The Complete Compiled Tips
RB Monthly Volume 1 (6/98–5/99)

  In RBM's first year, we've accumulated quite a few tips. Twenty-One major tips, to be precise. And here they all are, in one document. Enjoy!

Go To Tip: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Tip #1 - Assign shortcuts to New Property and Method

  One of the most silly things about Realbasic is that it doesn't have keyboard shortcuts for New Property... and New Method... However, as everyone knows, you can add them with ResEdit. Doing it is simple.

Method 1-A resource editor
Just open up Realbasic in ResEdit or the far superior Resourcer, and open the Edit MENU resource. Then, add the shortcuts Cmd-Opt-V (V=Variable), and Cmd-Opt-M. They will appear as an accent and a check mark, but that's OK. They still work. The only problem with this is that every time you get a new version of RB, you have to do this again.

Method 2-A macro utility
  This is a better method because you don't have to modify RB every single time you download it. Any macro utility will do for this, though I personally think that OneClick leaves everything else in the dust. Simply make two new macros that choose the two menu items, and assign them shortcuts. Since the Realbasic application is always called "REALBasic", you won't have to create these again every time you get a new version.

Method 3-Write mail to
  Using this method, everyone writes mail to, and requests that he include shortcuts built in.

Tip #2 - Save before you run macro

  Realbasic crashes a lot. A heck of a lot. More than any other app I've ever used. And it crashes in such interesting ways…
  Anyway, the point of this is that since it crashes a lot, you should save your work a lot. The problem with this is that it seems that just before it crashes, the save command stops working (Arggh...). What seems to work for me is simply holding down Command and S. This saves it many times, and almost entirely ensures that it works. Once again, OneClick or another utility can simplify this whole thing. In OneClick, just use this script:

Repeat 10
  SelectMenu "File", "Save"
End Repeat
SelectMenu "Debug", "Run"

If you assign this to be Cmd-R, then it will do it whenever you use the keyboard shortcut to run. This is a big time saver.

Tip #3 - How to use the Scroll Method

 One of the more interesting changes in r36 was the addition of a Canvas.Scroll method. Here's the syntax:

  Scroll(deltaX as integer, deltaY as integer, left as integer, top as integer, width as integer, height as integer, scrollControls as Boolean)

  This method allows you to a canvas to scroll easily. Essentially, what it does is to change the coordinates for the Canvas, i.e. the top left is -10, 5 instead of 0,0. More interesting than this is the scrollControls property. The reference says that this determines whether or not controls on top of the canvas scroll as well. To try this out, I whipped up a simple project that used the scroll method. Screenshots can be found to your right.

  The code for the scroll button at the right is this:

Canvas1.Scroll 100, 0

  This one line hides all five controls over the canvas just as effectively as uses five Control.Visible=False statements. If you had tried this with a group box, it wouldn't have worked. This is an excellent way to group and move controls, and it is also a good way to manipulate graphics.

Before and After. The controls haven't been hidden, they've just been scrolled off the right edge of the canvas that they're on. This would've taken five lines of code normally, but with scroll, it's only one.

Tip #4 - Don't restart, Interrupt!

  One of the nastiest things about RB is how much it crashes, especially with "Type 10" errors. It displays a black and white box that lets you restart. However, if you can still move the mouse, then there is hope!!! Simply press Command-Power (not Cmd-Ctrl-Power) to go into Interrupt mode (if you have MacBugs installed, then you'll drop to that). A new window will come up with a greater than sign. Simply type "G FINDER" to go back to the finder and quit RB without restarting the whole computer. If it works, then save the rest of the stuff you have open before opening RB again. This trick works for apps besides RB too.

Tip #5 - Use Confirm, and InputBox classes

   RealBasic does have a MsgBox method, but it lacks some other features that Visual Basic has built-in: A confirm function (This is integrated into the MsgBox function in VB), and an InputBox function. Fortunately, with RB's great class system, it's easy to make these on your own. Simply make two windows: One for a confirm box (w/ a yes and no button), and one for an input box.

   I could explain how to do this further, but I've decided to spare you the boredom. If you downloaded this issue as a StuffIt archive, then you already have these classes (in the Confirm and InputBox) folder. If you're viewing this on the internet, click here to download them as a binhexed file.

Tip #6 - Use StrComp
<obsolete as far as speed gains over "=" go in DR2r66>

In a recent message on the RB-NUG mailing list (What does NUG stand for anyway?), someone pointed out that comparing two strings in an if statement is really very slow. He also pointed out that by using the strcomp function, you could speed these up several hundred times. Here's how it works…
First of all, you need to learn what the StrComp function does. As its name implies, it compares two strings. The value it returns tells you if the two strings are the same, or if they're not, it tells you which one comes before the other in alphabetical order. The handy table to the right may simplify things some.
s1 s2 StrComp(s1, s2, 0)
a z   -1
z a   +1
A a   -1
A A   0

 As you can see from the helpful table, if the two stringsare the same, it returns 0. So, the statement
If s1=s2 then
  is the same as
If StrComp(s1, s2, 0)=0 then

  The strComp example may look longer and more complicated, but in reality, it's a LOT faster.

  If you don't want to get stuck typing StrComp for the rest of your life, there IS a better solution. Just create a new method called "Equal" that takes two strings as a parameter, and returns a boolean. Here's the code for it:

Function Equal(s1 as string, s2 as string) as boolean
if strcomp(s1, s2, 0)=0 then
return true
return false
end if
End Function

  After you type in that function, you can use the format "If Equal(s1, s2) then", which makes much more sense, and looks nicer. If you want to test to see if two strings AREN'T equal, just replace that statement with "If Not Equal(s1, s2) then".

Speeding up your program couldn't be easier!

Tip #7 — Declare items the quick way

  In case you didn't already realize it, declaring variables used to be a nightmare. First of all, you had to put them all on different lines, and they all had to have an "as type" clause after them. This made for some icky, and very long code.

  Things eventually got better though. You can now declare multiple variables on one line. However, there's still oen more trick that not many people know about...

 If you want to declare two or more variables of the same type, you can omit the "as type" part. For example, dim s as string, t as string could be rewritten as dim s, t as string. This is a very useful shortcut, especially when there are many variables of the same type.

 So, if you still aren't convinced, look at these three snapshots:

Really old Dim m as folderitem
Dim n as folderitem
Dim o as folderitem
Dim p as folderitem
Current Dim m as folderitem, n as folderitem
Dim o as folderitem, p as folderitem
The Secret Way  Dim m, n, o, p as folderitem

  As you can see from that lovely diagram, it's the biggest clarity improving declaration change you can make. It also saves a bunch of typing, and you won't have to scroll to see everything. So, be sure to use this trick whenever you can!!!

Tip #8 - You can use special modifiers

  If you've worked with menus for any amount of time, you know that there are special modifier symbols for keys other than command. For example, if the menu's keyboard shortcut was Cmd-Opt-Ctrl-Shft-Forward Delete, then that would be written as . Not that anyone would ever really do that, but that's how it would appear if they did. Anyway, you might have though that you couldn't do things like this in RB, because you could only write in a command key in the menu editor.

  Think again. Actually, you can make a menu's command key look exactly like that, except for the forward delete. You can add any modifier to a menu. How? Simple.

  First of all, select the menu item, and click on the CommandKey property. Let's say you wanted it to be Command-Option-Shift-I. Well, to do that, you'd type "Option-Shift-I" in the CommandKey slot, like so:

  Now, when you run your program, the menu will have the command key that you want it to.

  This method has some problems though. As you probably noticed if you tried this, the menu editor has some problems displaying these (they run past the menu). Also, you can't set these while the program is running.

Tip #9 - Name your controls

  Almost everybody who programs, whether it's in VB or RB usually leaves the names of all controls as the default (i.e. Label1, StaticText1, PopupMenu1, etc.). Though it's not a horrible thing to do in Visual Basic, you're really slowing yourself down if you don't in Realbasic.

  Why is there such a difference? RB's autocomplete feature in the code editor! If all your controls are a long name followed by a number, it won't guess. But if they're a three letter code followed by a name, then it can guess easily, saving you tons of typing. It only helps if you plan to use the controls in code though. You shouldn't bother naming a label that never changes.
   Just follow this guide:

Control Code Example
PushButton Btn BtnCancel
RadioButton Opt OptDoubleSpaced
Checkbox Chk ChkDontAsk
StaticText Lbl LblAmountTransfered
PopupMenu Pop PopSize
Timer Tmr TmrTicker
TabPanel Tab TabOptions

Tip #10 - Close the toolbars

  In general, you'll never use the color palette (though it is super-nifty), and you'll only use the Tools and Properties toolbars when you're laying out an interface. When you're writing code, these windows are pointless. However, much to my dismay, many people simply never close these windows!

  So, the tip is to keep these windows closed whenever you're not doing layout. You'll get a lot more screen space, and RB will run faster (the properties palette takes a long time to refresh).

  To be even MORE super-effecient with your workspace, make a macro that closes and opens all the toolbars with a single keystroke. <In DR2, all of these have shortcuts, and close automatically in the code editor. However, the close all keystroke is still a huge timesaver>

Tip #11 - Beautify your code

  Many, many people give all their variables names that are entirely lowercase, such as "sout, temp, i", and so on. Many more people don't leave blank space in their code, and put comments at the end of lines without aligning them. This is downright ugly!

  So, when you're writing code, capitalize letters in variables that are the start of words. For example, if the variable binval is a binary value, name it BinVal. This just looks better.

  And be sure to put in blank lines at points where the code is broken into sections. This makes it much clearer, and easier to read. Take these examples...

The bad

  All the declarations are on a long line, and are all in lower case. There isn't any blank space, and the comments are randomly strewn about the line.

The good

  The variables are logically grouped, and have the correct case. There is blank space seperating the groups of code. The comments are lined up, and look very nice.This makes going back and editing it later much easier, and it makes it easier for others to read as well.

Tip #12—Use Control Binding

  One of the coolest new features of the DR2 releases has been control binding. This feature, which is available in DR2r24 and up, has been simplifying my life quite a bit, and it should simplify your's too!

  The idea behind control binding is that in many programs, clicking on a button, or selecting an item in a list affects the appearance of another control. For example, clicking the a button might start playing a movie, and clicking stop might (logically enough), stop it.

  Normally, this would involve writing some code—a whopping one line for each button. However, as lazy developers, this is simply too much! Control binding aims to simplify this oh-so-complex process.

  First off, we'll need to create three controls: One MoviePlayer, and two PushButtons, so that your project looks something like the picture to the left.

  This setup is fairly simple. If you've had any experience with the movieplayer control, then you probably know how you could implement this. Open the code editor, and put MoviePlayer1.Start in the Start button's Action event, and MoviePlayer1.Stop in the Stop button's Action event. However, I have a far more interesting way of doing this: one that doesn't even involve opening the code editor!

  First off, select the Start button. Next, hold down the Command and Shift keys, and drag it onto the MoviePlayer control. A line will appear, and the movieplayer will be hilighted with a blue border. Let go of the mouse button. This dialog will (hopefully) appear:

  Since we want the first button to play the movie, select the first option in the list.

  Next, do the exact same things for the stop button, except make it stop the movie. When you choose OK, your window should like like the picture to the right. If you drag a movie into the project, and set the movieplayer's Movie property (in the properties window) to that movie, then you've got a complete project.

  Simple, huh? And you didn't need to type a single line of code!

  Personally, I think this is an extremely exciting addition. As more and more bindings are made possible, this feature will become more and more useful. Not only will it make life easier for beginners (at that point, the less code, the better), but it'll make life much simpler for everyone. Now if there were only a way to delete a binding...

Tip #13—Use Constants

  A great new feature that many people have been asking for has finally arrived: Constants. Constants are normally variables with a preset value. For example, in Visual Basic, you'd define a constant by typing in Global Const PI=3.14159. This would add a variable called PI that could be accessed from anywhere.

  RB's version of this feature is more complicated, but much more powerful. In this example, I'll show you how to use it to set the value of PI based on the type of computer that the program is being run on. For Macs and Java machines, PI will be 3.14159 (the right number). For Windows, the value will be 3.14112. (Much thanks to the mailing list for this devious idea!)

  First of all, we'll want to make a module. Constants can only exist in modules, even though there's a "constants" section in classes too.

  Open up the module, and choose "New Constant..." from the Edit menu. You should see a screen that looks something like this:

  As you can see, it's much more complicated than simply typing a value for a variable!

  First of all, type in "PI" in the name field. In the value field, type 3.14159. You must give constants a value, or RB won't recognize them.

  Now comes the fun part! Click the "Add..." button in the lower left corner. The following dialog will appear:

  From the platform menu, select "Macintosh". Then, type in 3.14159 in the Value field. Finally, click OK to add the type. You'll want to do this for Java too.

  Finally, add another constant, and select Windows from the platform menu. In the Value field, type 3.14112. Click OK. Your Constants window should look like this:

  After you click OK, your constant has been added. From now on, you can use it like a normal variable with the name PI throughout your code. However, there's also a special way to use constants. On a PushButton, make the caption a number sign (#) followed by the constant's name. The button caption will automatically become whatever value that constant is!

Tip #14 - Never underestimate the Canvas control

  In general, if someone needs a type of control that isn't available, they go running to a plugin developer, or complain to Andrew (the author of RB). This is very, very baaaadddd...

  What's the right thing to do? In general, any interface control can be rewritten as a subclass of the canvas! Already, people have made chart, table, listbox, tabpanel, painting, vector-editing, and HTML displaying subclasses of a canvas.

  And as an added bonus, if you make it yourself, then you'll just feel better about it.

Tip #15 - Use Method Overloading

  Yes, yes, you're probably saying "OverLOADING"? What is this guy talking about!? However, if you have one of the newer DR2 releases, you can create multiple versions of a method with the same name that take different parameters. For example, you could create a routine like this:

And then, make another routine like this:

  Now, both Message "Hello" and Message 100 are valid statements. You can also make routines with different numbers of parameters that are in different orders, and that sort of thing too. Nifty, huh?

Tip #16 - Use ByRef Parameters

  In DR2r37, a great new feature was added: the ByVal and ByRef keywords. These keywords, whcih will be familiar to any VB user, allow you to control how a parameter is passed to a method. Usually, this method would give you an error saying that it's "expecting an lvalue":

Sub DoSomething(s as string)
End Sub

  It gives you this error because you're not allowed to directly modify a parameter. This is because they're passed by their value. RB has no idea which variable s actually represents; it just knows its value. However, if we change the routine to this:

Sub DoSomething(ByRef s as string)
End Sub

  Then we don't get an error! S is now passed to DoSomething as a variable, not a value (specifically, it's passed BY REFerence, thus ByRef). This means that we can treat it like any normal variable, including changing its value.

  ByVal is still the default, but ByRef is a welcome feature.

Tip #17 - Radio Buttons w/o frames

  If you've ever worked with the RadioButton control, you know that it's a major pain. Only one can be selected at once, unless you add ugly looking frames to your window, like so:

  However, this grouping system also works if the frames are invisible (sort of like tab panels–see "Tabs, but no panels"). So, if we make both of the frames invisible, we could make a nicer interface–like this:

  Sure, your window may look ugly in the editor, but the finished work is much nicer, and that's all that really matters.

Tip #18 — Flicker-free editfields

  If you've ever made a program where text is constantly being added to a text field (like in a chat program), you'll know just how much Edit fields flicker. You may have thought it was unavoidable, but there is a trick!
  Normally, to append something to an edit field, you'd use something like this:

 TxtChat.Text = TxtChat.Text + "Dan Vanderkam: RB Monthly rules!"

  However, this would make the edit field flicker, especially if there was more info above what was being added. There is a trick though. This is the code for it:

 TxtChat.SelStart = Len(TxtChat.Text)
 TxtChat.SelText = "Dan Vanderkam: RB Monthly rules!"

  This method, believe it or not, guarantees that almost NO flickering takes place. And, as an added bonus, it scrolls down to the end of the text. Here's what it does:

  1) The first line moves the insertion point to the end (which is given by the len function).
  2) The second line adds the text at the insertion point.

  So, it's two easy steps to flicker-free text. (Hey! That rhymes!)

                  Thanks to Ian L. for this one!

Tip #19 - Make a Help Menu

  When the Apple Guide (now Help) menu made its debut in System 7.5, it wasn't used by many applications. However, it's caught on quite a bit since then, and many applications, like Netscape, put a whole hord of items in that menu.Wouldn't it be nice if that could be done in RB? Well, it can!

  While creating release note summaries for DR1r4-DR1r35a (check out RBM's new compilation page), I stumbled across a particularly interesting note in DR1r23 (released on 11/11/97):

  * Added new NotePlayer control (see new documentation)
  * Added help menu support (create a menu called Help)
  * Added new Resource fork object for accessing resources (see new documentation)

  While the first and last notes seem rather funny now, the middle one is something that most people (including myself) didn't know about. It's fairly self-explanatory. As the screenshot shows, you create a menu called "Help", and put various items in it. Then, put in any appropriate menu handlers and enablers, and your application has commands in the actual Help/Apple Guide menu. Amazing!

Tip #20 - Dragging code onto controls

  RB's code editor definitely supports drag and drop, but so do its controls! At least pushbuttons do, anyway. In my continuing search for features added in DR1 that everyone has forgotten about, I found that you can drag text from the code editor on to a pushbutton! As this nice picture shows, it's quite simple. This feature, believe it or not, has been around since DR1r35a! Even more oddly, it has received absolutely no attention from REAL SW since then. Therefore, it only works for pushbuttons, but it's still pretty neat, and occasionally saves time.

Tip #21 - Write multiple lines in the IDE

   As I mentioned in the news this month, DR2r70 sported a new button next to every string property that lets you type in a value in a dialog identical to the "Edit List" one. Howevere, you don't need r70 to do this.

  In any version of RB, from DR1 on up, you can type up some text in a word processor, like SimpleText, and copy them. Then, select the property, and paste the text in. It can be as long as you want, and have as many line breaks as you need. The window editor won't display it properly, but it looks great when you run the program.

This looks icky, OK?

Tip #22 - Morph BevelButtons

  The bevel button control can obviously be used as a button. However, if you set its bevel property to something higher than 2, you can turn it into any type of appearance manager control! These include group boxes, Spin buttons, flippy triangles, and a whole lot more. Only a few are very useful, but here are all the possible values:

0-2 Small, Medium, and Large bevelbuttons
16 A slider with a left facing thumb.
20 A slider with a right facing thumb.
24 A slider with a rectangular thumb.
32 A right facing flippy triangle.
33 A left facing flippy triangle.
48 A progressbar
64 A spin button
80 Spinning arrows
96 A placard
112 A seperator bar
128 A groupbox
129 A groupbox with a checkbox. Use the value property to check/uncheck it.
217-8 Time controls.

Tip #23 - Add Finder balloon help

  Nobody has ever accused balloon help of being overused, but many programs (particularly QuickTime) display some info when you move the mouse over their icon in the Finder. Adding this type of your help isn't as simple as adding regular balloon help in RB, but it's still not hard.

  Just compile your program, and add an "hfdr" resource with an ID of 18. Using a template such as Resorcerer's, you can make this resource contain a string, point to a string elsewhere in the file, use styled text, or even contain a picture!

Tip #24 - Put non-controls in a window

  In 2.x, you can put just about anything in a window–even a class that has nothing to do with a control. Doing this makes it much easier for you to access the class's properties and methods. And, as an added bonus, if you click the "Visible" checkbox in the properties dialog, you can make the class's properties appear in the properties window! Now if only that worked for control subclasses…

Tip #25 - Draw a window

  In 2.x, every window sports a new method: DrawInto. This method takes three parameters: a graphics object, and an x and y coordinate. Using it, you can draw the content of the window into a graphics object.

Tip #26 - Use Graphics Exporting

  A new feature in 2.1 is the QTGraphicsExporter class. Using this, you can easily save a picture object into a file using a variety of formats. And unlike the ExportPicture function, they don't require you to show a save dialog (though you can). To create a graphics exporter, use the GetQTGraphicsExporter function. It takes a four letter string which corresponds to the type code of the file that you want to save. For example, PICT is for PICT, JPEG is for JPEG, and so on. After this, you can use the rest of the class's methods to manipulate the image, and eventually save it:

Tip #27 - Put a placard behind a window

  Plain document windows don't really look that great in OS 8. To spruce them up, many programs put a placard at the back of the window to give it a beveled look. This is easy enough to do in RB (see the screenshot), and it'll really improve the look of the window.

  There is one problem though: it may not seem possible to select the window itself (after all, there isn't any space that doesn't have a control). Fear not though, simply click on a control, and then shift-click to deselect it. The window is now editable from the properties window.

Tip #28 - Use LockLeft, LockRight, etc.

  Making a window resize correctly is a pain.You have to manually write code in the resize event to move and change the size of each control. Right? Nope! All controls have four properties that will help you: LockLeft, LockRight, LockTop, and LockBottom. How do they work? Pretty simple. This diagram should help. Left is LockLeft, Right is LockRight, and so on. Bot stands for Bottom and Rgt stands for right.

  If we set the Lock properties as this window instructs us, all the buttons will resize on their own.

  What do the values stand for? They LOCK the distance from the edge that you specify. For example, the bottom right button will always be the exact same distance from the bottom edge and the right edge if its LockRight and LockBottom properties are checked. What if LockTop and LockBottom are both checked? The control will resize, just like the controls that aren't on corners do in this window. This should save you a LOT of code, but if you stlill need to use the Resize event, remember that controls with Lock properties checked are resized before Resized is fired.

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