Creating string enumerations in Objective-C (The ultimate solution)

A while ago I wrote on my blog about a solution to one of the most common questions asked by Objective-C programmers which is “How can I create string enumerations?”. Well, the solution that I’ve given has immediately become one of the top subjects that attracts developers to my blog, as I can see in my stats. I thought I should now take it to a whole other level and get rid of the limitations that I had presented in the old solution, and come up with a fresh perspective.

The following video is the result of my work on this subject. I hope you’ll enjoy watching it.


Hiding sensitive business logic in Objective-C

So you have some business logic in a class that you want to hide from the users of your class? Let’s say that you are working on a library project and you have to expose the header file of this particular class to your user but once you do that, it’s easier for dubious programmers to find the class name behind your business logic and potential reverse engineer your app.

In Objective-C, we can hide the implementation of our business logic by taking advantage of the Objective-C runtime. Here is our action plan:

  1. We will create our class called Person (the class whose header file is going to be exposed to evil programmers out in the wild!)
  2. We will create another class called PrivatePerson and will include our business logic in there
  3. We will then redirect requests from the Person class to the PrivatePerson class

And obviously we will not export the PrivatePerson’s header files for the programmers, are we crazy? No!

Ok so let’s begin by creating the interface for our Person class like so:

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 16.10.09

The properties are fine. But the method named fullName is going to have business logic in it. It will return the current first name and the last name, separated with a space. We don’t want the logic for this method to be inside the Person class so what can we do? We will go first and create the class named PrivatePerson and we will put our business logic for the fullName method in there. Let’s start with the header file. But before we do that, remember that the firstName and lastName properties are in the Person class. So how can the PrivatePerson class that contains the business logic calculate the full name without having those values? Well, we just have to pass those values to PrivatePerson as parameters like so:

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 16.25.54

Then we will implement the PrivatePerson class:

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 16.26.45


Now what we have to do in our Person class is to implement 2 methods. The first method is methodSignatureForSelector: and this method will be called on our Person class whenever the fullName method is called. Since Person doesn’t implement fullName, the runtime will, in the process of throwing an exception, first find out whether the Person class can handle this message. By implementing the aforementioned method, we get a chance to return a method signature that corresponds to the fullNameFromFirstName:lastName: method in the PrivatePerson class, like so:

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 16.31.39


Note: self.privatePerson is a private property of our class. Look at the next screen shot to learn how we implement that property’s getter.


Then we will implement the forwardInvocation: method using which we redirect the call for the fullName method into the fullNameFromFirstName:lastName: method in PrivatePerson class:

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 16.33.21


Perfect, in your app delegate for instance, test this out:

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 16.34.39


You can see the correct value of “Vandad Nahavandipoor” will be printed out to the screen.

That’s all good and fluffy and warm and nice. But LLVM will be nagging at the incomplete implementation of the fullName method in the Person class since we haven’t implemented it there. Remember? That was our goal! Doh!

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 16.37.22

So using the awesome techniques described by the lovely people behind LLVM, we will silent these incomplete-impelemntation warnings in our Person class like so:

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 16.39.56


Awesome, problem solved. Happy coding everyone! 🙂

iOS 7 Programming Cookbook’s Source Code

As you know, my recent book is now published, titled “iOS 7 Programming Cookbook”. You can purchase it here:

All the source codes written for this book are now available on Github at the following location:

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Deprecating Properties, Methods and Enumerations in Objective-C – LLVM/Xcode Tips and Tricks

A lot of times when working in a team, you would write a class, or add an enumeration to an existing class or add a new property. Some times, you might need to tell other programmers who work on the same code-base that a property, enumeration or a method that you wrote is now becoming deprecated and perhaps a new version of the API introduces a new property/enumeration/method that programmers need to use instead.

This is where LLVM can be very useful. Obviously, if you are the only programmer in a project and not developing an API for others, this might not be of much use to you. But if you are used to working in a team, knowing this trick is an absolute necessity.

Let’s say we are writing an enumeration that at the time of writing (let’s assume at the time of writing this enumeration, iOS 5 was the latest iOS version), everything was fine like so:

Our enumeration works on every iOS version for now

Now let’s say iOS 6.0 is introduced and you are thinking to yourself “Oh that Ultra Fast item in the enumeration is just not very good and I think I have to remove it”. So what to do now? The solution is using __attribute__ like so:

Deprecating an enumeration value in Objective-C

Deprecating an enumeration value in Objective-C

The availability attribute can have the following keys:

introduced: this will be the version of the operating system (iOS, Mac OS X) where the API was introduced first.

deprecated: this is the version of the operating system where the API was deprecated (ready to be removed from the API in later versions of the API)

obsoleted: the version of the operating system where the API is completely removed and is no longer supported.

message: the message to display to the programmer in Xcode.

As you can see, right in front of the availability attribute, we can write “ios” or “macosx” to denote if an API is (un)available for iOS or Mac OS X respectively.

Now let’s assume iOS 7.0 comes along and we want to completely stop our support for the “ultra fast” enumeration value. All we have to do is to add the “obsoleted” key to the availability attribute like so:

Completely removing (obsoleting) an enumeration item from iOS 7.0I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Let me know if you have any questions 🙂

Making a Class Unavailable in Objective-C – LLVM/Xcode Tips and Tricks

So you have written an Objective-C class and you would like to mark it as unavailable so that others won’t be able to instantiate it?

The solution is simple. In the header file of your class, place the following code:

__attribute__((unavailable("Your message to the developer goes here")))

So here is an example of a class header file that uses this LLVM extension:

#import <Foundation/Foundation.h>

__attribute__((unavailable(“This class is unavailable. Please use the YourClass class instead”)))

@interface MyClass : NSObject


Once a programmer attempts to use this class, they will see something similar to this in Xcode (Click to Enlarge the photo):

Unavailable Objective-C Class

Click to Enlarge

String enums in Objective-C

Note: I have written a newer and better solution to this problem in a new video, which you can watch by clicking here.

Sooo a lot of programmers think enumeration items cannot be strings, and they are right, BUT, there is a BUT. You have to understand that C strings that are made out of 4 characters, each of which is 1 byte long, constitute a memory address that is 4 bytes long, or just the equivalent of int, NSInteger or whatever you want to call it.

So if you put a value such as ‘Good’ for the enumeration item, in fact, the compiler will translate the values of ‘G’, ‘o’, ‘o’ and ‘d’ as their numerical values and will generate a hexadecimal value and put it as the integral value of the enumeration item.

Let’s say we want to say “Good”, or “Nice” all in enumeration items in C. Here is the example, this code runs fine in Objective-C for iOS or OS X as well:

Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 19.30.24

The output of this is the string “dooG” printed to the screen if you run this on an iPhone device for instance. The reason is the bytes are obviously reversed as the string ‘Good’ has the letter ‘d’ as the lowest byte and that ends up being at the first byte of the string so we end up with “dooG”. That’s not good though, is it? So we just have to swap the bytes around to get the proper string:

Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 19.31.08

Easy peasy, aye? The highlighted line is very important. That line swaps the order of bytes in the integer. Also note that I am using the calloc function as it will not only allocate the memory but also set the byte values to 0x00 in the memory for us so we don’t have to do it manually or with another procedure.