TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Book Review: Mac OS X Advanced Development Techniques

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 7
Column Tag: Reviews

Book Review: Mac OS X Advanced Development Techniques

by Ron Davis

I have to confess that I worked with Joe Zobkiw on my first job out of college working on Virex almost ten years ago. I was one of the tech reviewers for his previous book A Fragment of Your Imagination, which covered the esoteric programming arts of init, cdev, and other code fragments. It was one of those books that covered stuff no other book covered, the really low level crap most of us attempt to avoid. At the time there was next to no documentation on coding these things and Zobkiw's book was written to meet that need.

Mac OS X Advanced Development Techniques (MADT) is like that book. Not that it talks about the stuff you are trying to avoid writing, but it is talking about the things no one else is. There isn't as much low level stuff you can mess with in OSX, but there are a lot of little nooks and crannies of code that need explanations. Need to write a System Preference panel? It's there. How about adding one of those system-wide menus? Got you covered. They're called Status Items, Chapter 9. Screen saver? Chapter 10.

It also covers some less stand-alone stuff, like threads, frameworks and how to talk between a Cocoa app and a command-line tool. There is also a good chapter of "snippets", little pieces of code you often want, but that don't merit a long discussion.

Section 1: Overview

In my opinion, this book is really aimed at the experienced OSX developer. The introduction says anyone who can compile a program in Project Builder can use it. I think you probably need a little more experience than that. I was interested in the book as a follow up to the various OSX development books I already had. If you have no understanding of Cocoa and want to write a screensaver, this book may not be the place to start.

Given the level of experience required for the book, I thought the first chapter was a waste of time. It is a very high level overview of MacOS in general and MacOS development. Most people already know about Quartz, Project Builder, FreeBSD.

The second chapter at first looked like more of the same, but I found the brief descriptions of the all of the developer applications helpful, if a little shallow. Especially interesting was the listing of command line tools useful to the developer.

Another general thing about the book. Zobkiw is a long time developer of Mac software and this book is plainly written assuming you are coming from a Mac background. If you're a Windows user or a UNIX guy, some stuff might go right by you, but none of it is really critical.

Section 2: Application Level

The first chapter with code in it is a document-based Cocoa app. This isn't a simple text edit style doc app either, but an app that watches Doppler radar pictures on the web and alerts you when a color in them change. I like that. I don't need another simple simple application, I want something that shows me a lot while it teaches the basics of a document based app.

The book also doesn't go through creation of the project step by step, but assumes you downloaded the project and just need it explained to you. This is appropriate for an advanced audience.

The only problem I had with the app was the document class uses readFromFile:ofType: and writeToFile:ofType instead of dataRepresentationOfType: and loadDataRepresentation:ofType which are what the standard document template creates for you. Nor does he mention these other routines and explain why one would be better or worse than the other.

The next two chapters discuss plug-ins, both Carbon and Cocoa. It is a very useful overview and explanation of how the various plug-in architectures work in OSX.

The last chapter in this section covers Frameworks, showing how to build both a Carbon and Cocoa version of a simple Framework.

Section 3: Enhancing the System

The second section of the book was advanced topics for the application writer. The third section covers how to build unusual non-applications. Specifically System Services, System Preference Panes, Status Items (system-wide menus), Screen Effects (screen savers), and Color pickers.

You've probably noticed the Services sub-menu of a lot of apps. Under 10.1 this was a dead give away you were using a Cocoa, but 10.2 made them available to Carbon apps as well. They are programs, normally faceless, that interact with the current selection. Zobkiw explains how to write one of these services, creating an example that changes the case of the selected text.

Next Zobkiw talks about how to write a System Preference panel. This allows you to provide a basic UI for faceless application that run all of the time. The example in this chapter sets the preference for the Service created in the previous chapter.

Zobkiw gives an informative discussion of the various kinds of little menus that are displayed in the menu bar on the right side. Some of these are Status Items, some of them Menu Extras. Technically, we developers are only allowed to create Status Items; Menu Extras are reserved for Apple. The example in this chapter is of a Status Item and not a Menu Extra.

I was always a little jealous of how Windows has a standard screen saver mechanism and OS9 didn't. Well that changed in OSX and now you can very easily write those screen savers yourself. They're so easy the chapter explaining them is only 7 pages long. It is still a good introduction that leaves you with a place to start writing your own. If you are going to do a lot of Screen Effects work, you will want to get Saver Lab (http://www.dozingcat.com/), which allows you to run your screen saver in a window for debugging.

The last esoteric piece of code in this section is a Color Picker. The OSX Color Picker is actually a collection of pickers. When you open it there is a list of icon buttons at the top of the window that let you pick from a number of pickers. Third party developers can create their own picker panels using Cocoa. Chapter 11 gives you the details on how to do this.

Section 4: Advanced Methods

Threads is the first of the advanced topics discussed, which gives you an overview of what threads are and how they work, and gives you an example of how to use them.

Terminal is the name of the next chapter, but it is really about NSTask and another thread example. Of all the chapters, this was the one I liked the least, because I felt it didn't really cover the topic and was just kind of wrong. He tells you how to use an NSTask to launch a UNIX command line command, but when he does one that you have to wait to return, he uses a thread that polls for the result. It really should have used the notifications NSTask has built into it. That is the right way to do it and the code would have been simpler.

The last two topics covered by their own chapters were XML-RPC and SOAP. These chapters give a basic introduction to using WebServices both in PHP and Cocoa. The PHP for the server made sense, though I was a little surprised Zobkiw did a PHP client. He also builds a client in Cocoa using the WebServices API in CoreServices. These two chapters are very similar. If you have a preference for one remote procedure call methodology over the other, you probably only need to read one of these chapters.

The last chapter of the book is a collection of snippets. Bits and pieces of code that you will find useful, but don't rate a full chapter. This may be the section you find most useful.

Summary

Overall I would say this book is a must have for a complete Cocoa bookshelf. It covers topics no other book covers and does it in a concise, referenceable way.


Ron Davis is a long time Macintosh Software Engineer, having worked for companies like Apple, and Metrowerks on a variety of products from development tools to anti-virus software. His day job is working for Alsoft, and his evening job is R.A.D. Productions, makers of Suck It Down and FinderEye.

 
AAPL
$105.22
Apple Inc.
+0.39
MSFT
$46.13
Microsoft Corpora
+1.11
GOOG
$539.78
Google Inc.
-4.20

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

f.lux 34.0 - Adjusts the color of your d...
f.lux makes the color of your computer's display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. Ever notice how people texting at night have that eerie blue glow? Or wake... Read more
Ember 1.8.2 - Versatile digital scrapboo...
Ember (formerly LittleSnapper) is your digital scrapbook of things that inspire you: websites, photos, apps or other things. Just drag in images that you want to keep, organize them into relevant... Read more
Tonality Pro 1.1.2 - Professional-grade...
Tonality Pro gives you the power to create stunning and dramatic black & white images. This is a complete monochrome image editor with more than 150 one-click style presets, totally unique... Read more
VueScan 9.4.49 - 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
OS X Server 4.0 - For OS X 10.10 Yosemit...
Designed for OS X and iOS devices, OS X Server makes it easy to share files, schedule meetings, synchronize contacts, develop software, host your own website, publish wikis, configure Mac, iPhone,... Read more
TotalFinder 1.6.12 - Adds tabs, hotkeys,...
TotalFinder is a universally acclaimed navigational companion for your Mac. Enhance your Mac's Finder with features so smart and convenient, you won't believe you ever lived without them. Tab-based... Read more
BusyCal 2.6.3 - Powerful calendar app wi...
BusyCal is an award-winning desktop calendar that combines personal productivity features for individuals with powerful calendar sharing capabilities for families and workgroups. BusyCal's unique... Read more
calibre 2.7 - Complete e-library managem...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital... Read more
Skitch 2.7.3 - Take screenshots, annotat...
With Skitch, taking, annotating, and sharing screenshots or images is as fun as it is simple.Communicate and collaborate with images using Skitch and its intuitive, engaging drawing and annotating... Read more
Delicious Library 3.3.2 - Import, browse...
Delicious Library allows you to import, browse, and share all your books, movies, music, and video games with Delicious Library. Run your very own library from your home or office using our... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Rami Ismail Opens Up distribute​() for D...
Rami Ismail Opens Up distribute​() for Developers Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] Rami Ismail, Chief Executive of Business and Development at indie game studio | Read more »
Great Hitman GO Goes on Sale and Gets Ne...
Great Hitman GO Goes on Sale and Gets New Update – Say That Three Times Fast Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Rival Stars Basketball Review
Rival Stars Basketball Review By Jennifer Allen on October 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: RESTRICTIVE BUT FUNUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Rival Stars Basketball is a fun mixture of basketball and card collecting but its... | Read more »
Rubicon Development Makes Over a Dozen o...
Rubicon Development Makes Over a Dozen of Their Games Free For This Weekend Only Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
I Am Dolphin Review
I Am Dolphin Review By Jennifer Allen on October 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: NEARLY FIN-TASTICUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Swim around and eat nearly everything that moves in I Am Dolphin, a fun Ecco-ish kind of game... | Read more »
nPlayer looks to be the ultimate choice...
Developed by Newin Inc, nPlayer may seem like your standard video player – but is aiming to be the best in its field by providing high quality video play performance and support for a huge number of video formats and codecs. User reviews include... | Read more »
Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Wi...
Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Witch Review By Jennifer Allen on October 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: CLASSY STORYTELLINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Witch is a sterling... | Read more »
A Few Days Left (Games)
A Few Days Left 1.01 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.01 (iTunes) Description: Screenshots are in compliance to App Store's 4+ age rating! Please see App Preview for real game play! **Important: Make... | Read more »
Toca Boo (Education)
Toca Boo 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: BOO! Did I scare you!? My name is Bonnie and my family loves to spook! Do you want to scare them back? Follow me and I'll... | Read more »
Intuon (Games)
Intuon 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Join the battle with your intuition in a new hardcore game Intuon! How well do you trust your intuition? Can you find a needle in a... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Weekend sale: 13-inch 128GB MacBook Air for $...
Best Buy has the 2014 13-inch 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air on sale for $849.99, or $150 off MSRP, on their online store. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Price valid... Read more
Nimbus Note Cross=Platform Notes Utility
Nimbus Note will make sure you never forget or lose your valuable data again. Create and edit notes, save web pages, screenshots and any other type of data – and share it all with your friends and... Read more
NewerTech’s Snuglet Makes MagSafe 2 Power Con...
NewerTech has introduced the Snuglet, a precision-manufactured ring designed to sit inside your MagSafe 2 connector port, providing a more snug fit to prevent your power cable from unintentional... Read more
Apple Planning To Sacrifice Gross Margins To...
Digitimes Research’s Jim Hsiao says its analysts believe Apple is planning to sacrifice its gross margins to save its tablet business, which has recently fallen into decline. They project that Apple’... Read more
Who’s On Now? – First Instant-Connect Search...
It’s nighttime and your car has broken down on the side of the highway. You need a tow truck right away, so you open an app on your iPhone, search for the closest tow truck and send an instant... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $949,...
Best Buy has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $949.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Their price is $150 off MSRP. Price is... Read more
Save up to $125 on Retina MacBook Pros
B&H Photo has the new 2014 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $125 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. They’ll also include free copies of Parallels... Read more
Apple refurbished Time Capsules available sta...
The Apple Store has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for up to $60 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $255... Read more
Textilus New Word, Notes and PDF Processor fo...
Textilus is new word-crunching, notes, and PDF processor designed exclusively for the iPad. I haven’t had time to thoroughly check it out yet, but it looks great and early reviews are positive.... Read more
WD My Passport Pro Bus-Powered Thunderbolt RA...
WD’s My Passport Pro RAID solution is powered by an integrated Thunderbolt cable for true portability and speeds as high as 233 MB/s. HighlightsOverviewSpecifications Transfer, Back Up And Edit In... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple Inc. (U...
…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 - Apple Inc. (U...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions 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
*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
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.