Cocoa Basics

As with all application environments, Cocoa presents two faces; it has a runtime aspect and a development aspect. In its runtime aspect, Cocoa applications present the user interface and are tightly integrated with the other visible portions of the operating system; on Mac OS X, these include the Finder, the Dock, and other applications from all environments.
But it is the development aspect that is the more interesting one to programmers. Cocoa is an integrated suite of object-oriented software components—classes—that enables you to rapidly create robust, full-featured Mac OS X applications. These classes are reusable and adaptable software building blocks; you can use them as-is or extend them for your specific requirements. Cocoa classes exist for just about every conceivable development necessity, from user-interface objects to data formatting, and where a need hasn’t been anticipated, you can easily create a subclass of an existing class that answers that need.
Cocoa has one of the most distinguished pedigrees of any object-oriented development environment. From its introduction as NeXTSTEP in 1989 to the present day, it has been continually refined and tested . Its elegant and powerful design is ideally suited for the rapid development of software of all kinds, not only applications but command-line tools, plug-ins, and various types of bundles. Cocoa gives your application much of its behavior and appearance “for free,” freeing up more of your time to work on those features that are distinctive.

You may use several programming languages when developing Cocoa software, but the essential, required language is Objective-C. Objective-C is a superset of ANSI C that has been extended with certain syntactical and semantic features (derived from Smalltalk) to support object-oriented programming. The few added conventions are simple and easy to learn and use. Because Objective-C rests on a foundation of ANSI C, you can freely intermix straight C code with Objective-C code. Moreover, your code can call functions defined in non-Cocoa programmatic interfaces, such as the BSD library interfaces in /usr/include. You can even mix C++ code with your Cocoa code and link them into the same executable.

he most important Cocoa class libraries come packaged in two core frameworks for each platform: Foundation and Application Kit for Mac OS X and Foundation and UIKit for iPhone OS. As with all frameworks, these contain not only a dynamically sharable library (or sometimes several compatibility versions of libraries), but header files, API documentation, and related resources. The duo of both Application Kit and Foundation and UIKit and Foundation reflect the division of the Cocoa programmatic interfaces into those classes that have some bearing on a graphical user interface and those that don’t. For each platform, its two core frameworks are essential to any Cocoa project whose end product is an application. Both platforms additionally support the Core Data framework, which is as important and useful as the core frameworks. Mac OS X also ships with several other frameworks that publish Cocoa programmatic interfaces, such as the Screen Saver and Address Book frameworks; more Cocoa frameworks will be added to the operating system over time.

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