Factory Methods init-alloc, new

Objects Are Created Dynamically

 

Memory is allocated dynamically for an Objective-C object. The first step in creating an object is to make sure enough memory is allocated not only for the properties defined by an object’s class, but also the properties defined on each of the superclasses in its inheritance chain.

The NSObject root class provides a class method, alloc, which handles this process for you:

+ (id)alloc;

Notice that the return type of this method is id. This is a special keyword used in Objective-C to mean “some kind of object.” It is a pointer to an object, like (NSObject *), but is special in that it doesn’t use an asterisk.

The alloc method has one other important task, which is to clear out the memory allocated for the object’s properties by setting them to zero. This avoids the usual problem of memory containing garbage from whatever was stored before, but is not enough to initialize an object completely.

You need to combine a call to alloc with a call to init, another NSObject method:

- (id)init;

The init method is used by a class to make sure its properties have suitable initial values at creation, and is covered in more detail in the next chapter.

Note that init also returns an id.

If one method returns an object pointer, it’s possible to nest the call to that method as the receiver in a call to another method, thereby combining multiple message calls in one statement. The correct way to allocate and initialize an object is to nest the alloc call inside the call to init, like this:

    NSObject *newObject = [[NSObject alloc] init];

This example sets the newObject variable to point to a newly created NSObject instance.

The innermost call is carried out first, so the NSObject class is sent the alloc method, which returns a newly allocated NSObject instance. This returned object is then used as the receiver of the init message, which itself returns the object back to be assigned to the newObject pointer, as shown in Figure 2-5.

Figure 2-5  Nesting the alloc and init message

Initializer Methods Can Take Arguments

Some objects need to be initialized with required values. An NSNumber object, for example, must be created with the numeric value it needs to represent.

The NSNumber class defines several initializers, including:

- (id)initWithBool:(BOOL)value;
- (id)initWithFloat:(float)value;
- (id)initWithInt:(int)value;
- (id)initWithLong:(long)value;

Initialization methods with arguments are called in just the same way as plain init methods—an NSNumber object is allocated and initialized like this:

    NSNumber *magicNumber = [[NSNumber alloc] initWithInt:42];

Class Factory Methods Are an Alternative to Allocation and Initialization

As mentioned in the previous chapter, a class can also define factory methods. Factory methods offer an alternative to the traditional alloc] init]process, without the need to nest two methods.

The NSNumber class defines several class factory methods to match its initializers, including:

+ (NSNumber *)numberWithBool:(BOOL)value;
+ (NSNumber *)numberWithFloat:(float)value;
+ (NSNumber *)numberWithInt:(int)value;
+ (NSNumber *)numberWithLong:(long)value;

A factory method is used like this:

    NSNumber *magicNumber = [NSNumber numberWithInt:42];

This is effectively the same as the previous example using alloc] initWithInt:]. Class factory methods usually just call straight through to alloc and the relevant init method, and are provided for convenience.

Use new to Create an Object If No Arguments Are Needed for Initialization

It’s also possible to create an instance of a class using the new class method. This method is provided by NSObject and doesn’t need to be overridden in your own subclasses.

It’s effectively the same as calling alloc and init with no arguments:

    XYZObject *object = [XYZObject new];
    // is effectively the same as:
    XYZObject *object = [[XYZObject alloc] init];

Literals Offer a Concise Object-Creation Syntax

Some classes allow you to use a more concise, literal syntax to create instances.

You can create an NSString instance, for example, using a special literal notation, like this:

    NSString *someString = @"Hello, World!";

This is effectively the same as allocating and initializing an NSString or using one of its class factory methods:

    NSString *someString = [NSString stringWithCString:"Hello, World!"
                                              encoding:NSUTF8StringEncoding];

The NSNumber class also allows a variety of literals:

    NSNumber *myBOOL = @YES;
    NSNumber *myFloat = @3.14f;
    NSNumber *myInt = @42;
    NSNumber *myLong = @42L;

Again, each of these examples is effectively the same as using the relevant initializer or a class factory method.

You can also create an NSNumber using a boxed expression, like this:

    NSNumber *myInt = @(84 / 2);

In this case, the expression is evaluated, and an NSNumber instance created with the result.

Objective-C also supports literals to create immutable NSArray and NSDictionary objects;

 

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