Cocoa Internals/Graphics

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Cocoa-WS should be using device-dependent colors to match colors across other widgetsets.

That applies to color of Pen, Brush and Font.

The “Device” color-space names represent color spaces in which component values are applied to devices as specified. There is no optimization or adjustment for differences between devices in how they render colors. If you know exactly which device is connected to a system and you want to print or display a certain color on that device, then it makes sense to use a appropriate device-dependent color space when creating NSColor objects. However, it is usually not the case that an application knows which devices are connected and their specific color spaces. If you specify components of a color in a device-dependent color space—let’s say NSDeviceRGBColorSpace—and then have several displays render this color, you will see several slightly different colors.
To get around this problem you can use calibrated color spaces, which are designated by two of the color-space names in Table 1. A calibrated color space is a device-independent color space. The color spaces designated by NSCalibratedWhiteColorSpace and NSCalibratedRGBColorSpace color spaces are calibrated to a device that best represents devices in a particular class, such as color displays. It allows your application to present reasonably accurate colors when you are unsure about the color space of a device in a particular context.

System Colors

NSColor class provides a large variety of system themed colors:

Constant LCL definition NSColor Cocoa definition
clScrollBar Scrollbar body scrollBarColor Returns the system color used for scroll “bars”—that is, for the groove in which a scroller’s knob moves
clBackground Desktop background color windowBackgroundColor Returns a pattern color that will draw the ruled lines for the window background.
clActiveCaption Active window titlebar windowFrameColor Returns the system color used for window frames, except for their text.
clInactiveCaption Inactive window titlebar windowBackgroundColor
clMenu Regular menu item background color controlBackgroundColor Returns the system color used for the background of large controls.
clWindow The normal background brush of unselected text. Defined for controls like TEdit, TComboBox, TMemo, TListBox, TTreeView. textBackgroundColor Returns the system color used for the text background.
clWindowFrame Color of frame around the window windowFrameColor
clMenuText The font color to use together with clMenu controlTextColor Returns the system color used for text on controls that aren’t disabled.
clWindowText Font color to use together with clWindow controlTextColor
clCaptionText Active window titlebar text color windowFrameTextColor Returns the system color used for the text in window frames.
clActiveBorder ? windowFrameColor
clInactiveBorder ? windowFrameColor
clAppWorkspace MDIMain form background windowBackgroundColor
clHighlight The brush color of selected element selectedControlColor Returns the system color used for the face of a selected control—a control that has been clicked or is being dragged.
clHighlightText Font color of selected text (to use together with clHighligh). selectedControlTextColor Returns the system color used for text in a selected control—a control being clicked or dragged.
clBtnFace Button background controlColor Returns the system color used for the flat surfaces of a control.
clBtnShadow Button shadow color (bottom right) used to achieve 3D effect controlShadowColor Returns the system color used for the shadows dropped from controls.
clGrayText The font color of disabled element disabledControlTextColor Returns the system color used for text on disabled controls.
clBtnText Button font color to use together with clBtnFace controlTextColor
clInactiveCaptionText Inactive window titlebar text color windowFrameTextColor
clBtnHighlight Button highlight color (top left) used to achieve 3D effect controlLightHighlightColor Returns the system color used for light highlights in controls.
cl3DDkShadow ? controlDarkShadowColor Returns the system color used for the dark edge of the shadow dropped from controls.
cl3DLight ? controlHighlightColor Returns the system color used for the highlighted bezels of controls.
clInfoText Font color for hints. Use together with clInfoBk controlTextColor
clInfoBk Brush color for hints. Use together with clInfoText hard coded The actual color value depends on MacOS version. Before macOS 10.10 (Yosemite) the color is yellowish. on 10.10 and after, the color is gray. The change follows Apple system hint color change. The API to identify hint window color is unknown.

CocoaInt unit also provides a global variable CocoaHintColor. The value is used to return value for clInfoBk. Thus if Apple changes the design in future, you can always adjust hint color from your code.

clHotLight ? alternateSelectedControlColor Returns the system color used for the face of a selected control in a list or table.
clGradientActiveCaption The second color used to make gradient of active window titlebar windowFrameColor
clGradientInactiveCaption The second color used to make gradient for inactive window titlebar windowBackgroundColor
clMenuHighlight The background color of selected menu item selectedMenuItemColor Returns the system color used for the face of selected menu items. (depreciated in macOS 10.14)
clMenuBar The Backround color of menu bar selectedTextBackgroundColor Returns the system color used for the background of selected text.
clForm ? windowBackgroundColor
clColorDesktop ?
cl3DFace ?
cl3DShadow ?
cl3DHiLight ?
clBtnHiLight Same as clBtnHighlight

For Reference: Apple Human Interface Guidelines - Dynamic System Colors

Hint Window

Cocoa provides its own API to show a popup hint window. Thus Cocoa doesn't provide must information on how hint popup window should actually be shown.

On dark theme of Mojave system, it became a bit more complicated. Besides a different fill color for darktheme, the popup window also draws a border of light pixels. Mojave-DarkLight-Tooltip.png


Historically, MacOS (Classic MacOS, Mac OS X, and macOS) systems are using 72 ppi (or dpi). Windows is using 96 dpi (so do Linux desktop managers).


NSFont class provides a number of class methods to get proper system font without selecting the font by name. The same of getting system-native font size.

96 DPI

macOS native DPI (aka PPI) is 72 (it matches the basic typographic resolution).

For comparison: Windows native DPI is 96. You can read more about history of this difference here

In order to achieve the ease of use and design for cross-platform applications, Cocoa (screen) DPI is also emulated (by LCL) to be at 96 dpi. What that actually means is that font sizes between LCL applications and macOS native applications will be different (at roughly 33%).


This can be adjusted by changing the CocoaBasePPI variable at run time.

Font Enumeration

To implement windows-like font enumeration, two NSFontManager methods are used

availableFontFamilies - to get the list of families
availableMembersOfFontFamily: - to get the list of available styles for fonts

Input parameters recognized:

  • todo: lfFaceName - the case-insensitive, exact name match.


The following objects are used to implement HANDLEs for graphical objects

LCL Handle Cocoa WS Class Notes
HICON TCocoaBitmap
HPEN TCocoaPen
HBRUSH TCocoaBrush
HRGN TCocoaRegion
HCURSOR TCocoaCursor TCocoaCursor doesn't inherit from TCocoaBitmap)
HBITMAP TCocoaBitmap
TBitmap.Canvas.Handle TCocoaBitmapContext The key difference from TCocoaContext is that after any changes to bitmap context, the underlying image itself is invalidated.

This is necessary for Windows like behavior. (macOS image objects are immutable, but windows bitmaps are)

TControl.Canvas.Handle TCocoaContext


TCocoaBitmap implements the internal bitmap handle.

Change Tracking

In order for a bitmap (a 2d-array of pixel values) to be drawn, a NSBitmapImageRep object.

The NSBitmapImageRep is immutable. Its contents cannot be changed after the initial drawing (the pixel values seems it be copied within Cocoa).

If a Bitmap contents was modified (i.e. by using (Canvas) Drawing methods or by direct access via ScanLine), the bitmap must re-create NSBitmapImageRep before the next drawing.

The SetModified() marks the Bitmap as modified. TCocoaBitmapContext (Device Context created for a Bitmap) would mark the bitmap as modified on any draw method.

Scan Lines

For PixelFormat 32-bit the pixel format is as following:

$ff0000ff - all blue
$00ff00ff - all green
$0000ffff - all red
$000000ff - all black (alpha channel only)
$ffffff00 - fully transparent

Forced Repaint

There's an additional code added for processing DrawRect event. If a control was resized during a draw rect, then the resulting graphics output could be corrupted. 32970

As an example TTreeView component could be used. It updates scroll bars during the initial paint. The update of scroll bars is causing a client rectangle to be changed, causing a glitch when drawing the control for the first time

Naturally, the next repaint fixes the problem right away.

CocoaInvalidTree.png CocoaValidTree.png

Sending another event into Cocoa event queue, to repaint the control again would cause flickering and yet bad user experience. Forcefully calling for a repaint one more time seems to be resolving the problem, while potentially is an overhead due to double job done.

Also double drawing could cause artifacts on controls that are using any sorts of transparency:


The best solution is to avoid changing of the control bounds at all during drawing operation.

Theme Drawing

HITheme API is deprecated by Apple together with Carbon. It's still available in OS X, but for i386 only. It will presumably be completely removed on 64-bit only macOS.

However, some LCL controls cannot be mapped to existing Cocoa provided controls and thus might require some "custom drawing". The drawing should look system native though. In order to achieve that the NSCell family could be used. NSCell allows drawing (hit-test and as well as handle user input) for OS X native elements. If Apple changes the appearance of controls (cells), the LCL application would "pick-up" the look automatically.

Deprecated? macOS version specific? In order to be drawn NSCells require the presence of NSView, thus it's hard to use them for the implementation of LCL TTheme APIs. NSView doesn't seem to be required. At least NSCell operates without the presence NSView. However, per Apple's documentation it's mentioned that the drawing would occur in a "focused" control. That helps to use NSCell for on-screen drawing, but is a big question for bitmap drawing.

Example of NSCell usage is CocoaStatusBar drawing.

It might be that Apple moves away from using NSCell. The class itself is not yet deprecated, even though Apple suggests that NSView should be used more extensively.

See Also