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.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Civilization VI 1.0.1 - Next iteration o...
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is the next entry in the popular Civilization franchise. Originally created by legendary game designer Sid Meier, Civilization is a strategy game in which you attempt to... Read more
Chromium 55.0.2883.75 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. Version 55.0.2883.75: Security fixes: High CVE-2016... Read more
Google Chrome 55.0.2883.75 - Modern and...
Google Chrome is a Web browser by Google, created to be a modern platform for Web pages and applications. It utilizes very fast loading of Web pages and has a V8 engine, which is a custom built... Read more
VirtualBox 5.1.10 - x86 virtualization s...
VirtualBox is a family of powerful x86 virtualization products for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers... Read more
Pixa 1.1.9 - Quickly and easily organize...
Pixa is an image-organizing application. The new app functions well, is easy to use, and helps people organize their images quickly and easily on their computers. For those who prefer not to use the... Read more
VirtualBox 5.1.10 - x86 virtualization s...
VirtualBox is a family of powerful x86 virtualization products for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers... Read more
Pixa 1.1.9 - Quickly and easily organize...
Pixa is an image-organizing application. The new app functions well, is easy to use, and helps people organize their images quickly and easily on their computers. For those who prefer not to use the... Read more
Civilization VI 1.0.1 - Next iteration o...
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is the next entry in the popular Civilization franchise. Originally created by legendary game designer Sid Meier, Civilization is a strategy game in which you attempt to... Read more
Google Chrome 55.0.2883.75 - Modern and...
Google Chrome is a Web browser by Google, created to be a modern platform for Web pages and applications. It utilizes very fast loading of Web pages and has a V8 engine, which is a custom built... Read more
Chromium 55.0.2883.75 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. Version 55.0.2883.75: Security fixes: High CVE-2016... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Amateur Surgeon 4 Guide: Become the worl...
It's time to wield your trusty pizza cutter again, as Amateur Surgeon has returned with a whole fresh set of challenges (and some old, familiar ones, too). Starting anew isn't easy, especially when all you have at your disposal is a lighter, the... | Read more »
Le Parker: Sous Chef Extraordinaire (Ga...
Le Parker: Sous Chef Extraordinaire 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Telltale Games really is working on a Gu...
Telltale Games' next episodic adventure is indeed Guardians of the Galaxy. A document tied to the voice actors strike suggested that the project was in the work, but now we have direct confirmation following an announcement at the Game Awards that... | Read more »
Amateur Surgeon returns to iOS and Andro...
Amateur Surgeon and its two sequels disappeared from the App Store some time and it was sad days for all. But now, just in time for the holidays, the Adult Swim favorite makes its joyous return in the shape of Amateur Surgeon 4, a remake with... | Read more »
The best board games on mobile
Sometimes you need to ditch all of the high speed, high action games in favor of something a little more traditional. If you don't feel like parting ways from your mobile device, though, there are still plenty of ways to get that old-school fix.... | Read more »
The best Facebook Messenger Instant Game...
Facebook's new Instant Games is now here, meaning you can play games with your friends directly via Facebook. It's a fun new way to connect with friends, of course, but it's also proving to be a solid gaming experience in its own right, with a... | Read more »
You can now play game's on Facebook...
Facebook launched its new Instant Games platform in an exciting new attempt to engage its user base. As a result, you can now play a number of different games directly through Facebook Messenger. All of these games run with HTML5, meaning you play... | Read more »
Apollo Justice Ace Attorney (Games)
Apollo Justice Ace Attorney 1.00.00 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.00.00 (iTunes) Description: Court Is Back In Session Star as rookie defense attorney, Apollo Justice, as he visits crime scenes,... | Read more »
KORG iWAVESTATION (Music)
KORG iWAVESTATION 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $19.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A revolutionary new world of sound.The Wave Sequence Synthesizer for iPad - KORG iWAVESTATION | Read more »
Don't Grind Guide: Tips for becomin...
Don’t Grind is a surprising, derpy little one touch game with fun hand-drawn graphics. The goal is simple -- get the high score without being chopped to bits. That can be tough when you’re not used to the game, and that’s compounded by the fact... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13-inch Silver Touch Bar MacBook Pro in stock...
Amazon has the new 2016 13″ 2.9GHz/256GB Silver Touch Bar MacBook Pro (MLVP2LL/A) in stock today and on sale for $1749 including free shipping. That’s $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price... Read more
Parallels Toolbox 1.3 for Mac Offers 25 Singl...
Parallels has launched Parallels Toolbox 1.3 for Mac, an upgrade that adds five new utilities to the stand-alone application which was released in August and is available exclusively online at http... Read more
OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual mini Ultra-Portabl...
OWC has introduced the new OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual mini, a powerful yet ultra-portable dual-drive RAID solution. The new Mercury Elite Pro Dual mini packs phenomenal performance into a small... Read more
Clearance 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros availab...
B&H Photo has clearance 2015 13″ Retina Apple MacBook Pros available for up to $200 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $... Read more
Roundup of 2016 13-inch 2.0GHz MacBook Pro sa...
B&H has the non-Touch Bar 13″ MacBook Pros in stock today for $50-$100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray (MLL42LL/A): $1449 $... Read more
New 13-inch 2.0GHz Space Gray MacBook Pro in...
Adorama has the new 13″ 2.0GHz Space Gray MacBook Pro (non-Touch Bar, MLL42LL/A) in stock for $1499 including a free 3-year AppleCare Protection Plan. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax... Read more
Finnair Adopts iOS Enterprise iPad Apps from...
Finnair and IBM have announced a first-of-its-kind agreement to utilize iOS enterprise apps from IBM to support the airline’s overall digital transformation. Finnair is focused on Asia-Europe traffic... Read more
Tech21 Launches Evo Go iPhone 7 Case Availabl...
Tech21 has announced the launch of the Evo Go case for Apple iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, exclusively at T-Mobile. Available online and at participating T-Mobile stores nationwide, Evo Go cases start... Read more
Apple Turns (RED) with More Ways to Join the...
In recognition of World AIDS Day, Apple is offering more ways than ever for customers to join (RED) in its mission to create an AIDS-free generation. Apple is the worlds largest corporate contributor... Read more
Deals on new 15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros,...
B&H Photo has new 2016 Apple 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pro models in stock today with some available for $50 off MSRP, each including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Brand Ambassador (Macy's) - The...
…(T-ROC), is proud of its unprecedented relationship with our partner and client, APPLE ,in bringing amazing" APPLE ADVOCATES"to "non" Apple store locations. Read more
US- *Apple* Store Leader Program - Apple (Un...
…Summary Learn and grow as you explore the art of leadership at the Apple Store. You'll master our retail business inside and out through training, hands-on Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- White P...
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
Automotive Detailer - *Apple* Used Autos -...
We are currently conductinginterviews and will be accepting applications for a part-time detailer. Apple Used Autos is a great place to work andstart a career. We Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.