TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Jun 01 Cover Story

Volume Number: 17 (2001)
Issue Number: 06
Column Tag: Getting Started

REALBasic 3 - The Marriage of Old and New

by Erick J. Tejkowski

Old World Mac Development meets New World Features

Introduction

Coincidental with the release of Mac OS X, REALSoftware announced the latest edition of their popular programming environment — REALbasic 3. REALbasic, a visually based, object-oriented BASIC environment for Macintosh, has always amazed fans in the past. The latest version is poised to do the same. With the introduction of a new operating system like Mac OS X comes the need for applications — and lots of them. REALbasic gives you the chance to create such applications, while simultaneously affording you the opportunity to reach out to other platforms with minimal effort. This fact alone may reason enough to warrant looking into REALbasic, but REALSoftware has also loaded REALbasic with all kinds of other powers.

Something Old

REALbasic 3 continues along the path of earlier versions by providing an easy-to-use cross-platform visual programming environment for the Mac OS. The latest incarnation of REALbasic builds on previous versions (REALbasic 1 & 2), so you will be glad to know that your old code should transfer to REALbasic 3 without a hitch. All of the familiar commands, controls, and features are there for your instant programming gratification.

There are, however, a few changes you should note. For starters, adding a resource file to your project works just as it always has, but now it is quite a bit friendlier. Previously, you were required to give an external resource file the name Resources for it to be recognized in the REALbasic IDE. Now, you are not limited to one external resource file. Instead, you may simply add a .rsrc extension to any file and it’s fair game for inclusion in your project. Therefore, it is now possible to have multiple resource files in your REALbasic project. In the event that you mistakenly include multiple files with conflicting resources (i.e. the same type and number), REALbasic simply overwrites earlier resources based on the order in which they appear in the Project Window.

Another important function that carries over into the latest version of REALbasic is the Declare statement. The Declare statement permits you to access Macintosh and Windows Toolbox calls directly from you REALbasic code, something that once was only possible with a plugin. REALbasic 3 continues to give you this ability and ups the ante by additionally providing access to Carbon calls. This requires a few code changes on your part, but luckily, the transition is nearly painless. Whereas the Classic Mac OS toolbox calls relied upon an assortment of libraries, Carbon code typically relies strictly on one library: CarbonLib. Updating your toolbox calls for Mac OS X often merely entails a library name change. If the syntax of the Carbon call has changed from its Classic predecessor though, you will have to change it as well. (See Listing 1).

Here is what a sample routine might look like:

Listing 1: Declare statements in Classic Mac OS versus Carbon

The only difference between most Class Mac OS Toolbox calls and their Carbon counterparts is a simple library name change.

Declare Function SetSysBeepVolume Lib “InterfaceLib” 
                           (Level as Integer) as Integer

Declare Function SetSysBeepVolume Lib “CarbonLib” 
                           (Level as Integer) as Integer

Something New

In addition to updating existing features, REALbasic adds a host of new abilities. Some of these features ease the transition to Carbon, while others are there just to simplify your life and make the REALbasic experience more pleasant.

The IDE

REALSoftware has made some nice changes in the REALbasic IDE. For example, you may now save your REALbasic projects in one of three formats (see Listing 2).

Listing 2: REALbasic 3 File Formats

Save As enables you to save your REALbasic projects in one of a number of formats rather than only one like in earlier versions.

Standard Project — REALbasic 3 format
REALbasic 2.1 Project — Provides backward compatibility. Without this feature, you would have to 
rebuild your projects if you ever wished to migrate back to REALbasic 2.1.

XML — A new format for REALbasic. The Project saves as an XML text file to encourage REALbasic tool 
development.

Furthermore, REALbasic 3 adds a bit of automation by making the build process Apple-scriptable. This allows you to perform builds under the power of an AppleScript. Figure 1 shows the REALbasic AppleScript Dictionary.


Figure 1. The REALbasic 3 AppleScript Dictionary.

Continuing on the path to making your life easier, REALbasic 3 makes dramatic improvements to the Auto-completion feature. As you type, REALbasic presents you with a list of possible commands, objects, methods, and property names; usually by the time you have typed the second or third letter of the word (see Figure 2). As you type, you see ellipses appearing directly after the cursor. When this occurs, press Tab and a list instantly appears displaying REALbasic’s guess as to what you wish to type next. Select the one you want and hit Return. This is a gem for all those hunt-and-peck programmers out there.


Figure 2. The REALbasic 3 Auto-Completion Feature

The REALbasic IDE also has some subtle navigation enhancements worth mentioning. The Code Editor has been updated with a few interface widgets that help you get around the environment quicker. Located at the bottom left corner of the Code Editor (see Figure 3), four small buttons give you instant access to navigation functions. The first button opens the Window Editor belonging to the current Code Editor in which you are entering code. The second button lets you toggle between showing all events and only the event you are working with. The third button takes you back in time to the last place your cursor rested in the Code Editor. Like multiple undos (which REALbasic has), your cursor can continue traversing backwards in time. The fourth button, as you may have guessed, lets you go in the opposite (forward) direction.


Figure 3. The REALbasic Code Editor provides some navigation options.

Carbon

REALSoftware released the third version of REALbasic alongside another major product release — Mac OS X. This was no accident. Perhaps the biggest news about REALbasic 3 is the fact that it can now compile Carbon versions of your projects, often with little or no change to your existing code. Your applications gain protected memory, Core Graphics text drawing, and other Carbon technologies with no additional effort on your part. Figure 4 displays the new Build Dialog where creating Mac OS X compatible software is as simple as clicking on a checkbox.


Figure 4. The Build Dialog shows how easy it is to create Carbon applications — one checkbox!

Although most code works “as-is” in Carbon builds, there may come a time when you need to address some specific facet of Mac OS X development. For example, Declare statements often differ based on the intended target platform. (Classic Mac vs. Mac OS X vs. Microsoft Windows). To facilitate platform specific code with Mac OS X, REALbasic 3 adds the TargetCarbon directive. Listing 3 shows it in action.

Listing 3: Targeting Mac OS X code

The TargetCarbon preprocessor directive permits you to address Mac OS X — specific code.

#if TargetCarbon
Declare Function SetSysBeepVolume Lib “CarbonLib” 
            (Level as Integer) as Integer
#elseif
Declare Function SetSysBeepVolume Lib “InterfaceLib” 
                           (Level as Integer) as Integer
#endif

The Shell Class is another great new feature available in REALbasic 3 for the first time. With it, you can perform command line functions within your own projects. This creates all kinds of possibilities for enterprising individuals to create GUI-based applications for those command-line shy Mac users out there (and believe me, they exist). For Microsoft fans, this feature also works on Windows (DOS anyone?). Figure 5 shows the Shell Class in action and the pictured example is available on MacTech’s ftp site.


Figure 5. The REALbasic Shell Object in action.

Executing a shell script is as easy as creating a new Shell Object and sending it the Execute command. Listing 4 shows how to list the current processes in an EditField.

Listing 4: Executing Shell Scripts

REALbasic 3 affords you the chance to execute shell scripts just as you do from the command line. This example lists the current processes and the corresponding PID number.

Dim myShell as Shell
myShell = New Shell
myShell.Execute “ps -x | awk ‘{print $1} {print $5}’ ”
if myShell.ErrorCode = 0 then
EditField1.Text = myShell.Result
end if

iDisk

REALSoftware has always been a very open company when it comes to pre-release software. They have always believed that user should be able to take advantage of bug fixes and feature additions as they progress. As such, it is wise to chase down the most recent version of REALbasic, as it is typically quite stable and often provides useful new functions. Prior to REALbasic 3.1b7, REALbasic was only available online directly from REALSoftware. Now, Apple is offering the latest download of REALbasic on iDisk. With iDisk you do not even need a web browser to gain instant access the latest version of REALbasic. Just mount iDisk on the desktop and find REALbasic in the Software directory. Now, that’s cool!

Something Borrowed

Existing REALbasic developers will be glad to know that it continues to support a vast collection of technologies, even within Carbon applications. QuickTime and AppleScript support are there like before, but don’t forget that REALbasic can take advantage of the many new features inherent to both of these technologies. Its like getting bonus features free!

Furthermore, REALbasic 3 supports MIDI, MP3, and MPEG files using Windows Media libraries now. Previously, you were required to use QuickTime. Despite QuickTime’s popularity, more Window’s users take advantage of the Windows Media Player technologies, so this feature is a welcome addition.

Something Blue

Everything is turning blue! No, you do not need a new pair of glasses, it is just the Aqua interface you are seeing. Along with Carbon compatibility, REALbasic makes the switch to Aqua painless. REALbasic 3 uses the Aqua interface under Mac OS X. It also permits you to build applications using the Aqua interface. This all happens transparently to the user. Build projects like you always have; they instantly acquire the Aqua interface when using Mac OS X. REALSoftware has made the transition to Aqua beautifully, although, on occasion, you may need to resize a button or two to deal with the different sized fonts on Mac OS X. Figure 6 shows REALbasic in all its Aqua glory.


Figure 6. REALbasic 3 is Aqua all over.

After the Honeymoon

REALbasic, like Mac OS X, is in a bit of a transitory state at the time this article was written. At this point, everyone is expecting an update to Mac OS X in the near future. REALSoftware is following a similar path by readying REALbasic 3.1. The Beta versions of REALbasic 3.1 are publicly available (see the URL list at the end of this article). Because Carbon is in a state of flux, REALSoftware recommends checking the Beta version of REALbasic should the REALbasic 3.0 version lack some feature you require. Keep in mind that Apple released the final Carbon libraries only shortly before the release of Mac OS X. Once it did, REALSoftware began revising REALbasic to reflect the changes therein. Thus, the Beta version of REALbasic 3.1 provides a glimpse into the latest work coming out of REALSoftware’s Austin offices.

Avoiding Divorce

Some programmers may be wondering what value there is in purchasing a programming environment like REALbasic when Apple gives away free tools with Mac OS X. This is a valid question, but not necessarily a good assessment of the situation. Although Project Builder is essentially free for Mac OS X users, it relies on the more complex Objective C and Java languages for all coding. It does not permit BASIC source code, an undeniably easy language to learn. Moreover, REALbasic provides the only cross-platform visual development environment on the Macintosh. Project Builder doesn’t do Windows! Finally, REALbasic also provides some features unavailable to Project Builder users. For example, REALbasic comes stocked with a database engine, a sprite engine, XCMD support, and more. Sometimes, you truly get what you pay for.

Conclusions

In this article, we took a brief look at the new and updated features of REALbasic 3. Although much of it appears similar to past versions, it is clear that much work has gone into its development. Not only does it make improvements to existing technologies, but it also manages to make it easier than ever to produce quality Macintosh and Windows software. Creating software for Mac OS X has never been easier either. REALSoftware made the transition as painless as Apple made the 68K to PPC change nearly a decade ago. All of your old code works just as it always did, but now on Mac OS X.

References

If you haven’t already registered for an iTools account, do so immediately! With the account you get a 20MB partition (called iDisk) that allows you to publish to the web directly from your desktop. You can download the latest version of REALbasic from it as well.


Erick Tejkowski is the author of REALbasic for Dummies published by Hungry Minds. You can reach him at etejkowski@mac.com.

 
AAPL
$106.98
Apple Inc.
+0.00
MSFT
$46.05
Microsoft Corpora
+0.00
GOOG
$550.31
Google Inc.
+0.00

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Dropbox 2.10.44 - Cloud synchronization...
Dropbox is an application that creates a special Finder folder that automatically syncs online and between your computers. It allows you to both backup files and keep them up-to-date between systems... Read more
Sandvox 2.9.2 - Easily build eye-catchin...
Sandvox is for Mac users who want to create a professional looking website quickly and easily. With Sandvox, you don't need to be a Web genius to build a stylish, feature-rich, standards-compliant... Read more
Cocktail 8.0.1 - General maintenance and...
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
LibreOffice 4.3.3.2 - 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
VMware Fusion 7.0.1 - Run Windows apps a...
VMware Fusion allows you to create a Virtual Machine on your Mac and run Windows (including Windows 8.1) and Windows software on your Mac. Run your favorite Windows applications alongside Mac... Read more
OneNote 15.3.2 - Free digital notebook f...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that's too important to forget. Whether you're at... Read more
Audio Hijack Pro 2.11.4 - Record and enh...
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 with Audio Hijack... Read more
Iridient Developer 3.0.0 beta 3 - Powerf...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more
TextWrangler 4.5.11 - Free general purpo...
TextWrangler is the powerful general purpose text editor, and Unix and server administrator's tool. Oh, and also, like the best things in life, it's free. TextWrangler is the "little brother" to... Read more
NeoFinder 6.6 - Catalog your external me...
NeoFinder (formerly CDFinder) rapidly organizes your data, either on external or internal disks, or any other volumes. It catalogs all your data, so you stay in control of your data archive or disk... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

This Is Not a Test Goes Free, Permanentl...
This Is Not a Test Goes Free, Permanently Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 31st, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Swap Heroes Review
Swap Heroes Review By Campbell Bird on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: STRATEGIC SWAPPINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Rotate a cast of heroes to fend of waves of monsters in this difficult, puzzle rpg.   | Read more »
Night Sky Pro™ (Reference)
Night Sky Pro™ 3.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Reference Price: $2.99, Version: 3.0.1 (iTunes) Description: Night Sky Pro™Wonder No More™ Night Sky Pro™ is the ultimate stargazing experience. From the creators of the original... | Read more »
Audio Defence : Zombie Arena (Games)
Audio Defence : Zombie Arena 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A zombie shooter audio game. Made from gut-wrenching 3D binaural sound, for a new kind of weird immersion. You... | Read more »
RPG Asdivine Hearts (Games)
RPG Asdivine Hearts 1.1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.1.0 (iTunes) Description: SPECIAL PRICE50% OFF (USD 7.99 -> USD 3.99)!!! Travel alongside four companions and a cat in the adventure of a... | Read more »
Haunt the House: Terrortown (Games)
Haunt the House: Terrortown 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: 66.6% OFF! SPECIAL SPOOKY HALLOWEEN LAUNCH PRICE! 66.6% OFF! ...What was that sound? Is somebody there? | Read more »
SAS: Zombie Assault 4 Review
SAS: Zombie Assault 4 Review By Jennifer Allen on October 30th, 2014 Our Rating: :: FLAWED SHOOTERUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Shoot everything that moves in this fun, if flawed, twin-stick shooter.   | Read more »
Naailde the Witch Review
Naailde the Witch Review By Amy Solomon on October 30th, 2014 Our Rating: :: PITCH-PERFECT STORYTELLINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Marvelous storytelling, narration, and moving illustrations make this storybook... | Read more »
1st & Goal Review
1st & Goal Review By Andrew Fisher on October 30th, 2014 Our Rating: :: FOR THE D&D LOVING QBUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad 1st & Goal is a board gamer’s football game, a football fan’s board game, and... | Read more »
French Developer Pated Unveils Seashine
French Developer Pated Unveils Seashine Posted by Ellis Spice on October 30th, 2014 [ permalink ] French one-man studio Pated has unveiled Seashine, “a poetic journey into the abyss.” Players take on the role of a jellyfish strugglin | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple Regains Momentum As Windows Stutters An...
The latest smartphone sales data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, for the three months to March 2014, shows Apple performing strongly in the first quarter of the year, with sales bouncing back in... Read more
Worldwide Smartphone Shipments Increase 25.2%...
New smartphone releases and an increased emphasis on emerging markets drove global smartphone shipments above 300 million units for the second consecutive quarter, according to preliminary data from... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 2014 15-inch M...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Apple drops prices on refurbished 2013 Retina...
The Apple Store has dropped prices on 2013 Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros, with Retina models now available starting at $999. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and... Read more
New 2.8GHz Mac mini on sale for $949, save $5...
Abt Electronics has the new 2.8GHz Mac mini in stock and on sale for $949.05 including free shipping. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model from any reseller... Read more
Sale! 3.7GHz Quad Core Mac Pro available for...
 B&H Photo has the 3.7GHz Quad Core Mac Pro on sale for $2649 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $350 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model from any... Read more
Mujjo Steps Up The Game With Refined Touchscr...
Netherlands based Mujjo have just launched their Refined Touchscreen Gloves, stepping up their game. The gloves feature a updated elegant design that takes these knitted gloves to the next level. A... Read more
Sale! Preorder the new 27-inch 5K iMac for $2...
 Abt Electronics has the new 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale and available for preorder for $2374.05 including free shipping. Their price is $125 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this... Read more
Simplex Solutions Inc. Brings Secure Web Surf...
New York based Simplex Solutions Inc. has announced the release and immediate availability of Private Browser 1.0, its revolutionary new secure web browser developed for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch... Read more
Save up to $180 off MSRP with an Apple refurb...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free.... Read more

Jobs Board

Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** Every day, business customers come to the Apple Store to discover what powerful, easy-to-use Apple products can do for them. As a Business Leader, Read more
Sr. Manager, *Apple* Deployment Programs fo...
**Job Summary** Apple is seeking candidates for a new position on the Education Content and Technology team. iPad and Mac is in the hands of millions of teachers and Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.