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.

 
AAPL
$102.50
Apple Inc.
+0.25
MSFT
$45.43
Microsoft Corpora
+0.55
GOOG
$571.60
Google Inc.
+2.40

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Path Finder 6.5.5 - Powerful, award-winn...
Path Finder is a file browser that combines the familiar Finder interface with the powerful utilities and innovative features. Just a small selection of the Path Finder 6 feature set: Dual pane... Read more
QuarkXPress 10.2.1 - Desktop publishing...
With QuarkXPress, you can communicate in all the ways you need to -- and always look professional -- in print and digital media, all in a single tool. Features include: Easy to Use -- QuarkXPress is... Read more
Skype 6.19.0.450 - Voice-over-internet p...
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
VueScan 9.4.41 - 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
Cloud 3.0.0 - File sharing from your men...
Cloud is simple file sharing for the Mac. Drag a file from your Mac to the CloudApp icon in the menubar and we take care of the rest. A link to the file will automatically be copied to your clipboard... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.1.2 - Free Open Source o...
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
SlingPlayer Plugin 3.3.20.505 - Browser...
SlingPlayer is the screen interface software that works hand-in-hand with the hardware inside the Slingbox to make your TV viewing experience just like that at home. It features an array of... Read more
Get Lyrical 3.8 - Auto-magically adds ly...
Get Lyrical auto-magically add lyrics to songs in iTunes. You can choose either a selection of tracks, or the current track. Or turn on "Active Tagging" to get lyrics for songs as you play them.... Read more
Viber 4.2.2 - Send messages and make cal...
Viber lets you send free messages and make free calls to other Viber users, on any device and network, in any country! Viber syncs your contacts, messages and call history with your mobile device,... Read more
Cocktail 7.6 - General maintenance and o...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Rhonna Designs Magic (Photography)
Rhonna Designs Magic 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Photography Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Want to sprinkle *magic* on your photos? With RD Magic, you can add colors, filters, light leaks, bokeh, edges,... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: August 25-29, 2014
Shiny Happy App Reviews   | Read more »
Qube Kingdom – Tips, Tricks, Strategies,...
Qube Kingdom is a tower defense game from DeNA. You rally your troops – magicians, archers, knights, barbarians, and others – and fight against an evil menace looking to dominate your kingdom of tiny squares. Planning a war isn’t easy, so here are a... | Read more »
Qube Kingdom Review
Qube Kingdom Review By Nadia Oxford on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: KIND OF A SQUARE KINGDOMUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Qube Kingdom has cute visuals, but it’s a pretty basic tower defense game at heart.   | Read more »
Fire in the Hole Review
Fire in the Hole Review By Rob Thomas on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: WALK THE PLANKUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Seafoam’s Fire in the Hole looks like a bright, 8-bit throwback, but there’s not enough booty to... | Read more »
Alien Creeps TD is Now Available Worldwi...
Alien Creeps TD is Now Available Worldwide Posted by Ellis Spice on August 29th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Dodo Master Review
Dodo Master Review By Jordan Minor on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: NEST EGGiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Dodo Master is tough but fair, and that’s what makes it a joy to play.   | Read more »
Motorsport Manager Review
Motorsport Manager Review By Lee Hamlet on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: MARVELOUS MANAGEMENTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Despite its depth and sense of tactical freedom, Motorsport Manager is one of the most... | Read more »
Motorsport Manager – Beginner Tips, Tric...
The world of Motorsport management can be an unforgiving and merciless one, so to help with some of the stress that comes with running a successful race team, here are a few hints and tips to leave your opponents in the dust. | Read more »
CalPal Update Brings the App to 2.0, Add...
CalPal Update Brings the App to 2.0, Adds Lots of New Stuff Posted by Ellis Spice on August 29th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple now offering refurbished 21-inch 1.4GHz...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 21″ 1.4GHz iMacs for $929 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is $170 off the cost of new models,... Read more
Save $50 on the 2.5GHz Mac mini, on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 2.5GHz Mac mini on sale for $549.99 including free shipping. That’s $50 off MSRP, and B&H will also include a free copy of Parallels Desktop software. NY sales tax only. Read more
Save up to $300 on an iMac with Apple refurbi...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $300 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. These are the best prices on... Read more
The Rise of Phablets
Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group, a businesses and technology consulting firm focused solely on the financial services industry, has released an infographic depicting the convergence of... Read more
Bad Driver Database App Allows Good Drivers t...
Bad Driver Database 1.4 by Facile Group is a new iOS and Android app that lets users instantly input and see how many times a careless, reckless or just plain stupid driver has been added to the... Read more
Eddy – Cloud Music Player for iPhone/iPad Fre...
Ukraine based CapableBits announces the release of Eddy, its tiny, but smart and powerful cloud music player for iPhone and iPad that allows users to stream or download music directly from cloud... Read more
A&D Medical Launches Its WellnessConnecte...
For consumers and the healthcare providers and loved ones who care for them, A&D Medical, a leader in connected health and biometric measurement devices and services, has launched its... Read more
Anand Lal Shimpi Retires From AnandTech
Anand Lal Shimpi, whose AnandTech Website is famous for its meticulously detailed and thoroughgoing reviews and analysis, is packing it in. Lal Shimpi, who founded the tech site at age 14 in 1997,... Read more
2.5GHz Mac mini, Apple refurbished, in stock...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2.5GHz Mac minis available for $509, $90 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included, and shipping is free. Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999,...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. 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
*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
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.