Create Go language bindings for Objective-C.
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README.md

NSWrap

Create Go language bindings for Objective-C.

Using NSWrap, you can work with MacOS interfaces, subclasses, library functions, protocols and delegates entirely in Go.

Getting Started

Installation

NSWrap runs on MacOS and requires clang (from the XCode command line tools) and the MacOS system header files.

go get git.wow.st/gmp/nswrap

The nswrap command line tool should now be installed in your go/bin path.

Since NSWrap uses clang to generate an AST from Objective-C input files, you will need to install XCode and its associated command line tools. Enter clang --version from your terminal prompt to see if you have it installed. You will also need the Objective-C header files for the various frameworks you want to use. Look for them in /System/Library/Frameworks/*/Headers.

Try Out An Example

NSWrap is designed to be easy to use. To get started with an example, visit your Go source directory in a terminal and enter:

cd git.wow.st/gmp/nswrap/examples/app
go generate
go build
./app

Basic Usage

YAML configuration file

NSWrap takes no command line arguments. All configuration directives are included in a file named nswrap.yaml, which must be found in the directory from which NSWrap is invoked.

# nswrap.yaml example

package: MyWrapper
inputfiles:
  - /System/Library/Frameworks/Foundation.framework/Headers/Foundation.h

classes:
  - NSString
  - NSArray

frameworks: [ Foundation ]
pragma [ clang diagnostic ignored "-Wformat-security" ]

Regular expressions are permitted in the names of classes, functions, protocols and protocol methods, overridden superclass methods, and enums. Since the NSObject class is necessary for memory management, NSWrap will automatically include it if it is encountered in an input header file.

When invoked, NSWrap creates a subdirectory with the name of the package as specified in nswrap.yaml or, by default, ns if a package name is not specified. In the output directory, a main.go file and, if required, exports.go, will be created or overwritten.

To automatically invoke NSWrap, put a //go:generate nswrap comment at the top of your go source file and use go generate to create your Objective-C bindings.

NSWrap will look for Objective-C header files where directed under inputfiles in your configuration file. CGo will also automatically compile and link any Objective-C implementation (.m) files found in this output directory, so put them in there if you are going to be hand-crafting any Objective-C implementations that need to go in the same package as your automatically generated bindings.

Class and Instance Methods

NSWrap will create bindings for all classes identified in the classes directive of the configuration file. All of the class and instance methods are bound to Go and all types identified in the process are wrapped in Go types (as described below), except for methods that contain unsupported return types or paramater types such as blocks and function pointers.

s1 := ns.NSStringAlloc()        // allocate an instance of NSString
s2 := ns.NSStringWithSting(s1)  // call a class method of NSString
class := ns.NSStringClass()     // class method returning the class of NSString
fmt.Println(s2.UTF8String())    // call UTF8String, an NSString instance method

As seen above, generated class methods will have the same name as their Objective-C method name, converted to the Go TitleCase convention, prefixed with the class name, and, if necessary, disambiguated for overloaded Objective-C methods. Any redundant initial characters are elided (e.g. the Objective-C [NSString stringWithString:aString] is shortened in Go to ns.NSStringWithString(aString)). Instance methods are converted to TitleCase and disambiguated for method overloading as described below.

Note that while return types and parameter types needed for the binding will be defined and wrapped for you in Go types, you will not get any of their methods unless those types also appear in your NSWrap configuration file. For example, the [NSDictionary WithObjects: forKeys:] constructor takes two NSArray parameters, so if you want to use it from Go you will probably want to have NSArray in your configuration file in addition to NSDictionary.

Overloaded Methods

Because Go does not allow overloaded functions, NSWrap automatically disambiguates overloaded method names as required. This is done by successively adding parameter names onto the end of the Go function name until a unique name is created.

For example, NSString provides the folowing compare methods:

- compare:
- compare:options:
- compare:options:range:
- compare:options:range:locale:

These are translated into Go as:

func (o *NSString) Compare(string *NSString) NSComparisonResult { }

func (o *NSString) CompareOptions(string *NSString, mask NSStringCompareOptions) NSComparisonResult { }

func (o *NSString) CompareOptionsRange(string *NSString, mask NSStringCompareOptions,
	rangeOfReceiverToCompare NSRange) NSComparisonResult { }

func (o *NSString) CompareOptionsRangeLocale(string *NSString, mask NSStringCompareOptions,
	rangeOfReceiverToCompare NSRange, locale NSObject) NSComparisonResult { }

NSString Helpers

When NSWrap sees a class or instance method ending in ...WithString (taking an Objective-C NSString as a parameter), it will automatically create an additional helper method ending in WithGoString that takes a Go string.

str := ns.NSStringWithGoString("** your string goes here **")
fmt.Printf("%s\n",str)

NSWrap creates a Char Go type that is equivalent to a C char. A pointer to Char in Go code can therefore be used with Objective-C functions and methods that take a char* parameter.

When NSWrap binds a method that returns *Char (and is in garbage collected mode, the default), it first calls strdup on the output of the underlying Objective-C method. Therefore, the returned pointer is manually allocated and will need to be freed later from Go. NSWrap creates a (*Char).Free() method for use when these pointers are no longer needed. This copying is necessary because the Objective-C runtime will sometimes return pointers to internal objects that are impossible to manage from the Go side. NSWrap aims to cause any internal objects to be deallocated as soon as possible so they do not cause memory leaks. This means that any returned C strings need to be copied and memory managed manually from the Go side.

NSWrap provides the helper functions CharWithGoString and CharWithBytes that take, respectively, Go strings and Go byte arrays ([]byte) and return *Char in Go. As demonstrated above, NSWrap also provides String() methods so that the *Char and *NSString types implement the Stringer Go interface and therefore can be sent directly to functions like fmt.Printf. The String() method on *NSString creates a temporary *Char internally but frees it for you before returning. Since methods returning *Char return a pointer that needs to be manually freed, it is important to use these properly in order to avoid leaks:

nst := ns.NSStringWithGoString("one string")

// NO: the next line leaks a *Char (UTF8String)
//mygostring := nst.UTF8String().String()

// OK: NSWrap creates a temporary *Char and frees it for you:
mygostring := nst.String()

// ALSO OK: manually free your own temporary *Char:
mytmpchar := nst.UTF8String()
mygostring = mytmpchar.String()
mytmpchar.Free()

In most cases it will be more convenient to convert directly to Go strings instead of *Char.

Working With NSObject and its Descendants

Objective-C objects are represented in Go by a type and an interface as follows:

type Id struct {
	ptr unsafe.Pointer
}
func (o *Id) Ptr() unsafe.Pointer { if o == nil { return nil }; return o.ptr }

type NSObject interface {
	Ptr() unsafe.Pointer
}

Other object types in Go are structs that directly or indirectly embed Id and therefore contain an unsafe.Pointer to an Objective-C object, and implement NSObject by inheriting the Ptr() method.

Because of this implementation, you will note that every Objective-C object is represented by at least two pointers -- an underlying pointer to the Objective-C object in CGo memory (allocated by the Objective-C runtime), as well as a pointer allocated by the Go runtime to an Id type, or to another type that directly or indirectly embeds Id. This "dual pointer" approach is necessary to ensure that memory management can be made to work correctly (see below for details).

  • The NSObject Interface

The Id type in Go represents the Objective-C type id, which is a pointer to an Objective-C object. Because cgo does not understand this type, NSWrap will always translate it to a void* on the C side. The NSObject interface in Go allows any type that directly or indirectly embeds Id to be used with generic Objective-C functions. For example:

o1 := ns.NSStringWithGoString("my string")
s1 := ns.NSSetWithObjects(o1)
a := ns.NSMutableArrayWithObjects(o1,s1)

Since NSString and NSSet in Go both implement the NSObject interface, they can both be used as parameters to the NSMutableArray constructor.

This will help you, too, when working with delegates (see below). Classes that accept delegates will generally accept any NSObject in their initWithDelegate() or setDelegate() methods, and may or may not test at runtime if the provided object actually implements the required delegate protocol.

  • Inheritance

Objective-C allows single inheritance. NSWrap automatically adds inherited methods to classes that are includled in your binding.

Types created by NSWrap also "embed" their parent class. For example, top level objects that inherit from NSObject in Objective-C embed the Go type Id and therefore implement the NSObject Go interface. Other objects embed their direct superclass. For example:

type NSArray struct { Id }
func (o *NSArray) Ptr() unsafe.Pointer { if o == nil { return nil }; return o.ptr }
func (o *Id) NSArray() *NSArray {
	return (*NSArray)(unsafe.Pointer(o))
}

type NSMutableArray struct { NSArray }
func (o *NSMutableArray) Ptr() unsafe.Pointer { if o == nil { return nil }; return o.ptr }
func (o *Id) NSMutableArray() *NSMutableArray {
        return (*NSMutableArray)(unsafe.Pointer(o))
}

Observe:

b := ns.NSButtonAlloc()        // NSButton > NSControl > NSView > NSResponder > NSObject
b.InitWithFrame(ns.NSMakeRect(100,100,200,200))
b.SetTitle(nst("PUSH"))
vw := win.ContentView()
vw.AddSubview(&b.NSView)	// Pass the button's embedded NSView

In Go, NSButtonAlloc returns a Go object of type ns.NSButton. However, the initWithFrame method is defined in AppKit for NSView. NSWrap will find this method and add it to the Go NSButton type when creating your wrapper because NSButton inherits from NSControl which inherits from NSView.

As of this writing, on MacOS 10.13.6, NSWrap binds 115 instance methods for NSObject, so things like Hash(), IsEqualTo(), ClassName(), RespondsToSelector() and many many others are available and can be called on any object directly from Go.

All objects implement the NSObject interface, but from time to time you will encounter a method that takes a parameter of a different type that may not exactly match the type you have. For example, if you want to pass your NSButton as a parameter to a method that accepts an NSView type, you need to explicitly pass its embedded NSView (&b.NSView in the example above). This approach is safer than "converting" the button to an NSView (see below) because it will only work on objects that directly or indirectly embed an NSView Go type.

NSWrap creates a method for Id allowing objects to be converted at run-time to any other class. You will need this for Enumerators and functions like NSArray's GetObjects, for example, which always return *Id. Make sure you know (or test) what type your objects are before converting them. You can implement a version of a Go type switch this way:

switch {
case o.IsKindOfClass(ns.NSStringClass()):
        // do something with o.NSString()
case o.IsKindOfClass(ns.NSSetClass()):
        // do something with o.NSSet()
default:
        ...
}

Because Id can be converted to any type, and every object in the Foundation classes inherits from Id, it is possible to send any message to any object, if you are feeling lucky. If you are not lucky you will get an exception from the Objective-C runtime. You are going to have to explicitly convert your object to the wrong type before the compiler will let you do this.

a := ns.NSArrayWithObjects(o1,o2)      // NSArray embeds Id
fmt.Println(a.NSString().UTF8String()) // DON'T!
//  |         |          \-method of NSString, returns *Char, a "Stringer"
//  |         \-method of Id returning NSString
//  \-calls "String()" on its parameters

The above code will compile, but you will get an exception at runtime:

*** Terminating app due to uncaught exception 'NSInvalidArgumentException', reason:
'-[__NSArrayM UTF8String]: unrecognized selector sent to instance 0x4608940'

Variadic Functions

As seen above with the NSMutableArrayWithObjects() constructor example, NSWrap supports variadic functions. Because of the limitations of cgo, there is a numerical limit to the number of parameters in a variadic function call, which defaults to 16 but can be set with the vaargs configuration directive. NSWrap will automatically include a nil sentinel when calling any Objective-C methods with variadic parameter lists. The direct types va_list and va_list_tag are not currently supported.

Pointers to Pointers

When NSWrap encounters a pointer to a pointer to an Objective-C object, it treats it as an array of objects and translates it into a pointer to a Go slice. If you are passing empty slices into these functions, be sure to pre-allocate them to a sufficient capacity. Ssee below for an example. These Go slices can be used for input and output of methods and functions.

Pointers to pointers are sometimes passed to Objective-C methods or functions as a way of receiving output from those functions, especially because Objective-C does not allow for multiple return values. In those cases, after the CGo call, the method parameter will be treated as an array of object pointers that may have been modified by the Objective-C function or method. NSWrap will copy the object pointers back into the input Go slice, up to its capacity (which will never be changed). The input Go slice is then truncated to the appropriate length. If there is no output, the length will be set to 0.

An example in Core Foundation is the getObjects:andKeys:count method for NSDictionary:

	nst := ns.NSStringWithGoString
        dict := ns.NSDictionaryWithObjectsForKeys(
                ns.NSArrayWithObjects(nst("obj1"),nst("obj2")),
                ns.NSArrayWithObjects(nst("key1"),nst("key2")),
        )
        va,ka := make([]*ns.Id,0,5), make([]*ns.Id,0,5)  // length 0, capacity 5 slices
        dict.GetObjectsAndKeysCount(&va,&ka,5)
	// last parameter is the count, must be less than or equal to the input slice capacity
        fmt.Printf("Length of va is now %d\n",len(va)) // va and ka slices are now length = 2
        for i,k := range ka {
                fmt.Printf("-- %s -> %s\n",k.NSString(),va[i].NSString())
        }

NSWrap will not check the "count" parameter, so the user will always need to make sure it is less than or equal to the capacity of the input Go slices.

Using pointers to pointers is necessary in many Core Foundation situations where you need to get an error message out of a function or method, or in other cases where an Objective-C method wants to provide multiple return values. Here is an example using [NSString stringWithContentsOfURL...]:

        err := make([]*ns.NSError,1)
        n1 = ns.NSStringWithContentsOfURLEncoding(ns.NSURLWithGoString("htttypo://example.com"), 0, &err)
	if len(err) > 0 {
        	fmt.Printf("err: %s\n",err[0].LocalizedDescription())
//err: The file couldn’t be opened because URL type htttypo isn’t supported.
	}

Selectors

You can specify selectors using a Go string. The Selector() function returns a Go type SEL which corresponds to a pointer to struct objc_selector in C. Among other things, this lets you set actions on NSControls and NSMenuItems:

appMenu.AddItemWithTitle(
		ns.NSStringWithGoString("Quit"),
		ns.Selector("terminate:"),
		ns.NSStringWithGoString("q"))

Enumerators

NSWrap provides a ForIn method for the NSEnumerator type. Call it with a func(*ns.Id) bool parameter that returns true to continue and false to stop the enumeration.

a := ns.NSArrayWithObjects(o1,o2,o3)
i := 0
a.ObjectEnumerator().ForIn(func (o *ns.Id) bool {
	switch {
	case o.IsKindOfClass(ns.NSStringClass()):
		fmt.Printf("%d: %s\n", i, o.NSString())
		i++
		return true  // continue enumeration
	default:
		fmt.Println("Unknown class")
		return false  // terminate enumeration
	}
})

As seen above, you can do the usual Objective-C thing for runtime type identification.

Enum Definitions

NSWrap translates C enum values into Go constants. The enums you want are specified in nswrap.yaml by regular expression, which, in the case of named enums, must match the name of the enum itself, or in the case of anonymous enums, must match the name of the constant(s) you are looking for as declared within the enum. The generated constants receive Go types associated with their underlying C types, which are automatically declared by NSWrap as needed.

The following configuration:

# nswrap.yaml
inputfiles: [/System/Library/Frameworks/AppKit.framework/Headers/AppKit.h]
enums:
    - _CLOCK.*             # match constants in an anonymous enum
    - NSWindowOrdering.*   # match a named enum

results in:

//ns/main.go
...
const NSWindowAbove NSInteger = C.NSWindowAbove
const NSWindowBelow NSInteger = C.NSWindowBelow
const NSWindowOut NSInteger = C.NSWindowOut

const _CLOCK_REALTIME  = C._CLOCK_REALTIME
const _CLOCK_MONOTONIC  = C._CLOCK_MONOTONIC
const _CLOCK_MONOTONIC_RAW  = C._CLOCK_MONOTONIC_RAW
...

Delegates

The delegates directive in nswrap.yaml creates a new Objective-C class and associated Go wrapper functions. For example, the following configuration file creates a class called CBDelegate that implements the CBCentralManagerDelegate and CBPeripheralDelegate protocols from Core Bluetooth, along with the Go code you need to allocate and use instances of the new class.

# nswrap.yaml
inputfiles:
    - /System/Library/Frameworks/CoreBluetooth.framework/Headers/CoreBluetooth.h

classes:
    - CBCentralManager

delegates:
    CBDelegate:                                  # a name for your delegate class
        CBCentralManagerDelegate:                # a protocol to implement
            - centralManagerDidUpdateState       # messages you want to respond to
            - centralManagerDidDiscoverPeripheral
            - centralManagerDidConnectPeripheral
        CBPeripheralDelegate:                    # another protocol to implement
            - peripheralDidDiscoverServices
            - peripheralDidDiscoverCharacteristicsForService
            - peripheralDidUpdateValueForCharacteristic
...

The generated delegate inherits from NSObject and, in its interface declaration, is advertised as implementing the protocols specified in nswrap.yaml.

When a delegate is activated and one of the callback methods named in the configuration file is called, the delegate will call back into a Go function exported by NSWrap. If a user-defined callback function has been registered, it will be called with all of its parameters converted to their Go type equivalents. User-defined callbacks are registered by calling a function with the method name in TitleCase + Callback, so in the example above, if your delegate was named del, you would call del.CentralManagerDidUpdateStateCallback(...) with the name of your callback function to register to receive notifications when your central manager updates its state.

The example in examples/bluetooth implements a working Bluetooth Low-Energy heart rate monitor entirely in Go.

The following Go code instantiates a CBDelegate object, registers a callback for centralManagerDidUpdateState, allocates a CBCentralManager object, and installs our delegate:

func cb(self ns.CBDelegate, c *ns.CBCentralManager) {
	...
}

var (
	del *ns.CBDelegate // use global variables so these don't get garbage collected
	cm *ns.CBCentralManager
)

func main() {
	...
	del = ns.CBDelegateAlloc()
	del.CentralManagerDidUpdateStateCallback(cb)
	cm = ns.CBCentralManagerAlloc().InitWithDelegateQueue(del,queue)

When you provide user-defined callback functions, you will need to specify them with exactly the right type, matching NSWrap's generated Go wrapper types for the callback function and the Go types for all of its parameters. If go build fails, the error messages will point you in the right direction.

$ go build
./main.go:127:43: cannot use didFinishLaunching (type func(ns.CBDelegate, *ns.NSNotification, bool)) as type
func(ns.CBDelegate, *ns.NSNotification) in argument to del.ApplicationDidFinishLaunchingCallback

In the above example, the build failed because an extra bool parameter was included in the callback function. The compiler is telling you that the right type for the callback is func(*ns.NSNotification) with no return value.

Working with AppKit

You can wrap the AppKit framework classes and create an NSApplication Delegate. This allows you to build a Cocoa application entirely in Go.

Because AppKit uses thread local storage, you will need to make sure all calls into it are done from the main OS thread. This can be a challenge in Go and you will want to make use of runtime.LockOSThread().

This is actually a full working Cocoa application:

# nswrap.yaml
inputfiles:
    - /System/Library/Frameworks/AppKit.framework/Headers/AppKit.h

classes:
    - NSApplication
    - NSWindow
    - NSString
    - NSMenu

enums:
    - NSApplication.*
    - NSBackingStore.*
    - NSWindowStyleMask.*

functions:
    - NSMakeRect

delegates:
    AppDelegate:
      NSApplicationDelegate:
        - applicationDidFinishLaunching
        - applicationShouldTerminateAfterLastWindowClosed
frameworks: [ Foundation, AppKit, CoreGraphics ]
//go:generate nswrap
package main

import (
	"fmt"
	"runtime"
	"git.wow.st/gmp/nswrap/examples/app/ns" // point to your own NSWrap output directory
)

func didFinishLaunching(n *ns.NSNotification) {
	fmt.Println("Go: did finish launching!")
}

func shouldTerminate(s *ns.NSApplication) ns.BOOL {
	return 1
}

var (
	a *ns.NSApplication // global vars so these are not garbage collected
	del *ns.AppDelegate
	win *ns.NSWindow
)

func main() {
	runtime.LockOSThread()
	a = ns.NSApplicationSharedApplication()
	a.SetActivationPolicy(ns.NSApplicationActivationPolicyRegular)
	del = ns.AppDelegateAlloc()
	del.ApplicationDidFinishLaunchingCallback(didFinishLaunching)
	del.ApplicationShouldTerminateAfterLastWindowClosedCallback(shouldTerminate)
	a.SetDelegate(del)

	win = ns.NSWindowAlloc().InitWithContentRectStyleMask(
		ns.NSMakeRect(200,200,600,600),
		ns.NSWindowStyleMaskTitled | ns.NSWindowStyleMaskClosable,
		ns.NSBackingStoreBuffered,
		0,
	)
	win.SetTitle(ns.NSStringWithGoString("Hi World"))
	win.MakeKeyAndOrderFront(win)
	a.Run()
}

Pretty simple right? Not really, NSWrap just generated 114,000 lines of code. See examples/app for a slightly more complex example with working menus, visual format-based auto layout, and a custom button class.

Subclasses

NSWrap includes functionality to generate subclasses as specified in nswrap.yaml.

You can override existing methods or create new methods with any type signature you specify using Objective-C method signature syntax.

# nswrap.yaml
...
subclasses:
  myClass:                      # the name of the new class
    yourClass:                  # the superclass to inherit from
      - init.*                  # what methods to override
      - -(void)hi_there:(int)x  # Objective-C prototype of your new method(s)
#       \--the initial hyphen indicates that this is an instance method

In the example above, your new class will be named myClass in Objective-C and MyClass in Go. It will override any init methods found in yourClass (which must be defined in one of the header files included in the inputfiles directive of nswrap.yaml). In addition, because the second entry under yourClass starts with a -, it will be treated as a new instance method definition for myClass. The remainder of the line will be parsed as an Objective-C method prototype in order to determine the method name, its return type, and the names and types of its parameters if any.

Since multiple inheritance is not permitted in Objective-C, it is not possible to specify more than one superclass in a subclasses entry.

Go callbacks for overridden methods are passed a special struct filled with superclass methods, which allows you to do things like this:

func methodCallback(self ns.MyClass, super ns.MyClassSupermethods, param NSString) {
	...
	super.Method(param)
}

You can use subclasses to define new AppKit controls with configurable callbacks. For example, let's make an NSButton that calls back into Go when you press it:

# nswrap.yaml
...
subclasses:
    GButton:
        NSButton:
            - -(void)pressed
...
func pressed(self ns.GButton, super ns.GButtonSupermethods) {
	fmt.Println("Button pressed!")
}
...
func didFinishLaunching(n ns.NSNotification) {
	...
	button := ns.GButtonAlloc()
	button.Init()
	button.PressedCallback(pressed)		# register user-defined callback
	button.SetAction(ns.Selector("pressed"))
	button.SetTarget(button)
	button.SetTitle(ns.NSStringWithGoString("PUSH"))
	...
}

Later on you can add your new button to a view and tell Cocoa where to lay it out. It's all a little verbose, but that's because for some reason you decided to write Objective-C code in Go.

Memory management

As mentioned above, NSWrap is designed for there to be at least one Go pointer associated with each underlying Objective-C object pointer. Since Objective-C memory is always allocated by the Objective-C runtime, it is not possible for the Go runtime to have visibility into these memory regions or to directly manage memory used by the CGo code. However, Go will keep track of the associated Go pointer that was created the first time the corresponding Objective-C object was passed over to the Go side and an Id or other NSWrap struct type was allocated. Because of this, it is possible to hook into the Go garbage collection system in an attempt to manage Objective-C memory strictly from the Go side. When there are no remaining Go pointers to an NSWrap Id struct, it will be deallocated by the Go garbage collector and a finalizer will be called that releasees the corresponding Objective-C object.

The memory management rules work as follows:

  • Objects in Go are represented by pointers to types that implement the NSObject interface
  • NSObject has one method, Ptr(), which returns an unsafe.Pointer to an Objective-C object.
  • All methods that return objects to Go call retain except for new, init, alloc, copy and mutableCopy, which already return retained objects from the Objective-C runtime.
  • Go wrappers for Objective-C methods call runtime.SetFinalizer(), which calls release when the associated Go struct is garbage collected.
  • All Objective-C methods are run inside an @autoreleasepool {} block to prevent internal memory leaks within the Objective-C libraries and frameworks.
  • Objects sent to you in callback functions are not memory managed by Go and must be manually managed using Retain() and Release() methods if you need to take ownership of them. A rule of thumb is that if you assign such an object to a persistent Go variable for use outside of the callback, call Retain().

Because of the linkage with the Go garbage collector described above, there should be no need for any memory management code to be written from the Go side, except in the case mentioned above where your Go delegate receives objects that need to be kept around outside of the callback.

Since everything in Objective C inherits methods from NSObject, you can call Retain(), Release() and Autorelease() on any object. You can technically bind the NSAutoreleasePool class and create and drain instances of it from the Go side, but this is not recommended in the default, garbage collected mode and can run into problems because the Go runtime is inherently multithreaded. See examples/memory for an example of manual memory management, which should be possible to do reliably but I'm not sure why you would go through the trouble.

NSWrap is doing a number of things behind the scenes to make garbage collection work. As mentioned, all Objective-C methods are called within an @autorelease {} block. This is necessary because some foundation classes (notably NSString) create internal objects that are autoreleased but never returned to the caller. These objects can never be deallocated unless the method in question was called within an autorelease pool.

NSWrap assumes you are going to take ownership of every Objective-C object returned by a method, either directly as a return value or through a pointer to a pointer given as a parameter. Therefore, NSWrap calls retain on all of these objects before going back to the Go side, unless the object is either nil or equivalent to the input object. NSWrap also will not call retain on the return values of init, new, copy, mutableCopy or alloc methods. If you do not want ownership of the object, simply assign it to a local varable and the garbage collector will take care of releasing it.

In order for this to work on a pointer to a pointer parameter, NSWrap treats the input parameter as an array with a length specified by either a range parameter (of type NSRange) or a count parameter of an integer type. If there is neither a range or count parameter, NSWrap assumes the array is length 1.

As an example, in Objective-C, if you were to take an object out of an NSArray and the array was later deallocated, there is no guarantee that the object you obtained is still around unless you called retain on it. This is not necessary with NSWrap, which automatically retains objects returned by methods like objectAtIndex: and getObjects:range and manages them with the Go garbage collector.

The methods described above work for methods that return Objective-C objects, which can be retained, but not with methods that return other types of pointers such as C strings. NSWrap has a special case for C strings (*Char in Go), calling strdup on the return value within the @autoreleasepool block. This ensures that the string is preserved even if it points to a termporary autoreleased object. Since this behavior results in newly allocated memory, these pointers will need to be freed from Go later on. Since these are pointers to C memory, it is not possible to set a finalizer on these pointers for garbage collection by Go.

Note that the Go garbage collector is lazy and will not activate unless your application is running low on heap space. That means in practice that Objective-C objects are going to stick around a lot longer than they might in a pure Objective-C application. If this is an issue, simply run the Go GC manually with runtime.GC().

Limitations

Blocks and Function Pointers

NSWrap does not support methods or functions that take C functions or blocks as parameters or return values.

Why?

Um, I was trying to make a nice modern Go binding for CoreBluetooth on MacOS and got carried away.

Acknowledgements

This work was inspired by Maxim Kupriianov's excellent c-for-go. Much of the infrastructure was lifted from Elliot Chance's equally excellent c2go. Kiyoshi Murata's post on coderwall.com was an essential piece of inspiration.

The combinatorial Objective-C type parsers are mine as are the Objective-C and Go code generators, so this is where you will find all of the bugs.