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Technical Q&A QA1487
Embedding Hyperlinks in NSTextField and NSTextView

Q: How do I embed a hyperlink inside an NSTextField or NSTextView?

A: You can embed a hyperlink using an NSAttributedString. The resultant attributed string will contain the url, style and color for display.

Figure 1: An example illustration of an NSTextField with a hyperlink.

Figure 1, An example illustration of an NSTextField with a hyperlink.

Extending NSAttributedString

An easy way to factor this in your application is to add a "category" to the NSAttributedString class. By adding an additional class method to this category, you allow other classes to benefit from this extended feature.

Listing 1: Adding a category to NSAttributedString.

@interface NSAttributedString (Hyperlink)
  +(id)hyperlinkFromString:(NSString*)inString withURL:(NSURL*)aURL;

@implementation NSAttributedString (Hyperlink)
+(id)hyperlinkFromString:(NSString*)inString withURL:(NSURL*)aURL
    NSMutableAttributedString* attrString = [[NSMutableAttributedString alloc] initWithString: inString];
    NSRange range = NSMakeRange(0, [attrString length]);

    [attrString beginEditing];
    [attrString addAttribute:NSLinkAttributeName value:[aURL absoluteString] range:range];

    // make the text appear in blue
    [attrString addAttribute:NSForegroundColorAttributeName value:[NSColor blueColor] range:range];

    // next make the text appear with an underline
    [attrString addAttribute:
            NSUnderlineStyleAttributeName value:[NSNumber numberWithInt:NSSingleUnderlineStyle] range:range];

    [attrString endEditing];

    return [attrString autorelease];

IMPORTANT: Notice in Listing 1, in an NSTextView (as of Mac OS X 10.3) NSLinkAttributeName is all you need to achieve the look and feel of a hyperlink. The two additional attributes: NSForegroundColorAttributeName and NSUnderlineStyleAttributeName are redundant, but however are necessary for NSTextField.

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Hyperlink in an NSTextField

Listing 2: Creating a hyperlink attributed string inside an NSTextField.

    // both are needed, otherwise hyperlink won't accept mousedown
    [inTextField setAllowsEditingTextAttributes: YES];
    [inTextField setSelectable: YES];

    NSURL* url = [NSURL URLWithString:@""];

    NSMutableAttributedString* string = [[NSMutableAttributedString alloc] init];
    [string appendAttributedString: [NSAttributedString hyperlinkFromString:@"Apple Computer" withURL:url]];

    // set the attributed string to the NSTextField
    [inTextField setAttributedStringValue: string];

As you can see, setHyperlinkWithTextField: can reside in your class, which can be called from your class's -awakeFromNib or NSDocument's -windowControllerDidLoadNib:, for example.

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Hyperlink in an NSTextView

Listing 3: Creating a hyperlink attributed string inside an NSTextView.

    // create the attributed string
    NSMutableAttributedString *string = [[NSMutableAttributedString alloc] init];

    // create the url and use it for our attributed string
    NSURL* url = [NSURL URLWithString: @""];
    [string appendAttributedString:[NSAttributedString hyperlinkFromString:@"Apple Computer" withURL:url]];

    // apply it to the NSTextView's text storage
    [[inTextView textStorage] setAttributedString: string];

Note that Listing 3 sets the attributed string a little differently for NSTextView. You must set the text using the NSTextStorage object. NSTextStorage is a subclass of NSAttributedString that is the backing store for an NSTextView object.

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Document Revision History

2006-10-02First Version

Posted: 2006-10-02

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