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BaseModel provides a base class for building model objects for your iOS or Mac OS projects. It saves you the hassle of writing boilerplate code, and encourages good practices by reducing the incentive to cut corners in your model implementation.
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Tag: 2.3.2

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BaseModel
Examples
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LICENCE.md
README.md
RELEASE NOTES.md

README.md

Purpose

BaseModel provides a base class for building model objects for your iOS or Mac OS projects. It saves you the hassle of writing boilerplate code, and encourages good practices by reducing the incentive to cut corners in your model implementation.

The BaseModel object uses Plists and the NSCoding protocol for serialisation. It is not designed for use with Core Data, although in principle the class could be extended to work with Core Data if needed by changing the BaseModel superclass to an NSManagedObject.

BaseModel is really designed as an alternative to Core Data for developers who prefer to have a little more control over the implementation of their data stack. BaseModel gives you precise control over the location and serialisation of your data files, whilst still proving enough automatic behaviour to save you from writing the same code over and over again.

BaseModel is designed to work with the AutoCoding library (https://github.com/nicklockwood/AutoCoding). It does not require this library to function, but when used in combination, BaseModel objects support automatic loading and saving without needing to write your own NSCoding methods. Use of AutoCoding is completely optional. For an example of how it works, check out the AutoTodoList example.

BaseModel is also designed to work with the HRCoder library (https://github.com/nicklockwood/HRCoder) as an alternative mechanism for loading an saving data in a human readable/editable format. When used in conjunction with AutoCoding, HRCoder allows you to specify your data files in a standard format and avoid having to write any setWith... methods. Use of HRCoder is completely optional. For an example of how this works, check out the HRTodoList and HRAutoTodoList examples.

Supported OS & SDK Versions

  • Supported build target - iOS 5.1 / Mac OS 10.7 (Xcode 4.3.2, Apple LLVM compiler 3.1)
  • Earliest supported deployment target - iOS 4.3 / Mac OS 10.6
  • Earliest compatible deployment target - iOS 4.0 / Mac OS 10.6

NOTE: 'Supported' means that the library has been tested with this version. 'Compatible' means that the library should work on this iOS version (i.e. it doesn't rely on any unavailable SDK features) but is no longer being tested for compatibility and may require tweaking or bug fixes to run correctly.

ARC Compatibility

As of version 1.2.1, BaseModel automatically works with both ARC and non-ARC projects through conditional compilation. There is no need to exclude BaseModel files from the ARC validation process, or to convert BaseModel using the ARC conversion tool.

Thread Safety

You can create BaseModel instances on any thread, but each instance should only be used on a single thread. The sharedInstance methods should only be used on the main thread.

Installation

To use the BaseModel class in your project, just drag the class files into your project. It has no dependencies, however you may wish to also include the AutoCoding library (https://github.com/nicklockwood/AutoCoding) to get the full benefit of using BaseModel.

Classes

There is a single class, BaseModel which you should use as the base class for any model-type classes. BaseModel provides a core set of functions for dealing with model data, and through the BaseModel protocol, provides hooks to implement additional bespoke behaviours with minimal coding.

Optional methods

The BaseModel class implements the BaseModel protocol, which specifies some optional methods that can be implemented by BaseModel subclasses to extend the functionality. The BaseModel protocol defines the following optional methods:

- (void)setUp;

BaseModel's initialisation routine is quite complex, and it is not advised that you attempt to override any of the constructor methods (there is no 'designated initializer'). Instead, to perform initialisation logic, implement the setUp method. This is called after the class has been successfully initialised, so there is no need to verify that self is not nil or call [super setUp] (although it is safe to do so). Like init, setUp is called only once at the start of the lifetime of an instance, so it is safe to set properties without releasing their existing values. You should never call setUp yourself directly, except in the context of calling [super setUp] when subclassing your own BaseModel subclasses.

- (void)setWithDictionary:(NSDictionary *)dict;
- (void)setWithArray:(NSArray *)array;
- (void)setWithString:(NSString *)string;
- (void)setWithNumber:(NSNumber *)number;
- (void)setWithData:(NSData *)data;

These methods are used to extend you model with the capability to be initialised from a standard object type (i.e. one that is supported by the Plist format). This is useful as it allows objects to be automatically loaded from a Plist in your application bundle. It could also be used to instantiate objects from other formats like JSON or XML.

These methods are called after the setUp method, so you should not assume that class properties and ivars do not already have values at the point when this method is called. If you are not using ARC, be careful to safely release any property values before setting them. Note: these methods are defined in the protocol only to help with code autocompletion - it is actually possible to initialise a BaseModel instance with any kind of object if you define an appropriate setup method of the form setWith[ClassName]: in your BaseModel subclass.

If you are using the HRCoder library, you probably don't need to implement these methods, provided that you create your data files in the correct format. Files loaded using HRCoder will call the setWithCoder: method instead of setWithDictionary/Array/etc:.

- (void)setWithCoder:(NSCoder *)aDecoder;

This method is called by initWithCoder: as part of the NSCoding implementation. If you are implementing NSCoding serialisation for your class, you should implement this method instead of overriding initWithCoder:. This method is called after the setUp method and potentially may be called after default values have been loaded using setWith[ClassName]:, so you should not assume that class properties and ivars do not already have values at the point when this method is called. Be careful to safely release any property values before setting them. Note that if you are using the AutoCoding library, this method is already implemented for you.

- (void)encodeWithCoder:(NSCoder *)aCoder;

The BaseModel class can optionally implement the NSCoding protocol methods. If you are implementing NSCoding serialisation for your class, you should implement this method. Note that if you are using the AutoCoding library, this method is already implemented for you.

Optional properties

The BaseModel class has the following instance property, which is disabled by default (to allow developer complete control over their model structure) but can be enabled by adding BASEMODEL_ENABLE_UNIQUE_ID to your project's preprocessor macros, which can be found in the build settings:

@property (nonatomic, retain) NSString *uniqueID;

This property is used to store a unique identifier for a given BaseModel instance. The uniqueID getter method is actually a lazy constructor that uses the newUniqueIdentifier method to create a globally unique ID the first time it is called for each model instance, so you should normally not need to set this property unless you need to override the ID for a specific object. Note however that responsibility for loading, saving and copying this ID is left to the developer. If you do not preserve this value when saving and loading your model then it will be different each time the object is re-instantiated (unless you are using the AutoCoding library in which case this property is automatically saved and loaded along with the other class properties).

Methods

The BaseModel class has the following methods:

+ (instancetype)instance;
- (instancetype)init;

Create an autoreleased instance or initialises a retained instance of the class respectively. These methods will first call setUp, and will then attempt to initialise the class from resourceFile if that file exists.

+ (instancetype)instanceWithObject:(NSDictionary *)dict;
- (instancetype)initWithObject:(NSDictionary *)dict;

Creates an instance of the class and initialises it using the supplied object. This is useful when loading a model from an embedded Plist file in the application bundle, or creating model objects from JSON data returned by a web service. This method requires that an appropriate setter method is defined on your class, where the setter name is of the form setWith[ClassName]:. For example, to initialise the model using an NSDictionary, your BaseModel subclass must have a method called setWithDictionary:. This method will attempt to initialise the class from resourceFile (if that file exists) prior to calling setWith[ClassName]:, so if your resourceFile contains a serialised object, this method will be called twice (with different input).

+ (NSArray *)instancesWithArray:(NSArray *)array;

This is similar to instanceWithArray: but instead of initialising the object with an array, it iterates over each item in the array and creates an instance from each object by calling instanceWithArray: or instanceWithDictionary:, depending on the object type. The resultant objects are then returned as a new array. It is expected that the objects in the array will be either NSDictionary or NSArray instances. Any other object type will be returned unmodified.

+ (instancetype)instanceWithCoder:(NSCoder *)decoder;
- (instancetype)initWithCoder:(NSCoder *)decoder;

Initialises the object from an NSCoded archive using the NSCoding protocol. This method requires the setWithCoder: method to be defined on your subclass. This method will attempt to initialise the class from resourceFile (if that file exists) prior to calling setWithCoder:, which allows you to first initialise your object with a static data file before loading additional properties from an NSCoded archive.

+ (instancetype)instanceWithContentsOfFile:(NSString *)filePath;
- (instancetype)initWithContentsOfFile:(NSString *)filePath;

Creates/initialises an instance of the model class from a file. If the file is a Plist then the model will be initialised using the appropriate setWith[ClassName]: method, depending on the type of the root object in the Plist. If the file is an NSCoded archive of an instance of the model then the object will be initialised using setWithCoder:. If the file format is not recognised, or the appropriate setWith... function is not implemented, the method will return nil.

+ (instancetype)sharedInstance;

This returns a shared instance of the model object, so any BaseModel subclass can easily be used as a 'singleton' via this method. The shared instance is created lazily the first time it is called, so this functionality has no overhead until it is used. The shared instance is created by first calling setUp and then attempting to load first the file specified by the resourceFile method and finally the file specified bysaveFile, so your instance may be initialised up to three times from different sources.

+ (BOOL)hasSharedInstance;

Because sharedInstance is a lazy constructor, you cannot call it to test if a given class has a shared instance or not. The hasSharedInstance method lets you check whether a given model has a shared instance without accidentally creating one.

+ (void)setSharedInstance:(BaseModel *)instance;

This method lets you replace the current shared instance with another instance of the model. This is useful for mutable models that may be re-loaded from a file or downloaded from a web service. The previous shared instance will be autoreleased when the new one is set. Note that since the shared model instance is replaced, any objects hanging on to references to the model will need to be updated. The model broadcasts a BaseModelSharedInstanceUpdatedNotification via NSNotificationCenter whenever this method is called, so setting an observer for that event is a good way to make sure that any retained references are updated. You can also set the BaseModel shared instance to nil in order to reclaim memory for BaseModel shared instances if they are no longer needed, or in the event of a memory warning.

+ (void)reloadSharedInstance;

This method reloads the shared instance of the model using the file specified by saveFile. This method replaces the sharedInstance by calling setSharedInstance: internally, so the same notes apply regarding updating references.

- (void)writeToFile:(NSString *)path atomically:(BOOL)atomically;

This method attempts to serialise the model object to the specified file using NSCoding. If you are not using the AutoCoding library, you will need to implement the encodeWithCoder: method, otherwise using this method will throw an exception. The path can be absolute or relative. Relative paths will be automatically prefixed with ~/Library/Application Support/.

- (BOOL)useHRCoderIfAvailable;

Normally, BaseModel saves files using NSCoding and the NSKeyedArchiver, which creates binary Plist files in a complex format that is not human-readable or editable. The HRCoder library provides an alternative format for NSCoding that is more similar to an ordinary, hand-written Plist file. BaseModel detects the presence of the HRCoder class if it's included in the project and will use it by default if available. If you do not want to use HRCoder for saving a particular model, override this method and return NO. BaseModel is still able to load archives that are encoded using the HRCoding protocol if this setting is set to NO, but if you save over the file it will use NSKeyedArchiver.

+ (NSString *)resourceFile;

This method returns the filename for a file to be used to initialise every instance of the object. This would typically be a Plist file stored in the application bundle, and is a fantastic way to quickly define complex default data sets for model objects without having to hard-code them in the setUp method. This can be a full or partial path name. Partial paths will be treated as being relative to the application bundle resources folder. The default return value for this method is ClassName.plist where ClassName is the name of the model class, but you can override this method in your own subclasses to change the file name.

In case you are wondering, there is a small overhead to loading this file the first time you create an instance of your model, however the file is cached and re-used for subsequently created model instances where possible. For models that have no initialisation file, just make sure that no file called ClassName.plist exists in the bundle, and no initialisation will take place. It is not necessary to override this method and return nil, unless you need to have a resource file called ClassName.plist that isn't being used for this purpose (in which case you should probably just rename your file).

+ (NSString *)saveFile;

This method returns a path for a file to be used to load and save the shared instance of the class. By default this file is defined as ClassName.plist where ClassName is the name of the model class, but you can override this method in your own subclasses to change the filename or specify an explicit directory. If you specify a relative filename or path rather than absolute, it will be automatically prefixed with ~/Library/Application Support/.

- (void)save;

This method checks to see if the instance being saved is the shared instance. If so, it will save to the file specified by the saveFile method by using the NSCoding protocol and calling encodeWithCoder:. If the instance is not the shared instance it will throw an exception. You can override the save method in your subclasses to provide an implementation for saving individual models. There are a couple of approaches (which is why there is no default implementation):

  1. If the instance is a member of a larger object graph, where the root node is another BaseModel of the same or different type, you could modify the save method to call save on the root node, that way the entire tree can be saved by calling save on any node:

    - (void)save
    {
        [[RootModel sharedInstance] save];
    }
    
  2. Use the saveFilePathForID: method to return a unique file name for the instance and then save the object using the writeToFile:atomically: method. Here is a sample implementation:

    - (void)save
    {
        [self writeToFile:[self.uniqueID stringByAppendingFileExtension:@"plist"] atomically:YES];
    }
    

You can then load the file again later using:

    MyModel *instance = [MyModel instanceWithContentsOfFile:[THE_UNIQUE_ID stringByAppendingFileExtension:@"plist"]];

Note: that if you are using this approach (and you are not using the AutoCoding library) you will need to ensure that you save and load the uniqueID property, or the class will be saved with a different file name each time (leading to a proliferation of files). Also, unless you are using a custom, hard-coded value for uniqueID, you will need to save a reference to it in another file, otherwise you won't know what the name of the file is in order to load it again.

+ (NSString *)newUniqueIdentifier;

This method is used to generate a new, globally unique identifier. Each time it is called it uses the CFUUID APIs to create a new value that will never be repeated on any device. You can store this value in a property in your model to give it a unique identifier suitable for maintaining references to the object when it is loaded and saved (or enabled the built-in uniqueID property that does this already). Note however that responsibility for loading, saving and copying this ID is left to the developer. If you do not preserve this value when saving and loading your model then it will be different each time the object is re-instantiated.

Usage

The BaseModel class is abstract, and is not designed to be instantiated directly. To implement a model object, create a new subclass of the BaseModel class and implement or override the methods that need to be customised for your specific requirements. Look at the TodoList project for an example of how to do this.

By using the HRCoder and AutoCoding libraries, and following a conventional format for your configuration files, you can dramatically reduce your development time by eliminating boilerplate code. Compare the AutoTodoList, HRTodoList and HRAutoTodoList to the original TodoList project to see how these libraries can reduce setup code in your model objects.

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