Archive for the ‘Mac OS X’ Category

Sidekick 1.4.1 available

I’ve released a new version of Sidekick, a menu bar item for AppleWorks 6. This is a maintenance release that allows users to conveniently start Numbers (part of the iWork ’08 suite) from Sidekick’s menu bar, and removes some defunct links AppleWorks web sites.

If you’re an AppleWorks user let me know what you think!



Scary PhotoBooth

The kids mucking around in Photo Booth produced this extremely disturbing image!


Leopard Developer Application Technologies Overview

The Application Technologies Overview is the third instalment in the Leopard Technology Series for Developers and was partly authored by James Duncan Davidson.

It briefly covers integrating your application with Time Machine, iChat, and Calendar Store. More interesting is the new Scripting Bridge. It’s a replacement for using AppleScript in your app to communicate with another app. The “Scripting Bridge uses native Cocoa data types, such as NSString and NSArray, requires far less code than using an NSAppleEventDescriptor, and runs more than twice as fast as a precompiled NSAppleScript”. An example is given for getting the current track name from iTunes.

NSString *currentTrackName = [[iTunes currentTrack] name];

As far as I know, the Scripting Bridge hasn’t been mentioned in any Leopard discussions. It appears the Bridge lets a developer write Cocoa, but paraphrasing the classes and commands in an application’s Scripting Dictionary. If so, this will be quite tedious for developers to implement. In practice, they’ll have to write an AppleScript to determine how an application’s Scripting Dictionary works. Then developers will have to translate the AppleScript into the equivalent Cocoa code. It would have been nice if Apple could have provided practical information how developers will work with the Scripting Bridge. As well, the example given only demos the Scripting Bridge getting data from an application. But does the Scripting Bridge work both ways? Will it also send data to another application, and does it provide for the receiving application transforming the data and returning the result to your application? If the Scripting Bridge is two-way then the benefits gained by using it will far outweigh the mucking around us developers have to do with NSAppleScript and friends.

The article also mentions Core Animation and 64/32-bit hardware support, but these are treated too briefly to get an idea of how they might be used in an application.

Sidekick 1.4 available now

Just in time for Christmas…

I’ve released a new version of Sidekick, a menu bar item for AppleWorks 6. The main feature of this release is being able to use Mac OS X 10.4’s Dictionary and Thesaurus program directly (indirectly?) from AppleWorks 6.

AppleWorks is a Carbon application that really wasn’t updated for Mac OS X. It was ported to Mac OS X, but no Mac OS X specific features were added. So you can’t do things like use Mac OS X’s Services from AppleWorks. I’ve addressed this by having Sidekick grab highlighted text from the frontmost word processing document and pass it on to NSPerformService() for action. So now AppleWorks users can use the Dictionary and Thesaurus program, do a Spotlight search, Summarize text, Speak text, open a URL, or copy selected text to a new Mail message.

But this feature is only available to registered users – those who’ve purchased it. I’m not sure if this is going to be controversial or not. Sidekick’s user base is relatively small and most have purchased it. New users will be able to get a taste of the feature by using the existing Send Selection feature to do a Google search, etc.

AeroXperience on Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard

AeroXperience (a forum for Windows Vista developers) gives us more intel on Mac OS X 10.5 (aka Leopard):

  • Disk recovery tools now built into Disk Utility,
  • an improved Firewall,
  • dictionary lookups and mathematical calculations from Spotlight,
  • new developer contols (Mail-like buttons)

Find an interface element from Interface Builder

Here’s a new tip from Apple: How can I visually identify the various components of my interface in Interface Builder?

The answer is: ctrl+shift click an interface element in the outline view of the Instances pane and a blue arrow will appear next to the element. See Technical Q&A QA1323 for a picture of this in action. It reminds me of the purple arrow feature being added Mac OS X 10.5 Help.

iPhoto 7 wishlist

I’ve just started using Flickr and have found iPhoto 6 lacking in a few respects. Here’s a few things I’d like to see in iPhoto 7:

  • Better keyword implementation
  • Better photo sorting
  • API for plugins

Better keyword implementation
The current implementation of keywords is tedious. New keywords can only be added from iPhotos preferences. And a single keyword can only be added to a photo by dragging it onto a keyword button. As well, it appears that keywords cannot be added using AppleScript because the iPhoto AppleScript dictionary does not allow for keywords to be easily manipulated.

iPhoto 7 should allow new keywords to be added via the main iPhoto interface. In addition, new keywords should be able to be imported into iPhoto 7, eg, a set of keywords describing your geographical location, a group of keywords related to a family that can be shared with other family members, or a group of keywords that relate to a business. Also, keywords should be applied by selecting one or more photos and then choosing one or more keywords.

I believe (though this belief may be wrong) that iPhoto 6 keywords aren’t stored with the photo. That is, in the EXIF metadata for the photo. This means the keywords are lost when you share them. iPhoto 7 should remedy this by storing all keywords internally, but saving specific keywords into the EXIF metadata for individual photos. Also, keywords should be able to be put in a named set, and added to a photo by applying this set to the photo.

To be fair, I don’t know of any other program that does keywords right. Photoshop Elements is tedious to use in this respect too. It’s possible that Aperture and Adobe’s new photo lightroom thingy do keywords right, but they’re professional programs. And if they do, then that’s beside the point – consumers should get ease-of-use with iPhoto too.

Better photo sorting
iPhoto lets you view your photos by title, keyword, film roll and rating. iPhoto also sorts by photos by title, keyword, film roll, rating and date. Almost identical aren’t they? Confused? So am I. My expectation is that I can choose one of these views, and then have the photos within the view sorted in a particular way. But that’s not how it works. Instead, sorting overrides the chosen view. For example, I love the Film Rolls view. But when I choose to sort by keyword or date, the named Film Rolls are removed and all photos are ordered by the chosen sort method. So it seems a View is just a named sort. This isn’t very useable. Apple either need to combine Views and Sorts so that they’re consistent, or make them work as expected.

API for third-party plugins
iPhoto works well with .Mac. But many people don’t use .Mac, and based on the blogosphere it appears the number of .Mac users is decreasing. While iPhoto has an API that allows developers to write plugins, this API is unsupported and not documented. Apple need to publish an API for iPhoto plugins so that services such as Flickr and MySpace can be directly supported. If Apple don’t do this then they will marginalise iPhoto, making it relevant only to a dwindling number of .Mac users, and push users of fast growing social sites like Flickr and MySpace into using other tools.

I’d appreciate your comments about the issues I’ve raised above. Please correct me if I’m confused about how to use iPhoto 6, or add your own wish list of features.


Sidekick on

I’ve added Sidekick to the web site.

If you do use Sidekick, do me a favour and drop by the site to add it to the applications you use.


Detailed screenshots of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard

Impulsive Highlighters is an excellent site with detailed screenshots of Leopard, in particular for Xcode 3.

The changes to Xcode 3 look significant:
* The Inspector is now a sectioned utility panel like OmniGraffle, so that’ll save us using the popup menu to navigate sections.
* The floating debug info will save me from having to click the warning/error symbols on the bottom right of the window just to read them.
* The new ‘blue bar means an executable is running’ is convenient too.
* And isn’t the new First Responder icon cool!
* The autosizing hint/movie is an excellent time saver too.
* Core Animation appears to have been built into many interface controls. Looks like you can apply effects to all kinds of controls directly from Interface Builder!
* I wonder what the controller icon featuring a blue book does?
* And what does the Containers section of the Library palette contain? Boxes, etc?


Follow-up: WWDC 2006 and Cocoa

In my previous post, I wished for changes to Cocoa at WWDC 2006. Specifically, garbage collection, Server-based Core Data storage, and expanded ‘Kits’.

So what do we know about Cocoa after WWDC 2006?

  1. Objective-C 2.0 includes Garbage collection, auto getters/setters, a foreach loop construct, and probably other improvements
  2. CoreAnimation
  3. Apparently a Cocoa-based QuickTimeKit, and the deprecation of Carbon based QT (???)
  4. Time Machine API
  5. A faster Xcode 3 which supports refactoring
  6. Interface Builder which includes a palette of resolution independent controls
  7. A new Image Kit, probably supporting resolution independence with other improvements
  8. 64-bit support from the Darwin layer all the way thru to Cocoa and Carbon
  9. An iCal framework
  10. NSGridView class
  11. NSTextView improvements ‘including a system-wide grammar checking facility, smart quote support, automatic link detection and support for copying and pasting multiple selections’
  12. Improvements to the iChat framework
  13. A new RSS/Atom framework

Check Apple’s objc-lang mailing list for more info about the Objective-C 2.0 changes, Apple’s Leopard web site for a basic overview, and the AeroExperience web site.