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

WhatsApp 0.2.5862 - Desktop client for W...
WhatsApp is the desktop client for WhatsApp Messenger, a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for... Read more
WhatsApp 0.2.5862 - Desktop client for W...
WhatsApp is the desktop client for WhatsApp Messenger, a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for... Read more
Things 3.1.3 - Elegant personal task man...
Things is a task management solution that helps to organize your tasks in an elegant and intuitive way. Things combines powerful features with simplicity through the use of tags and its intelligent... Read more
BetterTouchTool 2.292 - Customize Multi-...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
Things 3.1.3 - Elegant personal task man...
Things is a task management solution that helps to organize your tasks in an elegant and intuitive way. Things combines powerful features with simplicity through the use of tags and its intelligent... Read more
BetterTouchTool 2.292 - Customize Multi-...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
Bookends 12.8.3 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Bookends uses the cloud to sync reference libraries on all the Macs you use.... Read more
Mellel 3.5.5 - The word processor for sc...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
Mellel 3.5.5 - The word processor for sc...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
Bookends 12.8.3 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Bookends uses the cloud to sync reference libraries on all the Macs you use.... Read more

Super Phantom Cat 2 beginner's guid...
Super Phantom Cat 2 presents a whole new world of fun platforming challenges and perplexing puzzles. It's a well-designed platformer with a bright, neon aesthetic that brings the genre up to date. [Read more] | Read more »
Shadow Fight 2 Special Edition (Games)
Shadow Fight 2 Special Edition 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: ** New story chapter! **** No Ads! **** No energy! ** The best fighting series on mobile has returned and... | Read more »
4 RPGs like Final Fantasy XV that deserv...
Square Enix announced another Final Fantasy XV spin-off today - Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition. This mobile, episodic version of the hit RPG gives the game a chibi-fied makeover. The first episode will be free, followed by 9 more premium episodes... | Read more »
Guild sieges and soul gems in latest upd...
Webzen’s MU Origin hit app stores last year, giving fans of fantasy hack-n-slash MMOs like Diablo a new fix to fixate on. This latest update introduces a competitive guild battle, a fresh dungeon challenge, a mini-game and some elemental gems to... | Read more »
Little Red Lie (Games)
Little Red Lie 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ARE YOU MORE AFRAID OF POVERTY THAN DEATH? Little Red Lie is a narrative-focused, interactive fiction experience that reduces... | Read more »
You can now apply to be Clash of Clans...
Earlier this month, word got out that the Builder, the trusty handiman who tirelessly built every single building inevery singleClash of Clansbase had called it quits. Sick of seeing his work destroyed endless, the Builder has set out for our world... | Read more »
Meshi Quest beginner's guide - how...
Meshi Quest is Square Enix's newest free-to-play release, and it's a real charmer. You start off as the head of a sushi restaurant, upgrading your food and equipment as you serve visitors heaping helpings of your delicious meals. As you progress,... | Read more »
BUST-A-MOVE JOURNEY (Games)
BUST-A-MOVE JOURNEY 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: BUST-A-MOVE Features:- Shoot bubbles and match 3 or more bubbles of the same color to make them pop!- Complete your... | Read more »
The best card combos in Clash Royale
Clash Royale is all about building a deck of units that synergise well. To help you get off to a flying start, we've put together a list of unit combinations that are incredibly effective. Looking for some choice 2v2 combos? Check out our guide. [... | Read more »
The best 2v2 card combos in Clash Royale
2v2 is making it's grand return toClash Royalequite soon. 2v2 has quickly become one of the game's most popular gameplay modes, though they still have yet to make it a permanent fixture in the game. 2v2 is exciting and adds some new flavor to... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Sale! 13-inch 2.3GHz MacBook Pros for $100 of...
B&H Photo has 13″ 2.3GHz MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: – 13-inch 2.3GHz/128GB Space Gray MacBook Pro (MPXQ2LL... Read more
2016 MacBook Pros, Apple refurbished, availab...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 15″ and 13″ MacBook Pros available starting at $1189. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: – 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar Space... Read more
Apple offers Certified Refurbished iPhone 6s...
Apple has Certified Refurbished unlocked iPhone 6s’s and 6s Plus’s available starting at $449. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each phone, and shipping is free: – 16GB iPhone 6s: $449, $... Read more
Apple offers Certified Refurbished Pencils fo...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Apple Pencils available for $85 including free shipping. Their price is $14 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for a Pencil. Read more
2016 15-inch 2.6GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pro ava...
B&H Photo has clearance 2016 15″ 2.6GHz MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for $500 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: – 15″ 2.6GHz Touch... Read more
21-inch 2.3GHz iMac on sale for $999, save $1...
Amazon has the new 2017 21″ 2.3GHz iMac (MMQA2LL/A) in stock and on sale for $999.99 including free shipping. Their price is $100 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
Free Instant Translator 2.0 App For iOS Relea...
Mobile application development company, Neoappz has announced the release and immediate availability of Instant Translator 2.0 for iOS devices. Instant Translator is a user-friendly application which... Read more
2017 15-inch MacBook Pros on sale for $200 of...
Amazon has 2017 15″ MacBook Pros on sale for $200 off MSRP. Shipping is free: – 15″ 2.8GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray: $2199.99, $200 off MSRP – 15″ 2.8GHz MacBook Pro Silver: $2296, $103 off MSRP – 15″... Read more
Apple’s 2017 Back to School Promotion: Free B...
Purchase a new Mac using Apple’s Education discount, and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free. As part... Read more
Clearance 2016 12-inch Retina MacBooks, Apple...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 12″ Retina MacBooks available starting at $1019. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook, and shipping is free. The following... Read more

Jobs Board

Development Operations and Site Reliability E...
Development Operations and Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Payment Gateway Job Number: 57572631 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jul. 27, 2017 Read more
Frameworks Engineering Manager, *Apple* Wat...
Frameworks Engineering Manager, Apple Watch Job Number: 41632321 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jun. 15, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Summary 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
Development Operations and Site Reliability E...
Development Operations and Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Payment Gateway Job Number: 57572631 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jul. 27, 2017 Read more
Frameworks Engineering Manager, *Apple* Wat...
Frameworks Engineering Manager, Apple Watch Job Number: 41632321 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jun. 15, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Summary Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.