Writing plug-ins

Plug-in parameters make it easy to create different formulas with common features. What’s even better is that you can write new plug-ins that can be used with the plug-in parameters in existing formulas.

If you load the MandelbrotTest example in Ultra Fractal, a Browse button is visible next to the name of the default plug-in in the list of parameters. This button enables the user to select a different plug-in, as long as it descends from the Bailout class. (See Example 1 – Formula plug-ins for an example.)

Let’s write a new plug-in descending from the Bailout class that implements more bailout options:

  class ExtendedBailout(Test.ufm:Bailout) {  public:    bool func hasBailedOut(const complex z)      return (@test == "mod" && |z| > @bailout) ||      \        (@test == "real" && sqr(real(z)) > @bailout) || \        (@test == "imag" && sqr(imag(z)) > @bailout)    endfunc  default:    title = "Extended Bailout"    int param test      caption = "Bailout Test"      default = 0      enum = "mod" "real" "imag"    endparam  }    

If you put this code in a plug-in library file (say Test.ulb), you can select the new plug-in by clicking on the Browse button next to the Bailout plug-in parameter. The MandelbrotTest formula will now use the bailout code from the ExtendedBailout class. As you can see, this system enables you to add new features to a formula even after it has been published, without having to modify the formula itself!

  • The descendant class must be declared in a plug-in library file with the .ulb file extension so the browser can find it. Therefore, the file name of the ancestor needs to be specified as well. The example code above assumes that both MandelbrotTest and the Bailout class are declared in a file called Test.ufm. See also Importing classes.
  • The ExtendedBailout class overrides the hasBailedOut method to change its behavior. Note that it introduces a new parameter called test. The bailout parameter is inherited from the Bailout base class.
  • If you want your plug-in to appear in the browser when selecting a value for the plug-in parameter, make sure it has a title. Classes without a title are not treated as plug-ins and they are not visible in the browser. (This is useful for abstract base classes, as explained in the next paragraph.)
  • In this example, the Bailout base class already has a default behavior and a parameter. In practice, it might be better to have an abstract base class that only declares the methods that form the public interface for the class. Do not include a title for the abstract base class (the browser will only show classes with a title as available plug-ins). In the plug-in parameter declaration for the formula that uses an abstract class, you can then use the default setting to select a descendant of the base class as the default plug-in. This descendant should be placed in a plug-in library file. In this way, the abstract base class is never used on its own, just as a base class.
  • A descendant can also override parameters from its ancestor by including a parameter block for an inherited parameter. This parameter block completely replaces all previous settings for the parameter. With this, you can for example change the default value of a parameter, or hide it by setting visible to false. The type of the parameter must remain the same.
  • In case you do not want to provide the option to the user to select a different plug-in for a plug-in parameter, set the selectable setting of the plug-in parameter to false. This completely removes the plug-in title and the Browse button, and causes the parameters of the plug-in to be listed between the normal formula parameters.
  • The base class must have a constructor (possibly empty), otherwise the constructor of the descendant class will never be called. The compiler will generate a warning if you use a base class without a constructor for a plug-in parameter, and the selectable setting is not false.
  • You can determine the currently selected class of a plug-in parameter by comparing the plug-in parameter to the class directly with the == operator or != operator. This allows you to show or enable other parameters depending on the currently selected plug-in . (You can also determine the selected plug-in with a cast, but that requires the creation of an instance of the plug-in, something you cannot do in visible or enabled settings.)
  • Of course, plug-ins can in turn also contain plug-in parameters.

Next: Parameter forwards

See Also
Plug-in parameters

Writing plug-ins