Computer Programming Languages: Objective-C


Updated August 4, 2023

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Objective-C is an object-oriented programming language developers use to create applications for Apple's macOS, iOS, and iPad operating systems.

Among computer programming languages, Objective-C is easy to understand, and is known for its dynamic binding and reflection capabilities.

Moreover, this programming language can be used with C and C++ code, allowing developers to take advantage of existing libraries and frameworks. It is also commonly used for developing games and other interactive applications.

Learning Objective-C may lead to job opportunities, work within the Apple ecosystem, and skills for handling legacy code.

If you want to learn more about Objective-C, read on to discover its pros and cons, how it compares to other languages, and additional resources.

What Is Objective-C?

Objective-C is a high-level programming language based on C. It has a small number of additions to support object-oriented programming concepts such as classes, objects, and polymorphism.

Brad Cox and Tom Love developed Objective-C in the early 1980s. Steve Jobs and NeXT later popularized it in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Here are three applications of the Objective-C language:

iOS and macOS Development

Objective-C is the primary programming language for developing apps such as games, productivity tools, and utilities for Apple’s operating systems.

Embedded Systems and IoT

Developers use Objective-C to create applications for embedded systems and IoTdevices because of its small footprint and ability to run on low-powered devices.

Embedded Systems and IoT

Game development widely uses Objective-C for its ability to interact with the operating system and other system services, allowing developers to create games with advanced graphics, physics engines, and multiplayer functionality.

Why Use Objective-C?

Objective-C is the primary programming language for Apple’s platforms. Apple’s development tools, such as Xcode, intend for developers to use Objective-C (and other languages) to interact with the Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks.

Objective-C has a large and active developer community, and there are many resources to help developers create apps for Apple's platforms.

Objective-C is a mature, stable language coders have been using for many years. As such, it has a large body of existing code. It also offers a powerful runtime system that enables dynamic binding.

However, Objective-C may also limit developers to iOS development, which is less universal and accessible than Android development. The table below outlines additional pros and cons of Objective-C.

Pros and Cons of Objective-C

Pros Cons

Objective-C has wide support because it is the primary programming language for Apple’s operating systems.

Objective-C may not be suitable for developers who want to create cross-platform apps.

Objective-C has a large and active developer community.

Compared to other object-oriented languages, Objective-C has a more verbose syntax.

Objective-C is based on C, so developers familiar with C can quickly learn and take advantage of existing C libraries and frameworks.

Objective-C uses reference counting for memory management, which can be less efficient than other approaches.

Companies That Use Objective-C

  • Apple uses Objective-C to develop many apps and frameworks, such as iTunes, iWork, and the Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks.
  • Facebook's iOS app is written in Objective-C, as are some parts of their internal infrastructure.
  • Dropbox's iOS and macOS apps are written in Objective-C.
  • LinkedIn's iOS app is written in Objective-C.
  • Evernote's iOS app is written in Objective-C.

Objective-C vs. Swift

Objective-C is often compared to Swift, which is a newer programming language Apple created for developing applications for its platforms, such as macOS, iOS, and iPadOS.

Objective-C's active developer community has a lot of existing code that developers can use or learn from.

Swift is considered more modern, with a cleaner syntax and more efficient memory management, and is becoming increasingly popular among developers.

Objective-C Swift


Objective-C may be relatively hard to read and write.

Swift has a cleaner and more modern syntax.

Memory management

Objective-C uses reference counting, which is considered less efficient and more error-prone.

Swift uses automatic reference counting for memory management.

Modern features

Many modern features are unavailable in Objective-C.

Swift includes modern features such as functional programming paradigms, closures, and tuples.

Legacy code

Objective-C has been around for much longer and has a larger body of legacy code and libraries.

It is relatively harder to work on older projects with Swift, or integrate it with existing codebases.

Third-party tools and libraries

Objective-C has a mature ecosystem of third-party tools and libraries.

Fewer tools and libraries can leverage Swift to extend the capabilities of the language.

Despite Swift being a newer and more modern language, Objective-C is still in wide use and has a large community of developers, making Objective-C coding a valuable skill.

Additionally, Objective-C has a rich history and tight integration with the iOS and macOS ecosystems. It is an excellent choice for those looking to work on legacy projects or develop applications for those platforms.

Knowing both Objective-C and Swift provides a broader variety of options and can increase a developer’s versatility and marketability.

Where Can You Learn Objective-C?

Graduate or undergraduate computer science or software engineering degree programs may teach Objective-C. It may be part of a course on iOS or macOS programming or programming languages.

A student interested in working with computer programs like Objective-C should pursue a major in computer science, software engineering, or a related field.

Coding bootcamps may teach Objective-C, although it is less common than modern languages like Swift and Kotlin. Many websites — such as Code School, Codecademy, and Udemy — offer tutorials and courses on Objective-C.

Objective-C's main use is iOS development, but developers use it less now, as Swift is the primary language for iOS development.

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Additional Resources

Apple’s developer documentation: Apple provides extensive documentation on Objective-C and the Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks, which can be found on the Apple Developer website.

Developer forums and communities: There are many online forums and communities, such as Stack Overflow, where developers can ask and answer questions related to Objective-C.

Open-Source projects: There are many open-source projects that are written in Objective-C, such as the CocoaPods and the AFNetworking Library.

Books About Objective-C

Objective-C for Absolute Beginners: “Objective-C for Absolute Beginners: iPhone, iPad and Mac Programming Made Easy” by Stefan Kaczmarek, Brad Lees, Gary Bennett, and Mitch Fisher is a book designed to teach complete beginners the Objective-C programming language.



Programming in Objective-C: “Programming in Objective-C” by Stephen Kochan provides a comprehensive introduction to the Objective-C programming language.


Barnes & Noble

Objective-C Phrasebook: "Objective-C Phrasebook" by David Chisnall is a reference guide that provides a collection of common Objective-C code snippets and idioms organized by task. The book is designed for developers who are already familiar with the basics of Objective-C and want to improve their proficiency.


Barnes & Noble

FAQ About Objective-C in Computer Programming

  • What is the history of Objective-C?

    Objective-C is a high-level programming language Brad Cox and Tom Love developed in the early 1980s. Its primary use was the NeXTSTEP operating system, and it later became the main programming language for developing applications on the macOS and iOS operating systems.

  • Who developed the computer program Objective-C?

    Tom Love and Brad Cox developed Objective-C in the early 1980s. Brad Cox was a computer scientist, and Tom Love was a software engineer; both worked at the ITT Corporation. They developed the language to combine the object-oriented programming concepts of Smalltalk with the C programming language.

  • Is Objective-C the same as C++?

    Objective-C and C++ are not the same programming languages. Although they share similarities, as both are object-oriented and based on C language, they have different features and capabilities.

  • Is Objective-C important in computer science?

    Objective-C is an important programming language in computer science, particularly for developing applications on Apple’s macOS and iOS operating systems. It was the primary programming language for developing apps for these platforms for many years and is still in wide use.

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