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What I’ve Learned About Objective-C

I spent the start of 2013 working on my first iOS SDK. In no particular order, here’s some of what I’ve learned about Objective-C.

  • The hash of a collection is equal to the number of elements in that collection
  • Singletons (er, “shared singletons“) are an accepted pattern in Objective-C
  • Categories are cool. They’re kind of like Ruby’s mixins.
  • Class clusters defy expectations. You can’t cleanly override a method in a class cluster with a category.
  • The community seems to be suffering from Apple’s control. Too many mentions of “I can’t tell you because of NDA” on StackOverflow
  • Apple’s docs are pretty good… if you can find the right ones
  • There’s no easy way to build a “fat archive” and static framework unless you start with this project template, which I didn’t.
  • appledoc should be the de facto documentation engine now, but isn’t.
  • Unit testing networking code is much harder than it should be.
  • I miss Guava. Simple things like Objects.toStringHelper, Objects.hashCode, and EqualsTester.
  • I miss the builder pattern. Objective-C loves telescoping constructors initializers. Likewise, I miss Guice.
  • Many of my favorite libraries for unit testing have been ported to Objective-C.
  • The various abstractions for multithreaded programming are at war. GCD (the latest and greatest) vs NSOperationQueue (the most abstract) vs RunLoops. (Does this belong in this category? NSURLConnection can specify a runloop OR a queue, so I think so.)
  • Some (but not all) of CoreFoundation is open source. A lot of NS* classes are the same as their CF counterparts via “toll-free bridging
  • Variable argument lists don’t know the number of arguments without being told. Most people use a nil-terminated list. A format string (implicit count) or explicitly passing the count also works.
  • There is no NullPointerException; sending a message to nil is fine (no exception raised). This can really bite you in the ass.
  • There are best practices. Read them before you start your next (first?) iOS or Objective-C project. I found this after I figured them out in bits and pieces.

Since I was simultaneously writing an Android SDK, expect a similar post about what I learned about Android in the process.

Posted in Ramblin' Thoughts.


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