Why I Dig Objective-C

January 12, 2007 at 6:19 pm 1 comment

I apologize if this entry is incoherent or trivial. But I need to build up the habit of blogging.

I recently picked up a copy of Refactoring. I hadn’t heard of that book before I read Steve Yegge’s thoughts on it – indeed, my entire concept of refactoring had previously been limited to Eclipse’s built-in tools. To describe this book as an eye-opener would be an understatement; not only has it taught me many coding strategies (upon reading the entry for Introduce Null Object, I practically screamed “Why didn’t I think of that?”), but it’s also changed many of my ideas about the way I code.

Fowler’s clear, direct writing is one of the strengths of Refactoring; during the book, he introduces the concept of the code smell – a term which I had not heard before, and which perfectly describes a situation with which I have been familiar ever since I started coding – and points out that a sure-fire sign of smelly code is the presence of many comments; if you need to explain a method in excruciating detail, then you’re probably made it too complex.

One of the reasons why I adore Eclipse for Java development is because it shows JavaDoc attributes in its Intellisense methods – I don’t need to navigate through the Java API when I can hit Ctrl+Space and see the arguments the method takes. Without Eclipse, I have to either rely on memory (and in my opinion, life’s too short to memorize the proper sequence of arguments that a proper BufferedReader instance takes) or waste time navigating the API docs.

Objective-C, on the other hand, doesn’t have this – because method signatures can be broken up into multiple pieces. Take a look at these two method signatures – taken straight from the documentation:

- (NSRange)rangeOfString:(NSString *)subString options:(unsigned)mask range:(NSRange)aRange


public NSRange rangeOfString(String s, int i, NSRange nsrange)

When looking at the first method signature, I know that the second object will be an integer that controls the masking – simply by virtue of the fact that, like its parent Smalltalk, its methods recieve messages via keyword messaging. I can also make the assumption – and it is only an assumption – that - (NSRange)rangeOfString:(NSString *)subString options:(unsigned)mask and - (NSRange)rangeOfString:(NSString *)subString are valid methods. With the Java API, on the other hand, I have no clue what the second argument does; if I had to know, I’d need to be using Eclipse or XCode, not Emacs or Textmate. Textmate’s Cocoa completions don’t show any HeaderDoc information – but that doesn’t matter: the keywords tell me what the arguments are used for.

It seems to me that Objective-C’s syntax lends itself to clarity by its very nature; Java, on the other hand, depends on other programmers being clear and helpful in their method signatures. And as a short perusal through The Daily WTF reveals, programmers can be very, very unhelpful at times.

Entry filed under: code, objc, rant. Tags: .

Cocoa Snippet: Finding a File’s ‘Kind’ An Apology to SQLAlchemy

1 Comment

  • 1. Scott Stevenson  |  January 13, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    I don’t know for sure, but I suspect this is where Rails learned its tricks with named hashes as input.

About Me

I'm Patrick Thomson. This was a blog about computer programming and computer science that I wrote in high school and college. I have since disavowed many of the views expressed on this site, but I'm keeping it around out of fondness.

If you like this, you might want to check out my Twitter or Tumblr, both of which are occasionally about code.

Blog Stats

  • 650,210 hits

%d bloggers like this: