Determining WebKit Availability

On OS X v10.2, the WebKit framework and the URL Loading system is only available on systems that have installed Safari 1.0. This article explains how a Mach-O application that use the WebKit framework or the URL Loading system, can run effectively on versions of OS X that don't have Safari 1.0 installed.

If a user runs your application on a system that does not have the appropriate frameworks installed it will fail to launch, or crash at some point during execution. In order to prevent this you must take some precautions in your project.

Testing for URL Loading System Availability

The URL Loading system is available as of version 462.6 of the Foundation framework. To determine if the classes are available you can test the NSFoundationVersionNumber of the installed Foundation framework.

The example code in Listing 1 will return YES if the URL Loading system is available.

Listing 1  Determining if the URL Loading system is available.

+ (BOOL)isURLLoadingAvailable
    return (NSFoundationVersionNumber >= 462.6);

Testing for WebKit Availability

An application can test for the availability of the WebKit by attempting to create a bundle for the framework using NSBundle. If the framework exists, the application can use the load method to dynamically load the framework.

The example code in Listing 2 will return YES if the framework is installed and loads successfully.

Listing 2  Determining if the WebKit framework is available

+ (BOOL)isWebKitAvailable
    static BOOL _webkitAvailable=NO;
    static BOOL _initialized=NO;
    if (_initialized)
        return _webkitAvailable;
    NSBundle* webKitBundle;
    webKitBundle = [NSBundle bundleWithPath:@"/System/Library/Frameworks/WebKit.framework"];
    if (webKitBundle) {
        _webkitAvailable = [webKitBundle load];
    return _webkitAvailable;

Isolating Your WebKit and URL Loading System Symbols

Simply testing the version of the Foundation framework or if the WebKit framework is installed is not sufficient. If the application contains WebKit or URL Loading system symbols it can fail before it's able to execute the test code and inform the user of the problem.

The application must ensure that the main bundle does not include any symbols that may not be available at launch.

Conditionally Loading Code

One solution is to separate your WebKit dependent code into a bundle and load it only after determining that the framework is available.

You start by creating a new Bundle target in your application's Xcode project. This target should contain all your code that directly references WebKit classes, globals and types and is should be set to link against the WebKit.framework.

Your main application target in Project Builder should specify that it is dependent on the bundle and copy it to the application directory at compile time. Your application then checks the availability of the WebKit framework and, if present, uses NSBundle or CFBundle to dynamically load the code.

Weak Linking Symbols

OS X v10.2 introduced support for weak linking in Mach-O applications. It works in a similar manner to the traditional Mac OS' Code Fragment Manager’s weak, or soft imports.

The technical note “Ensuring Backwards Binary Compatibility - Weak Linking and Availability Macros on OS X” describes the current support for weak linking of Carbon symbols. Currently, the same level of support is not available for Objective-C classes.

Due to the dynamic nature of Objective-C it is possible to avoid using linked symbols for class names by creating an instance of a class using the NSClassFromString() function.

Class webDownloadClass=NSClassFromString(@"WebDownload");
WebDownload *download=[[webDownloadClass alloc] initWithRequest:theRequest

This is equivalent to the following code that explicitly uses the WebDownload class.

WebDownload *download=[[WebDownload alloc] initWithRequest:theRequest

Depending on your usage, it may also be necessary to dynamically load WebKit constants using CFBundle after determining that the framework is available. The example code in Listing 3 demonstrates testing for the framework and loading a WebKit constant using CFBundle.

Listing 3  Loading WebKit constants dynamically using CFBundle

 CFURLRef url = CFURLCreateWithFileSystemPath(NULL,
                          kCFURLPOSIXPathStyle, TRUE);
    CFBundleRef bundle = CFBundleCreate(NULL, url);
    if (bundle != NULL) {
        NSString **WebHistoryItemsAddedNotificationPointer =
              (NSString **)CFBundleGetDataPointerForName(bundle,
        if (WebHistoryItemsAddedNotificationPointer != NULL) {
            NSLog(@"looked up WebHistoryItemsAddedNotification");
            NSLog(@"location is %x, value is %@", *WebHistoryItemsAddedNotificationPointer, *WebHistoryItemsAddedNotificationPointer);
        } else {
            NSLog(@"found WebKit, but couldn't get the pointer");
    } else {
        NSLog(@"no WebKit installed");

See Also: Technical Note TN2064 - Ensuring backwards compatibility - Weak Linking and Availability Macros in OS X v10.2