TweetFollow Us on Twitter

StoneTable

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: Tools of the Trade

StoneTable

by Edward Ringel

This List Manager replacement offers many advantages to the Mac OS developer

The visual management of list and tabular data is one of the weak points of the Mac OS Toolbox. Although each programmer may have his or her pet peeve about the List Manager, most developers would agree on three substantial limitations. First, and I think foremost, is the 32K data limitation. Although it is possible to write an LDEF to overcome this limitation without too much difficulty, we're still left with the fixed cell size and absence of cell styles. Granted, for some applications, the List Manager routines may be more than enough. On the other hand, for anyone with the need to manipulate larger amounts of data, or with the need to customize rows, columns, and cells, it can be pretty easy to bump up against the limitations of the List Manager.

After seeing StoneTable advertised repeatedly in MacTech and looking at their demos, I thought it might be of interest to the Mac programming community to explore this product in depth, as it is the only (at least to my knowledge) freestanding commercial List Manager available to the Mac programming community. StoneTable is a powerful List Manager replacement that offers many improvements over the List Manager routines. Its current competition lies primarily in some of the components of frameworks and one piece of almost freeware that we'll mention briefly at the end of the article.

Package Contents

I received StoneTable via the Internet, which is currently the normal means of distribution. The archive was about 1 meg. After decompressing the package, I reviewed several different documents and files. There is the usual read me about bugs and the like. This document, addressing version 3, indicated that there were no known bugs. There was a longer document reviewing the changes between version 2 and version 3. Although there was a host of information there about the differences between versions, there was no hand-holding about how to do the conversion.

The primary description of the product is an Acrobat file which is a model for software package documentation. It is clear, concise, and well written. The introduction and general principles of operation are very helpful in setting the "ground rules" for the package. The function nomenclature is uniform, as are function descriptions. The document makes nice use of hypertext cross referencing. I would have liked to see snippets of example code in the function descriptions, but I could also see that as excessively burdensome for the author given that he provided a sample program as well.

The software itself consists of a .h file, a .p file, libraries, procedural code examples, TDEF development instructions (covered below) and a PowerPlant class and sample app based on StoneTable. The package I received had CodeWarrior files for 68K application and code resource (A4) development as well as a PPC lib. The sample programs and projects work under the new CodeWarrior Pro IDE. The sample program is fairly simple and does not show off every last feature of StoneTable. However, careful review of the code definitely will show the programmer how to get started and use the library effectively.

Lots More Than the List Manager

StoneTable performs many, many useful tasks. Obviously, it does everything that the List Manager does. The additional functionality is why people pay money for this product. StoneTable supports tables of data that are greater than 32K in aggregate size. It allows many different cell data types. Text, checkbox, popup menu, PICTs, icons (all sizes), hierarchical lists, and CDEF controls are all supported. A wide variety of style information can be attached to each cell: justifications, font, size, margins, and foreground and background colors are all options. If necessary, the programmer can write a TDEF to support a custom drawing procedure. TDEF's are Table DEFinitions supported by StoneTable. A prototype sample TDEF is provided as part of the package.

Text entry into tables is quite sophisticated. One of the very nice features of StoneTable is in-cell editing, which for some programmers is the holy grail of lists. Cell data entry validation hooks and stubs, as well as built-in validations for numbers, help insure data accuracy. Sort and find functions are provided. Comprehensive control over list appearance and behavior can be achieved with TDEF's and other hooks, stubs, and callbacks provided by the library for the programmer. Many of the appearance services are provided in such a manner so that the end user of the application can easily control list appearance with a minimum of programming on the part of the developer.

There are a host of other very useful services provided. Drag and drop and clipboard management, while not terribly difficult to write, are a nuisance, tedious, and error-prone routines. These two services require almost no programming to implement. Drag and drop services in particular are quite sophisticated and include transfers to and from StoneTable and non-StoneTable applications in either direction. Clipboard information includes all cell data.

Using StoneTable

The programmer must first create a StoneTable list, and then intercept events directed at the list and allow the StoneTable library to process the event. Table creation is not awful, but requires multiple function calls to set display and interface options completely. This is the kind of situation that could lend itself nicely to a resource that is created by the programmer and then passed to a single MakeTable() call.

To intercept table events, StoneTable requires some modification of the basic event loop, but overall this is not an onerous task. Because many unique services are provided, the program must give the StoneTable library the opportunity to intercept events that are directed at a StoneTable list. This is done by intercepting various mouse clicks and keyboard events, as well as activate/deactivate events, etc. I have lifted, with some modification, the conceptual outline of table creation and a typical procedural event loop from the manual (my apologies to Bill Stackhouse for any corruption or obfuscation.)

//The general outline of an application that uses StoneTable.
#include <StoneTable.h>
...
create_table() {
  ...
  window = NewWindow(...);
...
  new_table = TMX_New(...);
//Create a new table and a ttach it to a window, then set the various options
  TMX_SetOptions(...);
  TMX_SetGrid(...);
  TMX_SetColumnTitleText(...);
  TMX_SetRowTitleText(...);
//Now set the cell data
  TMX_SetCellText(...);
//Now draw the list
  TMX_DoDraw(...); /* set drawIt to TRUE */
  ...
}

//event loop
process_event(event) {
  switch (event.what) {
    case nullEvent:
//Take care of table idle events along with program idle events
      TMX_Idle(...);
      TMX_WhatCursor(...);
      TMX_Where(...);
      ...
    case mouseDown:
//Take care of table mouse down events along with program mouse down events
      TMX_Click(...);
      ...
    case updateEvt:
//Process update events
      TMX_Update(...);
      ...
    case activateEvt:
//Process activate events
      TMX_Activate(...);
      ...
    case keyDown:
    case autoKey:
//process table key events and simultaneously hands off non-table events to the program
      if ( ! TMX_KeyNav(...))
        ...;
    }
  }

StoneTable, like the List Manager, makes the programmer do a lot of work to fill the list. StoneTable does provide one function that will take tab delimited text data and load cells en masse, but other kinds of data must be loaded cell by cell. At first, I thought this was a considerable failing of the product, but as I thought about it more, I realized that it would be quite difficult to automate loading cell data. Similarly, saving a table to a file would require a custom function written by the programmer. This discussion can't help but raise the issue of transferring data back and forth between a program memory structure in which the data is manipulated to a StoneTable structure in which the data is displayed. With correct programming technique, I do not think it would be necessary; StoneTable could keep it all without too much difficulty. These pros and cons notwithstanding, it still might be advantageous to be able to store a StoneTable "persistent object," and this might be a future goal of StoneTable upgrades.

In general, StoneTable calls are modeled after the List Manager calls, so the transition is at least somewhat intuitive. Additionally, the StoneTable PowerPlant object is modeled after the LTable class, also simplifying the transition as much as possible.

Memory Issues

Memory needs have the potential to be substantial. Each row and each column, requires about 24 bytes allocated. Empty cells take no memory. Those that have data are stored in a tree structure for quick access. Each allocated cell uses a minimum of about 46 bytes which includes style information for that cell. This uses more memory, but apparently is faster than having the style allocated only if different from the default. Memory is allocated using a memory manager that sits on top of the Mac Toolbox Memory Manager. This internal memory manager allocates memory from large handles. Titles other than default letters and numbers are treated as a regular cell.

Numbers and text are both stored as text as in the List Manager. If necessary, the programmer can store binary data in the cell. Apparently, there have been no complaints to StoneTable about performance due to numeric data.

The Finished Product

Judging from the available demo program and the sample program, it's not too difficult to create a very handsome table that is very responsive to user actions. I ran the sample program in 68K mode on my trusty Performa 6200 as well as PPC mode. The 68K mode was adequate, and the PPC program was downright snappy. Given the number of lines of sample code, the control over the list's appearance and the quality of the user interface is very impressive.

Figure 1. Window from StoneTable sample program.

The Competition and the Bottom Line

Although I have not made an exhaustive search of the products out there, I don't know of any current, commercial, free standing List Manager Replacement except StoneTable. There is an interesting product called the A list, which is almost free. It has many good features, but does not have the speed or full feature set of StoneTable. From a commercial standpoint, it is not bug free and is not supported in the same manner as StoneTable. In particular, I found the code to be much slower than StoneTable, which would be a serious issue with big lists.

PowerPlant and TCL both have table objects. The VIP-C and VIP Basic products support a grid, which is quite powerful. In all of these frameworks, it would be hard to justify a StoneTable purchase for simple tables. It would be cost efficient, however, to purchase StoneTable for a complex list problem. Both Tools Plus and AppMaker are "StoneTable aware" which makes it much easier to use this product in those environments. I think it would be almost foolhardy to create a List Manager replacement from scratch if you were programming in straight C, Pascal, or C++ without using a framework; StoneTable would be a logical choice.

All in all, StoneTable is a solid, useful tool for table management. Many programmers will not use its full array of functions. StoneTable tables in an application will be well behaved and easy to implement. Some framework programmers may be content to use the "native" table object, but many framework developers may still benefit from using StoneTable's unique features. In particular, in light of the recent price decrease and version increment, StoneTable may warrant careful evaluation. We would be most fortunate if all "niche" products were this good.

Products Reviewed

StoneTable, version 3.0 $199. Available from DevDepot and directly from the publisher, Stone Table Publishing, P.O. Box 12665, Portland, OR 97212. (503) 287-3424.

Useful URL's

StoneTablet publishing has a web site, ftp site, and email address. When you purchase the product, you can join a list to be notified of updates, issues, etc.

http://www.teleport.com/~stack
ftp://ftp.teleport.com/pub/vendors/stack
stack@teleport.com

Demo available at:

ftp://ftp.teleport.com/pub/vendors/stack/StoneTableDemo.hqx


Ed Ringel, eringel@mint.net, is Contributing Editor for product reviews for MacTech Magazine. In his spare time, he is a respiratory and critical care physician in Waterville, Maine.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

xScope 4.1.2 - Onscreen graphic measurem...
xScope is powerful set of tools that are ideal for measuring, inspecting, and testing on-screen graphics and layouts. Its tools float above your desktop windows and can be accessed via a toolbar,... Read more
MacFamilyTree 7.3.3 - 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
Skype 7.5.0.738 - Voice-over-internet ph...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
PushPal 3.0 - Mirror Android notificatio...
PushPal is a client for Pushbullet, which automatically shows you all of your phone's notifications right on your computer. This means you can see who's calling or read text messages even if your... Read more
Logic Pro X 10.1.1 - Music creation and...
Apple Logic Pro X is the most advanced version of Logic ever. Sophisticated new tools for professional songwriting, editing, and mixing are built around a modern interface that's designed to get... Read more
VLC Media Player 2.2.0 - Popular multime...
VLC Media Player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, MP3, OGG, ...) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It... Read more
Sound Studio 4.7.8 - Robust audio record...
Sound Studio lets you easily record and professionally edit audio on your Mac. Easily rip vinyls and digitize cassette tapes, or record lectures and voice memos. Prepare for live shows with live... Read more
LibreOffice 4.4.1.2 - Free, open-source...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
VueScan 9.5.03 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
Freeway Pro 7.0.3 - Drag-and-drop Web de...
Freeway Pro lets you build websites with speed and precision... without writing a line of code! With its user-oriented drag-and-drop interface, Freeway Pro helps you piece together the website of... Read more

It Came From Canada: Jurojin: Immortal N...
At this point it’s pretty safe to say that no MOBA is going to dethrone Dota 2 and League of Legends anytime soon. After all, if Batman can’t do it, nobody can. However, with a genre as popular and profitable as this one, there’s still room for... | Read more »
Tiny Farm – Animals, Tractors and Advent...
Tiny Farm – Animals, Tractors and Adventures! Review By Amy Solomon on March 3rd, 2015 Our Rating: :: LIVELY LANDSCAPESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Tiny Farm – Animals, Tractors and Adventures! includes farm-related... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: February 23-27, 20...
Final February Fun at 148Apps   How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you’re looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out... | Read more »
GDC 2015 – Does Not Commute is Definitel...
GDC 2015 – Does Not Commute is Definitely a Game You Should Keep an Eye on Posted by Rob Rich on March 2nd, 2015 [ permalink ] We were teased about Mediocre Games’ (Smash Hit, | Read more »
F84 Games & POW! Announce Stan Lee V...
F84 Games has announced that it is working with legendary comic creator Stan Lee and POW! Entertainment to produce Stan Lee’s Hero Command. The game will be a action adventure of heroic proportions. | Read more »
Setlyst Keeps Your Set Straight So You C...
Setlyst Keeps Your Set Straight So You Can Focus On Rocking Out. Posted by Jessica Fisher on March 2nd, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Space is Vast, So Space Agency Has a Vas...
Space is Vast, So Space Agency Has a Vast New Update! Posted by Jessica Fisher on March 2nd, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Size DOES Matter Review
Size DOES Matter Review By Campbell Bird on March 2nd, 2015 Our Rating: :: HARD TO BEATUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad This rhythm game has a unique control scheme and performance system that make it feel like a true... | Read more »
The first ever action 3D card battler Al...
On the other hand, you probably haven’t played an action 3D card battler – until now. Step forward, All Star Legion. All Star Legion is a 3D QTE-based action RPG card battler, but fear not – the game itself isn’t as convoluted as its description.... | Read more »
Travel Back to the 1980s With the Making...
Headup Games has released a hilarious making of video for its upcoming title, Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic. The game is a RPG/Roguelike where you control three heroes set to save the township of Pixton from an evil cult called The Sons of Dawn.... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Sale! 15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro for $...
 Best Buy has the 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1774.99 $1799.99, or $225 off MSRP. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Price valid for online orders... Read more
27-inch 3.5GHz 5K iMac in stock today and on...
 B&H Photo has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac in stock today and on sale for $2299 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for... Read more
Apple Launches Free Web-Based Pages and Other...
Apple’s new Web-only access to iWork productivity apps is a free level of iCloud service available to anyone, including people who don’t own or use Apple devices. The service includes access to Apple... Read more
Survey Reveals Solid State Disk (SSD) Technol...
In a recent SSD technology use survey, Kroll Ontrack, a firm specializing in data recovery, found that while nearly 90 percent of respondents leverage the performance and reliability benefits of SSD... Read more
Save up to $600 with Apple refurbished Mac Pr...
The Apple Store is offering Apple Certified Refurbished Mac Pros for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The... Read more
Updated Mac 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
Apple CEO Tim Cook to Deliver 2015 George Was...
Apple CEO Tim Cook will deliver the George Washington University’s Commencement address to GWU grads on May 17, at which time he will also be awarded an honorary doctorate of public service from the... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished Mac minis for up t...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple 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... Read more
Save up to $50 on iPad Air 2s, NY tax only, f...
 B&H Photo has iPad Air 2s on sale for $50 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $469.99 $30 off - 64GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $549 $50 off - 128GB iPad Air 2... Read more
16GB iPad Air 2 on sale for $447, save $52
Walmart has the 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi on sale for $446.99 on their online store for a limited time. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for online orders only,... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
*Apple* Pay Automation Engineer - iOS System...
**Job Summary** At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring passion and dedication to your job Read more
Sr. Technical Services Consultant, *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple Professional Services (APS) has an opening for a senior technical position that contributes to Apple 's efforts for strategic and transactional Read more
Event Director, *Apple* Retail Marketing -...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global engagement strategy and team. Delivering an overarching brand Read more
*Apple* Pay - Site Reliability Engineer - Ap...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.