Smalltalk Programming Tutorial. Hints and Tips for students of the OU course M206.

Smalltalk Hints and Tips

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| 1. Starting Smalltalk, and Terminology | 2. Precedence Rules | 3. Classes - Strings | 4. Class Browser | 5. Variables | 6. Error Messages | 12. Control Structures | 16. Dialogs | 23. Collection class | 39. OpenGUI |


| Smalltalk Books | Student Software & Books | Hints & Tips | Sites | Download Smalltalk | Coloured code | Download Documents | ASCII Codes |


Smalltalk Index






Error Messages Methods Conferences
Save your work   Debugger
Searching LearningBooks Preventing Crashes Cant start an LB
These hints and tips will in the long run save you time.

Error Messages

When programming Smalltalk, Error messages will soon be received. To a beginner these messages are confusing and unintelligible

Tip 1. Make a list of Error Messages

Your list should include:
  • The error message.
  • Where the error is likely to be. E.g. In front of or after the error message, in the Workspace or in a method.
  • How to correct the error
Where to make a List
  • A table in Word or a WP
  • In Excel or other Spreadsheet.
  • Details about Microsoft's very special Student Price for Office 2000 Microsoft's student licence
A printout of the following link or a copy and past into a WP, could be used as a starter for your own Error List Error & Exception Messages



Tip 2. Make a personal list of methods

Since writing this I have greatly improved the Master Index with an index of methods section. This list does not include the information below but does include references of where to find information.

Your list should include:

  • The method.
  • Example(s) of how it is used.
  • Copy the method comments.
  • Reference such as Chapter and page number, LearningWorks LearningBook and practical number. This is important due to the fact that methods that you write, or amend only exist in that particular LearningBook
  • Initially you may like to say whether the method is a unary, binary or a keyword method, but you will very quickly learn to recognise this.



Tip 3. Make an early start at using the conferences

If you are new to the Open University, using your OU FirstClass Guide enter the practice conference, send and retrieve messages. Ask for help via the conference if required. When you gain confidence go to the specific M206 conferences.

| Error Messages | Key words (methods) | Save your work | Preventing Crashes | Top |


Save your work

Make a mistake in programming and you can crash your computer, and loose a lot of your work. It could sometime mean reinstalling windows, with a loss of nearly everything.

  • Tip 4. Make a decision now! How much of your time can you afford to loose.
  • From this decision you can base your backup routine.
  • Tip 5. On a regular basis. Back up your work to some separate media. E.g. Floppy disks, another computer, Zip drive or similar. Do NOT rely on additional copies of your work on your C: drive.
  • Tip 6. Even more often make additional copies of your work on drive C:
  • Tip 7. LearningWorks. Copy all the lb??.LW files, from the Saved folder to a dated folder within the Own folder


Preventing Crashes

Tip 8. If you get the dreaded GC flashing cursor. Use the Ctrl q key combination. Do not use Ctrl Alt Delete combination

Tip 9a. If you have opened LearningWorks. Do NOT open it again. This is easy to do if you have a minimised copy on the task bar.

Tip 9b. If you accidentally open more than one LW (tip 9a), and you have trouble closing a copy, try closing the other copy first. They have to be closed in the correct order.

Tip . The tips on saving your work are particularly important before writing code for an initialize class method.



  • Tip 10. Its a pain in the butt, but learn to use the Debugger as soon as possible.
  • Tip 11. The Debugger is not user friendly, you can not learn how to use it without practice.
  • Tip 12. The Debugger is the ONLY way of rectifying an error in a Class initialize method, without losing all your work in that LB.
  • Tip 13. Make an effort and learn to use the Debugger NOW! Open the debugger if you get an exception message and practice.


Cant start an LB

Tip 14. If an exception message comes up when you try to start a LB. Use the debugger. The problem usually in a faulty class inialize method. See LearningBook will not open.


Searching LearningBook practicals / discussions

It is very easy to search through the LearningBook practicals / discussions for a particular word or phrase.

The default folder for these files is C:\M206\Lw\Html

You can open Windows explorer

Click on the above Html folder

Use Tools Find Files or Folders

Or from Windows desktop

Click Start Find Files or Folders.

In the Find Dialog window

  1. Leave the Named: box blank
  2. In the Containing text: box: Enter the word(s) you wish to search for e.g. isVowel
  3. Check that the correct folder is entered in the Look in: box. E.g. C:\M206\Lw\Html (or whatever it is on your computer)
  4. Check that the include subfolders box is ticked.

The example, isVowel should find 5 files containing isVowel. Double click on one of them to bring up the file. Repeat this as required.

If the file is big find in the Edit menu (or Ctrl F) can be used to locate the position within the file of isVowel. The F3 key will search for the next location.

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