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
$97.23
Apple Inc.
-0.92
MSFT
$43.45
Microsoft Corpora
-0.13
GOOG
$583.21
Google Inc.
-4.21

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Knock 1.1.7 - Unlock your Mac by knockin...
Knock is a faster, safer way to sign in. You keep your iPhone with you all the time. Now you can use it as a password. You never have to open the app -- just knock on your phone twice, even when it's... Read more
Mellel 3.3.6 - Powerful word processor w...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.0.4 - 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
Freeway Pro 7.0 - Drag-and-drop Web desi...
Freeway Pro lets you build websites with speed and precision... without writing a line of code! With it's user-oriented drag-and-drop interface, Freeway Pro helps you piece together the website of... Read more
Drive Genius 3.2.4 - Powerful system uti...
Drive Genius is an OS X utility designed to provide unsurpassed storage management. Featuring an easy-to-use interface, Drive Genius is packed with powerful tools such as a drive optimizer, a... Read more
Vitamin-R 2.15 - Personal productivity t...
Vitamin-R creates the optimal conditions for your brain to work at its best by structuring your work into short bursts of distraction-free, highly focused activity alternating with opportunities for... Read more
Toast Titanium 12.0 - The ultimate media...
Toast Titanium goes way beyond the very basic burning in the Mac OS and iLife software, and sets the standard for burning CDs, DVDs, and now Blu-ray discs on the Mac. Create superior sounding audio... Read more
OS X Yosemite Wallpaper 1.0 - Desktop im...
OS X Yosemite Wallpaper is the gorgeous new background image for Apple's upcoming OS X 10.10 Yosemite. This wallpaper is available for all screen resolutions with a source file that measures 5,418... Read more
Acorn 4.4 - Bitmap image editor. (Demo)
Acorn is a new image editor built with one goal in mind - simplicity. Fast, easy, and fluid, Acorn provides the options you'll need without any overhead. Acorn feels right, and won't drain your bank... Read more
Bartender 1.2.20 - Organize your menu ba...
Bartender lets you organize your menu bar apps. Features: Lets you tidy your menu bar apps how you want. See your menu bar apps when you want. Hide the apps you need to run, but do not need to... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Why Does It Spin? (Games)
Why Does It Spin? 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: THERE'S ONLY ONE RULE: DON'T TOUCH THE WALLS! Do you think you're able to follow this simple rule even if you would have to... | Read more »
Ice Wings Plus (Games)
Ice Wings Plus 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: THE GREAT ENDLESS RUNNER OF COMBAT JETS IS BACK !! With more than 680.000 downloads in the App Store, Ice Wings: Skies of Steel... | Read more »
Murl the Squirrel (Games)
Murl the Squirrel 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Meet Murl. He is teased by a group of flying squirrels because he can't fly. Determined to show them he's can fly, he meets... | Read more »
Celleste (Games)
Celleste 0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 0.1 (iTunes) Description: Lots of cute action with amazing 3D graphics and a new type of gameplay! Take control over the forces of the universe to help a group... | Read more »
Super Heavy Sword (Games)
Super Heavy Sword 0.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 0.0.1 (iTunes) Description: Get Ready to Get HEAVY! Monster Robot Studios presents SUPER Heavy Sword! The sequel to the smash hit HEAVY sword which... | Read more »
Angels In The Sky (Games)
Angels In The Sky 1.00 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $6.99, Version: 1.00 (iTunes) Description: - A.I.S will only run smoothly on iPhone 5s. It's NOT compatible with iPad, iPhone 5 or earlier devices.- In order to... | Read more »
80 Days (Games)
80 Days 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: 1872, with a steampunk twist. Phileas Fogg has wagered he can circumnavigate the world in just eighty days. Choose your own route... | Read more »
Micromon (Games)
Micromon 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: 130+ Animated Monsters to Catch & Battle! No waiting, play at your own pace! Embark on an epic monster capture RPG like none... | Read more »
Empire Manager (Games)
Empire Manager 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Become ruler of an empire. Manage your economy, develop technology, hire an army and conquer the world in this addictive turn-... | Read more »
Empire Manager HD (Games)
Empire Manager HD 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $7.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Become ruler of an empire. Manage your economy, develop technology, hire an army and conquer the world in this addictive... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

iPad Cannibalization Threat “Overblown”
Seeking Alpha’s Kevin Greenhalgh observes that while many commentators think Apple’s forthcoming 5.5-inch panel iPhone 6 will cannibalize iPad sales, in his estimation, these concerns are being... Read more
Primate Labs Releases July 2014 MacBook Pro P...
Primate Labs’ John Poole has posted Geekbench 3 results for most of the new MacBook Pro models that Apple released on Tuesday. Poole observes that overall performance improvements for the new MacBook... Read more
Apple Re-Releases Bugfixed MacBook Air EFI Fi...
Apple has posted a bugfixed version EFI Firmware Update 2.9 a for MacBook Air (Mid 2011) models. The update addresses an issue where systems may take longer to wake from sleep than expected, and... Read more
Save $50 on the 2.5GHz Mac mini, plus free sh...
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 $140 on an iPad Air with Apple ref...
Apple is offering Certified Refurbished iPad Airs for up to $140 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free. Stock tends to come and go with some of these... Read more
$250 price drop on leftover 15-inch Retina Ma...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on 2013 15″ Retina MacBook Pros by $250 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.3GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $2249, $250 off... Read more
More iPad Upgrade Musings – The ‘Book Mystiqu...
Much discussed recently, what with Apple reporting iPad sales shrinkage over two consecutive quarters, is that it had apparently been widely assumed that tablet users would follow a two-year hardware... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999,...
Best Buy has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $999.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Their price is $100 off MSRP. Price is... 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
WaterField Unveils 15″ Outback Solo & 13″...
Hard on the heels of Apple’s refreshed MacBook Pro Retina laptops announcement, WaterField Designs has unveiled a 15-inch version of the waxed-canvas and leather Outback Solo and a 13-inch version of... Read more

Jobs Board

Sr. Product Leader, *Apple* Store Apps - 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
Sr Software Lead Engineer, *Apple* Online S...
Sr Software Lead Engineer, Apple Online Store Publishing Systems Keywords: Company: Apple Job Code: E3PCAK8MgYYkw Location (City or ZIP): Santa Clara Status: Full Read more
Sr Software Lead Engineer, *Apple* Online S...
Sr Software Lead Engineer, Apple Online Store Publishing Systems Keywords: Company: Apple Job Code: E3PCAK8MgYYkw Location (City or ZIP): Santa Clara Status: Full Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Sr. Product Leader, *Apple* Store Apps - 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.