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Assigning Values to Properties – The Common Pitfall

self.view=[[UIView alloc]initWithFrame:screenFrame];

No prizes for saying the above statement assigns a view which will act as a content view for appropriate UIViewController.

What we have to keep in mind is the fact that there is a potential leak in above statement.

Programmers, especially from a C++ background, tend to make this very common mistake as they think that they are assigning a value to a property of a class.

[Some blame has to go to creators of Objective C 2.0 language, who has created a slight confusion in using dot[.] notation to access properties]

Objective C 2.0 has introduces a new rather a different concept in order to access the members of a Class.

Properties are declared as follow

@property(nonatomic,retain)NSString* name;

Properties are preceded by @property keyword. All properties are by default Thread-safe. nonatomic means that the access to the name property is not synchronized and hence not Thread-safe.

Properties are accessed using the dot[.] notation like <obj>.<property name>. Value can be set to a property as below

<obj>.<property name> = <value>

For eg:

personObj.name = @”bharath”

What’s more important to this topic is the retain keyword which ensures that the values assigned to the name property are retained and hence acquires the ownership on that object.

Important thing to note is that the above two statements (assignment and accessor) will be replaced at compile time by its appropriate getter/setter methods

For eg:

NSString *name = personObj.name;

is same as

NSString *name = [personObj name];


personObject.name = @”bharath”;

is same as

[personObject setName:@”bharath”];

If you have a statement like @synthesize name in the Person Class implementation then, Objective C 2.0 compiler will automatically inserts the getter and setter methods into the compiled code

For a property name in Person class below

@property(nonatomic,retain)NSString *name;

The getter and and setter methods will look like



return name;






[value retain]; // Since retain keyword is used in property declaration

[name release];




So, invoking a statment

personObj.name = [[NSString alloc] initWithString:@”bharath”];

would have  2 retain count, one during alloc/init and one retained by the property.

So a better practice of assigning  newly allocated instance to a property would be

NSString *myName = [[NSString alloc] initWithString:@”bharath”];

personObj.name = myName;

[myName release];

This topic may appear like a very basic thing, but still i see this mistake very often even sometimes from an experienced Cocoa programmers.

Happy Coding!! 🙂


One response to “Assigning Values to Properties – The Common Pitfall

  1. Girish November 4, 2009 at 7:21 am

    This topic may appear like a very basic thing, but still i see this mistake very often even sometimes from an experienced Cocoa programmers.

    Very true. Thanks for the detailed instructions. This article is very useful for ObjC 2.0 newbies as well as experienced who use properties without knowing how they work.

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