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Cocoa(R) Programming for Mac(R) OS X, Third Edition [Paperback]

Aaron Hillegass
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 5 2008 0321503619 978-0321503619 3

The best-selling introduction to Cocoa, once again updated to cover the latest Mac programming technologies, and still enthusiastically recommended by experienced Mac OS X developers.


“Aaron’s book is the gold standard for Mac OS X programming books—beautifully written, and thoughtfully sculpted. The best book on Leopard development.”

—Scott Stevenson,


“This is the first book I’d recommend for anyone wanting to learn Cocoa from scratch. Aaron’s one of the few (perhaps only) full-time professional Cocoa instructors, and his teaching experience shows in the book.”

—Tim Burks, software developer and creator of the Nu programming language,


“If you’re a UNIX or Windows developer who picked up a Mac OS X machine recently in hopes of developing new apps or porting your apps to Mac users, this book should be strongly considered as one of your essential reference and training tomes.”

—Kevin H. Spencer, Apple Certified Technical Coordinator


If you’re developing applications for Mac OS X, Cocoa® Programming for Mac® OS X, Third Edition, is the book you’ve been waiting to get your hands on. If you’re new to the Mac environment, it’s probably the book you’ve been told to read first. Covering the bulk of what you need to know to develop full-featured applications for OS X, written in an engaging tutorial style, and thoroughly class-tested to assure clarity and accuracy, it is an invaluable resource for any Mac programmer.


Specifically, Aaron Hillegass introduces the three most commonly used Mac developer tools: Xcode, Interface Builder, and Instruments. He also covers the Objective-C language and the major design patterns of Cocoa. Aaron illustrates his explanations with exemplary code, written in the idioms of the Cocoa community, to show you how Mac programs should be written. After reading this book, you will know enough to understand and utilize Apple’s online documentation for your own unique needs. And you will know enough to write your own stylish code.


Updated for Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5, this revised edition includes coverage of Xcode 3, Objective-C 2, Core Data, the garbage collector, and CoreAnimation.

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Product Details

Product Description

About the Author

Aaron Hillegas runs Big Nerd Ranch, well-known for its popular Cocoa programming classes. Previously, he was a developer at NeXT and Apple. At Next, he wrote the first course on OpenStep, the predecessor to today's Cocoa tools. At Apple, he created and taught courses in Cocoa directly for and to Apple engineers. This book is based on Aaron's Big Nerd Ranch course and is influenced by 15 years of work with OpenStep and Cocoa.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

If you are developing applications for the Mac, or are hoping to do so, this book is just the resource you need. Does it cover everything you will ever want to know about programming for the Mac? Of course it doesn’t. But it does cover probably 80% of what you need to know. You can find the remaining 20%, the 20% that is unique to you, in Apple’s online documentation.

This book, then, acts as a foundation. It covers the Objective-C language and the major design patterns of Cocoa. It will also get you started with the three most commonly used developer tools: Xcode, Interface Builder, and Instruments. After reading this book, you will be able to understand and utilize Apple’s online documentation.

There is a lot of code in this book. Through that code, I will introduce you to the idioms of the Cocoa community. My hope is that by presenting exemplary code, I can help you to become not just a Cocoa developer, but a stylish Cocoa developer.

This third edition includes technologies introduced in Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5. These include Xcode 3, Objective-C 2, Core Data, the garbage collector, and CoreAnimation.

This book is written for programmers who already know some C programming and something about objects. You are not expected to have any experience with Mac programming. It’s a hands-on book and assumes that you have access to Mac OS X and the developer tools. The developer tools are free. If you bought a shrink-wrapped copy of Mac OS X, the installer for the developer tools was on the DVD. The tools can also be downloaded from the Apple Developer Connection Web site (

I have tried to make this book as useful for you as possible, if not indispensable. That said, I’d love to hear from you if you have any suggestions for improving it.

Aaron Hillegass

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars super! Feb. 12 2012
a terrific intro to objective-c..very clearly written and if followed closely section by section you will feel quite confident of your new abilities when you finish ..this can be a complicated process but the exercises Steve has chosen put each new topic in perspective...very well done !! the stuff is 'hard but you are not stupid'.....
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book! April 30 2011
By Fred
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had previously bought "Learn Cocoa on the Mac" from Apress. This book was much better for seeing how everything fits together.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great introduction to Cocoa Aug. 19 2010
Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X is one of the best hands on approach learning book I have read. How to instructions are clear. The several simple software projects are carefully chosen to cover a wide range of topics without redundancy. When deep explanations are missing, (this book has only 433 pages) it is possible to complete using Xcode searches in online documentation. A great introduction to Cocoa.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  69 reviews
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange and Difficult June 12 2010
By J. Matters - Published on
I did a lot of research before buying this book, and the overwhelming accolades seemed to assure me that my [...] bucks would be money well-spent. Personally, I feel very let down by it. The way the author jumps into code without explanation, routinely giving you half a page of calls with absolutely zero previous discussion of what they do or where they come from, is both baffling and frustrating.

Most of the exercises are conducted with a tone along the lines of "Just do what I tell you and it'll make sense later," which doesn't suit my learning style.

Much of the book is focused on multi-chapter projects, which can be problematic for someone who has a project in mind and simply wants to learn how different aspects of Cocoa work.

Also, the text really fails at answering any questions you might have about anything. Seriously, if you have a question in your head, you will never find the answer unless you muddle through the assignment. The book has a tendency to never talk about anything in particular with any depth, and only explains things in as much as they apply to the current example.

For future editions, here are some recommendations:

1) When you introduce a new object, give us a list of methods near the beginning of the chapter, so we aren't constantly guessing what you're talking about. There are times when every new line of code feels like a surprise.

2) Cover some basic things that actual people want to know. Here's a big one: "How do I open and parse a file?"

3) Take it easy on the line drawings. They sometimes make things seem a lot more complex than they actually are.

4) The cavalier handling of Bindings is often infuriating. I've re-read sections literally a dozen times without figuring out why things are bound to this thing instead of that.

Anyway, that's just my two cents. This book is decent, and it will tell you how to do a LOT of things, but you really have to earn it. It's a textbook, and it expects you to follow a course from beginning to end. If you're not willing to do that, you really shouldn't pick up this book, as it will drive you nuts.

Also, once it starts getting into writing code, you have to be patient enough to roll with it when you're confused. For me, the book left so many unanswered questions while I was working through it that I was almost perpetually filled with angst over things. I'd rather learn one thing at a time, learn it well, and move on to another thing.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OS X developer must have Oct. 6 2008
By Ryan Bemowski - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you plan to write for Mac OS X, and have some programming experience, this book is a MUST HAVE. This is by far the best introductory book I have ever read on any language.

If you DO NOT have programming experience, I would still recommend this book. There are some spots where the logic might be hard to grasp, but Aaron Hillegass walks you through it.

In either case, but more so for beginners, I would also recommend Programming in Objective-C (Developer's Library). The less experience you have, the more strongly I would suggest reading this book first. It will walk you through the basics of straight Objective-C and then start you off using frameworks in OS X. If you are a Windows user and do not have a Mac, Programming in Objective-C (Developer's Library) will show you how to write and compile Objective-C in Windows.
(Look for the new version of this book which uses Objective-C 2.0)

I come from Windows development, having programmed in VB 6, VB.NET, C (and variants), and java. Aaron Hillegass takes you right into the heart of the Mac OS X development environment and gives you a guided tour. Showing you the basics of both Cocoa and the X Code development environment. Pick the book up and you won't regret it. This is a walkthrough tutorial style book. It is not a reference book. Apples online documentation is the best reference for Cocoa.

There are a lot of resources out there for Cocoa programmers. If you are looking for more help with Cocoa, check out the free podcasts that are available on iTunes. "CocoaCast" is a 'screen cast' that actually follows this book and may help you if you have trouble. Other podcasts that i find easy to listen to come from the Mac Developer Network such as "Late Night Cocoa" and "The Mac Developer Roundtable". They also have a great community that you can join by visiting [...] They have video classes on some great topics which are very helpful.
32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for beginners Aug. 3 2010
By corvinus - Published on
Despite the accolades by some, this is not a book for beginners. To learn programming you need lots of examples, lots of exercises in a defined problem space (so you can solve them! and learn...) and good explanations not only of what a particular feature does, but what it is for and how to use it, practically, and in your own programs. This book fails on all these criteria. Further, some of the examples don't work, and they are so complex that a beginner is baffled as to where even to start looking to fix them.

If you don't know Objective C (which was my situation - my background was self taught programming in C and the GEM GUI on the Atari Falcon) or even don't know C, Steve Kochan has written an excellent book, "Programming in Objective C 2.0", on these issues and also on the Foundation Kit. His book satisfies all the criteria mentioned above. We need him to write a similar book on Cocoa. Don't waste your time, or your money, on Hillegass.

After spending several fruitless months on Hillegass's book, I found free help elsewhere: my friends, the sad news is that there is no avoiding reading Apple's guides to XCode and Interface Builder, and above all, the Cocoa Fundamentals Guide, and dipping into other guides, as necessary. I recommend working through Apple's Cocoa Application Tutorial (much to learn there) and Apple's sample programs in the Image Kit Programming Guide (even more to learn, not just image-kit specific stuff) - and note that these programs DO work. The Wikibooks "Programming Mac OS X with Cocoa for Beginners" is another excellent tutorial, with excellent explanations. I also found the Cocoa tutorials by Julius Guzy (start at: [...]) to be invaluable. These have the great merit of focusing on just one topic at a time - so if you stuff up, as invariably happens sometimes, you have a defined problem space which, yes, you can indeed solve with some ingenuity and perseverance, and learn from having solved.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great first book on Cocoa May 20 2008
By S. Rana - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the book I have been waiting for!

I am a recent convert to Macs. Ever since I fell in love with my Mac (now two Macs actually), I have yearning to do some experimental application development on it. I should also add that I have extensive programming experience on Windows.

Anyway, I downloaded Xcode, went to numerous websites, saw YouTube video all to try and understand how to create apps for the Mac. Yes, I was able to create an application with some buttons on it that updated a text box. But anything beyond that just didn't make any sense.

Then I ordered this book. I had to wait a couple months as it hadn't been released yet. But boy, was it worth the wait. I got so into the book, I ended up doing a semi-cursory pass of the entire book in about 2 hours. Then I went through the chapters again, reading chapters in-depth and experimented with the code side-by-side. I am happy to say - I finally get it. There are still questions I have, but I feel that I have a much better shot of finding answers in Apple's documentation as well as the numerous Cocoa-related websites.

Note that while the book does teach you the basics of Objective-C, it's not meant to be a complete reference. But between what I read in the book, Wikipedia and Apple's excellent introduction to Objective-C 2.0 PDF, you should be all set.

To summarize, just order this book if you are new to the world of Mac programming but still don't "get it". You will be glad you did.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gives good directions, but ....... Sept. 15 2008
A Kid's Review - Published on
This book gives good directions to learn the Cocoa programming. However, it seems that this is another round of edition based on the previous one. The book constantly refers to the NIB file of the project being worked on, which was the old form of the current XIB file. It is a subtle thing but confusing enough to those who have never done Cocoa programming before. This sounds negative, but overall, the book gives good guidance to experienced programmers, (not necessarily in Objective-C.) I am now on Chapter 7, and getting accustomed to the quality level of the book. The book has Challenge questions in many of the chapters, and I advise everyone to work on them. The book is no way in text-book quality, but there are not many competing books in the market. I have given 4 starts indicating that the book is not bad but it leaves plenty rooms for improvements.
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