An Objective-C Style Guide
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Target Coding Standards

Table of Contents


One of the main reasons for having coding standards is to keep your code readable by everyone. By enforcing standards and formatting, the code base becomes consistent, and anyone can easily understand the structure of the code because he will be more familiar with what to expect. It is also very useful when a new developer joins the team because once he is familiar wtih the patterns, he will be able to easily read the existing code, which results in a more pleasant experience.

In this example, I will define coding standards for an iOS project (which uses Objective-C). We will take advantage of the fact that code formatting can be automated in XCode by using a plugin. The coding style that I chose is based on the Chromium style guide, but I made a few modifications, which can be found in the .clang-format file. Feel free to make changes as you see fit; All of the options are defined here LLVM Coding Standards.


  1. Install Alcatraz, the package manager for XCode. curl -fsSL | sh
  2. Select Package Manager from the Window menu and search for ClangFormat and install that plugin.
  3. Select Clang Format from the Edit menu, and click on File. This will load formatting settings from the .clang-format file that is located in the repository.
  4. When you want to format a file, go to the Clang Format menu and select Format File in Focus. You can also enable Enable Format on Save to have the plugin automatically format the file when you save it. You can also bind formatting to a keyboard shortcut, refer to the ClangFormat homepage for more options.

Additional Standards

The ClangFormat formatter does not implement all the standards we would like to follow. Below are a few additions that should be adhered to. These are taken ad hoc from the New York Times Objective C Style Guide.

Dot-Notation Syntax

Dot-notation should always be used for accessing and mutating properties. Bracket notation is preferred in all other instances.

For example:

view.backgroundColor = [UIColor orangeColor];
[UIApplication sharedApplication].delegate;


[view setBackgroundColor:[UIColor orangeColor]];


Conditional bodies should always use braces even when a conditional body could be written without braces (e.g., it is one line only) to prevent errors. These errors include adding a second line and expecting it to be part of the if-statement. Another, even more dangerous defect may happen where the line "inside" the if-statement is commented out, and the next line unwittingly becomes part of the if-statement. In addition, this style is more consistent with all other conditionals, and therefore more easily scannable.

For example:

if (!error) {
    return success;


if (!error)
    return success;


if (!error) return success;

Error handling

When methods return an error parameter by reference, switch on the returned value, not the error variable.

For example:

NSError *error;
if (![self trySomethingWithError:&error]) {
    // Handle Error


NSError *error;
[self trySomethingWithError:&error];
if (error) {
    // Handle Error

Some of Apple’s APIs write garbage values to the error parameter (if non-NULL) in successful cases, so switching on the error can cause false negatives (and subsequently crash).


Apple naming conventions should be adhered to wherever possible, especially those related to memory management rules (NARC).

Long, descriptive method and variable names are good.

For example:

UIButton *settingsButton;


UIButton *setBut;

A three letter prefix (e.g. NYT) should always be used for class names and constants, however may be omitted for Core Data entity names. Constants should be camel-case with all words capitalized and prefixed by the related class name for clarity.

For example:

static const NSTimeInterval NYTArticleViewControllerNavigationFadeAnimationDuration = 0.3;


static const NSTimeInterval fadetime = 1.7;

Properties and local variables should be camel-case with the leading word being lowercase.

Instance variables should be camel-case with the leading word being lowercase, and should be prefixed with an underscore. This is consistent with instance variables synthesized automatically by LLVM. If LLVM can synthesize the variable automatically, then let it.

For example:

@synthesize descriptiveVariableName = _descriptiveVariableName;


id varnm;


When they are needed, comments should be used to explain why a particular piece of code does something. Any comments that are used must be kept up-to-date or deleted.

Block comments should generally be avoided, as code should be as self-documenting as possible, with only the need for intermittent, few-line explanations. This does not apply to those comments used to generate documentation.

init and dealloc

dealloc methods should be placed at the top of the implementation, directly after the @synthesize and @dynamic statements. init should be placed directly below the dealloc methods of any class.

init methods should be structured like this:

- (instancetype)init {
    self = [super init]; // or call the designated initalizer
    if (self) {
        // Custom initialization

    return self;

CGRect Functions

When accessing the x, y, width, or height of a CGRect, always use the CGGeometry functions instead of direct struct member access. From Apple's CGGeometry reference:

All functions described in this reference that take CGRect data structures as inputs implicitly standardize those rectangles before calculating their results. For this reason, your applications should avoid directly reading and writing the data stored in the CGRect data structure. Instead, use the functions described here to manipulate rectangles and to retrieve their characteristics.

For example:

CGRect frame = self.view.frame;

CGFloat x = CGRectGetMinX(frame);
CGFloat y = CGRectGetMinY(frame);
CGFloat width = CGRectGetWidth(frame);
CGFloat height = CGRectGetHeight(frame);


CGRect frame = self.view.frame;

CGFloat x = frame.origin.x;
CGFloat y = frame.origin.y;
CGFloat width = frame.size.width;
CGFloat height = frame.size.height;


Constants are preferred over in-line string literals or numbers, as they allow for easy reproduction of commonly used variables and can be quickly changed without the need for find and replace. Constants should be declared as static constants and not #defines unless explicitly being used as a macro.

For example:

static NSString * const NYTAboutViewControllerCompanyName = @"The New York Times Company";

static const CGFloat NYTImageThumbnailHeight = 50.0;


#define CompanyName @"The New York Times Company"

#define thumbnailHeight 2

Private Properties

Private properties should be declared in class extensions (anonymous categories) in the implementation file of a class. Named categories (such as NYTPrivate or private) should never be used unless extending another class.

For example:

@interface NYTAdvertisement ()

@property (nonatomic, strong) GADBannerView *googleAdView;
@property (nonatomic, strong) ADBannerView *iAdView;
@property (nonatomic, strong) UIWebView *adXWebView;



Since nil resolves to NO it is unnecessary to compare it in conditions. Never compare something directly to YES, because YES is defined to 1 and a BOOL can be up to 8 bits.

This allows for more consistency across files and greater visual clarity.

For example:

if (!someObject) {


if (someObject == nil) {

For a BOOL, here are two examples:

if (isAwesome)
if (![someObject boolValue])


if (isAwesome == YES) // Never do this.
if ([someObject boolValue] == NO)

If the name of a BOOL property is expressed as an adjective, the property can omit the “is” prefix but specifies the conventional name for the get accessor, for example:

@property (assign, getter=isEditable) BOOL editable;

Text and example taken from the Cocoa Naming Guidelines.


Singleton objects should use a thread-safe pattern for creating their shared instance.

+ (instancetype)sharedInstance {
   static id sharedInstance = nil;

   static dispatch_once_t onceToken;
   dispatch_once(&onceToken, ^{
      sharedInstance = [[self alloc] init];

   return sharedInstance;