Creating a Custom View

The NSView class acts mainly as an abstract superclass; generally you create instances of its subclasses, not of NSView itself. NSView provides the general mechanism for displaying content on the screen and for handling mouse and keyboard events, but its instances lack the ability to actually draw anything. If your application needs to display content or handle mouse and keyboard events in a specific manner, you'll need to create a custom subclass of NSView.

In order to provide a concrete example, this chapter describes the implementation of DraggableItemView, a subclass of NSView. The DraggableItemView class displays a simple item and allows the user to drag it within the view. The view also supports moving the item by pressing the arrow keys and setting the color of the item. It provides key-value-coding compliance for the location of the item, its color, and the background color of the view. The class illustrates the following view programming tasks:

The DragItemAround source code is available through Apple Developer Connection.

Allocating the View

Applications create a new instance of a view object using initWithFrame:, the designated initializer for the NSView class. A subclass can specify another method as its designated initializer, but the initWithFrame: method must provide the basic functionality required. As an example, the NSTextView implementation of initWithFrame: creates the entire collection of container objects associated with an NSTextView instance while the designated initializer, initWithFrame:textContainer: expects the underlying container objects to be provided explicitly. The initWithFrame: method creates the collection, and then calls initWithFrame:textContainer:. Your custom classes should take the same approach.

The DraggableItemView class overrides initWithFrame: and sets the exposed properties of the draggable item to the default values, as shown in Listing 4-1.

Listing 4-1  DraggableItemView implementation of initWithFrame:

- (id)initWithFrame:(NSRect)frame {
    self = [super initWithFrame:frame];
    if (self) {
          // setup the initial properties of the
          // draggable item
          [self setItemPropertiesToDefault:self];
    return self;

The code for initializing the item color, background color, and location of the draggable item is factored into a separate method. This allows the item's properties to be reset to their default values, shown later. The implementation in Listing 4-2 simply calls the accessor methods for the properties, providing the default values.

Listing 4-2  DraggableItemView implementation of setItemPropertiesToDefault:

- (void)setItemPropertiesToDefault:sender
    [self setLocation:NSMakePoint(0.0,0.0)];
    [self setItemColor:[NSColor redColor]];
    [self setBackgroundColor:[NSColor whiteColor]];

Initializing View Instances Created in Interface Builder

View instances that are created in Interface Builder don't call initWithFrame: when their nib files are loaded, which often causes confusion. Remember that Interface Builder archives an object when it saves a nib file, so the view instance will already have been created and initWithFrame: will already have been called.

The awakeFromNib method provides an opportunity to provide initialization of a view when it is created as a result of a nib file being loaded. When a nib file that contains a view object is loaded, each view instance receives an awakeFromNib message when all the objects have been unarchived. This provides the object an opportunity to initialize any attributes that are not archived with the object in Interface Builder. The DraggableItemView class is extremely simple, and doesn't implement awakeFromNib.

There are two exceptions to the initWithFrame: behavior when creating view instances in Interface Builder. Its important to understand these exceptions to ensure that your views initialize properly.

If you have not created an Interface Builder palette for your custom view, there are two techniques you can use to create instances of your subclass within Interface Builder. The first is using the Custom View proxy item in the Interface Builder containers palette. This view is a stand-in for your custom view, allowing you to position and size the view relative to other views. You then specify the subclass of NSView that the view represents using the inspector. When the nib file is loaded by the application, the custom view proxy creates a new instance of the specified view subclass and initializes it using the initWithFrame: method, passing along any autoresizing flags as necessary. The view instance then receives an awakeFromNib message.

The second technique applies when your custom subclass inherits from a view that Interface Builder provides direct support for. To take advantage of Interface Builder’s built-in support, create an instance of the view that Interface Builder has direct support for, and then use the inspector to change the class name to your custom subclass. For example, you can create an NSScrollView instance in Interface Builder and specify that a custom subclass (MyScrollView) should be used instead, again using the inspector. In this case, when the nib file is loaded by the application, the view instance has already been created and the MyScrollView implementation of initWithFrame: is never called. The MyScrollView instance receives an awakeFromNib message and can configure itself accordingly.

Drawing View Content

Rather than drawing immediately when it determines that drawing is necessary, Cocoa uses a deferred drawing mechanism. An application typically marks a view or a portion of a view as requiring update. At the end of the event loop or in response to an explicit display request, the view machinery locks focus on the view and calls the view's drawRect: method to cause the view to be redrawn. By coalescing update requests in this manner, an application can reduce redundant drawing, increasing performance.

If you need to force immediate drawing of a view, send the view one of the display... messages declared by both NSView and NSWindow. You can also lock focus on a view yourself, draw something, and then unlock focus. However, posting deferred drawing requests through the setNeedsDisplay: or setNeedsDisplayInRect: methods is the preferred approach because it is more efficient.

In addition to drawing to the screen, views are responsible for providing the content when printing. As with displaying to the screen, the Application Kit locks focus on the view and calls the view's drawRect: method. While it is drawing a view can determine if it is drawing to the screen or another device and customize its output appropriately. Views can also customize their printed output by adding headers and footers as well as customizing pagination. See Printing Programming Guide for Mac for more information on the Cocoa printing architecture and views.

Implementing the drawRect: Method

In order for a concrete subclass of NSView to display any kind of content, it need only implement the drawRect: method. This method is invoked during the display process to generate code that’s rendered by the window server into a raster image. drawRect: takes a single argument, a rectangle describing the area that needs to be drawn in the receiver’s own coordinate system.

The DraggableItemView implementation of drawRect: fills the bounds of the view with the specified background color. It then calculates the bounds of the draggable item (Listing 4-3) and fills it with the specified color.

Listing 4-3  DraggableItemView implementation of calculatedItemBounds:

- (NSRect)calculatedItemBounds
    NSRect calculatedRect;
    // calculate the bounds of the draggable item
    // relative to the location
    // the example assumes that the width and height
    // are fixed values
    return calculatedRect;

The complete implementation of drawRect: is shown in Listing 4-4.

Listing 4-4  DraggableItemView implementation of drawRect:

- (void)drawRect:(NSRect)rect
    // erase the background by drawing white
    [[NSColor whiteColor] set];
    [NSBezierPath fillRect:rect];
    // set the current color for the draggable item
    [[self itemColor] set];
    // draw the draggable item
    [NSBezierPath fillRect:[self calculatedItemBounds]];

Sending drawing instructions and data to the window server has a cost, and it’s best to minimize that cost where possible. You can do this by testing whether a particular graphic shape intersects the rectangle that the drawRect: method is asked to draw. See “Optimizing View Drawing” for more information, as well as additional performance recommendations.

Marking a View as Needing Display

The most common way of causing a view to redisplay is to tell it that its image is invalid. On each pass through the event loop, all views that need to redisplay do so. NSView defines two methods for marking a view’s image as invalid: setNeedsDisplay:, which invalidates the view’s entire bounds rectangle, and setNeedsDisplayInRect:, which invalidates a portion of the view. The automatic display of views is controlled by their window; you can turn this behavior off using the NSWindow setAutodisplay: method. You should rarely need to do this, however; the autodisplay mechanism is well suited to most kinds of update and redisplay.

The autodisplay mechanism invokes various methods that actually do the work of displaying. You can also use these methods to force a view to redisplay itself immediately when necessary. display and displayRect: are the counterparts to the methods mentioned above; both cause the receiver to redisplay itself regardless of whether it needs to or not. Two additional methods, displayIfNeeded and displayIfNeededInRect:, redisplay invalidated rectangles in the receiver if it’s been marked invalid with the methods above. The rectangles that actually get drawn are guaranteed to be at least those marked as invalid, but the view may coalesce them into larger rectangles to save multiple invocations of drawRect:.

If you want to exclude background views from drawing when forcing display to occur unconditionally, you can use NSView methods that explicitly omit backing up to an opaque ancestor. These methods, are displayRectIgnoringOpacity:, displayIfNeededIgnoringOpacity, and displayIfNeededInRectIgnoringOpacity:.

In the DraggableItemView example, setNeedsDisplayInRect: is called when the draggable item's location is set explicitly, when the location is being offset, and when the item's color is changed. When the background color is set, the entire view is marked as needing display.

From a design perspective, especially with the Model-View-Controller pattern in mind, it is best to ensure that calls to the display... methods be generated by the view itself, its superview, or a subview, rather than a controller or model object. It is better to inform the view that a model value is about to change, change the model value, and then inform the view that the change has occurred. This allows the view to invalidate the appropriate rectangles before and after the changes. Key-value observing and its change notification design is tailor-made for this use. See Key-Value Observing Programming Guide for more information.

View Opacity

The display... methods must find an opaque background behind the view that requires displaying and begin drawing from there forward. The display... methods search up the view hierarchy to locate the first view that responds YES to an isOpaque message, bringing the invalidated rectangles along.

If a view instance can guarantee that it will fill all the pixels within its bounds using opaque colors, it should implement the method isOpaque, returning YES. The NSView implementation of isOpaque returns NO. Subclasses should override this method to return YES if all pixels within the view's content will be drawn opaquely.

The isOpaque method is called during drawing, and may be called several times for a given view in a drawing pass. Subclasses should avoid computationally intensive calculations in their implementation of the isOpaque method. Simple tests–for example determining if the background color is opaque as the DraggableItemView does–are acceptable. The DraggableItemView implementation is shown in Listing 4-5.

Listing 4-5  DraggableItemView implementation of isOpaque

- (BOOL)isOpaque
    // If the background color is opaque, return YES
    // otherwise, return NO
    return [[self backgroundColor] alphaComponent] >= 1.0 ? YES : NO;

Responding to User Events and Actions

Views are typically the receivers of most event and action messages. An NSView subclass overrides the appropriate event handling methods declared by the NSResponder class. When an instance of the custom view instance is the first responder, it receives the event messages as they are posted, before other objects. Similarly, by implementing the action methods, often sent by other user interface objects such as menu items, when the custom view instance is the first responder, it receives those messages. See Cocoa Event Handling Guide for a complete discussion on event handling and the responder chain.

Event messages are passed up the responder chain from the first responder. For all views, with the exception of a window's content view, a view's next responder is its superview. When view instances are inserted into the view hierarchy the next responder is set automatically. You should never send the setNextResponder: message directly to a view object. If you need to add objects to the responder chain, you should add them at the top of a window's responder chain—by subclassing NSWindow itself if it has no delegate, or the delegate class if it does.

As the class that handles display, NSView is typically the recipient of mouse and keyboard events. Mouse events start at the view that the click occurs in, and are passed up the responder chain. Keyboard events start at the first responder and are passed up the responder chain.

Becoming First Responder

A view that is the first responder receives key events and action messages before other objects. Views can advertise that they can become the first responder by overriding the acceptsFirstResponder message and returning YES. The default NSResponder implementation returns NO. If a view is not the first responder it receives only mouse-down messages. Because the DraggableItemView object responds to basic key-down events, as well as the NSResponder action messages that are generated in response to pressing the arrow keys, it returns YES for acceptsFirstResponder as shown in Listing 4-6.

Listing 4-6  DraggableItemView implementation of acceptsFirstResponder

- (BOOL)acceptsFirstResponder
    return YES;

A view receives a becomeFirstResponder message when the window attempts to make the view first responder. The default implementation of this method always returns YES. Similarly, when a view will resign as first responder it receives a resignFirstResponder message. To resign first responder status, resignFirstResponder returns YES. There may be valid reasons for a view to decline resigning first responder status, for example if an action is incomplete.

If a view becomes the first responder specifically to accept key events or NSResponder actions, it should reflect this by drawing a focus ring. The focus ring informs the user which object is the current first responder for key events.

Views that can become first responder and handle key events typically take part in the key view loop of a window. The key-view loop allows the user to switch between views in a window by pressing the Tab or Shift-Tab keys. NSView provides a number of methods for setting and getting the views in the key-view loop. Most often the key-view loop ordering is set in Interface Builder by connecting a view to another view's nextKeyView outlet.

Handling Mouse Click and Dragging Events

Custom view subclasses can interpret mouse events in any way that is appropriate. Button type views send a target-action message, whereas clicking in a drawing view might select a graphic. There are four basic types of mouse events passed to a view: mouse down, mouse dragging, mouse up, and mouse movement.

By default a view does not receive mouse-down events if it isn't in the frontmost window, referred to as the key window. By overriding the acceptsFirstMouse: method and returning YES, the window becomes the key window immediately and acts upon the mouse-down.

Mouse-down events are sent when the user presses the mouse button while the cursor is in a view. If the window containing the view is not the key window, the window becomes the key window and discards the mouse-down event. An application can change this behavior, causing the initial mouse-down to make the window key and be passed to the appropriate view by overriding the acceptsFirstMouse: method and returning YES.

The window determines which view in the view hierarchy to send the mouse-down event using the NSView method hitTest:. Once the correct view is located, it is sent a mouseDown: event. There are corresponding mouse-down events posted for actions made with the right mouse button, as well as with other mouse buttons using the rightMouseDown: and otherMouseDown: methods respectively. The location of the mouse event in the coordinate system of the receiver's window is returned by sending the event object passed to the mouseDown: method a locationInWindow message. To translate the point to the view's coordinate system, use the method convertPoint:fromView: passing nil as the view parameter. Listing 4-7 illustrates the DraggableItemView subclass's implementation of the mouseDown: method.

Listing 4-7  DraggableItemView implementation of mouseDown:

-(void)mouseDown:(NSEvent *)event
    NSPoint clickLocation;
    BOOL itemHit=NO;
    // convert the mouse-down location into the view coords
    clickLocation = [self convertPoint:[event locationInWindow]
    // did the mouse-down occur in the item?
    itemHit = [self isPointInItem:clickLocation];
    // Yes it did, note that we're starting to drag
    if (itemHit) {
    // flag the instance variable that indicates
    // a drag was actually started
    // store the starting mouse-down location;
    // set the cursor to the closed hand cursor
    // for the duration of the drag
    [[NSCursor closedHandCursor] push];

This implementation gets the mouse-down location and converts it to the view's coordinate system. Since the dragging item subclass allows the user to drag the item only when the mouse-down event occurs in the draggable rectangle, the implementation calls the isPointInItem: method, shown in Listing 4-8 to test whether the mouse-down was within the draggable item's bounds. If it is, the dragging instance variable is set to YES to note that the view should not ignore mouseDragged: events. To better reflect to the user that a drag is in progress the cursor is set to the closed hand cursor.

Listing 4-8  DraggableItemView implementation of isPointInItem:

- (BOOL)isPointInItem:(NSPoint)testPoint
    BOOL itemHit=NO;
    // test first if we're in the rough bounds
    itemHit = NSPointInRect(testPoint,[self calculatedItemBounds]);
    // yes, lets further refine the testing
    if (itemHit) {
    // if this was a non-rectangular shape, you would refine
    // the hit testing here
    return itemHit;

Notice that the mouseDown: implementation in Listing 4-7 does not call the super implementation. The NSView class's default implementation for the mouse handling events are inherited from NSResponder and pass the event up the responder chain for handling, bypassing the view in question entirely. Typically a custom NSView subclass should not call the super implementation of any of the mouse-event methods.

Views often need to track the dragging of the mouse after a mouse-down event is received. While the mouse button is held down and the mouse moves, the view receives mouseDragged: messages. The DraggableItemView implementation of mouseDragged: is shown in Listing 4-9.

Listing 4-9  DraggableItemView implementation of mouseDragged:

-(void)mouseDragged:(NSEvent *)event
    if (dragging) {
       NSPoint newDragLocation=[self convertPoint:[event locationInWindow]
       // offset the item by the change in mouse movement
       // in the event
       [self offsetLocationByX:(newDragLocation.x-lastDragLocation.x)
       // save the new drag location for the next drag event
       // support automatic scrolling during a drag
       // by calling NSView's autoscroll: method
       [self autoscroll:event];

The view instance receives all the mouse-dragged notifications for the view, but the subclass is only interested in drag events that were initiated by mouse-down events in the draggable item itself. By testing the instance variable dragging, the view can determine whether the drag should be acted upon. If so, then the draggable item is offset by the change in mouse location since the last mouse event, which is tracked by the class's instance variable lastDragLocation.

The offsetLocationByX:andY: method called by the mouseDragged: method is shown in Listing 4-10. It marks the draggable item's area as needing display before and after altering the item's location by the requested amount. If the view returns YES when sent an isFlipped message, the offset in the vertical direction is multiplied by -1 to correspond to the flipped view coordinates. In the DraggableItemView implementation the code is factored into its own method because it will be reused later.

Listing 4-10  DraggableItemView implementation of offsetLocationByX:andY:

- (void)offsetLocationByX:(float)x andY:(float)y
    // tell the display to redraw the old rect
    [self setNeedsDisplayInRect:[self calculatedItemBounds]];
    // since the offset can be generated by both mouse moves
    // and moveUp:, moveDown:, etc.. actions, we'll invert
    // the deltaY amount based on if the view is flipped or
    // not.
    int invertDeltaY = [self isFlipped] ? -1: 1;
    // invalidate the new rect location so that it'll
    // be redrawn
    [self setNeedsDisplayInRect:[self calculatedItemBounds]];

Finally, when the mouse button is released, the view receives a mouseUp: message. The DraggableItemView implementation shown in Listing 4-11 updates the dragging instance variable to indicate that the dragging action has completed and resets the cursor. The invalidateCursorRectsForView: message is discussed at the end of this section.

Listing 4-11  DraggableItemView implementation of mouseUp:

-(void)mouseUp:(NSEvent *)event
    // finished dragging, restore the cursor
    [NSCursor pop];
    // the item has moved, we need to reset our cursor
    // rectangle
    [[self window] invalidateCursorRectsForView:self];

A second technique for handling mouse dragging is sometimes used, commonly referred to as “short circuiting” the event loop. An application can implement the mouseDown: method and loop continuously, collecting mouse-dragged events until the mouse-up event is received. Events that do not match the event mask remain in the event queue and are handled when the loop exists.

If the DraggableItemView class were to implement the same behavior using this technique, it would only implement the mouseDown: method, eliminating the mouseDragged: and mouseUp: method implementations. The mouseDown: implementation shown in Listing 4-12 uses the “short circuiting” technique.

Listing 4-12  Alternate mouseDown: implementation

-(void)mouseDown:(NSEvent *)event
    BOOL loop = YES;
    NSPoint clickLocation;
    // convert the initial mouse-down location into the view coords
    clickLocation = [self convertPoint:[event locationInWindow]
    // did the mouse-down occur in the draggable item?
    if ([self isPointInItem:clickLocation]) {
        // we're dragging, so let's set the cursor
    // to the closed hand
    [[NSCursor closedHandCursor] push];
    NSPoint newDragLocation;
    // the tight event loop pattern doesn't require the use
    // of any instance variables, so we'll use a local
    // variable localLastDragLocation instead.
    NSPoint localLastDragLocation;
    // save the starting location as the first relative point
    while (loop) {
        // get the next event that is a mouse-up or mouse-dragged event
        NSEvent *localEvent;
        localEvent= [[self window] nextEventMatchingMask:NSLeftMouseUpMask | NSLeftMouseDraggedMask];
        switch ([localEvent type]) {
        case NSLeftMouseDragged:
            // convert the new drag location into the view coords
            newDragLocation = [self convertPoint:[localEvent locationInWindow]
            // offset the item and update the display
            [self offsetLocationByX:(newDragLocation.x-localLastDragLocation.x)
            // update the relative drag location;
            // support automatic scrolling during a drag
            // by calling NSView's autoscroll: method
            [self autoscroll:localEvent];
        case NSLeftMouseUp:
            // mouse up has been detected,
            // we can exit the loop
            loop = NO;
            // finished dragging, restore the cursor
            [NSCursor pop];
            // the rectangle has moved, we need to reset our cursor
            // rectangle
            [[self window] invalidateCursorRectsForView:self];
            // Ignore any other kind of event.

Tracking Mouse Movements

In addition to mouse-down, mouse-dragged, and mouse-up events, a view can also receive mouse-moved events. Mouse-moved events allow the view to track the location of the cursor whenever it is located above the view. By default, views don't receive mouse-moved events because they can occur very often, as a result clogging the event queue.

Mouse-moved events are initiated by the NSWindow instance that contains a view. In order for a view to receive mouse-moved events, it must explicitly request them by sending its window a setAcceptsMouseMovedEvents: message, passing YES as the parameter. When enabled, a view receives mouseMoved: events whenever the cursor is located within the view. Unfortunately, it is not possible to enable mouse-moved events for a single view using this technique.

The NSView class allows a view instance to register tracking rectangles. Registering an object as the owner of a tracking rectangle causes the owner to receive mouseEntered: and mouseExited: messages as the cursor enters and exists the rectangle. An application registers tracking rectangles using the NSView method addTrackingRect:owner:userData:assumeInside:. The tracking rectangle is provided in the view's coordinate system, and the owner is the object that will receive the mouseEntered: and mouseExited: messages. The userData parameter is any arbitrary object that will be provided as the userData object in the NSEvent object passed to the mouseEntered: and mouseExited: methods. The assumeInside parameter indicates whether the cursor should be assumed to be inside the tracking rectangle initially. The method returns a tracking tag that identifies the tracking rectangle, and the tracking tag is used to unregister the owner for tracking notifications using the method removeTrackingRect:. An application can register tracking rectangles only for views that are currently displayed in a window.

Although tracking rectangles are created and used by views, they are actually maintained by a view's window. As a result, tracking rectangles do not automatically move or resize when the view does. It is a subclass's responsibility to remove and re-register tracking rectangles when the frame of the view changes or it is inserted as a subview. This is commonly done by overriding the NSView method resetCursorRects.

NSView also provides methods to support a common use of tracking rectangles; changing the cursor as a result of the mouse entering a rectangle. The addCursorRect:cursor: method allows you to register a rectangle using the view's coordinate system and specify the cursor that should be displayed while the mouse is over that rectangle. Cursor rectangles are volatile. When the view's window resizes, the frame or bounds of a view changes, the view is moved in the hierarchy, or the view is scrolled, the view receives a resetCursorRects message. Subclasses should override resetCursorRects and register any required cursor rectangles and tracking rectangles in that method. The removeCursorRect:cursor: method allows you to explicitly remove a cursor rectangle that matches the provided parameters exactly. The discardCursorRects method removes all the cursor rectangles for a view.

The DraggableItemView provides visual feedback that the cursor is over the draggable item by changing the cursor to the open handle. The implementation of resetCursorRects, shown in Listing 4-13, discards all the current cursor rectangles and adds a new cursor rectangle for the draggable item's bounds.

Listing 4-13  DraggableItemView implementation of resetCursorRects

    // remove the existing cursor rects
    [self discardCursorRects];
    // add the draggable item's bounds as a cursor rect
    // clip the draggable item's bounds to the view's visible rect
    NSRect clippedItemBounds = NSIntersectionRect([self visibleRect], [self calculatedItemBounds]);
    // if the clipped item bounds isn't empty then the item is at least partially
    // in the visible rect. Register the clipped item bounds
    if (!NSIsEmptyRect(clippedItemBounds)) {
         [self addCursorRect:clippedItemBounds cursor:[NSCursor openHandCursor]];

Adding a cursor rectangle for a view does not automatically restrict the cursor rectangle to the visible area of the view. You must do this yourself by finding the intersection of the proposed cursor rectangle with the view's visible rectangle. If the resulting rectangle is not empty it should be passed as the first argument to the addCursorRect:cursor: method.

You should never call resetCursorRects directly; instead send the view's window an invalidateCursorRectsForView: message, passing the appropriate view. The DraggableItemView object needs to reset its cursor rectangle each time the draggable item moves. The mouseUp: implementation shown in Listing 4-11 sends the view's window an invalidateCursorRectsForView: message, passing the view itself as the parameter. Likewise, in the version of mouseDown: that short circuits the event loop, shown in Listing 4-12, the invalidateCursorRectsForView: message is sent when the mouse-up event is detected.

Handling Key Events in a View

As discussed in “Becoming First Responder,” a view receives key-down events only if it overrides acceptsFirstResponder and returns YES. Because the DraggableItemView object responds to user key-presses, the class overrides this method and returns YES.

There are two key-down related methods provided by NSResponder: the methods keyDown: and performKeyEquivalent:. NSResponder also declares a number of responder actions that are triggered by key-down events. These actions map specific keystrokes to common actions. By implementing the appropriate action methods, you can bypass overriding the more complicated keyDown: method.

Your custom view should override the performKeyEquivalent: method if your view reacts to simple key equivalents. An example usage of a key equivalent is setting the Return key as the key equivalent of a button. When the user presses Return, the button acts as though it had been clicked. A subclass's implementation of performKeyEquivalent: should return YES if it has handled the key event, NO if it should be passed up the event chain. If a view implements performKeyEquivalent:, it typically does not also implement keyDown:.

The DraggableItemView class overrides the keyDown: method, shown in Listing 4-14, which allows the user to press the R key to reset the position of the draggable rectangle to the origin of the view.

Listing 4-14  DraggableItemView implementation of keyDown:

- (void)keyDown:(NSEvent *)event
    BOOL handled = NO;
    NSString  *characters;
    // get the pressed key
    characters = [event charactersIgnoringModifiers];
    // is the "r" key pressed?
    if ([characters isEqual:@"r"]) {
        // Yes, it is
        handled = YES;
        // reset the rectangle
        [self setItemPropertiesToDefault:self];
    if (!handled)
        [super keyDown:event];

A view handles the NSResponder action methods by simply implementing the appropriate method. The DraggableItemView class implements four of these methods, corresponding to the up, down, left, and right movement actions. The implementations are shown in Listing 4-15.

Listing 4-15  DraggableItemView implementation of moveUp:, moveDown:, moveLeft:, and moveRight: actions

    [self offsetLocationByX:0 andY: 10.0];
    [[self window] invalidateCursorRectsForView:self];
    [self offsetLocationByX:0 andY:-10.0];
    [[self window] invalidateCursorRectsForView:self];
    [self offsetLocationByX:-10.0 andY:0.0];
    [[self window] invalidateCursorRectsForView:self];
    [self offsetLocationByX:10.0 andY:0.0];
    [[self window] invalidateCursorRectsForView:self];

Each of the methods in Listing 4-15 offset the draggable item's location in the appropriate direction using the offsetLocationByX:andY: method, passing the amount to offset the rectangle. The vertical offset is adjusted by the offsetLocationByX:andY: implementation as appropriate if the view is flipped. After moving the rectangle, each method invalidates the cursor rectangles. This functionality could also have been implemented in keyDown: directly by examining the Unicode character of the pressed key, detecting the arrow keys, and acting accordingly. However, using the responder action methods allow the commands to be remapped by the user.

Handling Action Methods via the Responder Chain

NSResponder isn't the only class that can generate events on the responder chain. Any control that implements target-action methods can send those actions through the responder chain rather than to a specific object by connecting the control to the first responder proxy in Interface Builder and specifying the action. A detailed discussion of sending action messages through the responder chain is available in "“The Responder Chain” in Cocoa Event Handling Guide" in Cocoa Event Handling Guide.

The DraggableItemView class implements the changeColor: method that is sent through the responder chain when the color is changed in a Color panel. Listing 4-16 shows the DraggableItemView implementation of changeColor:.

Listing 4-16  DraggableItemView implementation of changeColor:

- (void)changeColor:(id)sender
    // Set the color in response
    // to the color changing in the Color panel.
    // get the new color by asking the sender, the Color panel
    [self setItemColor:[sender color]];

When the Color panel is visible and an instance of the DraggableItemView class is the first responder, changing the color in the Color panel causes the rectangle to change color.

Property Accessor Methods

Classes should provide key-value-coding-compliant accessor methods for all their public properties. This provides a published interface to other objects that need to set the various display aspects of the view. Accessor methods also enforce good design and encapsulate memory management issues, which greatly reduces the chance of memory leaks and crashes.

The DraggableItemView class implements getter and setter accessor methods for the following properties: itemColor, backgroundColor, and location. Each of the setter accessor methods test to see if the new value is different from the current value and, if it is, saves the new value and marks the view as needing to redisplay the appropriate portion. In addition, the setLocation: method also invalidates the cursor tracking rectangle when the location changes.

Listing 4-17  DraggableItemView accessor methods

- (void)setItemColor:(NSColor *)aColor
    if (![itemColor isEqual:aColor]) {
        [itemColor release];
        itemColor = [aColor retain];
        // if the colors are not equal, mark the
        // draggable rect as needing display
        [self setNeedsDisplayInRect:[self calculatedItemBounds]];
- (NSColor *)itemColor
    return [[itemColor retain] autorelease];
- (void)setBackgroundColor:(NSColor *)aColor
    if (![backgroundColor isEqual:aColor]) {
        [backgroundColor release];
        backgroundColor = [aColor retain];
        // if the colors are not equal, mark the
        // draggable rect as needing display
        [self setNeedsDisplayInRect:[self calculatedItemBounds]];
- (NSColor *)backgroundColor
    return [[backgroundColor retain] autorelease];
- (void)setLocation:(NSPoint)point
    // test to see if the point actually changed
    if (!NSEqualPoints(point,location)) {
        // tell the display to redraw the old rect
        [self setNeedsDisplayInRect:[self calculatedItemBounds]];
        // reassign the rect
        // display the new rect
        [self setNeedsDisplayInRect:[self calculatedItemBounds]];
        // invalidate the cursor rects
        [[self window] invalidateCursorRectsForView:self];
- (NSPoint)location {
    return location;

Deallocating the View

The dealloc method is called when a view's retain count is zero. Your application should never call dealloc explicitly. The autorelease mechanism calls it when appropriate.

The DraggableItemView implementation of dealloc releases the display color object and calls the super implementation of dealloc.

- (void)dealloc
    [color release];
    [super dealloc];