TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Interface Builder Tips and Tricks

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 10
Column Tag: Programming

Mac OS X Programming Secrets

Interface Builder Tips and Tricks

by Scott Knaster

When you're programming with Cocoa, you spend plenty of time in Interface Builder, instantiating objects, positioning things just right in windows, and making connections. In this month's column, we're going to shine the light of day on a few valuable tips and shortcuts for making yourself more productive when using Interface Builder.

Designing for Success

Most of the intricate work in Interface Builder is in the design window, which is where you add objects from palettes, lay them out, resize them, and so on. In this section, we'll discuss some tips for use in design windows.

The first trick is useful for figuring out precise distances between objects while looking at them in the design window. If you select an object, then hold down the Option key, you'll see the exact distances from the borders of the object to the edges of the window (see Figure 1).


Figure 1. Hold down Option to see distances.

But wait, that's not all. By moving the mouse pointer while holding down Option, you can have Interface Builder show you the distance between objects, rather than just the distance to the window edges. In Figure 2, the pointer is on the static text object, and the window shows the distances from the selection to each edge of that object.


Figure 2. Hold down Option to see distances.

You can use another Interface Builder feature to make objects automatically resize or reposition themselves when you change the size of their enclosing window. For example, let's say you want to preserve the proportional distance between the three buttons in the window above: if you widen the window, you want the distance between the buttons to increase. To make this happen, you can create springs between the objects. To do this, select each object in turn, open the size inspector, and click that line that you want to become a spring (a proportional relationship that changes automatically when you resize the window). Figure 3 shows what this looks like for the "Stop" button in the window above: we've clicked on its connection lines to make them into springs. We'll do the same for all 3 buttons.

Now, when we resize the window, if we hold down the Control key, the springs will cause the distances between objects to change proportionally. If we want the springs to be ignored, we can just resize without holding down Control.


Figure 3. Stop button has springs on its left and right.

Speaking of the size inspector, it's even smarter than you might have realized. You can type math expressions into the coordinate fields and let Interface Builder evaluate them for you. For example, if you want to add 32 pixels to an object's width, you can just click in the w field, select after the current value, then type "+32" and press return. Neato! Apple even provides code to help you implement this trick in your own fields. Take a look at /Developer/Examples/InterfaceBuilder/BusyPalette for details.

Another fun trick you can use with design windows is to see all the rectangles that Interface Builder uses to determine distances between objects. By using the Layout --> Show Layout Rectangles menu item, or just pressing command-L, you can see all the layout rectangles at once, as shown in Figure 4.


Figure 4. Design window with all layout rectangles shown.

Interface Builder tips aren't all about layout. For example, there's a quick way to set the tab order for objects in the window. You'll want to do this to allow users to tab from one text field to the next. The tab order starts with the initial first responder, and continues from there by following each object's nextKeyView field.

To start setting the order, select the object you want to be the initial first responder and choose Layout --> Keyboard Navigation --> Make Initial First Responder. Then, to set the tab order, choose Layout --> Keyboard Navigation --> Show Keyboard Check, Control-drag from one object to the next, then click Connect in the connection inspector. That will set the tab connection between the objects. Note that when you have keyboard check turned on, the word tab appears at the bottom left of the window. That reminds you that you can press tab to test the tab order.

Cool Stuff in Other Windows, Too

Not all the neat tricks are in the design window - here are a couple you can use in the document window. If you click the tiny control on the right side of the window, the object instances are displayed in an outline view, with the number of connections, both into and out of the object. If you click on one of these numbers, the connections appear in the window, as you can see in Figure 5.


Figure 5. Outline view shows connections to an object.

You can use this view to delete connections between objects. If you hold down Control and point at a line that connects two objects, the pointer changes to a tiny pair of scissors, and clicking (you guessed it) cuts the connection.

If you just want to learn more about the connected objects, click on the name of the connected field, such as menu or _panel in Figure 5. The connected objects will appear on the screen with a line between them.

There's More (Always)

You can find more fun and timesaving tips like these by reading the informative FAQ that comes with Interface Builder. Get to the FAQ by choosing FAQ in Interface Builder's Help menu. There's even a sense of humor in the FAQ: in the section on modifier keys, right after the descriptions of what happens if you press Command, Option, and Control, the FAQ tells you that you can use the Left Pedal to disengage the clutch. Cool.


Scott Knaster has been writing about Macs for as long as there have been Macs. Scott's books How To Write Macintosh Software and Macintosh Programming Secrets were required reading for Mac programmers for more than a decade. Scott wrote developer books for General Magic and worked on Mac software for Microsoft. Scott's books have been translated into Japanese and Pascal. Scott has every issue of Mad magazine, which explains a lot.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

GraphicConverter 10.5.1 - $39.95
GraphicConverter is an all-purpose image-editing program that can import 200 different graphic-based formats, edit the image, and export it to any of 80 available file formats. The high-end editing... Read more
Delicious Library 3.7 - Import, browse a...
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
Adobe Animate CC 2017 18.0.0.107 - Anima...
Animate CC 2018 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Flash Professional customer). Animate CC 2018 (was Flash CC) lets you... Read more
Adobe After Effects CC 2018 15.0 - Creat...
After Effects CC 2018 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous After Effects customer). The new, more connected After Effects CC... Read more
Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2018 12.0.0 - Digi...
Premiere Pro CC 2018 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Premiere Pro customer). Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2018 lets you edit... Read more
Alarm Clock Pro 10.3 - $19.95
Alarm Clock Pro isn't just an ordinary alarm clock. Use it to wake you up in the morning, send and compose e-mails, remind you of appointments, randomize the iTunes selection, control an internet... Read more
Adobe Lightroom 20170919-1412-ccb76bd] -...
Adobe Lightroom is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $9.99/month bundled with Photoshop CC as part of the photography package. Lightroom 6 is also available for purchase as a... Read more
Adobe Illustrator CC 2018 22.0.0 - Profe...
Illustrator CC 2018 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Illustrator customer). Adobe Illustrator CC 2018 is the industry... Read more
Hopper Disassembler 4.3.0- - Binary disa...
Hopper Disassembler is a binary disassembler, decompiler, and debugger for 32- and 64-bit executables. It will let you disassemble any binary you want, and provide you all the information about its... Read more
Adobe InDesign CC 2018 13.0.0.125 - Prof...
InDesign CC 2018 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous InDesign customer). Adobe InDesign CC 2018 is part of Creative Cloud.... Read more

ICEY (Games)
ICEY 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ICEY is a 2D side-scrolling action game. As you follow the narrator's omnipresent voice, you will see through ICEY's eyes and learn the... | Read more »
The best new games we played this week -...
We've made it, folks. Another weekend is upon us. It's time to sit back and relax with the best new releases of the week. Puzzles, strategy RPGs, and arcade games abound this week. There's a lot of quality stuff to unpack this week, so let's hop... | Read more »
Wheels of Aurelia (Games)
Wheels of Aurelia 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander guide - ti...
Halcyon 6 is a well-loved indie RPG with stellar tactical combat and some pretty good writing, too. It's now landed on the App Store, so mobile fans, if you're itching for a good intergalactic adventure, here's your game. Being a strategy RPG, the... | Read more »
Game of Thrones: Conquest guide - how to...
Fans of base building games might be excited to know that yet another entry in the genre has materialized - Game of Thrones: Conquest. Yes, you can now join the many kingdoms of the famed book series, or create your own, as you try to conquer... | Read more »
Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander (Games)
Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander 1.4.2.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $6.99, Version: 1.4.2.0 (iTunes) Description: An epic space strategy RPG with base building, deep tactical combat, crew management, alien diplomacy,... | Read more »
Legacy of Discord celebrates its 1 year...
It’s been a thrilling first year for fans of Legacy of Discord, the stunning PvP dungeon-crawling ARPG from YOOZOO Games, and now it’s time to celebrate the game’s first anniversary. The developers are amping up the festivities with some exciting... | Read more »
3 reasons to play Thunder Armada - the n...
The bygone days of the Battleship board game might have past, but naval combat simulators still find an audience on mobile. Thunder Armada is Chinese developer Chyogames latest entry into the genre, drawing inspiration from the explosive exchanges... | Read more »
Experience a full 3D fantasy MMORPG, as...
Those hoping to sink their teeth into a meaty hack and slash RPG that encourages you to fight with others might want to check out EZFun’s new Eternity Guardians. Available to download for iOS and Android, Eternity Guardians is an MMORPG that lets... | Read more »
Warhammer Quest 2 (Games)
Warhammer Quest 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Dungeon adventures in the Warhammer World are back! | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

12″ iPad Pros on sale for $50 off MSRP, no ta...
Adorama has 12″ iPad Pros on sale today for $50 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 12″ 64GB iPad Pro: $749, save $50 – 12″ 256GB iPad Pro: $899, save $50... Read more
9″ iPads on sale for $30 off, starting at $29...
MacMall has 9″ iPads on sale for $30 off including free shipping: – 9″ 32GB iPad: $299 – 9″ 128GB iPad: $399 Read more
Apple restocks full line of refurbished 13″ M...
Apple has restocked a full line of Apple Certified Refurbished 2017 13″ MacBook Pros for $200-$300 off MSRP. A standard Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free.... Read more
13″ 3.1GHz/256GB MacBook Pro on sale for $167...
Amazon has the 2017 13″ 3.1GHz/256GB Space Gray MacBook Pro on sale today for $121 off MSRP including free shipping: – 13″ 3.1GHz/256GB Space Gray MacBook Pro (MPXV2LL/A): $1678 $121 off MSRP Keep an... Read more
13″ MacBook Pros on sale for up to $120 off M...
B&H Photo has 2017 13″ MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $120 off MSRP, each including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: – 13-inch 2.3GHz/128GB Space Gray MacBook... Read more
15″ MacBook Pros on sale for up to $200 off M...
B&H Photo has 15″ MacBook Pros on sale for up to $200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 15″ 2.8GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray (MPTR2LL/A): $2249, $150... Read more
Roundup of Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs,...
Apple has a full line of Certified Refurbished 2017 21″ and 27″ iMacs available starting at $1019 and ranging up to $350 off original MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free... Read more
Sale! 27″ 3.8GHz 5K iMac for $2098, save $201...
Amazon has the 27″ 3.8GHz 5K iMac (MNED2LL/A) on sale today for $2098 including free shipping. Their price is $201 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model (Apple’s $1949... Read more
Sale! 10″ Apple WiFi iPad Pros for up to $100...
B&H Photo has 10.5″ WiFi iPad Pros in stock today and on sale for $50-$100 off MSRP. Each iPad includes free shipping, and B&H charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 10.5″ 64GB iPad Pro: $... Read more
Apple iMacs on sale for up to $130 off MSRP w...
B&H Photo has 21-inch and 27-inch iMacs in stock and on sale for up to $130 off MSRP including free shipping. B&H charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 27″ 3.8GHz iMac (MNED2LL/A): $2179 $... Read more

Jobs Board

Engineering Manager, *Apple* Retail Enginee...
# Engineering Manager, Apple Retail Engineering Job Number: 58139948 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: 20-Oct-2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job 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
Commerce Engineer, *Apple* Media Products -...
Commerce Engineer, Apple Media Products (New York City) Job Number: 113028813New York City, New York, United StatesPosted: Sep. 20, 2017Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Read more
US- *Apple* Store Leader Program - Apple (Un...
US- Apple Store Leader Program Job Number: VariousUnited StatesPosted: Oct. 19, 2017Retail Store Job Summary Learn and grow as you explore the art of leadership at Read more
Product Manager - *Apple* Pay on the *Appl...
Job Summary Apple is looking for a talented product manager to drive the expansion of Apple Pay on the Apple Online Store. This position includes a unique Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.