Understanding the API Reference

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Specification, Implementation and Instances

The API specifications you find in the API reference are abstract. The service descriptions of the API reference are not about classes that previously exist somewhere. The specifications are created first, then the UNO implementation is created according to the specification. That holds true even for legacy implementations that had to be adapted to UNO.

Moreover, since a component developer is free to implement services and interfaces as required, there is not necessarily a one-to-one relationship between a certain service specification and a real object. The real object can be capable of more things than specified in a service definition. For example, if you order a service at the factory or receive an object from a getter or getPropertyValue() method, the specified features will be present, but there may be additional features. For instance, the text document model has a few interfaces which are not included in the specification for the com.sun.star.text.TextDocument.

Because of the optional interfaces and properties, it is impossible to comprehend fully from the API reference what a given instance of an object in Apache OpenOffice is capable of. The optional interfaces and properties are correct for an abstract specification, but it means that when you leave the scope of mandatory interfaces and properties, the reference only defines how things are allowed to work, not how they actually work.

Another important point is the fact that there are several entry points where object implementations are actually available. You cannot instantiate every old-style service that can be found in the API reference by means of the global service manager. The reasons are:

  • Some old-style services need a certain context. For instance, it does not make sense to instantiate a com.sun.star.text.TextFrame independently of an existing text document or any other surrounding where it could be of any use. Such services are usually not created by the global service manager, but by document factories which have the necessary knowledge to create objects that work in a certain surrounding. That does not mean you will never be able to get a text frame from the global service manager to insert. So, if you wish to use a service in the API reference, ask yourself where you can get an instance that supports this service, and consider the context in which you want to use it. If the context is a document, it is quite possible that the document factory will be able to create the object.
  • Old-style services are not only used to specify possible class implementations. Sometimes they are used to specifying nothing but groups of properties that can be referenced by other old-style services. That is, there are services with no interfaces at all. You cannot create such a service at the service manager.

In the first and the last case above, using multiple-inheritance interface types instead of old-style services would have been the right design choice, but the mentioned services predate the availability of multiple-inheritance interface types in UNO.

Consequently, it is sometimes confusing to look up a needed functionality in the API reference, for you need a basic understanding how a functionality works, which services are involved, where they are available etc., before you can really utilize the reference. This manual aims at giving you this understanding about the Apache OpenOffice document models, the database integration and the application itself.

Object Composition

Interfaces support single and multiple inheritance, and they are all based on com.sun.star.uno.XInterface. In the API reference, this is mirrored in the Base Hierarchy section of any interface specification. If you look up an interface, always check the base hierarchy section to understand the full range of supported methods. For instance, if you look up com.sun.star.text.XText, you see two methods, insertTextContent() and removeTextContent(), but there are nine more methods provided by the inherited interfaces. The same applies to exceptions and sometimes also to structs, which support single inheritance as well.

The service specifications in the API reference can contain a section Included Services, which is similar to the above in that a single included old-style service might encompass a whole world of services. However, the fact that a service is included has nothing to do with class inheritance. In which manner a service implementation technically includes other services, by inheriting from base implementations, by aggregation, some other kind of delegation or simply by re-implementing everything is by no means defined (which it is not, either, for UNO interface inheritance). And it is uninteresting for an API user – he can absolutely rely on the availability of the described functionality, but he must never rely on inner details of the implementation, which classes provide the functionality, where they inherit from and what they delegate to other classes.

Content on this page is licensed under the Public Documentation License (PDL).
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