Quick Tip: Don’t Do This

I could not find out where a bug was coming from for the life of me today. Naturally it one of those “assignment instead of equality” bugs that seem to crop up when trying to code too quickly. The difference here was that I had implemented a subclass of NSObject that reimplemented the method +resolveInstanceMethod:. So, the code went like this:

+ ( BOOL )resolveInstanceMethod:( SEL )sel
    if ( sel = @selector( setFoobar: )) {
        return class_addMethod([ self class ], sel, ( IMP )setFB, "v@:@" );
    } else if ( sel = @selector( foobar )) {
        return class_addMethod([ self class ], sel, ( IMP )getFB, "@@:" );
    } else {
        return [ super resolveInstanceMethod:sel ];

For those of you keeping score at home, when the Objective-C runtime tried to resolve any selector, this method happily added a selector for -setFoobar: to self’s class and returned YES.

Don’t do this.

Cocoa Touch Tutorial: Stripping Non-Alphanumeric Characters on Entry in a UITextField

In a previous post, I showed you how to trim non-alphanumeric characters from a string. Here I’ll go more in-depth and show a method that I wrote to restrict text entry in a UITextField to alphanumeric characters. Since I also wanted the characters to be uppercase, I’ll also ensure that only uppercase characters are allowed.

This should all happen in the - (BOOL)textField:(UITextField *)textField shouldChangeCharactersInRange:(NSRange)range replacementString:(NSString *)string method of your UITextField’s delegate (which, of course, must implement the UITextFieldDelegate protocol). I’ve implemented it as follows:

- ( BOOL )textField:( UITextField * )textField
shouldChangeCharactersInRange:( NSRange )range
  replacementString:( NSString * )string
     * We only want uppercase letters and numbers in this text field, so if
     * this method is adding something else, we don't want it. But we also
     * want to support copy-and-paste, so it's not always going to be one
     * character added.
    BOOL shouldAllowChange = YES;

The shouldAllowChange variable is set to YES initially because we want to allow this change when possible. The method will test the string to see if it meets criteria for rejection as we move forward.

    NSMutableString *newReplacement =
    [[ NSMutableString alloc ] initWithString:[ string uppercaseString ]];
    if ( ! [ string isEqualToString:newReplacement ]) {
        shouldAllowChange = NO;

First, we define newReplacement. It’s an NSMutableString so that if we discover non-alphanumeric characters in it, we can remove them on-the-fly. It also serves as a convenient string against which we can test to see if string is already uppercase.

    NSCharacterSet *desiredCharacters =
    [ NSCharacterSet alphanumericCharacterSet ];
    for ( NSUInteger i = 0; i < [ newReplacement length ]; i++ ) {
        unichar currentCharacter = [ newReplacement characterAtIndex:i ];
        if ( ! [ desiredCharacters characterIsMember:currentCharacter ]) {
            shouldAllowChange = NO;
            [ newReplacement deleteCharactersInRange:NSMakeRange( i, 1 )];

In this section, we define the NSCharacterSet that we want to work with - in this case, the alphanumeric character set. We go through one character by a time and if the current character isn’t alphanumeric, we remove it from the NSMutableString (decrementing i so that we don’t inadvertently skip a character) and set our shouldAllowChange flag accordingly.

    if ( shouldAllowChange ) {
        [ newReplacement release ];
        return YES;
    } else {
        [ textField setText:[[ textField text ]
                             withString:newReplacement ]];
        [ newReplacement release ];
        return NO;

To finish, if shouldAllowChange is still true, we return YES and allow the replacement characters to be added. Otherwise, we return NO, but not before using our replacement replacement string (say that ten times fast) to manually edit the text field’s text. The end result is a text field that will consist only of uppercase letters and numbers.

Using Apple’s SimplePing on iPhone OS

If you try out of the box to compile Apple’s “SimplePing” code sample on the iPhone OS, you’ll wind up with a lot of errors as some files don’t exist in those SDKs. Specifically, you need these files (you need more than just these files to compile, obviously, but these are the ones that aren’t included):

  • /usr/include/netinet/ip.h
  • /usr/include/netinet/in_systm.h
  • /usr/include/netinet/ip_icmp.h
  • /usr/include/netinet/ip_var.h

So here’s a quick Bash script that links the relevant files to your iPhone OS and iPhone Simulator SDKs:

for path in /Developer/Platforms/iPhone*/Developer/SDKs/*; do
    for file in /usr/include/netinet/ip.h \
                /usr/include/netinet/in_systm.h \
                /usr/include/netinet/ip_icmp.h \
                /usr/include/netinet/ip_var.h; do
        if [ ! -f "${path}${file}" ]; then
            sudo ln "${file}" "${path}${file}"

I’ve spoken to an Apple engineer and confirmed that this is the best way to do it, as well as filed a bug, which I encourage you to do as well if this annoys you.

Cocoa Tutorial: Strip Non-Alphanumeric Characters from an NSString

Let’s say you have an NSString that contains both alphanumeric and non-alphanumeric characters and you want to strip the non-alphanumeric characters out of it. The hard way is to manually go through, character-by-character, and put the character in a new string if it matches certain criteria. But why do it the hard way?

Apple provides a class that we can use for this to great effect: NSCharacterSet. We want alphanumeric characters, so we can create a character set of the characters we want using this method:

NSCharacterSet *alphanumericSet = [ NSCharacterSet alphanumericCharacterSet ];

Now we have a character set like we want. We just need a way to turn our string into a string that contains only those characters. Unfortunately, the closest thing in NSString’s implementation is the -stringByTrimmingCharactersInSet: method. But that seems to do the opposite of what we want. Fortunately NSCharacterSet has our back here. We can use the -invertedSet method. So here is our final code:

NSString *beginningString = @"Some string with non-alphanumeric characters. !@#$%^&*()";
NSCharacterSet *nonalphanumericSet = [[ NSCharacterSet alphanumericCharacterSet ] invertedSet ];
NSString *endingString = [ beginningString stringByTrimmingCharactersInSet:nonalphanumericSet ];

In this example, endingString will be equal to “Somestringwithnonalphanumericcharacters”.

UPDATE: As it turns out, this only works if the non-alphanumeric characters are at the beginning or end of the NSString. Whoops.

Cocoa Touch Tutorial: Extract Address Book Address Values on iPhone OS

This is the first of what I hope to be several Cocoa Touch tutorials on this site.  I was doing some furious Googling last night trying to find out how to get a contact’s street address from the Address Book for an upcoming update to Take Me Home, and I realized that it’s complicated and there aren’t any good tutorials online.  So, after I figured it out, I commented it up so that hopefully, if you’re reading this, you’ll save some time that I didn’t.

Before you read this tutorial, you should go through Apple’s excellent Address Book Programming Guide for iPhone OS.  This tutorial will rely on the QuickStart application you write in the guide, so do that first.
The first thing we need to do is add an address field to the QuickStart application.  Use Interface Builder to add a new UILabel underneath the two you already have.  You may want to stretch it to fill the entire width of the screen, like so:

Add a new UILabel underneath the exisiting two.
Add a new UILabel underneath the exisiting two.

Now, add the information about this label to QuickStartViewController.h:

//  QuickStartViewController.h
//  QuickStart

#import <UIKit/UIKit.h>
#import <AddressBook/AddressBook.h>
#import <AddressBookUI/AddressBookUI.h>

@interface QuickStartViewController : UIViewController <ABPeoplePickerNavigationControllerDelegate> {
    IBOutlet UILabel *firstName;
    IBOutlet UILabel *lastName;
    IBOutlet UILabel *addressLabel;

@property (nonatomic, retain) UILabel *firstName;
@property (nonatomic, retain) UILabel *lastName;
@property (nonatomic, retain) UILabel *addressLabel;

- (IBAction)showPicker:(id)sender;


Be sure to go back into Interface Builder and connect File’s Owner in QuickStartViewController.xib to addressLabel.

Now, we have to change the method that gets called when you click on a person in the ABPeoplePicker.  As it is at the end of the QuickStart tutorial, once you select a person the picker is dismissed.  So, we do the following in QuickStartViewController.m:

- (BOOL)peoplePickerNavigationController:(ABPeoplePickerNavigationController *)peoplePicker
      shouldContinueAfterSelectingPerson:(ABRecordRef)person {
    NSString *name = (NSString *)ABRecordCopyValue(person, kABPersonFirstNameProperty);
    self.firstName.text = name;
    [name release];

    name = (NSString *)ABRecordCopyValue(person, kABPersonLastNameProperty);
    self.lastName.text = name;
    [name release];

    [self dissmissModalViewControllerAnimated:YES];

    return YES;

Note that you have to delete the line that dismisses the modal view controller; if you don’t, the people picker is dismissed before you have a chance to get the address. When you delete it, the people picker will continue when you select a person. Next up, we have to write the method for when someone selects an address on the next screen. Here’s the method:

- (BOOL)peoplePickerNavigationController:(ABPeoplePickerNavigationController *)peoplePicker
                              identifier:(ABMultiValueIdentifier)identifier {
    // Only inspect the value if it's an address.
    if (property == kABPersonAddressProperty) {
         * Set up an ABMultiValue to hold the address values; copy from address
         * book record.
        ABMultiValueRef multi = ABRecordCopyValue(person, property);

        // Set up an NSArray and copy the values in.
        NSArray *theArray = [(id)ABMultiValueCopyArrayOfAllValues(multi) autorelease];

        // Figure out which values we want and store the index.
        const NSUInteger theIndex = ABMultiValueGetIndexForIdentifier(multi, identifier);

        // Set up an NSDictionary to hold the contents of the array.
        NSDictionary *theDict = [theArray objectAtIndex:theIndex];

        // Set up NSStrings to hold keys and values.  First, how many are there?
        const NSUInteger theCount = [theDict count];
        NSString *keys[theCount];
        NSString *values[theCount];

        // Get the keys and values from the CFDictionary.  Note that because
        // we're using the "GetKeysAndValues" function, you don't need to
        // release keys or values.  It's the "Get Rule" and only applies to
        // CoreFoundation objects.
        [theDict getObjects:values andKeys:keys];

        // Set the address label's text.
        NSString *address;
        address = [NSString stringWithFormat:@"%@, %@, %@, %@ %@",
                   [theDict objectForKey:(NSString *)kABPersonAddressStreetKey],
                   [theDict objectForKey:(NSString *)kABPersonAddressCityKey],
                   [theDict objectForKey:(NSString *)kABPersonAddressStateKey],
                   [theDict objectForKey:(NSString *)kABPersonAddressZIPKey],
                   [theDict objectForKey:(NSString *)kABPersonAddressCountryKey]];

        self.addressLabel.text = address;

        // Return to the main view controller.
        [ self dismissModalViewControllerAnimated:YES ];
        return NO;

    // If they didn't pick an address, return YES here to keep going.
    return YES;

Let’s go through that in more detail.  The method gives us the following information: an ABRecordRef of the person we’ve selected, an ABPropertyID of the property slected (in this case, we ensure that it’s the address) and an ABMultiValueIdentifier of which address we’ve selected.  It is important to note that the ABPropertyID is equal to kABPersonAddressProperty when you select any address; that is, there is only one address property. This one address property holds the values in an ABMultiValue, each at a specific index.  Here are the steps we take in the code:

  1. The first thing we do is define our ABMultiValue, multi, and copy the contents of the selected value into it.
  2. Then we define an NSArray, theArray, into which to copy the multiple values.  But which one do we want?
  3. Each address has an identifier, which the method gives to us as identifier, but we reference them by index when getting them out of the array.  So, we need to create an index (which we’ll store as an unsigned integer), theIndex, and set it to the return value of the ABMultiValueGetIndexForIdentifier function.  Now that we have the index, we know which value of the array to store .  They’re stored as type CFDictionary, which have key-value pairs for us to use, so we define an NSDictionary, theDict to put them into.
  4. First, we need to know how many key-value pairs there are, so we use the count method and store the return value in an unsigned integer, theCount.  Be sure that this variable doesn&rquo;t change—you don’t want to assume that there are more members in the array than there actually are, as that can lead to nasty memory problems. For that reason I’ve defined it as a constant.
  5. Now, we define two NSString arrays, keys[theCount] and values[theCount], and then we’re ready for action.
  6. Next we use the NSDictionary getObjects: andKeys: function to copy the keys and values. The function copies the data, and we can construct our street address.  For the purpose of this example, I’m going to make the address a single line, but you do with it what you want.
  7. Finally, we create a final NSString to put the formatted address into, pull the values out of the dictionary into the appropriate place, and we’re all done!

Update 2010-07-27: Removed [ theDict release ];, some bad memory management.