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.

 
AAPL
$102.13
Apple Inc.
+1.24
MSFT
$44.87
Microsoft Corpora
-0.14
GOOG
$571.00
Google Inc.
-6.86

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Viber 4.2.2 - Send messages and make cal...
Viber lets you send free messages and make free calls to other Viber users, on any device and network, in any country! Viber syncs your contacts, messages and call history with your mobile device,... Read more
Cocktail 7.6 - General maintenance and o...
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
LaunchBar 6.1 - Powerful file/URL/email...
LaunchBar is an award-winning productivity utility that offers an amazingly intuitive and efficient way to search and access any kind of information stored on your computer or on the Web. It provides... Read more
Maya 2015 - Professional 3D modeling and...
Maya is an award-winning software and powerful, integrated 3D modeling, animation, visual effects, and rendering solution. Because Maya is based on an open architecture, all your work can be scripted... Read more
BBEdit 10.5.12 - Powerful text and HTML...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more
Microsoft Office 2011 14.4.4 - Popular p...
Microsoft Office 2011 helps you create professional documents and presentations. And since Office for Mac 2011 is compatible with Office for Windows, you can work on documents with virtually anyone... Read more
TextWrangler 4.5.10 - 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
BitTorrent Sync 1.4.72 - Sync files secu...
BitTorrent Sync allows you to sync unlimited files between your own devices, or share a folder with friends and family to automatically sync anything. File transfers are encrypted. Your information... Read more
Cyberduck 4.5.2 - FTP and SFTP browser....
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
Tinderbox 6.0.3 - Store and organize you...
Tinderbox is a personal content management assistant. It stores your notes, ideas, and plans. It can help you organize and understand them. And Tinderbox helps you share ideas through Web journals... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Mobile Convolution (Music)
Mobile Convolution 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Invaders! From Outer Space Review
Invaders! From Outer Space Review By Rob Thomas on August 27th, 2014 Our Rating: :: RETRO NOSTALGIAUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad It’s a shame that Invaders! doesn’t offer deeper gameplay, as this retro-inspired... | Read more »
Spooklands Review
Spooklands Review By Jennifer Allen on August 27th, 2014 Our Rating: :: ONE-TOUCH SHOOTERUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad One-touch simultaneously controls your direction and your weapon in this unique arena shooter.   | Read more »
Heroes of Order & Chaos Add Twitch I...
Heroes of Order & Chaos Add Twitch Integration, New Heroes, and More Posted by Ellis Spice on August 27th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Foodie Yama Review
Foodie Yama Review By Jennifer Allen on August 27th, 2014 Our Rating: :: BRIEFLY HOOKSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Foodie Yama will draw you in for a brief while, and you’ll never be entirely sure why.   | Read more »
Spotify Connect Turns One, Now Supports...
Spotify Connect Turns One, Now Supports New Devices Posted by Ellis Spice on August 27th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
The Rise of PicsaStock and How You Can M...
We all take plenty of photos, right? That’s the joy of having a reasonably powerful camera in your pocket, thanks to your trusty iPhone and a bevy of similarly useful apps. Wouldn’t it be great to make some money out of those snaps? While your... | Read more »
Appointment With F.E.A.R Review
Appointment With F.E.A.R Review By Jennifer Allen on August 27th, 2014 Our Rating: :: CAMP DELIGHTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Ever wanted to be a superhero? Appointment With F.E.A.R is a fine way to live that dream... | Read more »
Indie MOBA ÆRENA’s 2.0 Summer Update Bri...
Indie MOBA ÆRENA’s 2.0 Summer Update Brings New Missions, Skins, and a Champion Posted by Jessica Fisher on August 27th, 2014 [ permalink | Read more »
Ultra Drift Review
Ultra Drift Review By Rob Thomas on August 27th, 2014 Our Rating: :: ULTRA DULLUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Ultra Drift is fine in concept, but the execution runs head-first into the wall. And so will you. Over and... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

The iPad’s Real Competitive Challenger (Not S...
It’s been my contention for some time that the iPad is suffering from something of an identity crisis, and I suspect that may be a factor in slackening sales this year. Apple can’t seem to decide... Read more
13-inch 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pro on sa...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1379 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP. Read more
Life Inventory iOS Apps – Learn to Know Thyse...
James Hollender’s Life Inventory apps s are now on sale with 20% off thru Labor Day, 09/01/2014. This is a great opportunity to get started on that Moral Inventory you’ve been putting off doing for... Read more
Pocket Watch, LLC. Reveals Cloud Server For P...
Beaumont, Texas based Pocket Watch, LLC. has announced the availability of its new ActivePrint Cloud Server Powered by Raspberry Pi. With this small standalone box almost any USB printer or available... Read more
902it Simplifies Area Code Changes For Nova S...
The east coast Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are phasing in 10 digit telephone dialing, to be fully in place by November, in order to accommodate a second area code to... Read more
Boomerang iPad Stand Mounts Your iPad Anywher...
Boomerang, a Mountable Stand with Multiple Viewing Angles, is now available for iPad Air. Boomerang combines several functions that aim to expand your iPad’s potential in one, elegant product. The... Read more
Retina MacBook Pros available starting at $10...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros available starting at $929. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros (4GB RAM/... Read more
Apple 27-inch Thunderbolt Display (refurbishe...
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
Apple offers free $25 iTunes gift card with p...
The Apple Store is offering a free $25 iTunes Gift Card with the purchase of a $99 Apple TV for a limited time. Shipping is free. Read more
Apple’s 2014 Back to School promotion: $100 g...
 Apple’s 2014 Back to School promotion includes a free $100 App Store Gift Card with the purchase of any new Mac (Mac mini excluded), or a $50 Gift Card with the purchase of an iPad or iPhone,... Read more

Jobs Board

*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
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
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
…customers purchase our products, you're the one who helps them get more out of their new Apple technology. Your day in the Apple Store is filled with a range of Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.