a pretty enjoyable third-person shooter that was sort of begging for some online multiplayer. Fortunately the begging can stop, because its newest update has added an online co-op mode. [Read more] | Read more »
Scanner Pro's Newest Update Adds Au...
Scanner Pro is one of the most popular document scanning apps on iOS, thanks in no small part to its near-constant updates, I'm sure. Now we're up to update number six, and it adds some pretty handy new features. [Read more] | Read more »
Heroki (Games)
Heroki 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $7.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: CLEAR THE SKIES FOR A NEW HERO!The peaceful sky village of Levantia is in danger! The dastardly Dr. N. Forchin and his accomplice,... | Read more »
Wars of the Roses (Games)
Wars of the Roses 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
TapMon Battle (Games)
TapMon Battle 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: It's time to battle!Tap! Tap! Tap! Try tap a egg to hatch a Tapmon!Do a battle with another tapmons using your hatched tapmons! *... | Read more »
Alchemic Dungeons (Games)
Alchemic Dungeons 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ### Release Event! ### 2.99$->0.99$ for limited time! ### Roguelike Role Playing Game! ### Alchemic Dungeons is roguelike... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13-inch 1.6GHz MacBook Air on sale for $849,...
Best Buy has the 2015 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $849.99 on their online store this weekend. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for online orders... Read more
Apple Refurbished iMacs available for up to $...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $380 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac – $1949 $... Read more
Apple refurbished 2014 13-inch Retina MacBook...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 13″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $400 off original MSRP, starting at $979. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Seagate Backup Plus Drives Feature 200GB of C...
Seagate Technology plc has announced that its Backup Plus family of external storage offerings will now include 200GB of OneDrive cloud storage, a major added value, and the addition of Lyve’s photo... Read more
Canon PIXMA MG3620 Wireless Inkjet All-in-One...
Canon U.S.A., Inc. has announced the PIXMA MG3620 Wireless (1) Inkjet All-in-One (AIO) printer for high-quality photo and document printing. Built with convenience in mind for the everyday home user... Read more
July 4th Holiday Weekend 13-inch MacBook Pro...
Save up to $150 on the purchase of a new 2015 13″ Retina MacBook Pro at the following resellers this weekend. Shipping is free with each model: 2.7GHz/128GB MSRP $1299 2.7GHz/... Read more
27-inch 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2149, sav...
Best Buy has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2149.99. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for online orders only, in-store prices may vary. Their price is $... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 2015 11-inch...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2015 11″ MacBook Airs as well as 13″ MacBook Airs (the latest models), available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-... Read more
15-inch 2.5GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
Amazon.com has the 15″ 2.5GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $2274 including free shipping. Their price is $225 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
Finally Safe To Upgrade To Yosemite’?
The reason I’ve held back from upgrading my MacBook Air from OS X 10.9 Mavericks to 10.10 Yosemite for nearly a year isn’t just procrastination. Among other bugs reported, there have been persistent... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Music Producer - Apple (United State...
**Job Summary** Apple Music seeks a Producer to help shepherd some of the most important content and editorial initiatives within the music app, with a particular focus Read more
Editor, *Apple* News - Apple (United States...
**Job Summary** Editor, Apple News The Apple News team is looking for passionate, knowledgeable editors to help identify and deliver the best in breaking national, Read more
*Apple* Watch SW Application Project Manager...
**Job Summary** The Apple Watch software team is looking for an Application Engineering Project Manager to work on new projects for Apple . The successful candidate Read more
Engineering Project Manager - *Apple* Searc...
**Job Summary** Apple 's new Spotlight Suggestions service provides fast, relevant search results from the Inte et in Spotlight and Safari on iOS and OS X. We are looking Read more
Business Development Manager - *Apple* Pay...
**Job Summary** Apple Pay is seeking an experienced relationship manager to support the ongoing management of partners for the Apple Pay platform. This position will Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.