TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Another Dimension
Volume Number:7
Issue Number:2
Column Tag:Developer's Forum

Programming In Another Dimension

By Joe Pillera, MacTutor Contributing Editor, The Environmental Research Institute of Michigan

Programming In Another Dimension

Introduction. As software development systems evolve, there is always a increasing level of abstraction away from the machine - and to the problem domain of the user. One tool for the Macintosh that exemplifies this is the 4th Dimension® (4D1) from Acius. 4D is an incredible tool, because it goes far beyond a database: rather than just producing GUI (graphical user interface) skeletons like other programs, 4D can generate finished, ready to ship programs, complete with all the necessary Macintosh user interface controls.

This is the story of MacTutor Phone Book (MTPB), a complete 4D program (which is a stand-alone Macintosh application when compiled with the 4D compiler) which features:

• Complete support of the Macintosh interface, including pull down menus, desk accessory support, modeless dialog boxes, and printing.

• Searching, sorting and printing of address labels.

Background.

When constructing MTPB, I wanted more than a flat-file database: I wanted an application that could stand alone by itself. While a phone book application may not be as exotic as killing viruses, it serves as a good example of what 4D is capable of; without it, I would have faced the prospect of writing thousands of lines of code, and undoubtedly reinventing the wheel several times in the process.

Developing in 4D. The first aspect to developing in 4D is to specify the table structures, and use the layout editor to paint your user interface. As can be seen in Figures 1 and 2, 4D gives you a rich set of GUI controls to design the look and feel of your program.

Figure 1. Construction a MTPB input disalog with the 4D layout editor

Figure 2. The repetoire of user interface controls available for a custom 4D application.

Once the database structures and your custom windows have been designed, the fun starts. 4D gives you a comprehensive script language to implement custom applications, and even comes with a symbolic debugger, as illustrated in Figure 3. This script language is very pascal-like (minus the Unit module encapsulation feature), and includes features such as arrays, functions and procedures (a 4D function is a procedure that returns a value in the variable $0), pointer manipulation, and string manipulation that reminds me of BASIC (BASIC has one of the richest string manipulation syntaxes available).

Figure 3. Debugging a 4D procedure.

After your application has been designed, you can compile it with the 4D Compiler, as illustrated in Figure 4.

Figure 4. How to build a stand-alone application out of MTPB with the 4D Compiler

MacTutor Phone Book. Refer to Figure 5: not only can MTPB manage your phone records - it’s a complete Macintosh application (when compiled with the 4D Compiler).

Figure 5. MTPB as a stand-alone Macintosh application.

Furthermore, one of the parallels between object oriented programming and 4D programming is that you can “inherit” functionality, without having to write any code to implement it. Refer to Figures 6 and 8: MTPB makes full use of searching, and label printing - but these are given to you by 4D, and not implemented by me. This kind of reuse of software allows you to concentrate on the problem at hand, rather than on implementing code that has been written many times before. When custom windows do need to be designed, they can be assembled very quickly with 4D’s layout editor, as illustrated in Figure 7.

Figure 6. Search for all addresses that are either in Ann Arbor or whose last name field starts with 'P'.

Figure 7. Sorting in MTPB with a custom dialog constructed with the 4D layout editor.

Figure 8. Printing labels with MTPB.

Suggestions for Improvement.

While 4D is an incredibly powerful tool, I would like to suggest two possible future improvements:

Hierarchical menus: would be very useful in the menu editor, and would allow for a more concise construction of 4D applications.

Procedure abstraction: in a large 4D application, it is easy to get buried by a plethora of “global procedures.” What would be extremely useful here is some sort of hierarchical way of cataloging procedures. For example, introducing a “module” concept (containing procedures with scope only visible to it) would make organizing your 4D code a lot easier.

The End... Please note that this month’s source code disk contains only the data files for MTPB - and not a stand-alone program. Because of licensing rules, you’ll need to compile it with your own copy of the 4D Compiler - and a 4D Runtime module - before ending up with a double-clickable application.

The technical support at Acius is outstanding, and the software very thorough. Compared to other development tools which also hammer out skeleton user interfaces, there’s no doubt that 4D costs more. But that age-old adage still applies here.

You get what you pay for.

Joe Pillera is a research scientist at the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Joe Pillera, and not of ERIM or its affiliates. The author can be reached electronically via the GEnie2 service by sending mail to JPILLERA.

1 4D is a registered trademark of Acius, Inc.

2 GEnie is a trademark of the General Electric Company.


Global Procedures for MTPB
© MacTutor Magazine, February 1991


f_format_number
 ‘Pretty-process a phone number
 ‘Examples: 
 ‘format_number(“3131234567”)->(313)123-4567
 ‘format_number(“3131234567”;”313")->123-4567
 ‘Arguments:$1 = raw phone number
 ‘ $2 = area code to drop, if any.
 ‘Return Value: $0 = formatted result.
If (Length($1)>0)
 If (Length($2)=3)
 ‘The caller wants to zap an area code...
 If (Substring($1;1;3)=$2)
 ‘Omit the area code    
 $0:=Substring($1;4;3)+ “-” +
 Substring($1;7;4)
 Else 
 ‘Keep it    
 $0:=”(“+Substring($1;1;3)+”) “ +
 Substring($1;4;3) + “-” +
 Substring($1;7;4)
    End if 
  Else 
 ‘Caller wants the area code no matter what
 $0:=”(“ + Substring($1;1;3)+”)” + 
 Substring($1;4;3) + “-” +
 Substring($1;7;4)
  End if 
End if 


p_display
‘Display all records in the phone book
DEFAULT FILE([Phone Book])
ALL RECORDS
OUTPUT LAYOUT([Phone Book];”Output Layout”)
MODIFY SELECTION


p_print_sel
‘Print the records last selected by the user
DEFAULT FILE([Phone Book])
If (Records in selection=0)
 ALERT(“You haven’t selected any records
   to print!”)
Else 
 OUTPUT LAYOUT([Phone Book];”Output Layout”)
 PRINT SELECTION([Phone Book])
End if 


p_print_tbl
‘Print all records in the phone book
DEFAULT FILE([Phone Book])
ALL RECORDS
OUTPUT LAYOUT([Phone Book];”Output Layout”)
PRINT SELECTION([Phone Book])


p_search
‘Let the user perform a search on the database
DEFAULT FILE([Phone Book])
SEARCH
If (OK=1)
 OUTPUT LAYOUT([Phone Book];”Output Layout”)
 DISPLAY SELECTION
End if 


p_sort
‘Permanently sort the database, and display
‘results to the user.
DEFAULT FILE([Phone Book])
OPEN WINDOW(110;100;390;260;0;”Sort The Database”)
DIALOG(“Sort Dialog”)
‘Note: the actual sorting takes place in the script
‘      associated with the “ok” button, but is
‘      omitted here for brevity.
CLOSE WINDOW
If (g_display=True)
  p_display 
End if 


p_labels
DEFAULT FILE([Phone Book])
ALL RECORDS
PRINT LABEL([Phone Book];” “)


p_new
‘Add new records(s) until the user cancels
DEFAULT FILE([Phone Book])
INPUT LAYOUT([Phone Book];”Input Layout”)
Repeat 
 ADD RECORD
Until (OK=0)

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

calibre 5.0.1 - Complete e-book library...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
Compressor 4.4.8 - Adds power and flexib...
Compressor adds power and flexibility to Final Cut Pro X export. Customize output settings, work faster with distributed encoding, and tap into a comprehensive set of delivery features. Features:... Read more
Adobe Acrobat Reader 20.012.20048 - View...
Adobe Acrobat Reader allows users to view PDF documents. You may not know what a PDF file is, but you've probably come across one at some point. PDF files are used by companies and even the IRS to... Read more
Adobe Acrobat DC 20.012.20048 - Powerful...
Acrobat DC is available only as a part of Adobe Creative Cloud, and can only be installed and/or updated through Adobe's Creative Cloud app. Adobe Acrobat DC with Adobe Document Cloud services is... Read more
Box Sync 4.0.8009 - Online synchronizati...
Box Sync gives you a hard-drive in the Cloud for online storage. Note: You must first sign up to use Box. What if the files you need are on your laptop -- but you're on the road with your iPhone? No... Read more
Daylite 2020.36.1 - Dynamic business org...
Daylite helps businesses organize themselves with tools such as shared calendars, contacts, tasks, projects, notes, and more. Enable easy collaboration with features such as task and project... Read more
Catalina Cache Cleaner 15.0.6 - Clear ca...
Catalina Cache Cleaner is an award-winning general-purpose tool for macOS X. CCC makes system maintenance simple with an easy point-and-click interface to many macOS X functions. Novice and expert... Read more
Final Cut Pro X 10.4.10 - Professional v...
Final Cut Pro X is a professional video editing solution. Completely redesigned from the ground up, Final Cut Pro adds extraordinary speed, quality, and flexibility to every part of the post-... Read more
Civilization VI 1.3.4 - Next iteration o...
Civilization® VI is the award-winning experience. Expand your empire across the map, advance your culture, and compete against history’s greatest leaders to build a civilization that will stand the... Read more
iTubeDownloader 6.5.23 - Easily download...
iTubeDownloader is a powerful-yet-simple YouTube downloader for the masses. Because it contains a proprietary browser, you can browse YouTube like you normally would. When you see something you want... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Undercrawl is a procedurally generated r...
Undercrawl is a roguelike dungeon crawler from indie developer Monster Shop Games. It's a genre that's popular in gaming in general but features even more frequently on mobile devices since the shorter, 'run' style of playthrough suits playing in... | Read more »
Distract Yourself With These Great Mobil...
There’s a lot going on right now, and I don’t really feel like trying to write some kind of pithy intro for it. All I’ll say is lots of people have been coming together and helping each other in small ways, and I’m choosing to focus on that as I... | Read more »
BTS Universe Story, the social game that...
Netmarble's highly anticipated social game, BTS Universe Story, is available now for iOS and Android. It's the second collaboration between the hugely successful mobile developer and the K-pop superstars following BTS World. [Read more] | Read more »
The 5 Best Mobile Games Like Hades
Supergiant Games finally released Hades upon the world this week, and we’re loving it. The game plays to all of the studio’s strengths while still retaining a strong sense of identity. It also just so happens to play rather well using the Steam... | Read more »
A Year of Apple Arcade: The Good, The Ba...
Apple Arcade has persisted for just over a year at this point, and although that means I've been busy ranking and re-ranking every game on the service for just about as long, I haven't done much reflection on the service as a whole. [Read more] | Read more »
Animal Restaurant anniversary event team...
Animal idle simulator Animal Restaurant is celebrating its first-year anniversary with a crossover event with popular YouTube series Aaron’s Animals. [Read more] | Read more »
Raziel: Dungeon Arena is a hack 'n...
Raziel: Dungeon Arena is available now on mobile and will appeal to fans of both comic books and old school dungeon crawlers. Not only will you hack 'n' slash your way through mobs of enemies but there's also fully-narrated animated comic to enjoy... | Read more »
Steam Link Spotlight - Hades
Steam Link Spotlight is a feature where we look at PC games that play exceptionally well using the Steam Link app. Our last entry was on Disco Elysium. Read about how it plays using Steam Link over here. | Read more »
Microsoft has acquired ZeniMax Media and...
In the latest of a series of blockbuster moves, Microsoft has now acquired Zenimax Media and its subsidiary, Bethesda Softworks, for $7.5 billion. [Read more] | Read more »
Infinity Mechs is an upcoming idle game...
Indie developer SkullStar studio has announced an upcoming idle mech game called Infinity Mechs. It draws inspiration from the mobile game Iron Saga and has been officially licensed by Game Duchy. It's set to launch for both iOS and Android on... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Clearance 8-core iMac Pro available for $3819...
Apple has Certified Refurbished, clearance, 27″ 3.2GHz 8-Core iMac Pros available $3819 including free shipping. Their price is $1180 off the original MSRP of new models. A standard Apple one-year... Read more
How The Upcoming Mac Transition To Apple Sili...
FEATURE: 09.25.20 – Apple’s plan to transition all of its desktop and notebook computers away from Intel processors to Apple silicon, chips designed by the company itself, has been eclipsed by the... Read more
New low price! Apple Watch SE for only $269
B&H Photo is reporting limited stock of Apple’s new Apple Watch SE GPS models for $10 off MSRP and including free shipping. Their $269 price for the 40mm model is the lowest price we’ve seen so... Read more
Lowest price anywhere: New 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook...
Amazon has new 2020 13″ 2.0GHz/512GB MacBook Pros with 10th generation Intel processors back in stock on sale today for $200 off Apple’s MSRP. Shipping is free. Be sure to purchase the MacBook Pro... Read more
Apple Pro Display XDR with Nano-Texture Glass...
Amazon Apple Premier Partner GatorTec has the Apple Pro Display XDR with Nano-Texture Glass on sale for $5599 shipped, on Amazon. Their price is $400 off Apple’s MSRP, and it’s the cheapest price... Read more
Get a 2019 13″ MacBook Air for only $779 toda...
Apple has clearance, Certified Refurbished, 2019 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Airs available again for $779. Each MacBook features a new outer case, comes with a standard Apple one-year warranty, and is... Read more
2020 11″ iPad Pros on sale today for $50-$75...
Apple reseller Expercom has new 2020 11″ Apple iPad Pros on sale for $50-$75 off MSRP, with prices starting at $749. These are the same iPad Pros sold by Apple in their retail and online stores: – 11... Read more
Apple has restocked 2020 13″ MacBook Airs sta...
Apple has restocked Certified Refurbished 2020 13″ MacBook Airs starting at only $849 and up to $200 off the cost of new Airs. Each MacBook features a new outer case, comes with a standard Apple one-... Read more
Apple’s new 8th generation 10.2″ iPads are on...
Amazon is discounting new 2020 8th generation 10.2″ Apple iPads by up to $35 off MSRP with prices starting at only $299. Shipping is free. These are the same iPads sold by Apple in their retail and... Read more
Today on Woot: Apple refurbished 16″ MacBook...
Amazon-owned Woot has Apple refurbished 16″ MacBook Pros available today for up to $605 off the cost of new models. Shipping is free for Prime members: – 16″ 6-Core MacBook Pros: $1874.99 $525 off... Read more

Jobs Board

Freelance *Apple* Technology Journalist - V...
…freelance basis. Valnet Inc. is looking for journalists with strong knowledge of Apple technology for our website MakeUseOf.com MakeUseOf is one of the largest Read more
*Apple* Certified Macintosh Technician - Exc...
Apple Certified Macintosh Technician Summary Title: Apple Certified Macintosh Technician ID:350 Department:All Location:Bethesda, MD Description Apple Read more
Security Officer ($23.00/Hourly) - *Apple*...
**Security Officer \($23\.00/Hourly\) \- Apple Store** **Description** About NMS Built on a culture of safety and integrity, NMSdelivers award\-winning, integrated Read more
Security Officer ($23.00/Hourly) - *Apple*...
**Security Officer \($23\.00/Hourly\) \- Apple Store** **Description** About NMS Built on a culture of safety and integrity, NMSdelivers award\-winning, integrated Read more
*Apple* Certified Macintosh Technician - Exc...
Apple Certified Macintosh Technician Summary Title: Apple Certified Macintosh Technician ID:350 Department:All Location:Falls Church, VA Description Apple Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.