We saw in the preceding chapter that Delphi includes a large number of functions and procedures, but the real power of Delphi's visual programming lies in the huge class library that comes with it. Delphi's standard class library contains hundreds of classes, with thousands of methods, and it is so large that I certainly cannot provide a detailed reference in this book. What I'll do, instead, is explore various areas of this library starting with this chapter and continuing through those that follow.
This chapter is devoted to the library's core classes as well as to some standard programming techniques, such as the definition of events. We'll explore some commonly used classes, such as lists, string lists, collections, and streams. We'll devote most of our time to exploring the content of the Classes unit, but we'll also examine other core units of the library.
Delphi classes can be used either entirely in code or within the visual form designer. Some of them are component classes, which show up in the Component Palette, and others are more general-purpose. The terms class and component can be used almost as synonyms in Delphi. Components are the central elements of Delphi applications. When you write a program, you basically choose a number of components and define their interactions— that's all there is to Delphi visual programming.
Before reading this chapter, you need to have a good understanding of the language, including inheritance, properties, virtual methods, class references, and so on, as discussed in Chapter 2, "The Delphi Programming Language."