TweetFollow Us on Twitter

OpenDialog Review

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 5
Column Tag: Tools Of The Trade

OpenDialog

by Edward Ringel

Specialized dialog functions library for the industrial strength programmer

The Dialog Manager is a flexible package that is used by almost everyone creating forms for Macintosh applications. For some applications, these forms are limited to setting preferences or a few other limited tasks. In this situation, extensive customization of the dialog is unnecessary, and Toolbox calls are more than sufficient. In other circumstances, a series of dialogs, modal and modeless, may be the core of the project and represent the bulk of the user interface. In these applications, customization of the dialogs may be desirable and even mandatory. In this setting, the direct Dialog Manager calls may be clumsy and require large amounts of coding to achieve input filtering, relating data structures to items, cursor management, and the like.

Object oriented technologies have devised schemes to exercise considerable control over forms-style GUIs. Procedural programmers usually have a collection of routines and libraries tucked away which simplify the problem, at least to a degree. From time to time various programming tools become available which also purport to simplify the life of the dialog-forms programmer. OpenDialog is such a package.

Dialog Manager Replacement

OpenDialog is engineered and supported by FGM, Inc. of Herndon, VA. This company's primary business activity is writing end-user software, not creating programming tools. Nonetheless, their collection of routines and their systematic approach to addressing Dialog Manager problems and deficiencies resulted in a library that clearly has commercial appeal. As FGM states in its ads and introductory literature, this is a replacement for the Dialog Manager. It is recommended that you do not use OpenDialog and Dialog Manager calls on OpenDialog dialogs because, as the manual says, "the results may be unreliable."

When OpenDialog creates a new dialog (modal, moveable modal, and modeless dialogs are all supported) it creates private data structures and tags the dialog as its own. The library supplies a function, DMX_ItzaODlogWindow(), to test whether a dialog belongs to the OpenDialog manager or not. As a replacement for the Dialog Manager, OpenDialog has an equivalent function for just about all of the Dialog Manager functions.

With the exception of a few calls, the replacement function and the original function have very similar names and parameter lists; this is obviously helpful and important. Parameter lists are different when functionality is extended. DMX_GetNewDialog() may be a good example; this function's parameter list allows the programmer to specify if the dialog is to be modal or modeless, to assign a text style for the dialog, and to set flags for event handling.

As may be apparent from these two function call examples, the function calls all start with DMX_; this permits easy differentiation from Toolbox calls in your code. Throughout the library, there is a clear and consistent nomenclature that was very easy to follow; this helped shorten the learning curve considerably.

Extensions to the Dialog Manager

Clearly, one does not purchase a library to simply have a different prefix to a function. OpenDialog provides a very wide range of extensions to the services provided by the Toolbox.

One very nice feature of the product is item tagging. Every item in a dialog can have text associated with it; OpenDialog takes advantage of this to allow for customization of the item at the resource level. As I describe below, one powerful use of this feature is to customize an edit field to create filtering. Another is to "name" an item and free the programmer from needing to remember a DITL number. Controls and other elements may also be customized with item tagging. I think that the ability to set filtering (and other services) at the resource level is in the best spirit of Macintosh programming tools.

The largest (and probably for many programmers, the most important) group of services have to do with editable text boxes. By tagging the edit text item's default text in the resource editor, one can limit the number of characters in an entry, force numerical data only, etc. Getting and setting data from a text box is much, much easier than with Toolbox calls. To get any item's text, one simply calls pascal void DMX_GetItemText(const DialogPtr aDlog, short aItemNumber, Str255 aString), and to set the text, one calls the counterpart function, pascal void DMX_SetItemText(const DialogPtr aDlog, short aItemNumber, const Str255 aString). Specialized getters and setters for date, time and latitude and longitude are also supplied. Although one might functionally group cursor control with other types of service extension, the library supplies an automatic I-Beam cursor if the field is initialized correctly. To give a flavor of OpenDialog calls, below is a listing from a short program I converted to OpenDialog. This function creates a modeless dialog, counts the number of dialog items, tests to see if the item is of type editText, and if it is, installs automatic I-Beam management.

void CreateModelessDialog(short DialogID, DialogPtr *theNewDialog)
{
 short  tempType;
 short  numItems;
 short  i;

 *theNewDialog = NULL;
 *theNewDialog = DMX_GetNewDialog
 (DialogID, kDMX_Modeless, 0L,kDMFlag_DoIdleEvents);
 if (*theNewDialog !=NULL) {
 numItems = DMX_CountDITL(*theNewDialog) +1;
 for (i=1;i<numItems; i++){
 tempType = DMX_GetItemType(*theNewDialog,i);
 if (tempType==editText)
 DMX_SetIBarFlag(*theNewDialog,i,true);
 }
 ShowWindow(*theNewDialog);
 SetPort(*theNewDialog);
 }
 return;
}

OpenDialog also supports a variety of extensions to the dialog manager that are not directly edit-field related. Among others, OD has scrollable text, twisters (Finder type triangles), and specialized support for multiple pane dialogs. Although some elements, such as lists, are not supported directly, there is help provided with functions such as DMX_CouldFocus(), which allows the active user item to receive keyboard events.

OpenDialog contains a number of very valuable utility functions. It has a fairly large subset of ANSI library and other string and number utility functions, which eliminate dependence on much of the ANSI library functions. There's a nice call that gets extensive volume information. There are several functions for putting up a quick "question" alert, an error message alert, and a password dialog.

Perhaps of greatest utility are the callback functions. One can attach a callback to any item for any purpose. (Well, I guess I'm exaggerating a little, but you really can attach a callback to any item.) Event handlers, specialized update routines, data entry filters, cursor callbacks, action procedures and the like can all be attached with relative ease. While this part of the package has the steepest learning curve, it clearly also holds the most bounty. Since much of the interaction is with the Toolbox, many of the callbacks are framed as Universal Procedure Pointers, and appropriate macros are provided. All in all, this is a very robust package.

What OpenDialog is Not

OpenDialog is not a GUI builder, nor is it an application shell. This is a replacement and extension to the Dialog Manager, and no other services are provided, except in bits and pieces. For example, in my program which I converted to OD, I still had to SetPort() on my own after bringing a modeless window to the front. Window Manager routines work on OpenDialog dialogs without difficulty, and are used extensively when working with modeless dialogs. I think it is particularly important that OpenDialog's limitation be recognized. The novice or early intermediate programmer will certainly be able to use the package, but will feel somewhat unsupported in the lack of event loop support and help with printing, etc.

Documentation

The documentation of this package is difficult to characterize, as parts of it are very good, and other parts are problematic. There is an initial short introduction to the OpenDialog programming paradigm, and the remainder of the manual is a description of all the functions. The document, as I received it, was in e-doc format and about 12 months out of date. A large supplement of functions had been added and were in a Simple Text "Read Me" file.

The documentation present is quite good. The function descriptions follow a nice format, and I knew how to use a given function after reading the manual section describing it. The introduction gave me a good general feel for how the guys at FGM were approaching the dialog problem. e-doc format does not permit hypertext cross referencing - I think this is a must for electronic documentation; I would very much have liked to see some means of accessing a function description rapidly. I was unhappy that the manual was dozens of new functions out of date.

The primary instruction for the real-life use of the program is in the sample program and the DMC.h header file. The sample program is large, complex, and somewhat hard to follow; the demo shows off the features nicely, but I would have preferred a series of smaller programs that were easier to read and digest. My test conversion program used modeless dialogs, and there was no demonstration of how to use OpenDialog for modeless dialog work. An email to FGM resolved this quickly, and Charlie Vass, the engineer, was most helpful. When all is said and done, the information is there, and describes the product correctly, but could do with improvement in formatting and accessibility.

The Bottom Line

OpenDialog is a set of powerful routines that can simplify life tremendously for programmers pushing the Dialog Manager to its limits. I could see this product being quite helpful to anyone developing complex electronic forms in a procedural language. There is probably less of a need for this product with object oriented frameworks, given the design paradigm of a window view object populated by other views object. This product should not be used by a novice programmer.

OpenDialog is available directly from FGM for US$ 259. The package consists of documentation, a header file, and both 68K and PPC libraries for CodeWarrior. Libraries are available for the Symantec environment. All functions are declared pascal, and the commercial package comes with a Pascal interface file.

OpenDialog Lite is a free, limited version of OpenDialog (lacks some of the newer functions and does not have any documentation except for the sample program and header file) and is available on the CW 11 disk. It's a great way to test drive the product. I urge anyone with some programming experience and a need for sophisticated forms to look into this package.

Products Reviewed in this Article

OpenDialog, version 1.2.3 using C interface and CW 10.

Usefull URL's

<www.fgm.com>

 
AAPL
$100.96
Apple Inc.
-0.83
MSFT
$47.52
Microsoft Corpora
+0.84
GOOG
$596.08
Google Inc.
+6.81

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Airfoil 4.8.9 - Send audio from any app...
Airfoil allows you to send any audio to AirPort Express units, Apple TVs, and even other Macs and PCs, all in sync! It's your audio - everywhere. With Airfoil you can take audio from any... Read more
WhatRoute 1.13.0 - Geographically trace...
WhatRoute is designed to find the names of all the routers an IP packet passes through on its way from your Mac to a destination host. It also measures the round-trip time from your Mac to the... Read more
Chromium 37.0.2062.122 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. FreeSMUG-Free OpenSource Mac User Group build is... Read more
Attachment Tamer 3.1.14b9 - Take control...
Attachment Tamer gives you control over attachment handling in Apple Mail. It fixes the most annoying Apple Mail flaws, ensures compatibility with other email software, and allows you to set up how... Read more
Duplicate Annihilator 5.0 - Find and del...
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 detects... Read more
jAlbum Pro 12.2 - Organize your digital...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code!... Read more
jAlbum 12.2 - Create custom photo galler...
With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly, with pro results Simply drag and drop photos into groups, choose a design... Read more
Quicken 2015 2.0.4 - Complete personal f...
Quicken 2015 helps you manage all your personal finances in one place, so you can see where you're spending and where you can save. Quicken automatically categorizes your financial transactions,... Read more
iMazing 1.0 - Complete iOS device manage...
iMazing (formerly DiskAid) is the ultimate iOS device manager with capabilities far beyond what iTunes offers. With iMazing and your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), you can: Copy music to and... Read more
Xcode 6.0.1 - Integrated development env...
Apple Xcode is Apple Computer's integrated development environment (IDE) for OS X. The full Xcode package is free to ADC members and includes all the tools you need to create, debug, and optimize... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

View Source – HTML, JavaScript and CSS...
View Source – HTML, JavaScript and CSS 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Utilities Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: View Source is an app plus an iOS 8 Safari extension that makes it easy to do one key web developer... | Read more »
Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail To The King: De...
Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail To The King: Deathbat is Coming to iOS on October 16th Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Just in time for Halloween, on October 16 Avenged Sevenfold will be launching | Read more »
Talisman Has Gone Universal – Can Now be...
Talisman Has Gone Universal – Can Now be Played on the iPhone Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Tap Army Review
Tap Army Review By Jennifer Allen on September 19th, 2014 Our Rating: :: SHOOT EM ALLUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Mindless but fun, Tap Army is a lane-based shooter that should help you relieve some stress.   | Read more »
Monsters! Volcanoes! Loot! Epic Island f...
Monsters! Volcanoes! Loot! | Read more »
Plunder Pirates: Tips, Tricks, Strategie...
Ahoy There, Seadogs: Interested in knowing our thoughts on all this plundering and pirating? Check out our Plunder Pirates Review! Have you just downloaded the rather enjoyable pirate-em-up Plunder Pirates and are in need of some assistance? Never... | Read more »
Goat Simulator Review
Goat Simulator Review By Lee Hamlet on September 19th, 2014 Our Rating: :: THE GRUFFEST OF BILLY GOATSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Unleash chaos as a grumpy goat in this humorous but short-lived casual game.   | Read more »
A New and Improved Wunderlist is Here fo...
A New and Improved Wunderlist is Here for iOS 8 Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Evernote Update for iOS 8 Adds Web Clipp...
Evernote Update for iOS 8 Adds Web Clipping, Quick Notes, and More Posted by Ellis Spice on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Apple Names Ultimate Productivity Bundl...
Apple Names Ultimate Productivity Bundle by Readdle as the Essential Bundle on the App Store Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 19th, 2014 [ permalink | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Updated Price Trackers
We’ve updated our Mac Price Trackers with the latest information on prices, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers: - 15″ MacBook Pros - 13″ MacBook... Read more
Mac Pros available for up to $260 off MSRP
Adorama has Mac Pros on sale for up to $260 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: - 4-core Mac Pro: $2839.99, $160 off MSRP - 6-core Mac Pro: $3739.99, $260... Read more
13-inch 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pros avai...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1379 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP. Read more
Previous-generation 15-inch 2.0GHz Retina Mac...
B&H Photo has leftover previous-generation 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pros now available for $1599 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $400 off original MSRP. B&H... Read more
21″ 2.7GHz iMac available for $1179, save $12...
Adorama has 21″ 2.7GHz Hawell iMacs on sale for $1179.99 including free shipping. Their price is $120 off MSRP. NY and NJ sales tax only. Read more
iOS 8 Adoption Rate Slower than iOS 7, 6, Hit...
Apple began pushing out iOS 8 updates to eligible devices around 1pm ET on September 17, 2014. However, unlike with iOS 7, which boasted a wide variety of differences from its predecessor iOS 6, in... Read more
LIkely Final Definitive OS X 10.9.5 Mavericks...
Apple has released what will almost certainly be the last incremental version number update of OS X 10.9 Mavericks (save for futire security updates) before OS X 10.10 Yosemite is released next month... Read more
Fingerprints, Apple Pay and Identity Theft Wa...
On Sep 9th, CEO Tim Cook unveiled Apple Pay, along with the new iPhone 6 and iWatch. Apple Pay is a newly developed technology that utilizes a near field communication (NFC) to enable customer... Read more
Amazon Introduces Two All-New Kindles
Amazon on Thursday introduced the 7th generation of its Kindle dedicated e-reader device: Kindle Voyage, its top-of-the-line e-reader, and the new $79 Kindle, with a 20% faster processor, twice the... Read more
Save up to $300 on the price of a new Mac wit...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education 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

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
Project Manager, *Apple* Financial Services...
**Job Summary** Apple Financial Services (AFS) offers consumers, businesses and educational institutions ways to finance Apple purchases. We work with national and 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...
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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.