Property List Editor in Objective-C

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Property List Editor
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In a sense you have already encountered the Property List Editor. When you choose a Plist file in the Detail pane in the Xcode Workspace you will see an editor that shows a structured view of your plist file. In fact, this file is an XML file and can also be read into a text editor like TextEdit. (However, I prefer a more sophisticated editor like TextMate
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CHAPTER 13: Support Tools for the Busy Developer
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for its color-coding. I also like the code-folding feature that allows you to collapse and hide parts of the plist structure that you don t want to look at. You can get a trial copy of TextMate from http://macromates.com/.) Figure 13 13 shows the DailyJournalInfo.plist file in both the Xcode view and in TextMate.
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Figure 13 13. DailyJournal-Info.plist open in Property List Editor and in TextMate
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Both views have their advantages (I am a great fan of plain-text views it s harder to hide problems in plain text!). Actually, the standalone Property List Editor offers few real advantages to the Xcode developer over simply using the editing panel in Xcode Workspace. However, it has one feature that you may find useful the ability to open binary .plist files. For reasons that seem to have to do with performance, Apple chose back in version 10.2 of Mac OS X to start generating .plist XML files in a binary format. Anyway, if you were to look at the plist file for a program such as TextEdit, you would find that it looks like Figure 13 14 in TextMate:
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Figure 13 14. TextEdit s plist file is in binary XML format
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That s not much use if you like a hierarchical view, or even a plain-English view. That s where Property List Editor is useful. Having read in a binary file such as this one, you
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CHAPTER 13: Support Tools for the Busy Developer
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can save it in normal text-based XML format (use the File Save To... menu item and choose XML Property List from the File Format popup). Then you can read it into any text editor.
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Adding Help Functionality
The last utility you ll be looking at in this chapter is the Help Indexer. But you ll be learning a bit more than that: this section is about building an HTML-based help system for your application, and the Help Indexer is part of that process. Have you ever reached for the Help menu in an application, only to see the terse message Help isn t available for [insert name of application here] Personally, I find it a tad unfriendly. While Mac software has an inbuilt advantage when it comes to usability (as you will see in the next chapter) it does no harm to include some helpful hints for your user about how to get the best out of your killer application.
Help in Xcode-based Applications
The collection of help pages for your application is really just a collection of web pages, in XHTML format. You can create your help system using any tool you like to make a local collection of static XHTML pages. These can include text, images, and even multimedia resources. There are great resources available in the Developer Documentation: search for Apple Help Programming for a good entry point. For this section I am going to focus on enhancing the DailyJournal application by adding a set of help pages with text and images and making them available through the Apple Help mechanism.
Creating the XHTML Pages
You can use any tool to create your pages. I use RapidWeaver, which is a great application for quickly putting together professional-looking websites. You could just as easily use Coda, BBEdit, TextMate, iWeb, or any of a host of similar tools. As always, there is some planning and setting up to do. First, here is the page layout that I decided on: there is a welcome page that describes how to create a new journal entry, and a simple menu leading to three further pages dealing with the three secondary windows (see Figure 13 15):
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