Getting Started with Objective C for C++ developers

Here are the major difference between C++ and Obj C:

  • C++ allows multiple inheritance, Objective-C doesn’t.
  • Unlike C++, Objective-C allows method parameters to be named and the method signature includes only the names and types of the parameters and return type. In comparison, a C++ member function signature contains the function name as well as just the types of the parameters/return (without their names).
  • C++ uses bool, true and false, Objective-C uses BOOL, YES and NO.
  • C++ uses void* and NULL, Objective-C prefers id and nil.
  • Objective-C uses “selectors” (which have type SEL) as an approximate equivalent to function pointers.
  • Objective-C uses a messaging paradigm (a la Smalltalk) where you can send “messages” to objects through methods/selectors.
  • Objective-C will happily let you send a message to nil, unlike C++ which will crash if you try to call a member function of NULL
  • Objective-C allows for dynamic dispatch, allowing the class responding to a message to be determined at runtime, unlike C++ where the object a method is invoked upon must be known at compile time. This is related to the previous point.
  • Objective-C allows autogeneration of accessors for member variables using “properties”.
  • Objective-C allows assigning to self, and allows class initialisers (similar to constructors) to return a completely different class if desired. Contrast to C++, where if you create a new instance of a class (either implicitly on the stack, or explicitly through new) it is guaranteed to be of the type you originally specified.
  • Similarly, in Objective-C other classes may also dynamically alter a target class at runtime to intercept method calls.
  • Objective-C lacks the namespace feature of C++.
  • Objective-C lacks an equivalent to C++ references.
  • Objective-C lacks templates, preferring (for example) to instead allow weak typing in containers.
  • Objective-C doesn’t allow implicit method overloading, but C++ does. That is, in C++ int foo (void) and int foo (int) define an implicit overload of the method foo, but to achieve the same in Objective-C requires the explicit overloads - (int) foo and - (int) foo:(int) intParam. This is due to Objective-C’s named parameters being functionally equivalent to C++’s name mangling.
  • Objective-C will happily allow a method and a variable to share the same name, unlike C++ which will typically have fits. I imagine this is something to do with Objective-C using selectors instead of function pointers, and thus method names not actually having a “value”.
  • Objective-C doesn’t allow objects to be created on the stack – all objects must be allocated from the heap (either explicitly with an alloc message, or implicitly in an appropriate factory method).
  • Like C++, Objective-C has both structs and classes. However, where in C++ they are treated as almost exactly the same, in Objective-C they are treated wildly differently – you can create structs on the stack, for instance.

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