Implementing a Simple Preference Pane

This section takes you through the steps to create a simple preference pane that interacts with the user preference system. The preference pane stores and retrieves a pair of values using Core Foundation Preference Services. If you have already created a skeletal preference pane as described in Creating a Preference Pane Bundle, you can use it here. Or, you can create a fresh preference pane and refer to the following instructions where appropriate.

Build the User Interface

The preference pane created in this section consists of a text field and a checkbox illustrating the handling of string and Boolean preferences.

  1. Open the nib file in Interface Builder.

  2. Drag a text field into the window. Label the field “A string value”.

  3. Drag a checkbox into the window. Change its label to “A Boolean value”.

  4. In the Classes pane of the main window, select your preference pane subclass.

  5. In the Attributes pane of the Info window, add two outlets named theTextField and theCheckbox.

  6. Add an action named checkboxClicked:.

  7. In the Instances pane of the main window, make connections between the File’s Owner object (representing your preference pane subclass) and the text field and checkbox, connecting them to the theTextField and theCheckbox outlets.

  8. Make a connection between the checkbox and the File’s Owner object, connecting the checkboxClicked: target-action method.

  9. Save the nib file.

  10. With your subclass highlighted in the Classes pane, choose Create Files from the Classes menu. Save the files into your project, overwriting if necessary.

Update the Header File

The default preference pane header created by Interface Builder requires a few additions.

  1. In Xcode, select the preference pane’s header file.

  2. After the line importing Cocoa.h add the lines

    #import <PreferencePanes/NSPreferencePane.h>
    #import <CoreFoundation/CoreFoundation.h>
  3. Update the outlet declarations to be

    IBOutlet NSButton    *theCheckbox;
    IBOutlet NSTextField *theTextField;
  4. Add a new instance variable to hold the application ID of the target application:

    CFStringRef appID;

Implement the initWithBundle: Method

The preference pane is initialized using the initWithBundle: method. Only the appID instance variable needs to be initialized here, but when overriding an init method, you also need to call the superclasses implementation. Add the following code to the preference pane’s implementation file.

- (id)initWithBundle:(NSBundle *)bundle
    if ( ( self = [super initWithBundle:bundle] ) != nil ) {
        appID = CFSTR(“com.mycompany.example.prefPaneSample”);
    return self;

Implement the mainViewDidLoad Method

Immediately after the nib file has been loaded, the object receives a mainViewDidLoad message from the default implementation of loadMainView. Here you should initialize the user interface elements to reflect the current preference settings. Add the following code to the implementation file.

- (void)mainViewDidLoad
    CFPropertyListRef value;
    /* Initialize the checkbox */
    value = CFPreferencesCopyAppValue( CFSTR(“Bool Value Key”),  appID );
    if ( value && CFGetTypeID(value) == CFBooleanGetTypeID()  ) {
        [theCheckbox setState:CFBooleanGetValue(value)];
    } else {
        [theCheckbox setState:NO];
    if ( value ) CFRelease(value);
    /* Initialize the text field */
    value = CFPreferencesCopyAppValue( CFSTR(“String Value Key”),  appID );
    if ( value && CFGetTypeID(value) == CFStringGetTypeID()  ) {
        [theTextField setStringValue:(NSString *)value];
    } else {
        [theTextField setStringValue:@””];
    if ( value ) CFRelease(value);

For each of the two preferences being used, mainViewDidLoad requests the preference’s value from Core Foundation Preference Services. If a value is found for the preference (value is not NULL) and the value is of the correct data type, the preferences value is used to set the value of the appropriate user interface element. If the value does not exist, it initializes the elements with default values.

Implement the checkboxClicked: Method

When the user clicks the checkbox, it sends an action message to the preference pane object. The checkboxClicked: method obtains the new state of the checkbox and stores it under the name “Bool Value Key”. Add the following code to the implementation file; an empty method definition should have been created by Interface Builder.

- (IBAction)checkboxClicked:(id)sender
    if ( [sender state] )
        CFPreferencesSetAppValue( CFSTR(“Bool Value Key”),
                    kCFBooleanTrue, appID );
        CFPreferencesSetAppValue( CFSTR(“Bool Value Key”),
                    kCFBooleanFalse, appID );

Implement the didUnselect Method

When the preference pane gets deselected, either because the application is exiting or another preference pane is selected, it is sent a didUnselect message. In this method you want to extract the user’s preferences and save the changes to disk. Since the checkbox gets recorded whenever the user clicks it, only the text field needs to be updated here. After flushing the preferences to the disk, didUnselect broadcasts a notification. The notification assumes the target application is implemented to receive this notification and update its preferences while it is running. Add the following code to the implementation file.

- (void)didUnselect
    CFNotificationCenterRef center;
    CFPreferencesSetAppValue( CFSTR(“String Value Key”),
                [theTextField stringValue], appID );
    CFPreferencesAppSynchronize( appID );
    center = CFNotificationCenterGetDistributedCenter();
            CFSTR(“Preferences Changed”), appID, NULL, TRUE);