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Technical Note TN1132
Version Territory


The Settings Library (SettingsLib), introduced in LaserWriter 8.5.1, allows applications to access and change the information created by LaserWriter 8 when a desktop printer is created. SettingsLib prevents contention over the printer database between different parts of a printer driver, different printer drivers, and other printer database clients such as the Desktop Print Monitor. The printer database is stored in the LaserWriter 8 preferences file. The Settings Library is especially useful for applications that previously relied on the format of the PAPA resource in the LaserWriter 8 driver. With the introduction of LaserWriter 8.5.1, the size of the PAPA resource changed, and applications that depended upon its size broke. Since the resource size may change again in the future, Apple has introduced this library to prevent such problems. This Technote overviews the Settings Library APIs.

 Updated: [Jun 01 1998]

Finder 6.1 introduced version ('vers') resources as a way to allow the creator of a file to identify the version of a file, as well as the version of a set of files which includes this file. The format of this resource is described in Inside Macintosh: Macintosh Toolbox Essentials.

This Note, originally Technote OV 12- Version Territory, clarifies the format of data in the NumVersion structure used in a version resource, and provides guidelines for the use of version resources based on the version numbering scheme used at Apple.

All Mac OS programmers who distribute program files of any type should include version resources in their files.

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Version Number Contents

While the version resource structure is described in Inside Macintosh, it does not clearly describe the format for the data in all the fields of the NumVersion structure, which is the data type for the numericVersion field in a version resource. The comments in MacTypes.h from Universal Interfaces 3 aren't any more helpful, which has lead to different interpretation of the content of the fields in the NumVersion structure.

A NumVersion structure is defined as containing four UInt8 values. This allows a NumVersion value to be used as a structure to access individual fields, or cast to an unsigned long for the purpose of comparing version numbers. There is a problem you should be aware of when comparing version number as unsigned long values.

The values in the majorRev and minorAndBugRev fields are stored in binary-coded decimal (BCD) format where each digit has a range of 0 - 9 (normal binary digits have a range of 0 - 15). The majorRev field contains two BCD digits for the major revision level. The MinorAndBugRev field contains two values, each stored as a single BCD digit -- the minor revision level and the bug revision level. This means that a version number can range from 0.0.0 to 99.9.9.

The value in the nonRelRev field is stored as an unsigned binary integer value. This give the nonRelRev field a range of 0 - 255. This is the field that is most often interpreted incorrectly, that is, as a BCD value rather than as a binary value.

Consequences of Using BCD fornonRelRev Values

As long as version resources are consistently created the same way the only consequence to using BCD values is that there are fewer nonRelRev values available: 100 using BCD and 256 using binary. Consistency is important, since BCD and binary values won't compare as equal even though they represent the same value. For example, a BCD revision 10 is 0x10 and a binary revision 10 is 0x0A.

Since most comparisons of version numbers are done by first casting the numericVersion field to an unsigned long, the use of BCD values for the nonRelRev field does not affect this comparison if the versions resource being compared were created the same way, whether as BCD or binary values.

There have been some applications, notably ResEdit, which have interpreted the nonRelRev as BCD. Resorcerer was changed in version 2.0 to correctly interpret the nonRelRev field as an unsigned binary value.

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Apple's Version NumberScheme

Apple uses a version numbering scheme for its software products which you might want to adopt. Table 1 summarizes the scheme, which involves three numbers, each separated by periods.



First released version


First revision


First bug fix to the first revision


First major revision or rewrite


Table 1-Apple's Version Numbering Scheme

Note that Apple increments the first number when it releases a major revision, the second number when it releases a minor revision, and the third number when it releases a version to address bugs (the third number is omitted if it is zero).

During product development, Apple uses a version number followed by a suffix which indicates the stage of development. Table 2 presents a few examples.




First version

1.0d1, 1.0d2, ...


Product feature defined (begin testing)

1.0a1, 1.0a2, ...


Product is stable (begin final testing)

1.0b1, 1.0b2, ...


Final candidate (almost ready to ship)

1.0fc1, 1.0fc2, ...


First revision shipped



First revision


First bug fix to first revision


First major revision


Table 2-Development Version Numbering

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Comparing Version Numbers

A problem can arise when comparing version numbers by casting them to unsigned longs. When compared this way, Golden Master (GM) version numbers will compare as being older than any of the final candidate versions.

For the GM release of a file, the version resource will have the stage field set to final and the nonRelRev field set to zero. Most final candidate releases will contain a version resource, which has the stage field set to final and the nonRelRev field set to some value greater than zero. The problem here is that when the version numbers are cast to unsigned longs, the nonzero value in the nonRelRev field of final candidate version resources causes it to compare as greater than--and thus newer than--the GM version, which is in fact the newest version available.

In the past, this is most often a problem during installations when installing the GM version of a package over a perviously installed final candidate version of the same package. The installer would complain that you are trying to replace newer versions of the files in the package when this is clearly not the case. The Apple installer (and most other installers) avoid this problem by comparing the individual fields of version resources.

The following function will properly compare two NumVersion values:

pascal SInt16 CompareVersions( NumVersion *vers1, NumVersion *vers2 )
    UInt16 nonRelRev1, nonRelRev2;

    if (vers1->majorRev        > vers2->majorRev)        return  1;
    if (vers1->majorRev        < vers2->majorRev)        return -1;
    if (vers1->minorAndBugRev  > vers2->minorAndBugRev)  return  1;
    if (vers1->minorAndBugRev  < vers2->minorAndBugRev)  return -1;
    if (vers1->stage           > vers2->stage)           return  1;
    if (vers1->stage           < vers2->stage)           return -1;

    nonRelRev1 = vers1->nonRelRev;
    nonRelRev2 = vers2->nonRelRev;

    if (vers1->stage == finalStage) {
        if (vers1->nonRelRev == 0)             nonRelRev1 = 0xFFFF;
        if (vers2->nonRelRev == 0)             nonRelRev2 = 0xFFFF;

    if (nonRelRev1 > nonRelRev2)                         return  1;
    if (nonRelRev1 < nonRelRev2)                         return -1;

    return 0;

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'vers' Resource Structure

The structure of a 'vers' resource is defined in MacTypes.r (from Universal Interfaces 3.1) as:

type 'vers' {
    hex byte;                       /* Major revision in BCD*/
    hex byte;                       /* Minor revision in BCD*/
    hex byte    development = 0x20, /* Release stage        */
                alpha = 0x40,
                beta = 0x60,
                final = 0x80, /* or */ release = 0x80;
    hex byte;                       /* Non-final release #  */
    integer;                        /* Region code          */
    pstring;                        /* Short version number */
    pstring;                        /* Long version number  */

The structure of the corresponding VersRec type is defined in MacTypes.h (from Universal Interfaces 3.1) as:

struct VersRec {
                                 /* 'vers' resource format */
    NumVersion  numericVersion;  /* encoded version number */
    short       countryCode;     /* country code from intl utilities */
    Str255      shortVersion;    /* version number string
                                    - worst case */
    Str255      reserved;        /* longMessage string packed
                                    after shortVersion*/
typedef struct VersRec           VersRec;
typedef VersRec *                VersRecPtr;
typedef VersRecPtr *             VersRecHndl;

The structure of the NumVersion type is defined in MacTypes.h (from Universal Interfaces 3.1) as:

struct NumVersion {
               /* Numeric version part of 'vers' resource */
    UInt8      majorRev;       /* 1st part of version number in BCD*/
    UInt8      minorAndBugRev; /* 2nd & 3rd part of version number
                                  share a byte*/
    UInt8      stage;          /* stage code:
                                  dev, alpha, beta, final*/
    UInt8      nonRelRev;      /* revision level of non-released
typedef struct NumVersion      NumVersion;

The structure of the NumVersionVariant type is defined in MacTypes.h (from Universal Interfaces 3.1) as:

union NumVersionVariant {
                 /* NumVersionVariant is a wrapper so
                    NumVersion can be accessed as a 32-bit value */
    NumVersion       parts;
    unsigned long    whole;
typedef union NumVersionVariant NumVersionVariant;

Mention of third-party sites and third-party products is for informational purposes only, and constitutes neither an endorsement nor a recommendation. Apple assumes no responsibility with regard to the selection, performance, or use of these vendors or products.

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Inside Macintosh: Providing Version Resources

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Change History


Originally written.


Revised as Technote OV 12 -- Version Territory to reflect the changes in MPW C 3.1


Updated to clarify the use of the NumVersion structure.

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Acrobat version of this Note (60K).



Acrobat version of Inside Macintosh: Macintosh Toolbox Essentials.



Universal Interfaces 3.1


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