Goldenseal Pro Progress- Constraints & Beta Version (June 4)

Besides the crashing bug that we fixed recently, there has also been a long-time problem with window layouts. They functioned, but didn’t resize in a pretty way.

Apple has at least 4 different methods to position things on the screen. They started with plain old x and y coordinates, plus a springs and struts model to move things when you resize the window. Then they added constraints, a more complicated version of springs and struts. Finally they added anchors, yet another method for window setup. It’s a confusing jumble.

Last week we decided to finally get it right. But, for a while, everything we tried just made things worse. At one point, switching between tabs caused the whole window to jump around on the screen. Then we discovered setTranslatesAutoResizingMaskIntoContraints, a poorly-documented bit of magic that solves most conflicts between the different systems. After a bit more tweaking, the main window finally works like it should.

In the last post I compared Apple’s Cocoa library to Serius Developer, an unusable platform we tried briefly in the early 90s. Serius was close to fradulent, but I didn’t mean to imply that Cocoa is that way.

I think the main problem is that Apple has developed the Cocoa framework primarily to build their own apps.  Making it work well for other software companies is a relatively low priority. So, Cocoa is great for building apps that are similar to something from Apple. The more you diverge, the harder it gets.

Goldenseal Pro uses NSOutlineView to replace most of the current menu commands. It only took a week to set up, and it has worked great ever since. Apple uses that class for the Finder, so they must have really polished it. It was one of the first things we programmed 2 years ago, and the ease gave us a false sense of optimism.

Getting NSTabView to work properly was much harder. Apple uses it for Preferences, but our tabs are more complicated. Our staff has spent a couple months getting them right.

The NSTableView class that we use for breakdown tables has been a nightmare that consumed almost 3/4 of a year. Apple built a spreadsheet app, but after exploring its package I’m pretty sure that Numbers doesn’t use NSTableView.  With hindsight, we probably should have adapted our existing table code for breakdowns, and ignored NSTableView.

At any rate, our staff has fixed all the big problems. Goldenseal Pro is stable enough that we just started to use it to run our own business. There are plenty of small bugs still lurking, but they don’t take long to fix. Daily use is now daily testing. Eating our own dog food.

When the app stops being frustrating, we will release a public beta version. Best guess: in a month or so.

Dennis Kolva
Programming Director


Author: Dennis Kolva

Programming Director for Turtle Creek Software. Design & planning of accounting and estimating software.