TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Reusable WebObjects Components

Volume Number: 18 (2002)
Issue Number: 8
Column Tag: WebObrjects Development

Reusable WebObjects Components

by Tom Woteki

Introduction

One of the more interesting and powerful features of WebObjects is the ability to construct reusable components. However neither the documentation nor any of the available books on WebObjects cover this topic very well. The best discussions are in Professional WebObjects 5.0 with Java (DeMan, et. al. 2001), and the Windows and version 4.5-oriented WebObjects Web Application Construction Kit (Ruzek 2001). Both of these treatments, though instructive, leave a lot to the reader. The common example that both books cover is how to construct a standard template for an application.

This article illustrates how to build reusable components using two examples drawn from a WebObjects application I wrote to maintain records of a wine collection. It also illustrates creating custom component bindings and communications between components using key-value coding. The example components have wide applicability to the maintenance of reference tables and are easily generalized to maintaining any single attribute of a database table.

This article assumes you are familiar with at least the basics of building a WebObjects database application including using interface widgets, forms, actions, data models and display groups.

The Example Problem: Maintaining a Reference Table

A common type of table in a database application is a reference table, that is, a table consisting of two columns: a primary key and the attribute of interest. An example is a table of country names. In my application there are reference tables for wine producing countries, wine regions, wine names and so on. Given such reference tables, an obvious need is to maintain the tables, either to add new records or to update existing records. Because my application uses multiple reference tables, and noting the obvious generality of the situation, I decided to develop some reusable components for maintaining any reference table. We'll see how to use these components in an example application to maintain a reference table of country names.

High-Level Design

The approach I took was to develop two components, each designed to be embedded in a form within a parent component. One component, the "selector", is used either to select an existing record to edit or to initiate insertion of a new record. The other, the "editor", is used to actually edit the selected record or create the new one. The two components communicate with each other through key-value coding whereby the selector passes the user's intent and other information to the editor. We use bindings to designate the specific table and attribute the components should edit.

Figures 1 and 2 show the respective finished products, each embedded in parent components. The selector component in Figure 1 consists only of the WOPopUpButton and the two form buttons "Edit" and "New". The former button initiates an update of a selected record, the latter initiates insertion of a new record. The remaining aspects of the interface, such as the prompt string, pertain to parent components such as the page itself. Similarly, the editor component in Figure 2 consists only of a WOTextField and two form buttons. The separate implementation of the components, apart from communications via key-value coding, and their separation from aspects of the surrounding interface, including the form they are embedded in, maximizes their reusability and adaptability to different interface designs.


Figure 1: The finished selector component in action


Figure 2: The finished editor component in action

Detailed Design

Now let's consider details of the preceding design. First of all, let's name the components we're going to build WOObjectSelector and WOObjectEditor. Viewing Figure 1 it should be clear that we must at least provide WOObjectSelector the list it should display in its WOPopUpButton menu and the page(s) to return when either its "Edit" or "New" buttons are clicked. In this design both buttons will return the same page. We might also want to provide the component a "no selection" string to display when there is no selection in the pop-up. Since we are editing a reference table, you can anticipate that we will bind a WODisplayGroup to the pop-up's display list. And you might anticipate that the return page for the buttons should be some page that encloses WOObjectEditor as a child component. Before we discuss these details, including how to provide WOObjectSelector the information it needs, let's consider what WOObjectEditor needs to do its job.

Viewing Figure 2, we can see that we need to provide the editor at least the data for the attribute of the record we are editing (in our example, the name of a country) plus the return page for the form buttons. Even more is needed, however. First of all it would be helpful to know if we are updating an existing record or inserting a new one. Second, if updating we'll need the record itself, not just the data for the attribute of interest. In order to achieve reusability, we'll provide not only the record, but the key for the attribute as well, so that we can use the powerful generality of key-value coding to update the value of any attribute. Finally, in case of inserting a new record, we'll need to create the record and insert it into the default editing context, so we'll need to provide WOObjectEditor the name of the entity to create as well as the key for the pertinent attribute.

Which component will provide WOObjectEditor the information it needs and how? WOObjectSelector knows whether the user is updating or inserting by means of the button the user clicks. If updating, it also knows the record the user is updating, namely the one corresponding to the item selected in the display list. So, WOObjectSelector is the logical provider of this information. It will do so by invoking the key-value coding method takeValueForKey (which is inherited by any class that extends WOComponent) on the parent page that encloses WOObjectEditor. It will invoke the method for each of a series of keys corresponding to the data needed by WOObjectEditor. The parent page for WOObjectEditor is also the return page for WOObjectSelector's buttons. This page, having received the required values from WOObjectSelector, will set the values needed by WOObjectEditor using API bindings. (Note that assignments specified by API bindings are performed behind the scenes by WebObjects using key-value coding.) Finally, the additional information needed by WOObjectEditor, such as the name of the entity we are working with, will be passed through from the parent page of WOObjectSelector using the same techniques.

Figure 3 neatly summarizes the flow of information and the methods for communicating between components. The parent page of WOObjectSelector passes to it the global context, namely entityName and attributeKey, plus the information the selector specifically needs using API bindings. WOObjectSelector then passes the global context along with other specifics that WOObjectEditor needs, such as the user's selection, to the latter's parent using key-value coding. Finally, the editor component's parent passes the information to it using API bindings.


Figure 3.

Now let's consider the details of each component.

WOObjectSelector

Figure 4 shows the layout and keys for WOObjectSelector. The component consists of a WOPopUpButton and two submit buttons within a table. The keys attributeKey, displayList, entityName, noSelectionString and returnPageName were mentioned previously. Their values are passed into the component by its parent.

The other keys, displayAttribute, displayObject and selectedObject are used locally. displayAttribute is a method that returns the string for each item displayed in the pop up menu; it uses key-value coding to retrieve the string using attributeKey as the key (Listing 1). The key displayObject is the local EOGenericRecord on which the display list iterates and selectedObject stores the user's selection as an EOGenericRecord. Implicit in this is that a WODisplayGroup's array of EOGenericRecords, has been bound to displayList by the parent. The actions editObjectAttribute and insertNewObject are bound to the "Edit" and "New" buttons, respectively.


Figure 4: Details of WOObjectSelector

Figure 5 shows the API editor view of WOObjectSelector with the five keys that must be bound by a parent component. Figure 6 shows how WOObjectSelector is embedded in a form element within its parent page, "Main", in the demo application, and the bindings implemented therein. (Be sure to set up the form for multiple submit buttons.) There is only one key declared in Main, namely a WODisplayGroup associated with the example application's reference table, called "Country", whose attribute of interest is "country".

Listings 2 and 3 show the implementation of the actions invoked by WOObjectSelector's buttons. Each simply creates an instance of the return page using the value bound to returnPageName and then invokes takeValueForKey on the page to set the values that WOObjectEditor will eventually need. As mentioned earlier, every child class of WOComponent inherits this key-value coding method.

There is no custom code for the Main class other than the WODisplayGroup variable countryDisplayGroup, which is bound to an entity called Country in the data model for this example application.


Figure 5: API Editor view of WOObjectSelector


Figure 6: WOObjectSelector laid out in its parent page

WOObjectEditor

Figure 7 shows the layout and keys for WOObjectEditor. The component consists of two WOConditionals, one for the case when the user is updating a record the other for creating a new record. Each conditional consists of a WOTextField and two submit buttons. Four actions are declared in Figure 7, one for each of the buttons. Recall Figure 2. Although the component has four buttons, the user only sees two depending on the choice they made from the selector component.

The keys attributeKey, entityName, insertingNewObject, updatingObject and objectToEdit were mentioned earlier. WOObjectSelector provides their values via the editor component's parent using the aforementioned key-value coding and API binding techniques. The editor's parent component provides the value for returnPageName. In our example we simply return to the Main page. As in WOObjectSelector, the key displayAttribute is a method that returns the display string corresponding to the attribute of objectToEdit that we are updating.


Figure 7: Details of WOObjectEditor

Figure 8 displays the API Editor view of WOObjectEditor with the six keys that must be bound by a parent component. Figure 9 shows how WOObjectEditor is embedded in its parent page, "CountryEditor", in the demo application and the bindings implemented therein. Notice how the Boolean values insertingNewObject and updatingObject are used not only by WOObjectEditor but also by the enclosing page itself to vary the prompt depending on the action the user selected.


Figure 8: API Editor view of WOObjectEditor

Listings 4 and 5 show the implementations for the actions insertNewObject and updateObject. The former creates a new instance of the entity specified by entityName then sets the value of the specified attribute using key-value coding. Upon inserting the new record into the default editing context, it saves the changes. The updateObject method simply sets the new value of objectToEdit using key-value coding, then saves the changes.


Figure 9: WOObjectEditor laid out in a its parent page, CountryEditor

Enhancements and Improvements

Our pair of components is already very useful and highly reusable. However, there are possibilities for improvements. One concerns validation and associated exception handling as follows:

The two action methods insertNewObject and updateObject have built-in validation rules; as written they each enforce a non-null value for every attribute of every entity. This may not be unreasonable in the case of reference tables, but it isn't as flexible as it could be. Moreover, there is no exception handling for the possibility that either insertObject or saveChanges fails. These operations could fail for a variety of reasons including constraints built in to the data model(s) used in a real application.

There are two obvious alternatives to implementing improved validation and exception handling. One is to override the method validationFailedWithException in the page that encloses WOObjectEditor. Every component inherits this method. One would probably implement it in the editor component's parent because the parent knows the context in which validation occurs. Another route would be to subclass and provide the subclass with the required context. I probably would choose the former path since the context is already known there.

Summary

This article has illustrated the design and construction of reusable WebObjects components and inter-component communication using key-value coding. The fully functional components discussed herein are widely applicable to the maintenance of reference tables, a common situation.

Bibliography and References

The interested reader may find the following books useful. Of the three, Ruzek's book is the best, in my opinion. Unfortunately, it is based on WebObjects version 4.5 and emphasizes development under Windows. Nevertheless, much is applicable and the examples are pretty good. DeMan et al's book is based on version 5 and incorporates references to OSX. Their discussion of validation, key-value coding and other important topics is very good. However, the book is a bit rough around the edges in some places perhaps reflecting its multiple authorship and the need for a bit more editing. Feiler's book is the least helpful. After a very long (60 pages) and general introduction, the book finally gets around to discussing OpenBase. For many topics the author merely recapitulates Apple's documentation, for others he provides only the most cursory treatment and no concrete examples.

  • DeMan, Michael, Frederico, Gustavo, et. al. Professional WebObjects 5.0 with Java, Wrox Press Ltd., Birmingham, UK, 2001.

  • Ruzek, George. WebObjects Web Application Development Kit, Sams Publishing, Indianapolis, 2001

  • Feiler, Jesse. Building WebObjects 5 Applications, McGraw-Hill/Osborne, Berkeley, 2002.

Listing 1: WOObjectSelector.java

displayAttribute
public String displayAttribute(){
   return (String) displayObject.valueForKey(attributeKey);
}

Listing 2: WOObjectSelector.java

editObjectAttribute
public WOComponent editObjectAttribute(){
   /* 
      The user needs to select some value to edit;
      if not, do nothing.
   */
   if (selectedObject == null) return null;
   WOComponent nextPage =
               (WOComponent)pageWithName(returnPageName);
   nextPage.takeValueForKey(entityName,"entityName");
   nextPage.takeValueForKey(selectedObject,"objectToEdit");
   nextPage.takeValueForKey(attributeKey,"attributeKey");
   nextPage.takeValueForKey(Boolean.TRUE,"updatingObject");\   
   nextPage.takeValueForKey(Boolean.FALSE,
                                             "insertingNewObject");
   return nextPage;
}

Listing 3: WOObjectSelector.java

insertNewObject
public WOComponent insertNewObject(){
   WOComponent nextPage =
               (WOComponent)pageWithName(returnPageName);
   nextPage.takeValueForKey(entityName,"entityName");
   nextPage.takeValueForKey(null,"objectToEdit");
   nextPage.takeValueForKey(attributeKey,"attributeKey");
   nextPage.takeValueForKey(Boolean.FALSE,"updatingObject");
   nextPage.takeValueForKey(Boolean.TRUE,
                                             "insertingNewObject");
   return nextPage;
}

Listing 4: WOObjectEditor.java

insertNewObject
public WOComponent insertNewObject() {
   if (displayAttribute!=null &&
                  displayAttribute.length()>0){
      /*
         the user has entered a non-blank string;
         create a new object
      */
      EOClassDescription description =
         EOClassDescription.classDescriptionForEntityName(
                                                            entityName);
      EOEnterpriseObject newObject =
         description.createInstanceWithEditingContext(null,
                                                            null);
      newObject.takeValueForKey(displayAttribute,
                                                         attributeKey);
      EOEditingConext dec =
                              this.session().defaultEditingContext();
      dec.insertObject(newObject);
      dec.saveChanges();
   }
   WOComponent nextPage =
                     (WOComponent)pageWithName(returnPageName);
   return nextPage;
}

Listing 5: WOObjectEditor.java

updateObject
public WOComponent updateObject(){
   if (displayAttribute!=null   &&
                  displayAttribute.length()>0){
      // the user has entered a non-blank string
      objectToEdit.takeValueForKey(displayAttribute,
                                                         attributeKey);
      this.session().defaultEditingContext().saveChanges();
   }
   WOComponent nextPage =
                     (WOComponent)pageWithName(returnPageName);
   return nextPage;
}

In addition to being a Macintosh and WebObjects hobbyist developer, Tom Woteki, aka Dr. Wo, is a vice president at TRW Systems. He can be reached at drwo@woteki.com

 
AAPL
$97.52
Apple Inc.
+2.80
MSFT
$44.93
Microsoft Corpora
+0.10
GOOG
$596.47
Google Inc.
+1.73

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Firefox 31.0 - Fast, safe Web browser. (...
Firefox for Mac offers a fast, safe Web browsing experience. Browse quickly, securely, and effortlessly. With its industry-leading features, Firefox is the choice of Web development professionals... Read more
Little Snitch 3.3.3 - Alerts you to outg...
Little Snitch gives you control over your private outgoing data. Track background activityAs soon as your computer connects to the Internet, applications often have permission to send any... Read more
Thunderbird 31.0 - Email client from Moz...
As of July 2012, Thunderbird has transitioned to a new governance model, with new features being developed by the broader free software and open source community, and security fixes and improvements... Read more
Together 3.2 - Store and organize all of...
Together helps you organize your Mac, giving you the ability to store, edit and preview your files in a single clean, uncluttered interface. Smart storage. With simple drag-and-drop functionality,... Read more
Cyberduck 4.5 - FTP and SFTP browser. (F...
Cyberduck is a robust FTP/FTP-TLS/SFTP browser for the Mac whose lack of visual clutter and cleverly intuitive features make it easy to use. Support for external editors and system technologies such... Read more
iExplorer 3.4 - View and transfer all th...
iExplorer is an iPhone browser for Mac lets you view the files on your iOS device. By using a drag and drop interface, you can quickly copy files and folders between your Mac and your iPhone or... Read more
Airmail 1.4 - Powerful, minimal email cl...
Airmail is a powerful, minimal mail client.It was designed to retain the same experience with a single or multiple accounts and provide a quick, modern and easy-to-use user experience. Airmail... Read more
Macs Fan Control 1.1.12 - Monitor and co...
Macs Fan Control allows you to monitor and control almost any aspect of your computer's fans, with support for controlling fan speed, temperature sensors pane, menu-bar icon, and autostart with... Read more
A Better Finder Rename 9.37 - File, phot...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more
MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.9 - Fo...
MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update is recommended for MacBook Air (Mid 2011) models. This update addresses an issue where systems may take longer to wake from sleep than expected and fixes a rare issue... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Ex-Angry Birds Developers Release Monsu...
Ex-Angry Birds Developers Release Monsu Teaser Trailer Posted by Jennifer Allen on July 23rd, 2014 [ permalink ] Finnish developer Boomlagoon has released a teaser trailer of their forthcoming side-scrolling action platformer, | Read more »
Lots of New Modes Have Been Added to Can...
Lots of New Modes Have Been Added to Canabalt Posted by Jennifer Allen on July 23rd, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Stronghold 3: The Campaigns Review
Stronghold 3: The Campaigns Review By Jennifer Allen on July 23rd, 2014 Our Rating: :: DULL STRATEGIZINGiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad A cumbersome strategy game, Stronghold 3: The Campaigns has a few too many issues to... | Read more »
Table Tennis Touch on Sale for a Limited...
Table Tennis Touch on Sale for a Limited Time Posted by Jessica Fisher on July 23rd, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Secret Files Tunguska Review
Secret Files Tunguska Review By Jennifer Allen on July 23rd, 2014 Our Rating: :: CONSPIRACY-LITTERED ADVENTURINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Offering traditional adventuring with no fear of in-app purchases, Secret... | Read more »
Celebrate Summer With a Cat in the Hat L...
Celebrate Summer With a Cat in the Hat Learning Library Sale Posted by Ellis Spice on July 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Dragon Raiders Review
Dragon Raiders Review By Nadia Oxford on July 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: RUN, DRAGON, RUNUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Dragon Raiders is rough and scaly in some parts, but overall it’s an enjoyable level-based running... | Read more »
MyTaskList Review
MyTaskList Review By Jennifer Allen on July 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: EFFECTIVE IF PLAINUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad It’s not the most stylish of task management apps, but MyTaskList has all the features you could... | Read more »
FlyCraft Herbie: Crazy Machines Review
FlyCraft Herbie: Crazy Machines Review By Jennifer Allen on July 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: TRICKY FLYINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A tough game of careful thrusting and navigation, FlyCraft Herbie: Crazy Machines... | Read more »
MTN Review
MTN Review By Jessica Fisher on July 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: ADORABLE, SERENE, AND AMUSINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad MTN is an adorable, talking pet mountain that is less game and more zen garden.   | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

With The Apple/IBM Alliance, Is The iPad Now...
Almost since the iPad was rolled out in 2010, and especially after Apple made a 128 GB storage configuration available in 2012, there’s been debate over whether the iPad is a serious tool for... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale starting at $799, free s...
B&H Photo has the new 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for up to $100 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. They also include free copies of Parallels... Read more
Apple 27″ Thunderbolt Display (refurbished) a...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 27″ Thunderbolt Displays available for $799 including free shipping. That’s $200 off the cost of new models. Read more
WaterField Designs Unveils Cycling Ride Pouch...
High end computer case and bag maker WaterField Designs of San Francisco now enters the cycling market with the introduction of the Cycling Ride Pouch – an upscale toolkit with a scratch-free iPhone... Read more
Kingston Digital Ships Large Capacity Near 1T...
Kingston Digital, Inc., the Flash memory affiliate of Kingston Technology Company, Inc.,has announced its latest addition to the SSDNow V300 series, the V310. The Kingston SSDNow V310 solid-state... Read more
Apple’s Fiscal Third Quarter Results; Record...
Apple has announced financial results for its fiscal 2014 third quarter ended June 28, 2014, racking up quarterly revenue of $37.4 billion and quarterly net profit of $7.7 billion, or $1.28 per... Read more
15-inch 2.0GHz MacBook Pro Retina on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1829 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $170 off MSRP. B&H will also include free copies of Parallels... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished Mac minis for up t...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished Mac minis for up to $150 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 2.5GHz Mac... Read more
Twelve South HiRise For MacBook – Height-Adju...
If you use your MacBook as a workhorse desktop substitute, as many of us do, a laptop stand combined with an external keyboard and pointing device are pretty much obligatory if you want to avoid... Read more
Why The Mac Was Not Included In The Apple/IBM...
TUAW’s Yoni Heisler cites Fredrick Paul of Network World whoi blogged last week that the Mac’s conspicuous absence from Apple and IBM’s landmark partnership agreement represents a huge squandered... Read more

Jobs Board

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* 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
Sr *Apple* Engineer - IT - Requisition #: -...
For more information about TIAA-CREF, visit our website . The Apple Engineer will provide engineering and third-level incident support for 300- 500 MacOS desktop/laptop Read more
*Apple* Systems Administrator - DISH (United...
…satellite service provider, and Dish is currently looking for an experienced Apple /Mac Systems Administrator. Apple systems administrator will be responsible for Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.