Bridging categories for Cocoa's toll-free bridged classes
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ARC sure is great, isn't it? I don't miss littering my code with retain, release, and autorelease.

A __bridge to everywhere

Pretty much the only downside of ARC is that casting between toll-free bridging types (like CFStringRef to NSString and back) is a little more verbose. Before ARC, I wrote this:

NSString *stringObject = (NSString *)cfString;
CFStringRef cfString = (CFStringRef)stringObject;

After ARC, I have to write this:

NSString *stringObject = (__bridge NSString *)cfString;
CFStringRef cfString = (__bridge CFStringRef)stringObject;

Of course, there are some shortcuts. It's a little shorter to write this:

NSString *stringObject = (__bridge id)cfString;
CFStringRef cfString = (__bridge void *)stringObject; // or (__bridge CFTypeRef)stringObject

I could even define a couple of macros:

#define fromCF (__bridge id)
#define toCF (__bridge CFTypeRef)

NSString *stringObject = fromCF cfString;
CFStringRef cfString = toCF stringObject;

But using macros sometimes confuses Xcode's autocompletion mechanism. And with or without macros, using the generic types void *, CFTypeRef, and id means giving up compiler type checking.

Free passes if you're not toll-free bridged?

On the other hand, some non-toll-free-bridged types have handy conversions methods:

UIColor *uiColor = [UIColor colorWithCGColor:cgColor];
CGColorRef cgColor = uiColor.CGColor;

UIBezierPath *uiPath = [UIBezierPath bezierPathWithCGPath:cgPath];
CGPathRef cgPath = uiPath.CGPath;

UIImage *uiImage = [UIImage imageWithCGImage:cgImage];
CGImageRef cgImage = uiImage.CGImage;

There are probably others, but I happen to use those a lot.

The categorial imperative

Thanks to the magic of Objective-C categories, we can imbue the toll-free-bridged classes with convenience methods too. For example, we can trivially give NSString a CFString method:

@interface NSString (bridging)

@property (nonatomic, readonly) CFStringRef CFString;


@implementation NSString (bridging)

- (CFStringRef)CFString {
    return (__bridge CFStringRef)self;


// Use it like this:

    CFStringRef cfString = stringObject.CFString;

That's pretty nice. What about the other direction? We could follow the pattern of UIColor and friends:

+ (NSString *)stringWithCFString:(CFStringRef)cfString {
    return (__bridge NSString *)cfString;

// Use it like this:

    NSString *stringObject = [NSString stringWithCFString:cfString];

But that's even more verbose than using __bridge directly. Let's pick a shorter selector. How much shorter can we make it? Hold on to your britches, because the answer might surprise you:

+ (NSString *):(CFStringRef)cfString {
    return (__bridge NSString *)cfString;

// Use it like this:

    NSString *stringObject = [NSString:cfString];

Yes, you can have a selector that's nothing but a colon! It doesn't get any shorter than that. I think it's a pleasant combination of brevity and expressiveness, if a little exotic.

So, this little repository contains a bridging category for each documented toll-free-bridged class in the Foundation framework. All of the categories are declared in one header file, BridgingCategories.h, and defined in one source file, BridgingCategories.m. These are the toll-free-bridged types:

  • CFArrayRef / NSArray
  • CFAttributedStringRef / NSAttributedString
  • CFCalendarRef / NSCalendar
  • CFCharacterSetRef / NSCharacterSet
  • CFDataRef / NSData
  • CFDateRef / NSDate
  • CFDictionaryRef / NSDictionary
  • CFErrorRef / NSError
  • CFLocaleRef / NSLocale
  • CFMutableArrayRef / NSMutableArray
  • CFMutableAttributedStringRef / NSMutableAttributedString
  • CFMutableCharacterSetRef / NSMutableCharacterSet
  • CFMutableDataRef / NSMutableData
  • CFMutableDictionaryRef / NSMutableDictionary
  • CFMutableSetRef / NSMutableSet
  • CFMutableStringRef / NSMutableString
  • CFNumberRef / NSNumber
  • CFReadStreamRef / NSInputStream
  • CFRunLoopTimerRef / NSTimer
  • CFSetRef / NSSet
  • CFStringRef / NSString
  • CFTimeZoneRef / NSTimeZone
  • CFWriteStreamRef / NSOutputStream

The official Apple list is found here.

The contents of this repository are dedicated to the public domain, in accordance with the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, which is reproduced in the file COPYRIGHT.