NSString class and its mutable subclass,
NSMutable, provide an extensive set of APIs for working with strings, including methods for comparing, searching, and modifying strings.
NSString objects are used throughout Foundation and other Cocoa frameworks, serving as the basis for all textual and linguistic functionality on the platform.
- iOS 2.0+
- macOS 10.0+
- tvOS 9.0+
- watchOS 2.0+
NSString object encodes a Unicode-compliant text string, represented as a sequence of UTF–16 code units. All lengths, character indexes, and ranges are expressed in terms of 16-bit platform-endian values, with index values starting at
NSString object can be initialized from or written to a C buffer, an
NSData object, or the contents of an
NSURL. It can also be encoded and decoded to and from ASCII, UTF–8, UTF–16, UTF–32, or any other string encoding represented by
The objects you create using
NSMutable are referred to as string objects (or, when no confusion will result, merely as strings). The term C string refers to the standard
char * type. Because of the nature of class clusters, string objects aren’t actual instances of the
NSMutable classes but of one of their private subclasses. Although a string object’s class is private, its interface is public, as declared by these abstract superclasses,
NSMutable. The string classes adopt the
NSMutable protocols, making it convenient to convert a string of one type to the other.
A string object presents itself as a sequence of UTF–16 code units. You can determine how many UTF-16 code units a string object contains with the
length method and can retrieve a specific UTF-16 code unit with the
character(at:) method. These two “primitive” methods provide basic access to a string object.
Most use of strings, however, is at a higher level, with the strings being treated as single entities: You compare strings against one another, search them for substrings, combine them into new strings, and so on. If you need to access string objects character by character, you must understand the Unicode character encoding, specifically issues related to composed character sequences. For details see The Unicode Standard, Version 4.0 (The Unicode Consortium, Boston: Addison-Wesley, 2003, ISBN 0-321-18578-1) and the Unicode Consortium web site: http://www.unicode.org/. See also Characters and Grapheme Clusters in String Programming Guide.
Localized string comparisons are based on the Unicode Collation Algorithm, as tailored for different languages by CLDR (Common Locale Data Repository). Both are projects of the Unicode Consortium. Unicode is a registered trademark of Unicode, Inc.
Interpreting UTF-16-Encoded Data
When creating an
NSString object from a UTF-16-encoded string (or a byte stream interpreted as UTF-16), if the byte order is not otherwise specified,
NSString assumes that the UTF-16 characters are big-endian, unless there is a BOM (byte-order mark), in which case the BOM dictates the byte order. When creating an
NSString object from an array of
unichar values, the returned string is always native-endian, since the array always contains UTF–16 code units in native byte order.
It is possible to subclass
NSMutable), but doing so requires providing storage facilities for the string (which is not inherited by subclasses) and implementing two primitive methods. The abstract
NSMutable classes are the public interface of a class cluster consisting mostly of private, concrete classes that create and return a string object appropriate for a given situation. Making your own concrete subclass of this cluster imposes certain requirements (discussed in Methods to Override).
Make sure your reasons for subclassing
NSString are valid. Instances of your subclass should represent a string and not something else. Thus the only attributes the subclass should have are the length of the character buffer it’s managing and access to individual characters in the buffer. Valid reasons for making a subclass of
NSString include providing a different backing store (perhaps for better performance) or implementing some aspect of object behavior differently, such as memory management. If your purpose is to add non-essential attributes or metadata to your subclass of
NSString, a better alternative would be object composition (see Alternatives to Subclassing). Cocoa already provides an example of this with the
Methods to Override
Any subclass of
NSString must override the primitive instance methods
character(at:). These methods must operate on the backing store that you provide for the characters of the string. For this backing store you can use a static array, a dynamically allocated buffer, a standard
NSString object, or some other data type or mechanism. You may also choose to override, partially or fully, any other
NSString method for which you want to provide an alternative implementation. For example, for better performance it is recommended that you override
get and give it a faster implementation.
You might want to implement an initializer for your subclass that is suited to the backing store that the subclass is managing. The
NSString class does not have a designated initializer, so your initializer need only invoke the
init() method of
NSString class adopts the
NSCoding protocols; if you want instances of your own custom subclass created from copying or coding, override the methods in these protocols.
Alternatives to Subclassing
Often a better and easier alternative to making a subclass of
NSString—or of any other abstract, public class of a class cluster, for that matter—is object composition. This is especially the case when your intent is to add to the subclass metadata or some other attribute that is not essential to a string object. In object composition, you would have an
NSString object as one instance variable of your custom class (typically a subclass of
NSObject) and one or more instance variables that store the metadata that you want for the custom object. Then just design your subclass interface to include accessor methods for the embedded string object and the metadata.
If the behavior you want to add supplements that of the existing class, you could write a category on
NSString. Keep in mind, however, that this category will be in effect for all instances of
NSString that you use, and this might have unintended consequences.