How does Pyobjus work?

This part of the documentation introduces a basic understanding of how pyobjus works.

The autoclass function

So, autoclass is the heart of pyobjus. With this function, you load Objective C classes into pyobjus which then constructs a Python wrapper around these objects.

Let’s say that we are in the situation where we need to load a NSString class belonging to the Foundation framework.

You can load external code into pyobjus using the load_framework function, or by using load_dylib. The load_framework function uses NSBundle for loading the framework into pyobjus, and the load_dylib function uses ctypes for loading external .dylib objects into pyobjus.

Notice that you don’t need to explicitly load the Foundation framework into pyobjus because the Foundation framework is loaded by default. But if you want AppKit, for example, you can do something like this:

from pyobjus.dylib_manager import load_framework, INCLUDE

This will load code from the AppKit framework into pyobjus, so now we can use these classes.

But let’s return to our NSString class from the Foundation framework. To load this class, type the following:

from pyobjus import autoclass
NSString = autoclass('NSString')

What happened here? So, pyobjus will call the class_copyMethodList function of the Objective C runtime. After that, it will create an ObjcMethod Python object for every method attached to the class as well as an ObjcProperty for every attached property. It will then return a Python representation of the NSString class with all the ObjcMethod and ObjcProperty objects attached.

So, maybe you don’t want to use all the properties of the NSString class. In that case, you can call the autoclass function in the following way:

NSString = autoclass('NSString', copy_properties=False)

Perhaps you want to save memory and gather some speed with the autoclass method. In that case, you can specify exactly which methods you want to load. Say you want to load only the init and alloc methods of NSString. You can do that as follows:

NSString = autoclass('NSString',

If you want to load only a few of the class methods, you can specify these with the load_class_methods optional argument. If you want to load only a few instance methods, you can specify these with the load_instance_methods optional argument.

So, say you want to load only the alloc class method and all instance methods, you can do that this way:

NSString = autoclass('NSString', load_class_methods=['alloc'])

But, maybe at some point you want to have all the NSString class methods available again. Okay, pyobjus can do that for you. You just need to call the autoclass method this way:

NSString = autoclass('NSString', reset_autoclass=True)

Calling Objective C methods

So, suppose that you find an appropriate way to load an Objective C class via the autoclass function. After that, you need to consider the following. In Objective C, you can do this:

NSString *string = [[NSString alloc] init];

In pyobjus, we have a similar scenario. Say that we loaded a NSString in the following way:

NSString = autoclass('NSString')

Now the NSString object contains all the class methods of the NSString Objective C class. Are you wondering how to get the instance methods? We can answer that question. In the same way as the native Objective C class.

So let’s do this::

print NSString.alloc()

This will output:

>>> <__main__.NSPlaceholderString object at 0x10b372e90>

We now have an allocated object and can call it’s instance methods, like init:

print NSString.alloc().init()

This will output:

>>> <__main__.__NSCFConstantString object at 0x10b4827d0>

You can also view the list of available methods with the Python dir function:

# view class methods
print dir(NSString)
# view instance methods
print dir(NSString.alloc())

So now we know how to use autoclass methods and how to access the class/instance methods of the loaded Objective C classes. In comparison to Python, Objective C has some additional syntax when you are passing arguments. How does pyobjus deal with this?

With Objective C, you can declare a function as follows:

- (void) sumNumber:(int)a and:(int)b { ... }

Internally, this method will be translated to sumNumber:and: because that’s the actual method name. Okay, now things are little clearer.

So, if you remember, pyobjus calls the class_copyMethodList and will provide an ObjcMethod object for it. So, if you want to call this method from Python, you might suppose you can call it in this way:

sumNumber:and:(3, 5)

but that’s wrong way to call Objective C methods using pyobjus. Pyobjus will internally convert every : into _, so now we can call it with Python in this way:

sumNumber_and_(3, 5)

So, if there is Objective C method declared in this way:

- (void) sumNumber:(int)a and:(int)b andAlso:(int)c { ... }

You will call this method with pyobjus in the way:

sumNumber_and_andAlso_(1, 2, 3)

So far we know how to call Objective C methods with pyobjus, and how to pass arguments to them. Let’s try to do that with an NSString class using the stringWithUTF8String: class method:

text = NSString.stringWithUTF8String_('some string')
print text.UTF8String()

Here we call the stringWithUTF8String: class method, and after that the UTF8String: instance method. As you can see from the output, we will get some string, so we can see that method is making an NSString instance, and correctly calling and returning values from these methods which belong to NSString class.

Using Objective C properties

You may wonder if you can use Objective C properties with pyobjus, and if so, how?

Using Objective C properties is really simple. Let’s first make an Objective C class:

#import <Foundation/Foundation.h>

@interface ObjcClass : NSObject {
@property (nonatomic) int some_objc_prop;

@implementation ObjcClass
@synthesize some_objc_prop;

This really simple Objective C class has an Objective C property some_objc_prop. Save it as test.m for this example. Later we will explain dylib_manager, but for now, we will use its functions to load the above class into pyobjus:

from pyobjus.dylib_manager import load_dylib, make_dylib
from pyobjus import autoclass

# TODO: change path to your
make_dylib('/path/to/test.m', frameworks=['Foundation'])
# TODO: change path to your

ObjcClass = autoclass('ObjcClass')
o_cls = ObjcClass.alloc().init()

# now we can set property value
o_cls.some_objc_prop = 12345
# or retrieve value of that property
print o_cls.some_objc_prop

Here you can see that setting an Objective C property is very similar to how we set it in native Objective C code.

You may be wondering how pyobjus deals with Objective C properties? Pyobjus is calling getters and setters for that property because in Objective C, there are default names for getters/setters.

So for the mentioned property, the getter will be some_objc_prop, and the setter setSome_objc_prop. I suppose that you can figure out how Objective C generate names for getters and setters for properties. The getter will have the same name as the property, and the setter will be constructed in the following way: ‘set’ will be added as a prefix to the property name, the first letter of property will be capitalized and the rest of letters added. The result of that is the name of property setter.

Basically, that’s how pyobjus manages things, and how to use pyobjus properties. It is really simple and intuitive.