TweetFollow Us on Twitter

May 97 Getting Started

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 5
Column Tag: Getting Started

More Objective-C

by Dave Mark, ©1997, All Rights Reserved. http://www.spiderworks.com

Last month, we took our first taste of Objective-C. We learned that Objective-C sources use the extension ".m" for main source files and ".h" for header files. The type "id" is used to declare a generic pointer which allows us to delay type binding decisions. We learned that most objects are derived from the Root class Object. The Object class features variables and methods inherited by all other classes. One of these variables is "isa" which specifies the class to which an object belongs.

We saw the form for a class interface:

 MySuperClass
{
 instance variable declarations
}
method declarations

We also learned about Objective-C's funky form of method declaration:

- (int)getX:(int)x andY:(int)y;

Where the leading minus sign marks the function as an instance method - as opposed to a "+", which marks a method as a class method, like a C++ static method. The first "int" is the return type, and the other "int"s are the parameter types. The name of the method above is "getX:andY:" The default type is id, so if you leave out any of the types (including the return type) the type is set to id.

We also learned about the #import compiler directive, used to avoid multiple inclusion of a .h file:

#import "Object.h"

Alternatively, you can avoid all the extra junk you get when you import a classes' header file by using the @class directive to let the compiler know that a reference is to a legal class:


Finally, we saw the form used for the actual implementation of a class:

#import "MyClass.h"

Message Receivers and Message Syntax

Now it's on to new material. Once you declare your class and use that declaration to define an object, it's time to bring that object to life by sending it a message. In C++, you call an object's member function using the object itself to make the call:

myObjectPtr->MemberFunction();

In Objective-C, a message is said to be sent to a receiver using the following syntax:

[receiver message];

The receiver is an object and the message is a method, along with its associated parameters. The message is sent (and the appropriate method selected) at runtime. For example, suppose the class named MyClass included the following method:

- (int)getX:(int)x andY:(int)y;

Just as a reminder, this method is called getX:andY:, takes two parameters (both of them ints), and returns an int. Here's a line of code that sends a message asking a MyClass object to perform the getX:andY: method:

myNum = [myObj getX:27:50];

In this case, the object myObj (we'll see how to allocate an object in a second), presumably of class MyClass, gets sent the getX:andY: message, along with the parameters 27 and 50.

Allocating an Object

To allocate a new object, you'll send an alloc message to the class whose object you want to create. Here's an example:

id myObj = [[MyClass alloc] init];

You'll use this line of code again and again, with a few alterations of course. We start off by defining an id to hold the reference to the allocated object. The right side of the "=" operator is a message expression embedded in another method expression, much as you might embed a function call inside a second function call (printf( "%d", GetMyValue()); for example).

In this case, we are first sending the alloc message to MyClass. The alloc method is a factory method (it is declared with a leading "+" sign instead of a leading "-"), similar to a static member function in C++. It is inherited from the Object class. The alloc method allocates the memory for a single object of the specified class and returns a pointer to the object.

That object is then sent the init message, which causes that object's init method to be performed. A classes' init method should return a pointer to the object (otherwise this code wouldn't work). The object pointer returned by this nested pair of message expressions is assigned to the object pointer myObj.

As you would expect, Objective-C has an analogy to the C++ keyword "this". To refer to the current object, use the term "self". When you write your init method (to initialize your newly alloc'ed object), you'll end it by returning self:

return self;

Our First Objective-C Program

Let's bring all these concepts together with a simple example. We'll create a Number class that features a single variable, an int to hold the Number's current value. We'll add methods for initialization, one to square the Number's current value, and one to print out the current value. While this example may seem trivial, it will act as a nice syntax reference as you build your own classes.

By the time you read this, Metrowerks should have delivered their first Objective-C tools (scheduled for release as part of May's CW12). Since I don't have those tools in hand yet, I had to look at alternative Objective-C environments. As I mentioned last month, Tenon makes a Mac environment called CodeBuilder which supports the gcc Objective-C compiler. CodeBuilder supports an X environment called AfterStep, along with a more conventional unix terminal environment running either C Shell, T-C Shell (an improved C Shell), the traditional Bourne Shell (less powerful, but uses less memory), and the Bourne Again Shell (bash, Bourne Shell with improvements). All this rides on top of a Berkeley 4.4BSD unix system.

If you are into unix, CodeBuilder is definitely a lot of fun to play with. On the other hand, I find myself aching for the CodeWarrior IDE and editor to tie my projects together. Though I must admit that I did enjoy using vi to edit all my source code. Amazingly, I remembered all those cryptic vi commands that made vi such a pleasure/pain to use. Ah, well, enough reminiscing - on to the code...

The first thing I did was create a new folder to hold the source code (if you are using CodeBuilder, the unix command "mkdir dirName" creates a new directory, "cd new dir" changes directories, "mv oldname newname" changes file or directory names, "rmdir dir" deletes an empty directory, "vi filename" invokes the vi editor and "man command" brings up an online manual for the specified command. If you are new to unix or to vi, I would definitely try "man vi" to get a sense of the editor before you get into it).

Inside the new folder, I created three source files: Number.m, Number.h, and main.m. Here's the source for Number.m:

#import "Number.h"
//#include "Number.h"

(int)startValue
{
  [super init];

  value = startValue;

  return self;
}

- squareSelf
{
  value *= value;

  return self;
}

- print
{
  printf( "Number value: %d\n", value );

  return self;
}

The release of CodeBuilder I had did not support #import (at least not in the usual fashion). If your environment does not support #import, comment out that line and uncomment the #include. Remember, if you use #include, you'll need to also make a corresponding change to the header file (we'll get to it next).

Number.m contains the implementation of the Number class. All three methods are instance methods and are declared using the leading "-". Notice that the init method takes a single parameter, startValue, an int used to set the value of the instance variable named value. Value is declared in Number.h.

The init method starts off by sending an init method to its superclass (in this case, the Object class). Doing this gives your superclass a chance to initialize its superclasses and itself, a real good idea. After setting value to startValue, init returns a pointer to the newly initialized object (remember, self is like this in C++).

squareSelf and print are fairly straightforward. Note that both return self, though they don't necessarily need to, since their return value is ignored by main. Also, you can see that the C standard library function printf() is available in Objective-C. As Rhapsody starts to kick in, I'll start making use of Mac interface calls instead of using console i/o but, for now, we need to make do with what we have.

Here's the source for Number.h:

//#ifndef _Number_h_
//#define _Number_h_

#import <objc/Object.h>
//#include <objc/Object.h>


 Object
{
  int value;
}

- init:(int)startValue;
- squareSelf;
- print;

//#endif

Once again, if your environment doesn't support #import, uncomment all the commented code above and comment out the #import line. Note the declaration of the instance variable named value along with the declaration of the three methods init, squareSelf, and print. Note that all three return an id, since no return value is declared. That's why the:

return self;

at the end of each method makes sense.

Here's the source for main.m:

#include "Number.h"

void main()
{
  id number = [[Number alloc] init:27];

  [number print];

  [number squareSelf];
  [number print];

  [number free];
}

main() is just a sequence of method expressions. First, we declare number to be an object pointer, then we allocate and initialize a new Number object and assign the object's pointer (returned by init) to number. Note that the value 27 was passed in as a parameter to init. Got it?

The rest of the program is cake. Send number the print message. Here's the line of output that appears in the console window:

Number value: 27

Next, send number the squareSelf message. This causes the number object to square the value in value. Before you reach for your calculators, 27 * 27 = 729. Really.

To verify this, we pass another print message on to number. Here's the line that appears in the console window:

Number value: 729

Finally, we send the free message to number. Since the Number class does not override the Object classes' free method, the Object classes' free method is the one that ends up getting called free. The Object version of free deallocates all memory allocated for the object by alloc. Note that the Object version of free does not follow any pointers in your object to free any secondary memory. If you do allocate additional memory in your init method (don't override alloc), you'll want to override free and deallocate the additional memory.

If you do override free, be sure to send the free message to super:

[super free];

at the end of your free method to give super classes a chance to clean up after themselves.

By the way, if you are using CodeBuilder, you might want to take advantage of the unix tool called Make. Create a file called Makefile in the same directory as your sources, and type in these two lines:

Number: main.m Number.m Number.h
 gcc -o Number main.m Number.m -lobjc

Now you can recompile your program by just typing the command Make.

Till Next Month...

I am really enjoying the opportunity to mess with Objective-C. Though the syntax threw me at first, it didn't take me long before I was thinking in it. This is not a hard language. Just a bit weird! I'm definitely looking forward to getting Rhapsody up and running on my machine so I can experiment with true dynamic binding. Excellent!

Just a heads up - I have gotten a lot of email asking me to update my How to Get Started With Mac Programming article. So much has changed in the Mac universe (Rhapsody, the Internet, Objective-C, Java, etc.) that the old recommendations just don't hold water anymore. Within the next couple of months, I'm going to interrupt the Objective-C series (just for one month!) to run a new version of that article. For those of you who are already way Mac programmers, please bear with me. Till then, it's back to unix, vi, and Objective-C...

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

The best scanner app on mobile
People always say that the best camera is the one you have with you. Well, the same is true with scanners, and your phone can be a pretty great tool for scanning receipts and other documents while you're on the go. [Read more] | Read more »
MARVEL Avengers Academy guide - How to g...
MARVEL Avengers Academy lets you build your own superhero school and fill it with heroes from the Marvel universe. It can be a little slow going to get your school's attendance up though, so we've gathered together somesome tips to help you do this... | Read more »
Shadow Blade: Reload guide - How to hack...
Shadow Blade: Reload is the kind of action-platformer that would have happily sucked up hours of your time on a console a few years back.Now, you can take it with you wherever you go, and its mobile conversion is not too shabby at all. To help you... | Read more »
Tomb of the Mask guide - How to increase...
Tomb of the Mask is a great endless arcade game from Happymagenta in which quick reflexes and a persistent attitude can go a long way toward earning a top score. Check out these tips to see if you can give yourself an edge on the leaderboards. [... | Read more »
Smooth Operator! (Games)
Smooth Operator! 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Smooth Operator is a weird, weird two-player kissing game. Squeeze in for 2 player fun on a single iPad, creating awkward... | Read more »
Sinless: Remastered (Games)
Sinless: Remastered 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
_PRISM Guide - How to solve those puzzle...
_PRISM is a rather delightful puzzle game that’s been tailor made for touch screens. While part of the fun is figuring things out as you go along, we thought we’d offer you a helping hand at getting in the right mindset. Don’t worry about messing... | Read more »
Fractal Space (Games)
Fractal Space 1.3.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.3.1 (iTunes) Description: Live the memorable experience of Fractal Space, a unique first person adventure & puzzle game by Haze Games! Will you... | Read more »
Set off on an adventure through the Cand...
Like match three puzzlers? If so, Jelly Blast, the innovative iOS and Android game which launched last year, is worth a look. Jelly Blast sees you head off on an epic adventure through the Candy Kingdom with your friends Lily, Mr. Hare, and Mr.... | Read more »
Ellipsis - Touch. Explore. Survive. (...
Ellipsis - Touch. Explore. Survive. 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

cb Hardcase – Handmade and Premium Protective...
Baden-Baden, Germany based company cb innovations has introduced the new cb Hardcase for iPhone. Featuring fine Italian Premium leather that makes for a unique look and feel, the cb Hardcase... Read more
Sale! B&H Photo offers 12-inch Retina Mac...
B&H Photo has 12″ Retina MacBooks on sale for $300 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Gray Retina MacBook: $999 $300 off MSRP - 12″ 1.... Read more
App Annie Reveals Future of the App Economy:...
App Annie, a San Francisco based mobile app data and insights platform, has launched its first comprehensive app economy forecast. This new offering will provide brands, agencies, investors and app... Read more
Apple restocks Certified Refurbished Mac mini...
Apple has restocked Certified Refurbished 2014 Mac minis, with models available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $... Read more
What iPad Pro Still Needs To Make It Truly Pr...
I love my iPad Air 2. So much that I’m grudgingly willing to put up with its compromises and limitations as a production tool in order to take advantage of its virtues. However, since a computer for... Read more
21-inch 3.1GHz 4K on sale for $1399, $100 off...
B&H Photo has the 21″ 3.1GHz 4K iMac on sale $1399 for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP: - 21″ 3.1GHz 4K iMac (MK452LL/A): $... Read more
Apple price trackers, updated continuously
Scan our Apple Price Trackers for the latest information on sales, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers. We update the trackers continuously: - 15″... Read more
Save up to $240 with Apple Certified Refurbis...
Apple is now offering Certified Refurbished 12″ Retina MacBooks for up to $240 off the cost of new models. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook, and shipping is free. The... Read more
Apple refurbished 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $270 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.7GHz... Read more
Apple refurbished Time Capsules available for...
Apple has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for $120 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $179, $120 off - 3TB... Read more

Jobs Board

Infrastructure Engineer - *Apple* /Mac - Rem...
…part of a team Requires proven problem solving skills Preferred Additional: Apple Certified System Administrator (ACSA) Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC) 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
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Service Repa...
Simply Mac is the largest premier retailer of Apple products in the nation. In order to support our growing customer base, we are currently looking for a driven Read more
*Apple* Reporter - Business Insider, Inc. (U...
Business Insider is looking for a reporter to cover Apple , the biggest and arguably most important company in tech. As our primary Apple reporter, you will: * Read more
Infrastructure Engineer - *Apple* /Mac - Rem...
…part of a team Requires proven problem solving skills Preferred Additional: Apple Certified System Administrator (ACSA) Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC) Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.