TweetFollow Us on Twitter

May 00 Bookshelf

Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 5
Column Tag: Programmer's Bookshelf

REALbasic: The Definitive Guide

By Paul E. Sevinç, Switzerland

Introduction

REALbasic is an integrated development environment (IDE) from REAL Software, Inc. [3]. In the last couple of months, REALbasic was the topic of several MacTech articles written by Erick Tejkowski [4, 5, 6, 7]. For an overview of REALbasic, please refer to Erick's second article [5] or the REALbasic home page [3].

Written by Matt Neuburg and published by O'Reilly, REALbasic: The Definitive Guide [2] describes the higher edition of REALbasic version 2. But as targeting Windows is not covered, most of the text applies to the standard edition as well. Matt Neuburg is a past editor of MacTech, by the way, but this shall have no influence on my review.

The book is divided into three parts of about 210 pages each: Fundamentals, User Interface, and Reaching Out. Please note that unlike the first two parts, I haven't read the last part in its entirety (i.e., in number of pages, I have read about a third). Note further that I have never dealt with REALbasic prior to reading this book.

Fundamentals

Chapter 1, The Workspace, and chapter 2, The Basic Language, introduce the REALbasic IDE and the REALbasic language, respectively. The explanations of the language constructs might be too terse for novices at programming. For everybody else, however, the concise writing allows for a quick transition to REALbasic without being boring or superficial. What irritated me a little at the beginning is that some names are capitalized differently in the code examples and in the main text. (REALbasic is case insensitive.) And Neuburg's definition of "side effect" is somewhat sloppy. Nevertheless, after two chapters only, I gained the impression that he is a pretty good teacher and writer.

Chapter 3, Objects, Classes, and Instances, and chapter 4, Subclasses, introduce object orientation in the context of REALbasic. These two chapters risk to frustrate novices at object-oriented programming (OOP): while a lot of concepts are explained in a very intuitive manner, non-trivial examples in which OOP unleashes its power are lacking. Beginners must be aware of this. After all, it is only natural that there are trade-offs when a book treats a language, a paradigm, an IDE, and a framework. Alas, Neuburg's treatment of interfaces may leave a wrong impression, namely that they are primarily a means of fixing class relationships or of supporting so-called binding. Yet every experienced Java programmer will confirm that single implementation inheritance with multiple interface inheritance allows for very clean and powerful designs.

Chapter 5, Datatypes, discusses elementary REALbasic data types, such as booleans, strings, and dates, as well as two classes that support low-level memory handling and threading, respectively. In the section on numbers, Neuburg uses the terms "binary", "octal", and "hexadecimal" without explaining them anywhere in the book. This (and what I said about novices in the preceding two paragraphs) leads me to the following question: Who is the target readership of the book in the first place? (On the cover it says "Macintosh programmers at all levels" and in the preface "this book does not teach you to program the Macintosh".) If it includes beginners, some sections of the book need to be elaborated. If not, some sections are not necessary (e.g., on what flow control is).

Chapter 6, Menus, shows how menus and menu items are created, how they can be enabled and disabled, how the application reacts to a menu item being chosen, etc. I particularly liked that it includes a section on dynamic menus with typical examples (Font menu and Windows menu). And chapter 7, The Architecture of an Application, gives some tips concerning REALbasic-based applications. It does not discuss architectural issues in general, however. (See, for instance, Buschmann et al. [1] for more on this topic.)

Chapter 8, Debugging and Building, concludes the first part. It explains how to read compile-error descriptions, REALbasic's exception handling, how to use the debugger, and the application build. After the first three pages in the section on exceptions, I was going to say that Neuburg chose a poor first example to illustrate them. Because it catches an exception caused by an error that can be fixed during development and that does not depend on the time & space in which the final application runs (e.g., on a computer with an unreliable hard drive). However, I then saw that four of REALbasic's five (or six) RuntimeException subclasses are about such errors, so that Neuburg isn't the one to be blamed. Nevertheless, he should have said more than just "Most of the time, you'll probably try to eliminate runtime errors from your program in advance" [2, p. 206].

User Interface

The first ten chapters of the second part cover graphical user interface (GUI) elements, the remaining two discuss the keyboard and the mouse. As is stated in the preface, the Human Interface Guidelines are not a topic of the book. Many different GUI elements are explained, such as windows, tab panels, sliders, etc. In addition to the default classes that REALbasic provides, Neuburg also presents subclasses and helper classes developed by him and others. Furthermore, a few advanced examples are also included. What I liked a lot is that Neuburg warns against bugs or limitations he encountered and tells the reader what to do about them.

To cut a long story short, this part is likely to contain valuable information about the GUI element the reader would like to employ. And in case the GUI element is not available or does not behave as desired, several ways to create a custom GUI element are shown as well.

Reaching Out

Chapter 21, Files, covers many file-related issues: creating and deleting files, navigating the file system, reading and writing the data or resource fork, preferences and temporary files, etc. The concept of file type and file creator is briefly explained, the difference between data fork and resource fork not really. Overall, however, the level of detail and the examples are very good. Particularly cool is that some of the example tasks - copying, for instance - are not only solved with REALbasic classes, but also with AppleScript scripts imported into the REALbasic project.

Chapter 29, Printing, is rather short, which-considering its importance-is a pity. Apparently that's because "Support for printing in REALbasic is rudimentary" [2, p. 555]. So, after a few tips, the reader is left to her own experimentation.

Chapter 31, Apple Events and AppleScript, first briefly introduces Apple events and AppleScript and then discusses Apple events and the REALbasic classes that support them in quite some detail. This chapter teaches how to send and receive events in order to make an application scriptable, and how to execute scripts from within an application.

To give you an idea of what other topics the third part includes, here are the titles of the remaining chapters (that I haven't read): Databases, Clipboard, Drag-and-Drop, Time, Sound, Movies, Game Animation, TCP/IP Communications, and Language Extensions.

Conclusion

Despite some shortcomings, Matt Neuburg's excellent writing and its broad range of topics make REALbasic: The Definitive Guide an easy-to-understand and very useful book for programmers entering the world of REALbasic.

In my opinion, the book is best suited for programmers with experience in OOP. Other programmers should do just fine, too, even though their perception of object orientation will probably be somewhat limited. For a complete novice, however, this book alone is not enough to get started.

What is clearly missing is an example application (e.g., a simple text editor) where different aspects such as menus, windows, files, printing, etc. could have been shown side by side. So feel free to develop such an application and to write about it in MacTech!

References

  1. F. Buschmann, R. Meunier, H. Rohnert, P. Sommerlad, and M. Stal. Pattern-Oriented Software Architecture: A System of Patterns. John Wiley & Sons, Chicester, 1996.
  2. M. Neuburg. REALbasic: The Definitive Guide. O'Reilly, Sebastopol, 1999.
  3. REAL Software. REALbasic. Home Page. Located at <http://www.realbasic.com/>.
  4. E.J. Tejkowski. "REALbasic Plugin Programming". MacTech Magazine, Vol. 15, No. 10, pp. 12-21, October 1999.
  5. E.J. Tejkowski. "REALbasic". MacTech Magazine, Vol. 15, No. 11, pp. 46-57, November 1999.
  6. E.J. Tejkowski. "Speech and REALbasic". MacTech Magazine, Vol. 15, No. 12, pp. 46-49, December 1999.
  7. E.J. Tejkowski. "Networking with REALbasic". MacTech Magazine, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 13-19, February 2000

Paul recently earned a Dipl. El.-Ing. ETH degree, the Master's degree in electrical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ). Now he hopes to finally find the time to finish Aho et al.'s Dragon Book. You can inquire on his progress at paul.sevinc@ubilab.org.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Capo 3.2 - Slow down and learn to play y...
Capo lets you slow down your favorite songs so you can hear the notes and learn how they are played. With Capo, you can quickly tab out your songs atop a highly-detailed OpenCL-powered spectrogram... Read more
OmniOutliner 4.2.3 - Organize your ideas...
OmniOutliner is a flexible program for creating, collecting, and organizing information. Give your creativity a kick start by using an application that's actually designed to help you think. It's... Read more
pwSafe 4.0.1 - Secure password managemen...
pwSafe provides simple and secure password management across devices and computers. pwSafe uses iCloud to keep your password databases backed-up and synced between Macs and iOS devices. It is... Read more
WALTR 1.5.4 - Drag-and-drop any media fi...
WALTR is designed to make it easy to upload and convert any music or video file to an iPad or iPhone format for native playback. It supports a huge variety of media file types, including MP3, MP4,... Read more
Audio Hijack 3.1 - Record and enhance au...
Audio Hijack (was Audio Hijack Pro) drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio... Read more
PopChar 7.1 - Floating window shows avai...
We're also selling a 5-license family pack for only $25.99! PopChar helps you get the most out of your font collection. With its crystal-clear interface, PopChar X provides a frustration-free way to... Read more
BBEdit 11.1.1 - Powerful text and HTML e...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more
Picasa 3.9.139 - Organize, edit, and sha...
Picasa and Picasa Web Albums allows you to organize, edit, and upload your photos to the Web from your computer in quick, simple steps. Arrange your photos into folders and albums and erase their... Read more
Mac DVDRipper Pro 5.0.5 - Copy, backup,...
Mac DVDRipper Pro is the DVD backup solution that lets you protect your DVDs from scratches, save your batteries by reading your movies from your hard disk, manage your collection with just a few... Read more
NetShade 6.2 - Browse privately using an...
This promotion is for NetShade and 1 year of Proxy and VPN services NetShade is an anonymous proxy and VPN app+service for Mac. Unblock your Internet through NetShade's high-speed proxy and VPN... Read more

Dungeoneers Quest (Games)
Dungeoneers Quest 1.0.0.9994 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.0.9994 (iTunes) Description: Dungeoneers Dungeoneers is a party based, first-person, dungeon exploration game. Create your party from 6 unique... | Read more »
Block Fortress has a Big New Update for...
Block Fortress is a survival-style game that's as fun as it is blocky. It's also just gotten a rather sizeable update that adds a lot more cool stuff. [Read more] | Read more »
Simple and Surreal Star Base Sim rymdkap...
I really like rymdkapsel. Not just because I'm a sucker for games that are cleverly simple or highly stylisitc, but because it's fun and challenging. Actually it's extremely challenging, which is why I was excited to learn that it's getting a couple... | Read more »
Check out the anticipated Angel Stone in...
Fincon has finally revealed Angel Stone in action in the first ever official gameplay trailer for the anticipated hack and slasher. Angel Stone is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which humanity is in danger of being wiped out by the demonic... | Read more »
Moleskine Timepage is an All-New Calenda...
Moleskine Timepage is a bit of a departure for the notebook manufacturer (since it has little to do with notebooks), but it certainly carries their simple and elegant style quite well. [Read more] | Read more »
Jog on Over and Check Out the New Runtas...
Runtastic has put out a fair number of apps to help you sleep, track excercise, and train various parts of your body. Now it's time for your legs to have their own time in the spotlight with Runtastic Leg Trainer. [Read more] | Read more »
It's Lights Out in the Upcoming Pla...
Ember’s Journey is a stark puzzle platformer with a twist: the entire game is played in darkness. The only light you can see by is the one emanating from your own character. [Read more] | Read more »
MooVee - Your Movies Guru (Entertainmen...
MooVee - Your Movies Guru 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Entertainment Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: MooVee helps you effortlessly manage your movies, on your iPhone. | Read more »
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions (Games)
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Enjoy the next chapter in the award-winning Geometry Wars franchise and enjoy stunning, console-quality... | Read more »
CHAOS RINGS Ⅲ (Games)
CHAOS RINGS Ⅲ 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $19.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: The newest addition to the popular smartphone RPG series is finally here! ・CHAOS RINGS Overview | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

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
13-inch 2.4GHz Retina MacBook Pro (refurbishe...
The Apple Store has 2013 Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.4GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pros available for $879–$320 off original MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13... Read more
Apple refurbished iPad Air 2s now available f...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished iPad Air 2s for up to $140 off the price of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale for up to $80 off MSRP
Save up to $80 on the purchase of a new 2015 13″ or 11″ 1.6GHz MacBook Air at the following resellers. Shipping is free with each model: 11" 128GB MSRP $899 11" 256GB... Read more
Free Glide Live Video Messaging App Brings Ne...
Glide, an Israeli startup whose popular live video messenger has attracted more than 15 million users, has released significant updates to its free iOS app. Glide for iOS now gives users more control... Read more
Top Markets Saturation To Slow Global Smartph...
According to a new mobile phone forecast from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, smartphone shipments are expected to grow 11.3% in 2015 — down from 27... Read more
Apple’s Education discount saves up to $300 o...
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
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.... Read more
Apple refurbished 2014 13-inch Retina MacBook...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 13″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $400 off original MSRP, starting at $979. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
What Would the ideal Apple Productivity Platf...
For the past four years I’ve kept a foot in both the Mac and iPad camps respectively. my daily computing hours divided about 50/50 between the two devices with remarkable consistency. However, there’... 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
Senior Software Engineer - *Apple* SIM - Ap...
Changing the world is all in a day039s work at Apple . If you love innovation, here039s your chance to make a career of it. You039ll work hard. But the job comes with Read more
*Apple* Pay Support Readiness Project Manage...
Changing the world is all in a day039s work at Apple . If you love innovation, here039s your chance to make a career of it. You039ll work hard. But the job comes with Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Program Manager, *Apple* Community Support...
**Job Summary** Apple Support Communities ( discussions. apple .com) helps customers get the most from their Apple products and services by providing access to Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.