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Jan 00 Bookshelf

Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 1
Column Tag: Programmer's Bookshelf

Programmer's Bookshelf

by Paul E. Sevinc, Switzerland

Discovering QuickTime and QuickTime for Java

QuickTime Developer Series

This month's review discusses the first two books in the QuickTime Developer Series. QuickTime is a cross-platform (i.e., Mac OS and Windows) multimedia software package that is able to handle audio, video, vector graphics, and many other types of digital media in different formats. For more information, visit http://www.apple.com/quicktime/ - or should you consult the QuickTime Developer Series? Let's find out.

The QuickTime Developer Series is a joint effort by Morgan Kaufmann (who publishes the books) and Apple Computer (who develops QuickTime and provides the authors). At the time of this writing, three books have been published or announced: Discovering QuickTime [Towner 1999], QuickTime for Java [Maremaa and Stewart 1999], and QuickTime for the Web [Gulie 1999]. For more information, visit http://www.mkp.com/qt/ - and finish this article!

Discovering QuickTime

George Towner is the author of Discovering QuickTime: An Introduction for Windows and Macintosh Programmers. He is Apple's lead writer for QuickTime technical documentation.

Discovering QuickTime is organized in two parts, The World of QuickTime and Programming Techniques. Furthermore, it contains five appendices, an extensive glossary, a commented bibliography, an index, and a CD. The CD contains lots of sample code, demo programs, Inside Macintosh volumes about QuickTime, and more.

The World of QuickTime

There are six chapters in the first part. They are written in a tutorial style, similar to the Getting Started column (albeit much longer). They mostly consist of text illustrated by well-designed figures or screen shots, plus function signatures, type definitions, and code snippets written in C.

The purpose of the first chapter is to give a few definitions and to dissect QuickTime in five layers: User Experience, Movie Delivery, Movie Composition, Media Handling, and Media Source. The remaining five chapters treat each of these layers in top-down order.

Even without a background in graphics or sound (not to mention multimedia), it is easy to understand the text as every term and concept is clearly explained. The learning process is additionally supported by the Quick Summary sections every chapter ends with that list the most important points again.

To cut a long story short: The World of QuickTime is a must-read for every programmer. Even if multimedia isn't your core business, you might still be inspired to use QuickTime for your killer About... box or for your on-line help.

Programming Techniques

The second part encompasses 13 chapters. Chapter 7 points out where to get further QuickTime-related information, chapter 8 explains the main differences between QuickTime-coding for Mac OS and Windows, and chapter 19 casts a glance at QuickTime for Java. Note that other chapters mention some Mac OS/Windows differences, too.

In what order to study chapters 9 to 18 (or whether to study them all in the first place) is up to the reader. Some of the topics discussed here have been introduced in the first part and are now covered in more detail. The code examples are much longer than before. Again, the explanations are easy to understand without insulting the reader's intelligence.

QuickTime for Java

Tom Maremaa and William Stewart are the authors of QuickTime for Java: A Developer Reference. Stewart is Apple's chief architect of QuickTime for Java. Maremaa is a member of the QuickTime Technical Publications team. QuickTime for Java (the technology) is an API that enriches the Java platform, but it relies on QuickTime being available for the underlying operating system (i.e., a JVM alone is not enough, so -as of this writing- you can't use QuickTime for Java under Solaris, for instance).

QuickTime for Java (the book) is organized in four parts, QuickTime for Java Fundamentals, Using QuickTime for Java, The QuickTime for Java Software Architecture, and QuickTime for Java Reference. Unlike Discovering QuickTime, it only contains one appendix, but also an extensive glossary, a commented bibliography, an index, and a CD with similar contents.

QTfJ Fundamentals

The first four chapters are an introduction to QuickTime in general and QuickTime for Java in particular. There is even a two-page introduction to Java for C/C++ programmers. However, in my opinion, the reader should know Java before reading this book. Also, the QuickTime introduction is rather a refresher course for those who already have some basic knowledge of QuickTime, for instance from consulting the PDF version of Inside Macintosh on the accompanying CD. What I clearly missed is a section about the use of Swing vs. AWT with QuickTime for Java.

Using QTfJ

Chapters 5 to 10 introduce QuickTime for Java by example. Every chapter shows how to perform a typical task (e.g., playing music). The reader encounters few definitions only and lots of source code instead. I find that this approach gives the reader a good idea of QuickTime for Java, even though some might prefer to have larger text sections.

The QTfJ Software Architecture

Chapters 11 to 15 are of more technical nature than those preceding them. The classes discussed in this part perform lower-level tasks (e.g., timing). Don't get me wrong: neither are these classes unimportant (on the contrary), nor is their coverage boring!

QTfJ Reference

Chapters 16-45, or in terms of number of pages half the book, comprise the reference part. Every chapter starts with the class hierarchy (the same type of diagram used throughout the book) of a package and then describes the classes. The format of these textual descriptions differs from javadoc's. I liked it a lot, though, as it allows for very concise treatment. Readers who prefer the javadoc style won't be disappointed by the CD.

Conclusion

The QuickTime Developer Series looks like becoming the authoritative source for QuickTime-related information - and rightly so. Both QuickTime for Java and especially Discovering QuickTime could be role models for other reference or tutorial material. Let's hope that Apple and Morgan Kaufmann can keep up the good work.

Those of you interested in developing QuickTime-based software using the Carbon API should definitely start with Discovering QuickTime. Those who intend to use the Cocoa API may want to start with QuickTime for Java. If the book and the CD don't suffice, you can still restart with the first book.

Acknowledgments

This month, Manuel Hilty did the proof-reading.

References

  • [Gulie 1999] GULIE, Steven. - QuickTime for the Web, Morgan Kaufmann, 1999.
  • [Maremaa and Stewart 1999] MAREMAA, Tom, STEWART, William. - QuickTime for Java: A Developer Reference, Morgan Kaufmann, 1999.
  • [Towner 1999] TOWNER, George. - Discovering QuickTime: An Introduction for Windows and Macintosh Programmers, Morgan Kaufmann, 1999.

Paul is an EE student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) and a student member of the IEEE. 2000 is going to be a very exciting year for him: he'll finish his M.S. thesis in February, turn 25 in March, be interviewed for jobs in April, ... And throughout that time, he's looking forward to receiving your feedback at psevinc@ee.ethz.ch.

 
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