Objective-C Support

Specific features

The generation of Objective-C has a few special features that are worth noting.

Automatic Reference Counting

The use of Automatic Reference Counting (ARC) is required to call the generated bindings. Project using a .NET Embedding-based library must be compiled with -fobjc-arc.

NSString support

APIs that expose System.String types are converted into NSString. This makes memory management easier than when dealing with char*.

Protocols support

Managed interfaces are converted into Objective-C protocols where all members are @required.

NSObject protocol support

By default, the default hashing and equality of both .NET and the Objective-C runtime are assumed to be interchangeable, as they share similar semantics.

When a managed type overrides Equals(Object) or GetHashCode, it generally means that the default (.NET) behavior was not sufficient; this implies that the default Objective-C behavior is likely not sufficient either.

In such cases, the generator overrides the isEqual: method and hash property defined in the NSObject protocol. This allows the custom managed implementation to be used from Objective-C code transparently.

Exceptions support

Passing --nativeexception as an argument to objcgen will convert managed exceptions into Objective-C exceptions that can be caught and processed.


Managed types that implement IComparable (or its generic version IComparable<T>) will produce Objective-C friendly methods that return a NSComparisonResult and accept a nil argument. This makes the generated API more friendly to Objective-C developers. For example:

- (NSComparisonResult)compare:(XAMComparableType * _Nullable)other;


Managed extensions methods are converted into categories. For example, the following extension methods on Collection:

public static class SomeExtensions {
    public static int CountNonNull (this Collection collection) { ... }
    public static int CountNull (this Collection collection) { ... }

would create an Objective-C category like this one:

@interface Collection (SomeExtensions)

- (int)countNonNull;
- (int)countNull;


When a single managed type extends several types, multiple Objective-C categories are generated.


Managed indexed properties are converted into object subscripting. For example:

public bool this[int index] {
    get { return c[index]; }
    set { c[index] = value; }

would create Objective-C similar to:

- (id)objectAtIndexedSubscript:(int)idx;
- (void)setObject:(id)obj atIndexedSubscript:(int)idx;

which can be used via the Objective-C subscripting syntax:

if ([intCollection [0] isEqual:@42])
    intCollection[0] = @13;

Depending on the type of your indexer, indexed or keyed subscripting will be generated where appropriate.

This article is a great introduction to subscripting.

Main differences with .NET

Constructors vs initializers

In Objective-C, you can call any of the initializer prototypes of any of the parent classes in the inheritance chain, unless it is marked as unavailable (NS_UNAVAILABLE).

In C# you must explicitly declare a constructor member inside a class, which means constructors are not inherited.

To expose the right representation of the C# API to Objective-C, NS_UNAVAILABLE is added to any initializer that is not present in the child class from the parent class.


public class Unique {
    public Unique () : this (1)

    public Unique (int id)

public class SuperUnique : Unique {
    public SuperUnique () : base (911)

Objective-C surfaced API:

@interface SuperUnique : Unique

- (instancetype)initWithId:(int)id NS_UNAVAILABLE;
- (instancetype)init;


Here, initWithId: has been marked as unavailable.


Objective-C does not support operator overloading as C# does, so operators are converted to class selectors:

public static AllOperators operator + (AllOperators c1, AllOperators c2)
    return new AllOperators (c1.Value + c2.Value);


+ (instancetype)add:(Overloads_AllOperators *)anObjectC1 c2:(Overloads_AllOperators *)anObjectC2;

However, some .NET languages do not support operator overloading, so it is common to also include a "friendly" named method in addition to the operator overload.

If both the operator version and the "friendly" version are found, only the friendly version will be generated, as they will generate to the same Objective-C name.

public static AllOperatorsWithFriendly operator + (AllOperatorsWithFriendly c1, AllOperatorsWithFriendly c2)
    return new AllOperatorsWithFriendly (c1.Value + c2.Value);

public static AllOperatorsWithFriendly Add (AllOperatorsWithFriendly c1, AllOperatorsWithFriendly c2)
    return new AllOperatorsWithFriendly (c1.Value + c2.Value);


+ (instancetype)add:(Overloads_AllOperatorsWithFriendly *)anObjectC1 c2:(Overloads_AllOperatorsWithFriendly *)anObjectC2;

Equality operator

In general operator == in C# is handled as a general operator as noted above.

However, if the "friendly" Equals operator is found, both operator == and operator != will be skipped in generation.

DateTime vs NSDate

From the NSDate documentation:

NSDate objects encapsulate a single point in time, independent of any particular calendrical system or time zone. Date objects are immutable, representing an invariant time interval relative to an absolute reference date (00:00:00 UTC on 1 January 2001).

Due to NSDate reference date, all conversions between it and DateTime must be done in UTC.

DateTime to NSDate

When converting from DateTime to NSDate, the Kind property on DateTime is taken into account:

Kind Results
Utc Conversion is performed using the provided DateTime object as is.
Local The result of calling ToUniversalTime() in the provided DateTime object is used for conversion.
Unspecified The provided DateTime object is assumed to be UTC, so same behavior when Kind is Utc.

The conversion uses the following formula:

TimeInterval = DateTimeObjectTicks - NSDateReferenceDateTicks / TicksPerSecond

In this formula:

  • NSDateReferenceDateTicks is calculated based on the NSDate reference date of 00:00:00 UTC on 1 January 2001:

    new DateTime (year:2001, month:1, day:1, hour:0, minute:0, second:0, kind:DateTimeKind.Utc).Ticks;
  • TicksPerSecond is defined on TimeSpan

To create the NSDate object, the TimeInterval is used with the NSDate dateWithTimeIntervalSinceReferenceDate: selector.

NSDate to DateTime

The conversion from NSDate to DateTime uses the following formula:

DateTimeTicks = NSDateTimeIntervalSinceReferenceDate * TicksPerSecond + NSDateReferenceDateTicks

In this formula:

  • NSDateReferenceDateTicks is calculated based on the NSDate reference date of 00:00:00 UTC on 1 January 2001:

    new DateTime (year:2001, month:1, day:1, hour:0, minute:0, second:0, kind:DateTimeKind.Utc).Ticks;
  • TicksPerSecond is defined on TimeSpan

After calculating DateTimeTicks, the DateTime constructor is invoked, setting its kind to DateTimeKind.Utc.


NSDate can be nil, but a DateTime is a struct in .NET, which by definition can't be null. If you give a nil NSDate, it will be translated to the default DateTime value, which maps to DateTime.MinValue.

NSDate supports a higher maximum and a lower minimum value than DateTime. When converting from NSDate to DateTime, these higher and lower values are changed to the DateTime MaxValue or MinValue, respectively.