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Nov 97 - Getting Started

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: Getting Started

VerySimpleText, Version 2

by Dave Mark , Copyright1997, All Rights Reserved

Three months ago, the August Getting Started column featured a program called VerySimpleText. We built this first version of VerySimpleText using ProjectBuilder and InterfaceBuilder. We started off by editing the nib file (the first version of VerySimpleText wrapped its entire user interface into a single nib file).

We added a Format submenu to the application's default menu, thus adding a series of powerful font, text, and page manipulation features to VerySimpleText. This was done by dragging a Format menu from the menu palette in the palette window.

We also added a scrollable text area (implemented by the NSScrollView class) to the default application window. We did this by dragging a scrollable text view from the DataViews portion of the palette window. We used the NSScrollView inspector to set the autosizing for this view so the scrollable text view grew and shrank along with its containing window. We used InterfaceBuilder's Test Interface feature to test out the window, making sure it looked and behaved as we wanted it to.

Next, we added an info panel (an about box) to VerySimpleText, along with a menu item to bring up the info panel. We edited an existing menu item (Info Panel...) to create our "About VerySimpleText..." item. We used the NSMenuItem inspector to enable the item (unchecking the disabled checkbox, actually). To create the panel itself, we used the Windows portion of the palette window and dragged out our new window, changing the name of the window instance in the nib window and the window's title in the inspector. We also used the palette window to drag some default text into the new info panel.

Once the about panel was built, we created an AboutPanelController class which brought up the about panel when the "About VerySimpleText..." item was selected. Working in the Classes tab within the nib window, we first subclassed NSObject, then created one outlet (abtWindow) and one action (show:). As a reminder, think of an outlet as a variable or object you want associated with your class. When InterfaceBuilder generates the source code for this class, outlets are declared in the header file as type id. An action is a method. In this case, the show: method will bring up the about panel.

Once we were done with our nib file, we told InterfaceBuilder to generate the source files for this project and to add them to the project.

Our next step was to link the "About VerySimpleText..." menu item to the AboutPanelController so when it was selected, the show: method would get called and the panel would appear. First, we instantiated our newly created AboutWindowController class. The instance appeared in the nib window's Instances tab. We then control-dragged from the "About VerySimpleText..." menu item (it's in the menu itself) to the AboutWindowController instance in the nib window. In the inspector window, we clicked the connect button to establish this link. Now, when the "About VerySimpleText..." item is selected, the AboutWindowController's show: method will be called.

Next, we control-dragged from the AboutWindowController instance to our AboutWindow instance. When the link appeared, we moved to the inspector window and clicked on the abtWindow outlet and clicked the Connect button to establish the link. This links the AboutWindowController's abtWindow variable to the AboutWindow. We added a line to the show: method to bring up the window:

- (void)show:(id)sender
	[abtWindow makeKeyAndOrderFront:self];

The Model, View, Controller Paradigm

Before we move on to this month's additions to VerySimpleText, I thought it might be useful to talk about the Model, View, Controller paradigm, described in Discovering OpenStep: A Developer Tutorial. The Model, View, Controller paradigm is also known as MVC. MVC originated with Smalltalk-80. It categorizes objects as either models, views, or controllers.

Models are objects that emulate some process or represent some knowledge-base. For example, an Employee object represents the knowledge or data associated with an employee. It is a model of an employee. A waterworks object might model the process of converting waste water to clean water and might include the data associated with that process. In general, a model object does not have a user interface. A model object may be distributable and persistent. A model class may be reusable and portable.

View objects are the user interface of your application. Anything displayed by your application is displayed in a view. For example, a window, editable, static, or scrolling text area, button, and scroll bar are all examples of view objects. View objects have no special knowledge of the data they display. In OpenStep, the Application Kit contains a complete set of view objects, all of them designed independent of any model objects. As is evidenced by the Application Kit, view objects are reusable.

Controller objects are the mediators between model objects and view objects. Typically, you'll have one controller object per window (or, possibly, a single controller for your entire application). Your controller object communicates between a model object and its representative view object. For example, an employeeController might use data from an employee object and use that data to create a visible representation of that employee within a view object. At the application level, a controller object would take care of tasks such as loading nib files and acting as a delegate for a window or application.


Delegates allow you to provide methods that get called by a class without actually having to subclass the class. Classes which allow delegates feature a set of delegation methods. For example, the NSWindow class features a delegation method called windowWillClose. In this month's sample program, we're going to create a class called Document which will act as an NSWindow delegate. When the NSWindow object gets ready to close, it first calls the delegate's windowWillClose method (assuming the delegate provides such a method). When we define the Document class, we'll provide a windowWillClose method so you can see how this works. You might want to take a look at the NSApplication and NSWindow classes. Their delegation methods are listed at the end of their respective files.

Loading A Nib File

As you've already seen, every application comes with at least one nib file. The nib file is similar to a Macintosh resource file, though it has much more of an object orientation. In fact, one of the primary things stored in a nib file is a set of archived objects. The information in the nib file includes information about each object (like object size and location). It also reflects the position of each object in the overall object hierarchy as well as details about connections between objects in the hierarchy (connections such as the ones we created in the August version of VerySimpleText).

An important part of the object hierarchy is the File's Owner object. Figure 1 shows VerySimpleText's main nib file with the icon representing the File's Owner object in the upper left corner of the Instances tab. The File's Owner sits at the top of each nib file's archived object hierarchy and comes into play when you want to load a nib file other than the main nib file (which is loaded for you automatically).

Figure 1. VerySimpleText's main nib file, showing the File's Owner object.

This line of code:

[NSBundle loadNibNamed:@"NEXTSTEP_Document" owner:self]

loads a nib file named "NEXTSTEP_Document.nib" and sets the File's Owner of the loaded nib file to point to the specified File's Owner. For example, in this month's sample program, we'll define a Document class and we'll tell InterfaceBuilder that the Document class will act as the File's Owner in "NEXTSTEP_Document.nib". Before the nib file can be loaded, we instantiate a Document object. In the Document's init method, we'll call the method loadNibNamed, passing in the nib file name "NEXTSTEP_Document.nib", as well as the object reference self, which refers to the Document object. This second parameter is used as the newly opened nib file's owner.

And Now, Addint to Verysimpletext

Hopefully, the quick review above brought you back up to speed on the overall structure of the August version of VerySimpleText and gave you enough background to follow this month's changes. This month, we're going to add the ability to handle multiple documents to VerySimpleText. We'll tie this functionality to the Document menu's New item. You'll want to start off with a copy of the August version of VerySimpleText. Be sure to keep a copy of the original around just in case. I named my original folder VerySimpleText.01 and named the copy VerySimpleText.02. Once you've made your copy, open the ProjectBuilder project in the duplicate.

  • Find the file PB.project in the duplicate directory and double-click it to launch ProjectBuilder.
  • Next, we're going to create a new nib file.
  • Click the ProjectBuilder Interfaces item, then double-click the NEXTSTEP_VerySimpleText.01.nib file.
  • The selected nib file will be opened in InterfaceBuilder. Now to create the new file:
  • In InterfaceBuilder, select Document/New Module/New Empty.

A new, untitled nib window will appear (See Figure 2). If you click on the Instances tab, you'll see two instances. One is the File's Owner. If you click on the File's Owner icon, the inspector window (attributes popup) will list a set of classes and the NSObject class will be selected. We'll revisit this a bit later in the column.

Figure 2. The new, untitled nib file.

  • Click on the Classes tab in the new nib window.
  • Select NSObject.
  • Select Classes/Subclass.
  • Rename the new subclass from MyNSObject to Document.
  • Save the new nib file.

You'll name your new nib file as NEXTSTEP_Document.nib (you can leave off the .nib if you like). Be sure to save the new nib file in the same directory as the main nib file, NEXTSTEP_VerySimpleText.01.nib (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Saving the new nib file.

  • When asked, say yes to insert the file in the project.

You will now be in ProjectBuilder.

  • Go back to InterfaceBuilder.
  • Be sure the Document line in the nib file's Classes tab is hilited.
  • Click on the outlet icon (the left of the two icons).
  • Be sure that the Outlets line is highlighted.
  • Select Classes/Add Outlet.
  • Change the outlet name myOutlet to window.
  • Click on the outlet icon to get out of outlet mode.
  • Select Classes/Create Files.
  • When asked whether we want to create a Document.h and .m file, click Yes.
  • When asked to insert files in project, click Yes.
  • We'll be back in Project Builder.

Go back to InterfaceBuilder.

  • Back in the nib window, click on the Instances tab.
  • Click on File's Owner.

In the inspector window, the class NSObject will be selected.

  • Scroll up to Document and select it.

Document will now be highlighted when you click on File's Owner.

  • Bring the original nib file to the front.
  • In the Instances tab, select the MyWindow icon.
  • Select Edit/Cut.
  • When you are asked Do you really want to delete the window?", click Delete.
  • Bring the new nib file to the front.
  • Select Edit/Paste.

The MyWindow icon should appear in the new nib window and the window itself should reappear.

  • Hold down the control key and drag from File's Owner icon to MyWindow icon.
  • When you let go, go to the inspector window and click Connect.

You've just connect MyWindow to the File Owner's outlet (in this case, the Document classes' window variable).

  • In the NEXTSTEP_Document.nib window, control drag from MyWindow to File's Owner.
  • Select the word delegate in the left-hand column.
  • Click the Connect button.

You've just made Document MyWindow's delegate.

  • Select Document/Save.

We are now done with this nib window.

  • Bring the old nib file to the front.
  • Click on the nextstep menu to bring it to the front.
  • Select Tools/Palettes/Palettes.
  • Select the leftmost palette (Menus).
  • Drag a Document menu into the nextstep menu, just below Info

The new Document menu will appear, just to the right of the nextstep menu.

  • In the Document menu, click on New.
  • In the inspector window, select attributes from the popup menu.
  • Click the Disabled checkbox so it is unchecked.
  • In the Document menu, click on Close.
  • In the inspector window, click the Disabled checkbox so it is unchecked.
  • Click on the old nib window and select the Classes tab.
  • Click on NSObject.
  • Select Classes/Subclass.
  • Rename subclass to AppDelegate.
  • Click on action icon (on right).
  • Click on Actions line, select Classes/Add Action.
  • Rename new Action to new:.
  • Click off the Actions icon.
  • Click Classes/CreateFiles.
  • Create the files (answer yes to create files and add to project).

We are now back in ProjectBuilder.

  • Go back to InterfaceBuilder.
  • In the old nib file's classes tab, select AppDelegate line.
  • Select Classes/Instantiate.
  • In the instances tab, control-drag from File's Owner to AppDelegate.
  • In the inspector window, be sure delegate is selected, then click Connect.

We have just marked AppDelegate as the NSApplication delegate. We won't implement any of the NSApplication delegate methods in our AppDelegate code, but we could. Take a look at NSApplication and take a few of the delegation methods for a spin.

  • Go to the nextstep menu and control-drag from New to AppDelegate in the old nib window.
  • In the inspector window, select new from the actions list, then click Connect.

We've just connected the new menu item to the AppDelegate's new: method.

  • Select Document/Save.

OK. That's it for the nib files. Now all we need to do is add a bit of code and we are on our way.

  • Go to ProjectBuilder.
  • Under Classes, select Document.m.

Here's what the code looks like now:

#import "Document.h"

@implementation Document

  • Edit the code so it looks like this:
#import "Document.h"

@implementation Document

- init
	//Find the nib and load it in.  This instance will be the
	//File's Owner object, so we pass ourself as owner
	if (![NSBundle loadNibNamed:
					@"NEXTSTEP_Document" owner:self])
		//for whatever reason, we failed.  Clean up and go
		NSLog(@"Failed to load Document.nib");
		[self release];
		return nil;
	return self;

//Since the Document is the Windows's delegate,
//it will get the following
//method called whenever the window closes.  
- (void)windowWillClose:(NSNotification *)aNotification
	//We remove ourself as the delegate as
	//we are going to release ourselves
	[window setDelegate:nil];
	//Let garbage collection do the actual deletion
	[self autorelease];

  • Under Classes, select AppDelegate.m.

Here's what the code looks like now:

#import "AppDelegate.h"

@implementation AppDelegate

- (void)new:(id)sender


Edit the code so it looks like this:

#import "AppDelegate.h"

@implementation AppDelegate

- (void)new:(id)sender


Change it to look like this:

#import "AppDelegate.h"
#import "Document.h"

@implementation AppDelegate

- (void)new:(id)sender
	//Just instantiate a Document. It will know what to do.
	[[Document alloc] init];

  • Click on the hammer icon to bring up the project build window.
  • Click on the hammer again to build the project.
  • When prompted with the Save Modified Files dialog, click Save and build.
  • Assuming the build succeeds, click on the monitor icon to bring up the launch window.
  • Click on the monitor icon in the launch window to run the application.

When the application runs, select Document/New to create new windows.

Till Next Month...

Between delegates, File's Owner, and nib file loading, you've learned a lot this month. Be sure to spend some time looking at NSWindow and NSApplication to get a feel for the power of delegation. This will give you something to chew on until we have releases of Rhapsody and Rhapsody developer tools.


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