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These guidelines build on Apple's existing Coding Guidelines for Cocoa. Unless explicitly contradicted below, assume that all of Apple's guidelines apply as well.


  • Tabs, not spaces.
  • End files with a newline.
  • Make liberal use of vertical whitespace to divide code into logical chunks.
  • Don’t leave trailing whitespace.
    • Not even leading indentation on blank lines.

Documentation and Organization

  • All method declarations should be documented.
  • Comments should be hard-wrapped at 80 characters.
  • Comments should be Tomdoc-style.
  • Document whether object parameters allow nil as a value.
  • Use #pragma marks to categorize methods into functional groupings and protocol implementations, following this general structure:
#pragma mark Properties

@dynamic someProperty;

- (void)setCustomProperty:(id)value {}

#pragma mark Lifecycle

+ (instancetype)objectWithThing:(id)thing {}
- (instancetype)init {}

#pragma mark Drawing

- (void)drawRect:(CGRect) {}

#pragma mark Another functional grouping

#pragma mark GHSuperclass

- (void)someOverriddenMethod {}

#pragma mark NSCopying

- (id)copyWithZone:(NSZone *)zone {}

#pragma mark NSObject

- (NSString *)description {}


  • Never declare an ivar unless you need to change its type from its declared property.
  • Don’t use line breaks in method declarations.
  • Prefer exposing an immutable type for a property if it being mutable is an implementation detail. This is a valid reason to declare an ivar for a property.
  • Always declare memory-management semantics even on readonly properties.
  • Declare properties readonly if they are only set once in -init.
  • Don't use @synthesize unless the compiler requires it. Note that optional properties in protocols must be explicitly synthesized in order to exist.
  • Declare properties copy if they return immutable objects and aren't ever mutated in the implementation. strong should only be used when exposing a mutable object, or an object that does not conform to <NSCopying>.
  • Avoid weak properties whenever possible. A long-lived weak reference is usually a code smell that should be refactored out.
  • Instance variables should be prefixed with an underscore (just like when implicitly synthesized).
  • Don't put a space between an object type and the protocol it conforms to.
@property (attributes) id<Protocol> object;
@property (nonatomic, strong) NSObject<Protocol> *object;
  • C function declarations should have no space before the opening parenthesis, and should be namespaced just like a class.
void GHAwesomeFunction(BOOL hasSomeArgs);
  • Constructors should generally return instancetype rather than id.
  • Prefer helper functions (such as CGRectMake()) to C99 struct initialiser syntax.
  CGRect rect = CGRectMake(3.0, 12.0, 15.0, 80.0);


  • Don't access an ivar unless you're in -init, -dealloc or a custom accessor.
  • Use dot-syntax when invoking idempotent methods, including setters and class methods (like NSFileManager.defaultManager).
  • Use object literals, boxed expressions, and subscripting over the older, grosser alternatives.
  • Comparisons should be explicit for everything except BOOLs.
  • Prefer positive comparisons to negative.
  • Long form ternary operators should be wrapped in parentheses and only used for assignment and arguments.
Blah *a = (stuff == thing ? foo : bar);
  • Short form, nil coalescing ternary operators should avoid parentheses.
Blah *b = thingThatCouldBeNil ?: defaultValue;
  • Separate binary operands with a single space, but unary operands and casts with none:
void *ptr = &value + 10 * 3;
NewType a = (NewType)b;

for (int i = 0; i < 10; i++) {

Control Structures

  • Always surround if bodies with curly braces if there is an else. Single-line if bodies without an else should be on the same line as the if.
  • All curly braces should begin on the same line as their associated statement. They should end on a new line.
  • Put a single space after keywords and before their parentheses.
  • Return and break early.
  • No spaces between parentheses and their contents.
if (somethingIsBad) return;

if (something == nil) {
	// do stuff
} else {
	// do other stuff

Exceptions and Error Handling

  • Don't use exceptions for flow control.
  • Use exceptions only to indicate programmer error.
  • To indicate errors, use an NSError ** argument or send an error on a ReactiveCocoa signal.


  • Blocks should have a space between their return type and name.
  • Block definitions should omit their return type when possible.
  • Block definitions should omit their arguments if they are void.
  • Parameters in block types should be named unless the block is initialized immediately.
void (^blockName1)(void) = ^{
    // do some things

id (^blockName2)(id) = ^ id (id args) {
    // do some things


  • Avoid making numbers a specific type unless necessary (for example, prefer 5 to 5.0, and 5.3 to 5.3f).
  • The contents of array and dictionary literals should have a space on both sides.
  • Dictionary literals should have no space between the key and the colon, and a single space between colon and value.
NSArray *theStuff = @[ @1, @2, @3 ];

NSDictionary *keyedStuff = @{ GHDidCreateStyleGuide: @YES };
  • Longer or more complex literals should be split over multiple lines (optionally with a terminating comma):
NSArray *theStuff = @[
    @"Got some long string objects in here.",
    [AndSomeModelObjects too],
    @"Moar strings."

NSDictionary *keyedStuff = @{
    @"this.key": @"corresponds to this value",
    @"otherKey": @"remoteData.payload",
    @"some": @"more",
    @"JSON": @"keys",
    @"and": @"stuff",


  • Categories should be named for the sort of functionality they provide. Don't create umbrella categories.
  • Category methods should always be prefixed.
  • If you need to expose private methods for subclasses or unit testing, create a class extension named Class+Private.


**Archived** Style guide & coding conventions for Objective-C projects


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