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Navigating Within and Between Files

Now that you know the basic code-editing features provided by Xcode, we can turn our attention to some of the features that simplify working with multiple files. Except in the most rudimentary development, your projects will consist of multiple source files with multiple methods spread between them. Becoming efficient and jumping between these files is a skill that becomes increasingly valuable as your applications increase in scale.

This section examines some of the tools you can use when working with multiple files (or very large individual files).

Tabbed Editing

Tabbed editing is just like tabbed browsing in your favorite web browser. Using tabbed editing, you can have many files open simultaneously and switch between them by clicking tabs at the top of the Editor area.

To create a new tab, choose File, New, New Tab (Command+T). A new tab appears with the contents of the file you are currently editing. You can switch the contents of the tab to whatever you want by clicking a file in the Project Navigator. You can repeat this process to create as many tabs as you want, with whatever file contents to want, as shown in Figure 6.10.


FIGURE 6.10 Keep multiple editors open simultaneously with tabs.

To close a tab, click the X that is displayed on the left side of the tab when hovering over it with your mouse. As with all files in Xcode, the files you edit in tabs are automatically saved when you close them; you do not have to explicitly use the Save command.

The Jump Bar

When editing a file, you might have noticed that above the Editor area is a visual path to the file you are editing and several buttons. This is collectively known as the jump bar. Clicking any portion of the path reveals a pop-up menu for quickly jumping to other files in same location, as shown in Figure 6.11. The last segment (on the right) of the jump bar is special: You can click it to view and jump between the symbols (methods, properties, and so on) within the file you are currently editing.


FIGURE 6.11 Quickly navigate your project hierarchy.

To the left of the path are forward and back arrows. The arrows move back and forth between files that you have been editing—just like pages you visit in a web browser. Finally, to the left of the arrows is the Related Files button.

Use the Related Files button to show a pop-up menu of categorized files such as recently opened or unsaved. This menu even displays files that are just referenced (even if just included or imported) in the file currently open in the Source Editor. Figure 6.12 shows the contents of the menu when editing the application delegate file for an empty iOS application.


FIGURE 6.12 Find files that are referenced by, or directly/indirectly related to the file you are editing.

The Symbol Navigator

The easiest way to find a method or property within a source code file is to use the Symbol Navigator, opened by clicking the icon to the immediate right of the Project Navigator. This view, shown in Figure 6.13, enables you to expand your project classes to show all the methods, properties, and variables that are defined. Choosing an item from the list jumps to and highlights the relevant line in your source code.


FIGURE 6.13 The Symbol Navigator is a quick way to jump between methods and properties.

For example, with the HelloXcode project open, switch to the Symbol Navigator and expand the AppDelegate item. This is the only object used in this application. Next, find and select applicationDidFinishLaunching from the list that is displayed. Xcode jumps to the finds and select the line where the method begins.

The Search Navigator

Searching for text anywhere in your project is trivial using the Search Navigator. To access this search feature, click the magnifying glass icon in the icon bar above the Navigator. A Search field displays at the top of the Navigator area, into which you can enter whatever you want to find. As you type, a drop-down menu appears, as shown in Figure 6.14, that shows potential options for refining your search. Choose one of the options or press Return to perform a non-case-sensitive search of the text you enter.


FIGURE 6.14 Use the Search Navigator to find text in your project.

The search results display below the Search field, along with a snippet of the file containing the text you were looking for, as shown in Figure 6.15. Clicking a search result opens the corresponding file in the Source Editor and jumps to the line containing your search string.

To make things even more interesting, you can use the Filter field at the bottom of the Search Navigator to filter your search results by a secondary term. You can also click the Find label at the top of the Search Navigator to switch to a Replace mode, enabling you to perform projectwide find and replace.


FIGURE 6.15 Search results are displayed along with the context of the match.

Pragma Marks

Sometimes navigating code by symbols or with a search is not very efficient. To help denote important pieces of code in plain English, you can insert a #pragma mark directive. Pragma marks do not add any features to your application; instead, they create logical sections within your code. These sections are then are displayed, with the rest of the code symbols, when you click the last item in the visual path above the Editor area.

There are two common types of pragma marks:

  • #pragma mark -
  • and
  • #pragma mark <label name>

The first inserts a horizontal line in the symbol menu; the second inserts an arbitrary label name. You can use both together to add a section heading to your code. For example, to add a section called Methods for starting and stopping the application followed by a horizontal line, you can enter the following:

#pragma mark Methods for starting and stopping the application
#pragma mark -

After the pragma mark has been added to your code and saved, the symbol menu updates accordingly, as shown in Figure 6.16. Choosing a pragma mark from the Symbol menu jumps to that portion of the code.


FIGURE 6.16 Use pragma marks to add logical delimiters to your code.

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