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.. role:: arc-term
.. role:: revision
.. role:: when-revised
Objective-C Automatic Reference Counting (ARC)
.. contents::
.. _arc.meta:
About this document
.. _arc.meta.purpose:
The first and primary purpose of this document is to serve as a complete
technical specification of Automatic Reference Counting. Given a core
Objective-C compiler and runtime, it should be possible to write a compiler and
runtime which implements these new semantics.
The secondary purpose is to act as a rationale for why ARC was designed in this
way. This should remain tightly focused on the technical design and should not
stray into marketing speculation.
.. _arc.meta.background:
This document assumes a basic familiarity with C.
:arc-term:`Blocks` are a C language extension for creating anonymous functions.
Users interact with and transfer block objects using :arc-term:`block
pointers`, which are represented like a normal pointer. A block may capture
values from local variables; when this occurs, memory must be dynamically
allocated. The initial allocation is done on the stack, but the runtime
provides a ``Block_copy`` function which, given a block pointer, either copies
the underlying block object to the heap, setting its reference count to 1 and
returning the new block pointer, or (if the block object is already on the
heap) increases its reference count by 1. The paired function is
``Block_release``, which decreases the reference count by 1 and destroys the
object if the count reaches zero and is on the heap.
Objective-C is a set of language extensions, significant enough to be
considered a different language. It is a strict superset of C. The extensions
can also be imposed on C++, producing a language called Objective-C++. The
primary feature is a single-inheritance object system; we briefly describe the
modern dialect.
Objective-C defines a new type kind, collectively called the :arc-term:`object
pointer types`. This kind has two notable builtin members, ``id`` and
``Class``; ``id`` is the final supertype of all object pointers. The validity
of conversions between object pointer types is not checked at runtime. Users
may define :arc-term:`classes`; each class is a type, and the pointer to that
type is an object pointer type. A class may have a superclass; its pointer
type is a subtype of its superclass's pointer type. A class has a set of
:arc-term:`ivars`, fields which appear on all instances of that class. For
every class *T* there's an associated metaclass; it has no fields, its
superclass is the metaclass of *T*'s superclass, and its metaclass is a global
class. Every class has a global object whose class is the class's metaclass;
metaclasses have no associated type, so pointers to this object have type
A class declaration (``@interface``) declares a set of :arc-term:`methods`. A
method has a return type, a list of argument types, and a :arc-term:`selector`:
a name like ``foo:bar:baz:``, where the number of colons corresponds to the
number of formal arguments. A method may be an instance method, in which case
it can be invoked on objects of the class, or a class method, in which case it
can be invoked on objects of the metaclass. A method may be invoked by
providing an object (called the :arc-term:`receiver`) and a list of formal
arguments interspersed with the selector, like so:
.. code-block:: objc
[receiver foo: fooArg bar: barArg baz: bazArg]
This looks in the dynamic class of the receiver for a method with this name,
then in that class's superclass, etc., until it finds something it can execute.
The receiver "expression" may also be the name of a class, in which case the
actual receiver is the class object for that class, or (within method
definitions) it may be ``super``, in which case the lookup algorithm starts
with the static superclass instead of the dynamic class. The actual methods
dynamically found in a class are not those declared in the ``@interface``, but
those defined in a separate ``@implementation`` declaration; however, when
compiling a call, typechecking is done based on the methods declared in the
Method declarations may also be grouped into :arc-term:`protocols`, which are not
inherently associated with any class, but which classes may claim to follow.
Object pointer types may be qualified with additional protocols that the object
is known to support.
:arc-term:`Class extensions` are collections of ivars and methods, designed to
allow a class's ``@interface`` to be split across multiple files; however,
there is still a primary implementation file which must see the
``@interface``\ s of all class extensions. :arc-term:`Categories` allow
methods (but not ivars) to be declared *post hoc* on an arbitrary class; the
methods in the category's ``@implementation`` will be dynamically added to that
class's method tables which the category is loaded at runtime, replacing those
methods in case of a collision.
In the standard environment, objects are allocated on the heap, and their
lifetime is manually managed using a reference count. This is done using two
instance methods which all classes are expected to implement: ``retain``
increases the object's reference count by 1, whereas ``release`` decreases it
by 1 and calls the instance method ``dealloc`` if the count reaches 0. To
simplify certain operations, there is also an :arc-term:`autorelease pool`, a
thread-local list of objects to call ``release`` on later; an object can be
added to this pool by calling ``autorelease`` on it.
Block pointers may be converted to type ``id``; block objects are laid out in a
way that makes them compatible with Objective-C objects. There is a builtin
class that all block objects are considered to be objects of; this class
implements ``retain`` by adjusting the reference count, not by calling
.. _arc.meta.evolution:
ARC is under continual evolution, and this document must be updated as the
language progresses.
If a change increases the expressiveness of the language, for example by
lifting a restriction or by adding new syntax, the change will be annotated
with a revision marker, like so:
ARC applies to Objective-C pointer types, block pointer types, and
:when-revised:`[beginning Apple 8.0, LLVM 3.8]` :revision:`BPTRs declared
within` ``extern "BCPL"`` blocks.
For now, it is sensible to version this document by the releases of its sole
implementation (and its host project), clang. "LLVM X.Y" refers to an
open-source release of clang from the LLVM project. "Apple X.Y" refers to an
Apple-provided release of the Apple LLVM Compiler. Other organizations that
prepare their own, separately-versioned clang releases and wish to maintain
similar information in this document should send requests to cfe-dev.
If a change decreases the expressiveness of the language, for example by
imposing a new restriction, this should be taken as an oversight in the
original specification and something to be avoided in all versions. Such
changes are generally to be avoided.
.. _arc.general:
Automatic Reference Counting implements automatic memory management for
Objective-C objects and blocks, freeing the programmer from the need to
explicitly insert retains and releases. It does not provide a cycle collector;
users must explicitly manage the lifetime of their objects, breaking cycles
manually or with weak or unsafe references.
ARC may be explicitly enabled with the compiler flag ``-fobjc-arc``. It may
also be explicitly disabled with the compiler flag ``-fno-objc-arc``. The last
of these two flags appearing on the compile line "wins".
If ARC is enabled, ``__has_feature(objc_arc)`` will expand to 1 in the
preprocessor. For more information about ``__has_feature``, see the
:ref:`language extensions <langext-__has_feature-__has_extension>` document.
.. _arc.objects:
Retainable object pointers
This section describes retainable object pointers, their basic operations, and
the restrictions imposed on their use under ARC. Note in particular that it
covers the rules for pointer *values* (patterns of bits indicating the location
of a pointed-to object), not pointer *objects* (locations in memory which store
pointer values). The rules for objects are covered in the next section.
A :arc-term:`retainable object pointer` (or "retainable pointer") is a value of
a :arc-term:`retainable object pointer type` ("retainable type"). There are
three kinds of retainable object pointer types:
* block pointers (formed by applying the caret (``^``) declarator sigil to a
function type)
* Objective-C object pointers (``id``, ``Class``, ``NSFoo*``, etc.)
* typedefs marked with ``__attribute__((NSObject))``
Other pointer types, such as ``int*`` and ``CFStringRef``, are not subject to
ARC's semantics and restrictions.
.. admonition:: Rationale
We are not at liberty to require all code to be recompiled with ARC;
therefore, ARC must interoperate with Objective-C code which manages retains
and releases manually. In general, there are three requirements in order for
a compiler-supported reference-count system to provide reliable
* The type system must reliably identify which objects are to be managed. An
``int*`` might be a pointer to a ``malloc``'ed array, or it might be an
interior pointer to such an array, or it might point to some field or local
variable. In contrast, values of the retainable object pointer types are
never interior.
* The type system must reliably indicate how to manage objects of a type.
This usually means that the type must imply a procedure for incrementing
and decrementing retain counts. Supporting single-ownership objects
requires a lot more explicit mediation in the language.
* There must be reliable conventions for whether and when "ownership" is
passed between caller and callee, for both arguments and return values.
Objective-C methods follow such a convention very reliably, at least for
system libraries on macOS, and functions always pass objects at +0. The
C-based APIs for Core Foundation objects, on the other hand, have much more
varied transfer semantics.
The use of ``__attribute__((NSObject))`` typedefs is not recommended. If it's
absolutely necessary to use this attribute, be very explicit about using the
typedef, and do not assume that it will be preserved by language features like
``__typeof`` and C++ template argument substitution.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Any compiler operation which incidentally strips type "sugar" from a type
will yield a type without the attribute, which may result in unexpected
.. _arc.objects.retains:
Retain count semantics
A retainable object pointer is either a :arc-term:`null pointer` or a pointer
to a valid object. Furthermore, if it has block pointer type and is not
``null`` then it must actually be a pointer to a block object, and if it has
``Class`` type (possibly protocol-qualified) then it must actually be a pointer
to a class object. Otherwise ARC does not enforce the Objective-C type system
as long as the implementing methods follow the signature of the static type.
It is undefined behavior if ARC is exposed to an invalid pointer.
For ARC's purposes, a valid object is one with "well-behaved" retaining
operations. Specifically, the object must be laid out such that the
Objective-C message send machinery can successfully send it the following
* ``retain``, taking no arguments and returning a pointer to the object.
* ``release``, taking no arguments and returning ``void``.
* ``autorelease``, taking no arguments and returning a pointer to the object.
The behavior of these methods is constrained in the following ways. The term
:arc-term:`high-level semantics` is an intentionally vague term; the intent is
that programmers must implement these methods in a way such that the compiler,
modifying code in ways it deems safe according to these constraints, will not
violate their requirements. For example, if the user puts logging statements
in ``retain``, they should not be surprised if those statements are executed
more or less often depending on optimization settings. These constraints are
not exhaustive of the optimization opportunities: values held in local
variables are subject to additional restrictions, described later in this
It is undefined behavior if a computation history featuring a send of
``retain`` followed by a send of ``release`` to the same object, with no
intervening ``release`` on that object, is not equivalent under the high-level
semantics to a computation history in which these sends are removed. Note that
this implies that these methods may not raise exceptions.
It is undefined behavior if a computation history features any use whatsoever
of an object following the completion of a send of ``release`` that is not
preceded by a send of ``retain`` to the same object.
The behavior of ``autorelease`` must be equivalent to sending ``release`` when
one of the autorelease pools currently in scope is popped. It may not throw an
When the semantics call for performing one of these operations on a retainable
object pointer, if that pointer is ``null`` then the effect is a no-op.
All of the semantics described in this document are subject to additional
:ref:`optimization rules <arc.optimization>` which permit the removal or
optimization of operations based on local knowledge of data flow. The
semantics describe the high-level behaviors that the compiler implements, not
an exact sequence of operations that a program will be compiled into.
.. _arc.objects.operands:
Retainable object pointers as operands and arguments
In general, ARC does not perform retain or release operations when simply using
a retainable object pointer as an operand within an expression. This includes:
* loading a retainable pointer from an object with non-weak :ref:`ownership
* passing a retainable pointer as an argument to a function or method, and
* receiving a retainable pointer as the result of a function or method call.
.. admonition:: Rationale
While this might seem uncontroversial, it is actually unsafe when multiple
expressions are evaluated in "parallel", as with binary operators and calls,
because (for example) one expression might load from an object while another
writes to it. However, C and C++ already call this undefined behavior
because the evaluations are unsequenced, and ARC simply exploits that here to
avoid needing to retain arguments across a large number of calls.
The remainder of this section describes exceptions to these rules, how those
exceptions are detected, and what those exceptions imply semantically.
.. _arc.objects.operands.consumed:
Consumed parameters
A function or method parameter of retainable object pointer type may be marked
as :arc-term:`consumed`, signifying that the callee expects to take ownership
of a +1 retain count. This is done by adding the ``ns_consumed`` attribute to
the parameter declaration, like so:
.. code-block:: objc
void foo(__attribute((ns_consumed)) id x);
- (void) foo: (id) __attribute((ns_consumed)) x;
This attribute is part of the type of the function or method, not the type of
the parameter. It controls only how the argument is passed and received.
When passing such an argument, ARC retains the argument prior to making the
When receiving such an argument, ARC releases the argument at the end of the
function, subject to the usual optimizations for local values.
.. admonition:: Rationale
This formalizes direct transfers of ownership from a caller to a callee. The
most common scenario here is passing the ``self`` parameter to ``init``, but
it is useful to generalize. Typically, local optimization will remove any
extra retains and releases: on the caller side the retain will be merged with
a +1 source, and on the callee side the release will be rolled into the
initialization of the parameter.
The implicit ``self`` parameter of a method may be marked as consumed by adding
``__attribute__((ns_consumes_self))`` to the method declaration. Methods in
the ``init`` :ref:`family <arc.method-families>` are treated as if they were
implicitly marked with this attribute.
It is undefined behavior if an Objective-C message send to a method with
``ns_consumed`` parameters (other than self) is made with a null receiver. It
is undefined behavior if the method to which an Objective-C message send
statically resolves to has a different set of ``ns_consumed`` parameters than
the method it dynamically resolves to. It is undefined behavior if a block or
function call is made through a static type with a different set of
``ns_consumed`` parameters than the implementation of the called block or
.. admonition:: Rationale
Consumed parameters with null receiver are a guaranteed leak. Mismatches
with consumed parameters will cause over-retains or over-releases, depending
on the direction. The rule about function calls is really just an
application of the existing C/C++ rule about calling functions through an
incompatible function type, but it's useful to state it explicitly.
.. _arc.object.operands.retained-return-values:
Retained return values
A function or method which returns a retainable object pointer type may be
marked as returning a retained value, signifying that the caller expects to take
ownership of a +1 retain count. This is done by adding the
``ns_returns_retained`` attribute to the function or method declaration, like
.. code-block:: objc
id foo(void) __attribute((ns_returns_retained));
- (id) foo __attribute((ns_returns_retained));
This attribute is part of the type of the function or method.
When returning from such a function or method, ARC retains the value at the
point of evaluation of the return statement, before leaving all local scopes.
When receiving a return result from such a function or method, ARC releases the
value at the end of the full-expression it is contained within, subject to the
usual optimizations for local values.
.. admonition:: Rationale
This formalizes direct transfers of ownership from a callee to a caller. The
most common scenario this models is the retained return from ``init``,
``alloc``, ``new``, and ``copy`` methods, but there are other cases in the
frameworks. After optimization there are typically no extra retains and
releases required.
Methods in the ``alloc``, ``copy``, ``init``, ``mutableCopy``, and ``new``
:ref:`families <arc.method-families>` are implicitly marked
``__attribute__((ns_returns_retained))``. This may be suppressed by explicitly
marking the method ``__attribute__((ns_returns_not_retained))``.
It is undefined behavior if the method to which an Objective-C message send
statically resolves has different retain semantics on its result from the
method it dynamically resolves to. It is undefined behavior if a block or
function call is made through a static type with different retain semantics on
its result from the implementation of the called block or function.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Mismatches with returned results will cause over-retains or over-releases,
depending on the direction. Again, the rule about function calls is really
just an application of the existing C/C++ rule about calling functions
through an incompatible function type.
.. _arc.objects.operands.unretained-returns:
Unretained return values
A method or function which returns a retainable object type but does not return
a retained value must ensure that the object is still valid across the return
When returning from such a function or method, ARC retains the value at the
point of evaluation of the return statement, then leaves all local scopes, and
then balances out the retain while ensuring that the value lives across the
call boundary. In the worst case, this may involve an ``autorelease``, but
callers must not assume that the value is actually in the autorelease pool.
ARC performs no extra mandatory work on the caller side, although it may elect
to do something to shorten the lifetime of the returned value.
.. admonition:: Rationale
It is common in non-ARC code to not return an autoreleased value; therefore
the convention does not force either path. It is convenient to not be
required to do unnecessary retains and autoreleases; this permits
optimizations such as eliding retain/autoreleases when it can be shown that
the original pointer will still be valid at the point of return.
A method or function may be marked with
``__attribute__((ns_returns_autoreleased))`` to indicate that it returns a
pointer which is guaranteed to be valid at least as long as the innermost
autorelease pool. There are no additional semantics enforced in the definition
of such a method; it merely enables optimizations in callers.
.. _arc.objects.operands.casts:
Bridged casts
A :arc-term:`bridged cast` is a C-style cast annotated with one of three
* ``(__bridge T) op`` casts the operand to the destination type ``T``. If
``T`` is a retainable object pointer type, then ``op`` must have a
non-retainable pointer type. If ``T`` is a non-retainable pointer type,
then ``op`` must have a retainable object pointer type. Otherwise the cast
is ill-formed. There is no transfer of ownership, and ARC inserts no retain
* ``(__bridge_retained T) op`` casts the operand, which must have retainable
object pointer type, to the destination type, which must be a non-retainable
pointer type. ARC retains the value, subject to the usual optimizations on
local values, and the recipient is responsible for balancing that +1.
* ``(__bridge_transfer T) op`` casts the operand, which must have
non-retainable pointer type, to the destination type, which must be a
retainable object pointer type. ARC will release the value at the end of
the enclosing full-expression, subject to the usual optimizations on local
These casts are required in order to transfer objects in and out of ARC
control; see the rationale in the section on :ref:`conversion of retainable
object pointers <arc.objects.restrictions.conversion>`.
Using a ``__bridge_retained`` or ``__bridge_transfer`` cast purely to convince
ARC to emit an unbalanced retain or release, respectively, is poor form.
.. _arc.objects.restrictions:
.. _arc.objects.restrictions.conversion:
Conversion of retainable object pointers
In general, a program which attempts to implicitly or explicitly convert a
value of retainable object pointer type to any non-retainable type, or
vice-versa, is ill-formed. For example, an Objective-C object pointer shall
not be converted to ``void*``. As an exception, cast to ``intptr_t`` is
allowed because such casts are not transferring ownership. The :ref:`bridged
casts <arc.objects.operands.casts>` may be used to perform these conversions
where necessary.
.. admonition:: Rationale
We cannot ensure the correct management of the lifetime of objects if they
may be freely passed around as unmanaged types. The bridged casts are
provided so that the programmer may explicitly describe whether the cast
transfers control into or out of ARC.
However, the following exceptions apply.
.. _arc.objects.restrictions.conversion.with.known.semantics:
Conversion to retainable object pointer type of expressions with known semantics
:when-revised:`[beginning Apple 4.0, LLVM 3.1]`
:revision:`These exceptions have been greatly expanded; they previously applied
only to a much-reduced subset which is difficult to categorize but which
included null pointers, message sends (under the given rules), and the various
global constants.`
An unbridged conversion to a retainable object pointer type from a type other
than a retainable object pointer type is ill-formed, as discussed above, unless
the operand of the cast has a syntactic form which is known retained, known
unretained, or known retain-agnostic.
An expression is :arc-term:`known retain-agnostic` if it is:
* an Objective-C string literal,
* a load from a ``const`` system global variable of :ref:`C retainable pointer
type <arc.misc.c-retainable>`, or
* a null pointer constant.
An expression is :arc-term:`known unretained` if it is an rvalue of :ref:`C
retainable pointer type <arc.misc.c-retainable>` and it is:
* a direct call to a function, and either that function has the
``cf_returns_not_retained`` attribute or it is an :ref:`audited
<arc.misc.c-retainable.audit>` function that does not have the
``cf_returns_retained`` attribute and does not follow the create/copy naming
* a message send, and the declared method either has the
``cf_returns_not_retained`` attribute or it has neither the
``cf_returns_retained`` attribute nor a :ref:`selector family
<arc.method-families>` that implies a retained result, or
* :when-revised:`[beginning LLVM 3.6]` :revision:`a load from a` ``const``
:revision:`non-system global variable.`
An expression is :arc-term:`known retained` if it is an rvalue of :ref:`C
retainable pointer type <arc.misc.c-retainable>` and it is:
* a message send, and the declared method either has the
``cf_returns_retained`` attribute, or it does not have the
``cf_returns_not_retained`` attribute but it does have a :ref:`selector
family <arc.method-families>` that implies a retained result.
* a comma expression is classified according to its right-hand side,
* a statement expression is classified according to its result expression, if
it has one,
* an lvalue-to-rvalue conversion applied to an Objective-C property lvalue is
classified according to the underlying message send, and
* a conditional operator is classified according to its second and third
operands, if they agree in classification, or else the other if one is known
If the cast operand is known retained, the conversion is treated as a
``__bridge_transfer`` cast. If the cast operand is known unretained or known
retain-agnostic, the conversion is treated as a ``__bridge`` cast.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Bridging casts are annoying. Absent the ability to completely automate the
management of CF objects, however, we are left with relatively poor attempts
to reduce the need for a glut of explicit bridges. Hence these rules.
We've so far consciously refrained from implicitly turning retained CF
results from function calls into ``__bridge_transfer`` casts. The worry is
that some code patterns --- for example, creating a CF value, assigning it
to an ObjC-typed local, and then calling ``CFRelease`` when done --- are a
bit too likely to be accidentally accepted, leading to mysterious behavior.
For loads from ``const`` global variables of :ref:`C retainable pointer type
<arc.misc.c-retainable>`, it is reasonable to assume that global system
constants were initialitzed with true constants (e.g. string literals), but
user constants might have been initialized with something dynamically
allocated, using a global initializer.
.. _arc.objects.restrictions.conversion-exception-contextual:
Conversion from retainable object pointer type in certain contexts
:when-revised:`[beginning Apple 4.0, LLVM 3.1]`
If an expression of retainable object pointer type is explicitly cast to a
:ref:`C retainable pointer type <arc.misc.c-retainable>`, the program is
ill-formed as discussed above unless the result is immediately used:
* to initialize a parameter in an Objective-C message send where the parameter
is not marked with the ``cf_consumed`` attribute, or
* to initialize a parameter in a direct call to an
:ref:`audited <arc.misc.c-retainable.audit>` function where the parameter is
not marked with the ``cf_consumed`` attribute.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Consumed parameters are left out because ARC would naturally balance them
with a retain, which was judged too treacherous. This is in part because
several of the most common consuming functions are in the ``Release`` family,
and it would be quite unfortunate for explicit releases to be silently
balanced out in this way.
.. _arc.ownership:
Ownership qualification
This section describes the behavior of *objects* of retainable object pointer
type; that is, locations in memory which store retainable object pointers.
A type is a :arc-term:`retainable object owner type` if it is a retainable
object pointer type or an array type whose element type is a retainable object
owner type.
An :arc-term:`ownership qualifier` is a type qualifier which applies only to
retainable object owner types. An array type is ownership-qualified according
to its element type, and adding an ownership qualifier to an array type so
qualifies its element type.
A program is ill-formed if it attempts to apply an ownership qualifier to a
type which is already ownership-qualified, even if it is the same qualifier.
There is a single exception to this rule: an ownership qualifier may be applied
to a substituted template type parameter, which overrides the ownership
qualifier provided by the template argument.
When forming a function type, the result type is adjusted so that any
top-level ownership qualifier is deleted.
Except as described under the :ref:`inference rules <arc.ownership.inference>`,
a program is ill-formed if it attempts to form a pointer or reference type to a
retainable object owner type which lacks an ownership qualifier.
.. admonition:: Rationale
These rules, together with the inference rules, ensure that all objects and
lvalues of retainable object pointer type have an ownership qualifier. The
ability to override an ownership qualifier during template substitution is
required to counteract the :ref:`inference of __strong for template type
arguments <arc.ownership.inference.template.arguments>`. Ownership qualifiers
on return types are dropped because they serve no purpose there except to
cause spurious problems with overloading and templates.
There are four ownership qualifiers:
* ``__autoreleasing``
* ``__strong``
* ``__unsafe_unretained``
* ``__weak``
A type is :arc-term:`nontrivially ownership-qualified` if it is qualified with
``__autoreleasing``, ``__strong``, or ``__weak``.
.. _arc.ownership.spelling:
The names of the ownership qualifiers are reserved for the implementation. A
program may not assume that they are or are not implemented with macros, or
what those macros expand to.
An ownership qualifier may be written anywhere that any other type qualifier
may be written.
If an ownership qualifier appears in the *declaration-specifiers*, the
following rules apply:
* if the type specifier is a retainable object owner type, the qualifier
initially applies to that type;
* otherwise, if the outermost non-array declarator is a pointer
or block pointer declarator, the qualifier initially applies to
that type;
* otherwise the program is ill-formed.
* If the qualifier is so applied at a position in the declaration
where the next-innermost declarator is a function declarator, and
there is an block declarator within that function declarator, then
the qualifier applies instead to that block declarator and this rule
is considered afresh beginning from the new position.
If an ownership qualifier appears on the declarator name, or on the declared
object, it is applied to the innermost pointer or block-pointer type.
If an ownership qualifier appears anywhere else in a declarator, it applies to
the type there.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Ownership qualifiers are like ``const`` and ``volatile`` in the sense
that they may sensibly apply at multiple distinct positions within a
declarator. However, unlike those qualifiers, there are many
situations where they are not meaningful, and so we make an effort
to "move" the qualifier to a place where it will be meaningful. The
general goal is to allow the programmer to write, say, ``__strong``
before the entire declaration and have it apply in the leftmost
sensible place.
Property declarations
A property of retainable object pointer type may have ownership. If the
property's type is ownership-qualified, then the property has that ownership.
If the property has one of the following modifiers, then the property has the
corresponding ownership. A property is ill-formed if it has conflicting
sources of ownership, or if it has redundant ownership modifiers, or if it has
``__autoreleasing`` ownership.
* ``assign`` implies ``__unsafe_unretained`` ownership.
* ``copy`` implies ``__strong`` ownership, as well as the usual behavior of
copy semantics on the setter.
* ``retain`` implies ``__strong`` ownership.
* ``strong`` implies ``__strong`` ownership.
* ``unsafe_unretained`` implies ``__unsafe_unretained`` ownership.
* ``weak`` implies ``__weak`` ownership.
With the exception of ``weak``, these modifiers are available in non-ARC
A property's specified ownership is preserved in its metadata, but otherwise
the meaning is purely conventional unless the property is synthesized. If a
property is synthesized, then the :arc-term:`associated instance variable` is
the instance variable which is named, possibly implicitly, by the
``@synthesize`` declaration. If the associated instance variable already
exists, then its ownership qualification must equal the ownership of the
property; otherwise, the instance variable is created with that ownership
A property of retainable object pointer type which is synthesized without a
source of ownership has the ownership of its associated instance variable, if it
already exists; otherwise, :when-revised:`[beginning Apple 3.1, LLVM 3.1]`
:revision:`its ownership is implicitly` ``strong``. Prior to this revision, it
was ill-formed to synthesize such a property.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Using ``strong`` by default is safe and consistent with the generic ARC rule
about :ref:`inferring ownership <arc.ownership.inference.variables>`. It is,
unfortunately, inconsistent with the non-ARC rule which states that such
properties are implicitly ``assign``. However, that rule is clearly
untenable in ARC, since it leads to default-unsafe code. The main merit to
banning the properties is to avoid confusion with non-ARC practice, which did
not ultimately strike us as sufficient to justify requiring extra syntax and
(more importantly) forcing novices to understand ownership rules just to
declare a property when the default is so reasonable. Changing the rule away
from non-ARC practice was acceptable because we had conservatively banned the
synthesis in order to give ourselves exactly this leeway.
Applying ``__attribute__((NSObject))`` to a property not of retainable object
pointer type has the same behavior it does outside of ARC: it requires the
property type to be some sort of pointer and permits the use of modifiers other
than ``assign``. These modifiers only affect the synthesized getter and
setter; direct accesses to the ivar (even if synthesized) still have primitive
semantics, and the value in the ivar will not be automatically released during
.. _arc.ownership.semantics:
There are five :arc-term:`managed operations` which may be performed on an
object of retainable object pointer type. Each qualifier specifies different
semantics for each of these operations. It is still undefined behavior to
access an object outside of its lifetime.
A load or store with "primitive semantics" has the same semantics as the
respective operation would have on an ``void*`` lvalue with the same alignment
and non-ownership qualification.
:arc-term:`Reading` occurs when performing a lvalue-to-rvalue conversion on an
object lvalue.
* For ``__weak`` objects, the current pointee is retained and then released at
the end of the current full-expression. This must execute atomically with
respect to assignments and to the final release of the pointee.
* For all other objects, the lvalue is loaded with primitive semantics.
:arc-term:`Assignment` occurs when evaluating an assignment operator. The
semantics vary based on the qualification:
* For ``__strong`` objects, the new pointee is first retained; second, the
lvalue is loaded with primitive semantics; third, the new pointee is stored
into the lvalue with primitive semantics; and finally, the old pointee is
released. This is not performed atomically; external synchronization must be
used to make this safe in the face of concurrent loads and stores.
* For ``__weak`` objects, the lvalue is updated to point to the new pointee,
unless the new pointee is an object currently undergoing deallocation, in
which case the lvalue is updated to a null pointer. This must execute
atomically with respect to other assignments to the object, to reads from the
object, and to the final release of the new pointee.
* For ``__unsafe_unretained`` objects, the new pointee is stored into the
lvalue using primitive semantics.
* For ``__autoreleasing`` objects, the new pointee is retained, autoreleased,
and stored into the lvalue using primitive semantics.
:arc-term:`Initialization` occurs when an object's lifetime begins, which
depends on its storage duration. Initialization proceeds in two stages:
#. First, a null pointer is stored into the lvalue using primitive semantics.
This step is skipped if the object is ``__unsafe_unretained``.
#. Second, if the object has an initializer, that expression is evaluated and
then assigned into the object using the usual assignment semantics.
:arc-term:`Destruction` occurs when an object's lifetime ends. In all cases it
is semantically equivalent to assigning a null pointer to the object, with the
proviso that of course the object cannot be legally read after the object's
lifetime ends.
:arc-term:`Moving` occurs in specific situations where an lvalue is "moved
from", meaning that its current pointee will be used but the object may be left
in a different (but still valid) state. This arises with ``__block`` variables
and rvalue references in C++. For ``__strong`` lvalues, moving is equivalent
to loading the lvalue with primitive semantics, writing a null pointer to it
with primitive semantics, and then releasing the result of the load at the end
of the current full-expression. For all other lvalues, moving is equivalent to
reading the object.
.. _arc.ownership.restrictions:
.. _arc.ownership.restrictions.weak:
Weak-unavailable types
It is explicitly permitted for Objective-C classes to not support ``__weak``
references. It is undefined behavior to perform an operation with weak
assignment semantics with a pointer to an Objective-C object whose class does
not support ``__weak`` references.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Historically, it has been possible for a class to provide its own
reference-count implementation by overriding ``retain``, ``release``, etc.
However, weak references to an object require coordination with its class's
reference-count implementation because, among other things, weak loads and
stores must be atomic with respect to the final release. Therefore, existing
custom reference-count implementations will generally not support weak
references without additional effort. This is unavoidable without breaking
binary compatibility.
A class may indicate that it does not support weak references by providing the
``objc_arc_weak_reference_unavailable`` attribute on the class's interface declaration. A
retainable object pointer type is **weak-unavailable** if
is a pointer to an (optionally protocol-qualified) Objective-C class ``T`` where
``T`` or one of its superclasses has the ``objc_arc_weak_reference_unavailable``
attribute. A program is ill-formed if it applies the ``__weak`` ownership
qualifier to a weak-unavailable type or if the value operand of a weak
assignment operation has a weak-unavailable type.
.. _arc.ownership.restrictions.autoreleasing:
Storage duration of ``__autoreleasing`` objects
A program is ill-formed if it declares an ``__autoreleasing`` object of
non-automatic storage duration. A program is ill-formed if it captures an
``__autoreleasing`` object in a block or, unless by reference, in a C++11
.. admonition:: Rationale
Autorelease pools are tied to the current thread and scope by their nature.
While it is possible to have temporary objects whose instance variables are
filled with autoreleased objects, there is no way that ARC can provide any
sort of safety guarantee there.
It is undefined behavior if a non-null pointer is assigned to an
``__autoreleasing`` object while an autorelease pool is in scope and then that
object is read after the autorelease pool's scope is left.
.. _arc.ownership.restrictions.conversion.indirect:
Conversion of pointers to ownership-qualified types
A program is ill-formed if an expression of type ``T*`` is converted,
explicitly or implicitly, to the type ``U*``, where ``T`` and ``U`` have
different ownership qualification, unless:
* ``T`` is qualified with ``__strong``, ``__autoreleasing``, or
``__unsafe_unretained``, and ``U`` is qualified with both ``const`` and
``__unsafe_unretained``; or
* either ``T`` or ``U`` is ``cv void``, where ``cv`` is an optional sequence
of non-ownership qualifiers; or
* the conversion is requested with a ``reinterpret_cast`` in Objective-C++; or
* the conversion is a well-formed :ref:`pass-by-writeback
The analogous rule applies to ``T&`` and ``U&`` in Objective-C++.
.. admonition:: Rationale
These rules provide a reasonable level of type-safety for indirect pointers,
as long as the underlying memory is not deallocated. The conversion to
``const __unsafe_unretained`` is permitted because the semantics of reads are
equivalent across all these ownership semantics, and that's a very useful and
common pattern. The interconversion with ``void*`` is useful for allocating
memory or otherwise escaping the type system, but use it carefully.
``reinterpret_cast`` is considered to be an obvious enough sign of taking
responsibility for any problems.
It is undefined behavior to access an ownership-qualified object through an
lvalue of a differently-qualified type, except that any non-``__weak`` object
may be read through an ``__unsafe_unretained`` lvalue.
It is undefined behavior if the storage of a ``__strong`` or ``__weak``
object is not properly initialized before the first managed operation
is performed on the object, or if the storage of such an object is freed
or reused before the object has been properly deinitialized. Storage for
a ``__strong`` or ``__weak`` object may be properly initialized by filling
it with the representation of a null pointer, e.g. by acquiring the memory
with ``calloc`` or using ``bzero`` to zero it out. A ``__strong`` or
``__weak`` object may be properly deinitialized by assigning a null pointer
into it. A ``__strong`` object may also be properly initialized
by copying into it (e.g. with ``memcpy``) the representation of a
different ``__strong`` object whose storage has been properly initialized;
doing this properly deinitializes the source object and causes its storage
to no longer be properly initialized. A ``__weak`` object may not be
representation-copied in this way.
These requirements are followed automatically for objects whose
initialization and deinitialization are under the control of ARC:
* objects of static, automatic, and temporary storage duration
* instance variables of Objective-C objects
* elements of arrays where the array object's initialization and
deinitialization are under the control of ARC
* fields of Objective-C struct types where the struct object's
initialization and deinitialization are under the control of ARC
* non-static data members of Objective-C++ non-union class types
* Objective-C++ objects and arrays of dynamic storage duration created
with the ``new`` or ``new[]`` operators and destroyed with the
corresponding ``delete`` or ``delete[]`` operator
They are not followed automatically for these objects:
* objects of dynamic storage duration created in other memory, such as
that returned by ``malloc``
* union members
.. admonition:: Rationale
ARC must perform special operations when initializing an object and
when destroying it. In many common situations, ARC knows when an
object is created and when it is destroyed and can ensure that these
operations are performed correctly. Otherwise, however, ARC requires
programmer cooperation to establish its initialization invariants
because it is infeasible for ARC to dynamically infer whether they
are intact. For example, there is no syntactic difference in C between
an assignment that is intended by the programmer to initialize a variable
and one that is intended to replace the existing value stored there,
but ARC must perform one operation or the other. ARC chooses to always
assume that objects are initialized (except when it is in charge of
initializing them) because the only workable alternative would be to
ban all code patterns that could potentially be used to access
uninitialized memory, and that would be too limiting. In practice,
this is rarely a problem because programmers do not generally need to
work with objects for which the requirements are not handled
Note that dynamically-allocated Objective-C++ arrays of
nontrivially-ownership-qualified type are not ABI-compatible with non-ARC
code because the non-ARC code will consider the element type to be POD.
Such arrays that are ``new[]``'d in ARC translation units cannot be
``delete[]``'d in non-ARC translation units and vice-versa.
.. _arc.ownership.restrictions.pass_by_writeback:
Passing to an out parameter by writeback
If the argument passed to a parameter of type ``T __autoreleasing *`` has type
``U oq *``, where ``oq`` is an ownership qualifier, then the argument is a
candidate for :arc-term:`pass-by-writeback`` if:
* ``oq`` is ``__strong`` or ``__weak``, and
* it would be legal to initialize a ``T __strong *`` with a ``U __strong *``.
For purposes of overload resolution, an implicit conversion sequence requiring
a pass-by-writeback is always worse than an implicit conversion sequence not
requiring a pass-by-writeback.
The pass-by-writeback is ill-formed if the argument expression does not have a
legal form:
* ``&var``, where ``var`` is a scalar variable of automatic storage duration
with retainable object pointer type
* a conditional expression where the second and third operands are both legal
* a cast whose operand is a legal form
* a null pointer constant
.. admonition:: Rationale
The restriction in the form of the argument serves two purposes. First, it
makes it impossible to pass the address of an array to the argument, which
serves to protect against an otherwise serious risk of mis-inferring an
"array" argument as an out-parameter. Second, it makes it much less likely
that the user will see confusing aliasing problems due to the implementation,
below, where their store to the writeback temporary is not immediately seen
in the original argument variable.
A pass-by-writeback is evaluated as follows:
#. The argument is evaluated to yield a pointer ``p`` of type ``U oq *``.
#. If ``p`` is a null pointer, then a null pointer is passed as the argument,
and no further work is required for the pass-by-writeback.
#. Otherwise, a temporary of type ``T __autoreleasing`` is created and
initialized to a null pointer.
#. If the parameter is not an Objective-C method parameter marked ``out``,
then ``*p`` is read, and the result is written into the temporary with
primitive semantics.
#. The address of the temporary is passed as the argument to the actual call.
#. After the call completes, the temporary is loaded with primitive
semantics, and that value is assigned into ``*p``.
.. admonition:: Rationale
This is all admittedly convoluted. In an ideal world, we would see that a
local variable is being passed to an out-parameter and retroactively modify
its type to be ``__autoreleasing`` rather than ``__strong``. This would be
remarkably difficult and not always well-founded under the C type system.
However, it was judged unacceptably invasive to require programmers to write
``__autoreleasing`` on all the variables they intend to use for
out-parameters. This was the least bad solution.
.. _arc.ownership.restrictions.records:
Ownership-qualified fields of structs and unions
A program is ill-formed if it declares a member of a C struct or union to have
a nontrivially ownership-qualified type.
.. admonition:: Rationale
The resulting type would be non-POD in the C++ sense, but C does not give us
very good language tools for managing the lifetime of aggregates, so it is
more convenient to simply forbid them. It is still possible to manage this
with a ``void*`` or an ``__unsafe_unretained`` object.
This restriction does not apply in Objective-C++. However, nontrivally
ownership-qualified types are considered non-POD: in C++11 terms, they are not
trivially default constructible, copy constructible, move constructible, copy
assignable, move assignable, or destructible. It is a violation of C++'s One
Definition Rule to use a class outside of ARC that, under ARC, would have a
nontrivially ownership-qualified member.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Unlike in C, we can express all the necessary ARC semantics for
ownership-qualified subobjects as suboperations of the (default) special
member functions for the class. These functions then become non-trivial.
This has the non-obvious result that the class will have a non-trivial copy
constructor and non-trivial destructor; if this would not normally be true
outside of ARC, objects of the type will be passed and returned in an
ABI-incompatible manner.
.. _arc.ownership.inference:
Ownership inference
.. _arc.ownership.inference.variables:
If an object is declared with retainable object owner type, but without an
explicit ownership qualifier, its type is implicitly adjusted to have
``__strong`` qualification.
As a special case, if the object's base type is ``Class`` (possibly
protocol-qualified), the type is adjusted to have ``__unsafe_unretained``
qualification instead.
.. _arc.ownership.inference.indirect_parameters:
Indirect parameters
If a function or method parameter has type ``T*``, where ``T`` is an
ownership-unqualified retainable object pointer type, then:
* if ``T`` is ``const``-qualified or ``Class``, then it is implicitly
qualified with ``__unsafe_unretained``;
* otherwise, it is implicitly qualified with ``__autoreleasing``.
.. admonition:: Rationale
``__autoreleasing`` exists mostly for this case, the Cocoa convention for
out-parameters. Since a pointer to ``const`` is obviously not an
out-parameter, we instead use a type more useful for passing arrays. If the
user instead intends to pass in a *mutable* array, inferring
``__autoreleasing`` is the wrong thing to do; this directs some of the
caution in the following rules about writeback.
Such a type written anywhere else would be ill-formed by the general rule
requiring ownership qualifiers.
This rule does not apply in Objective-C++ if a parameter's type is dependent in
a template pattern and is only *instantiated* to a type which would be a
pointer to an unqualified retainable object pointer type. Such code is still
.. admonition:: Rationale
The convention is very unlikely to be intentional in template code.
.. _arc.ownership.inference.template.arguments:
Template arguments
If a template argument for a template type parameter is an retainable object
owner type that does not have an explicit ownership qualifier, it is adjusted
to have ``__strong`` qualification. This adjustment occurs regardless of
whether the template argument was deduced or explicitly specified.
.. admonition:: Rationale
``__strong`` is a useful default for containers (e.g., ``std::vector<id>``),
which would otherwise require explicit qualification. Moreover, unqualified
retainable object pointer types are unlikely to be useful within templates,
since they generally need to have a qualifier applied to the before being
.. _arc.method-families:
Method families
An Objective-C method may fall into a :arc-term:`method family`, which is a
conventional set of behaviors ascribed to it by the Cocoa conventions.
A method is in a certain method family if:
* it has a ``objc_method_family`` attribute placing it in that family; or if
not that,
* it does not have an ``objc_method_family`` attribute placing it in a
different or no family, and
* its selector falls into the corresponding selector family, and
* its signature obeys the added restrictions of the method family.
A selector is in a certain selector family if, ignoring any leading
underscores, the first component of the selector either consists entirely of
the name of the method family or it begins with that name followed by a
character other than a lowercase letter. For example, ``_perform:with:`` and
``performWith:`` would fall into the ``perform`` family (if we recognized one),
but ``performing:with`` would not.
The families and their added restrictions are:
* ``alloc`` methods must return a retainable object pointer type.
* ``copy`` methods must return a retainable object pointer type.
* ``mutableCopy`` methods must return a retainable object pointer type.
* ``new`` methods must return a retainable object pointer type.
* ``init`` methods must be instance methods and must return an Objective-C
pointer type. Additionally, a program is ill-formed if it declares or
contains a call to an ``init`` method whose return type is neither ``id`` nor
a pointer to a super-class or sub-class of the declaring class (if the method
was declared on a class) or the static receiver type of the call (if it was
declared on a protocol).
.. admonition:: Rationale
There are a fair number of existing methods with ``init``-like selectors
which nonetheless don't follow the ``init`` conventions. Typically these
are either accidental naming collisions or helper methods called during
initialization. Because of the peculiar retain/release behavior of
``init`` methods, it's very important not to treat these methods as
``init`` methods if they aren't meant to be. It was felt that implicitly
defining these methods out of the family based on the exact relationship
between the return type and the declaring class would be much too subtle
and fragile. Therefore we identify a small number of legitimate-seeming
return types and call everything else an error. This serves the secondary
purpose of encouraging programmers not to accidentally give methods names
in the ``init`` family.
Note that a method with an ``init``-family selector which returns a
non-Objective-C type (e.g. ``void``) is perfectly well-formed; it simply
isn't in the ``init`` family.
A program is ill-formed if a method's declarations, implementations, and
overrides do not all have the same method family.
Explicit method family control
A method may be annotated with the ``objc_method_family`` attribute to
precisely control which method family it belongs to. If a method in an
``@implementation`` does not have this attribute, but there is a method
declared in the corresponding ``@interface`` that does, then the attribute is
copied to the declaration in the ``@implementation``. The attribute is
available outside of ARC, and may be tested for with the preprocessor query
The attribute is spelled
``__attribute__((objc_method_family(`` *family* ``)))``. If *family* is
``none``, the method has no family, even if it would otherwise be considered to
have one based on its selector and type. Otherwise, *family* must be one of
``alloc``, ``copy``, ``init``, ``mutableCopy``, or ``new``, in which case the
method is considered to belong to the corresponding family regardless of its
selector. It is an error if a method that is explicitly added to a family in
this way does not meet the requirements of the family other than the selector
naming convention.
.. admonition:: Rationale
The rules codified in this document describe the standard conventions of
Objective-C. However, as these conventions have not heretofore been enforced
by an unforgiving mechanical system, they are only imperfectly kept,
especially as they haven't always even been precisely defined. While it is
possible to define low-level ownership semantics with attributes like
``ns_returns_retained``, this attribute allows the user to communicate
semantic intent, which is of use both to ARC (which, e.g., treats calls to
``init`` specially) and the static analyzer.
Semantics of method families
A method's membership in a method family may imply non-standard semantics for
its parameters and return type.
Methods in the ``alloc``, ``copy``, ``mutableCopy``, and ``new`` families ---
that is, methods in all the currently-defined families except ``init`` ---
implicitly :ref:`return a retained object
<arc.object.operands.retained-return-values>` as if they were annotated with
the ``ns_returns_retained`` attribute. This can be overridden by annotating
the method with either of the ``ns_returns_autoreleased`` or
``ns_returns_not_retained`` attributes.
Properties also follow same naming rules as methods. This means that those in
the ``alloc``, ``copy``, ``mutableCopy``, and ``new`` families provide access
to :ref:`retained objects <arc.object.operands.retained-return-values>`. This
can be overridden by annotating the property with ``ns_returns_not_retained``
Semantics of ``init``
Methods in the ``init`` family implicitly :ref:`consume
<arc.objects.operands.consumed>` their ``self`` parameter and :ref:`return a
retained object <arc.object.operands.retained-return-values>`. Neither of
these properties can be altered through attributes.
A call to an ``init`` method with a receiver that is either ``self`` (possibly
parenthesized or casted) or ``super`` is called a :arc-term:`delegate init
call`. It is an error for a delegate init call to be made except from an
``init`` method, and excluding blocks within such methods.
As an exception to the :ref:`usual rule <arc.misc.self>`, the variable ``self``
is mutable in an ``init`` method and has the usual semantics for a ``__strong``
variable. However, it is undefined behavior and the program is ill-formed, no
diagnostic required, if an ``init`` method attempts to use the previous value
of ``self`` after the completion of a delegate init call. It is conventional,
but not required, for an ``init`` method to return ``self``.
It is undefined behavior for a program to cause two or more calls to ``init``
methods on the same object, except that each ``init`` method invocation may
perform at most one delegate init call.
Related result types
Certain methods are candidates to have :arc-term:`related result types`:
* class methods in the ``alloc`` and ``new`` method families
* instance methods in the ``init`` family
* the instance method ``self``
* outside of ARC, the instance methods ``retain`` and ``autorelease``
If the formal result type of such a method is ``id`` or protocol-qualified
``id``, or a type equal to the declaring class or a superclass, then it is said
to have a related result type. In this case, when invoked in an explicit
message send, it is assumed to return a type related to the type of the
* if it is a class method, and the receiver is a class name ``T``, the message
send expression has type ``T*``; otherwise
* if it is an instance method, and the receiver has type ``T``, the message
send expression has type ``T``; otherwise
* the message send expression has the normal result type of the method.
This is a new rule of the Objective-C language and applies outside of ARC.
.. admonition:: Rationale
ARC's automatic code emission is more prone than most code to signature
errors, i.e. errors where a call was emitted against one method signature,
but the implementing method has an incompatible signature. Having more
precise type information helps drastically lower this risk, as well as
catching a number of latent bugs.
.. _arc.optimization:
Within this section, the word :arc-term:`function` will be used to
refer to any structured unit of code, be it a C function, an
Objective-C method, or a block.
This specification describes ARC as performing specific ``retain`` and
``release`` operations on retainable object pointers at specific
points during the execution of a program. These operations make up a
non-contiguous subsequence of the computation history of the program.
The portion of this sequence for a particular retainable object
pointer for which a specific function execution is directly
responsible is the :arc-term:`formal local retain history` of the
object pointer. The corresponding actual sequence executed is the
`dynamic local retain history`.
However, under certain circumstances, ARC is permitted to re-order and
eliminate operations in a manner which may alter the overall
computation history beyond what is permitted by the general "as if"
rule of C/C++ and the :ref:`restrictions <arc.objects.retains>` on
the implementation of ``retain`` and ``release``.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Specifically, ARC is sometimes permitted to optimize ``release``
operations in ways which might cause an object to be deallocated
before it would otherwise be. Without this, it would be almost
impossible to eliminate any ``retain``/``release`` pairs. For
example, consider the following code:
.. code-block:: objc
id x = _ivar;
[x foo];
If we were not permitted in any event to shorten the lifetime of the
object in ``x``, then we would not be able to eliminate this retain
and release unless we could prove that the message send could not
modify ``_ivar`` (or deallocate ``self``). Since message sends are
opaque to the optimizer, this is not possible, and so ARC's hands
would be almost completely tied.
ARC makes no guarantees about the execution of a computation history
which contains undefined behavior. In particular, ARC makes no
guarantees in the presence of race conditions.
ARC may assume that any retainable object pointers it receives or
generates are instantaneously valid from that point until a point
which, by the concurrency model of the host language, happens-after
the generation of the pointer and happens-before a release of that
object (possibly via an aliasing pointer or indirectly due to
destruction of a different object).
.. admonition:: Rationale
There is very little point in trying to guarantee correctness in the
presence of race conditions. ARC does not have a stack-scanning
garbage collector, and guaranteeing the atomicity of every load and
store operation would be prohibitive and preclude a vast amount of
ARC may assume that non-ARC code engages in sensible balancing
behavior and does not rely on exact or minimum retain count values
except as guaranteed by ``__strong`` object invariants or +1 transfer
conventions. For example, if an object is provably double-retained
and double-released, ARC may eliminate the inner retain and release;
it does not need to guard against code which performs an unbalanced
release followed by a "balancing" retain.
.. _arc.optimization.liveness:
Object liveness
ARC may not allow a retainable object ``X`` to be deallocated at a
time ``T`` in a computation history if:
* ``X`` is the value stored in a ``__strong`` object ``S`` with
:ref:`precise lifetime semantics <arc.optimization.precise>`, or
* ``X`` is the value stored in a ``__strong`` object ``S`` with
imprecise lifetime semantics and, at some point after ``T`` but
before the next store to ``S``, the computation history features a
load from ``S`` and in some way depends on the value loaded, or
* ``X`` is a value described as being released at the end of the
current full-expression and, at some point after ``T`` but before
the end of the full-expression, the computation history depends
on that value.
.. admonition:: Rationale
The intent of the second rule is to say that objects held in normal
``__strong`` local variables may be released as soon as the value in
the variable is no longer being used: either the variable stops
being used completely or a new value is stored in the variable.
The intent of the third rule is to say that return values may be
released after they've been used.
A computation history depends on a pointer value ``P`` if it:
* performs a pointer comparison with ``P``,
* loads from ``P``,
* stores to ``P``,
* depends on a pointer value ``Q`` derived via pointer arithmetic
from ``P`` (including an instance-variable or field access), or
* depends on a pointer value ``Q`` loaded from ``P``.
Dependency applies only to values derived directly or indirectly from
a particular expression result and does not occur merely because a
separate pointer value dynamically aliases ``P``. Furthermore, this
dependency is not carried by values that are stored to objects.
.. admonition:: Rationale
The restrictions on dependency are intended to make this analysis
feasible by an optimizer with only incomplete information about a
program. Essentially, dependence is carried to "obvious" uses of a
pointer. Merely passing a pointer argument to a function does not
itself cause dependence, but since generally the optimizer will not
be able to prove that the function doesn't depend on that parameter,
it will be forced to conservatively assume it does.
Dependency propagates to values loaded from a pointer because those
values might be invalidated by deallocating the object. For
example, given the code ``__strong id x = p->ivar;``, ARC must not
move the release of ``p`` to between the load of ``p->ivar`` and the
retain of that value for storing into ``x``.
Dependency does not propagate through stores of dependent pointer
values because doing so would allow dependency to outlive the
full-expression which produced the original value. For example, the
address of an instance variable could be written to some global
location and then freely accessed during the lifetime of the local,
or a function could return an inner pointer of an object and store
it to a local. These cases would be potentially impossible to
reason about and so would basically prevent any optimizations based
on imprecise lifetime. There are also uncommon enough to make it
reasonable to require the precise-lifetime annotation if someone
really wants to rely on them.
Dependency does propagate through return values of pointer type.
The compelling source of need for this rule is a property accessor
which returns an un-autoreleased result; the calling function must
have the chance to operate on the value, e.g. to retain it, before
ARC releases the original pointer. Note again, however, that
dependence does not survive a store, so ARC does not guarantee the
continued validity of the return value past the end of the
.. _arc.optimization.object_lifetime:
No object lifetime extension
If, in the formal computation history of the program, an object ``X``
has been deallocated by the time of an observable side-effect, then
ARC must cause ``X`` to be deallocated by no later than the occurrence
of that side-effect, except as influenced by the re-ordering of the
destruction of objects.
.. admonition:: Rationale
This rule is intended to prohibit ARC from observably extending the
lifetime of a retainable object, other than as specified in this
document. Together with the rule limiting the transformation of
releases, this rule requires ARC to eliminate retains and release
only in pairs.
ARC's power to reorder the destruction of objects is critical to its
ability to do any optimization, for essentially the same reason that
it must retain the power to decrease the lifetime of an object.
Unfortunately, while it's generally poor style for the destruction
of objects to have arbitrary side-effects, it's certainly possible.
Hence the caveat.
.. _arc.optimization.precise:
Precise lifetime semantics
In general, ARC maintains an invariant that a retainable object pointer held in
a ``__strong`` object will be retained for the full formal lifetime of the
object. Objects subject to this invariant have :arc-term:`precise lifetime
By default, local variables of automatic storage duration do not have precise
lifetime semantics. Such objects are simply strong references which hold
values of retainable object pointer type, and these values are still fully
subject to the optimizations on values under local control.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Applying these precise-lifetime semantics strictly would be prohibitive.
Many useful optimizations that might theoretically decrease the lifetime of
an object would be rendered impossible. Essentially, it promises too much.
A local variable of retainable object owner type and automatic storage duration
may be annotated with the ``objc_precise_lifetime`` attribute to indicate that
it should be considered to be an object with precise lifetime semantics.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Nonetheless, it is sometimes useful to be able to force an object to be
released at a precise time, even if that object does not appear to be used.
This is likely to be uncommon enough that the syntactic weight of explicitly
requesting these semantics will not be burdensome, and may even make the code
.. _arc.misc:
.. _arc.misc.special_methods:
Special methods
.. _arc.misc.special_methods.retain:
Memory management methods
A program is ill-formed if it contains a method definition, message send, or
``@selector`` expression for any of the following selectors:
* ``autorelease``
* ``release``
* ``retain``
* ``retainCount``
.. admonition:: Rationale
``retainCount`` is banned because ARC robs it of consistent semantics. The
others were banned after weighing three options for how to deal with message
**Honoring** them would work out very poorly if a programmer naively or
accidentally tried to incorporate code written for manual retain/release code
into an ARC program. At best, such code would do twice as much work as
necessary; quite frequently, however, ARC and the explicit code would both
try to balance the same retain, leading to crashes. The cost is losing the
ability to perform "unrooted" retains, i.e. retains not logically
corresponding to a strong reference in the object graph.
**Ignoring** them would badly violate user expectations about their code.
While it *would* make it easier to develop code simultaneously for ARC and
non-ARC, there is very little reason to do so except for certain library
developers. ARC and non-ARC translation units share an execution model and
can seamlessly interoperate. Within a translation unit, a developer who
faithfully maintains their code in non-ARC mode is suffering all the
restrictions of ARC for zero benefit, while a developer who isn't testing the
non-ARC mode is likely to be unpleasantly surprised if they try to go back to
**Banning** them has the disadvantage of making it very awkward to migrate
existing code to ARC. The best answer to that, given a number of other
changes and restrictions in ARC, is to provide a specialized tool to assist
users in that migration.
Implementing these methods was banned because they are too integral to the
semantics of ARC; many tricks which worked tolerably under manual reference
counting will misbehave if ARC performs an ephemeral extra retain or two. If
absolutely required, it is still possible to implement them in non-ARC code,
for example in a category; the implementations must obey the :ref:`semantics
<arc.objects.retains>` laid out elsewhere in this document.
.. _arc.misc.special_methods.dealloc:
A program is ill-formed if it contains a message send or ``@selector``
expression for the selector ``dealloc``.
.. admonition:: Rationale
There are no legitimate reasons to call ``dealloc`` directly.
A class may provide a method definition for an instance method named
``dealloc``. This method will be called after the final ``release`` of the
object but before it is deallocated or any of its instance variables are
destroyed. The superclass's implementation of ``dealloc`` will be called
automatically when the method returns.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Even though ARC destroys instance variables automatically, there are still
legitimate reasons to write a ``dealloc`` method, such as freeing
non-retainable resources. Failing to call ``[super dealloc]`` in such a
method is nearly always a bug. Sometimes, the object is simply trying to
prevent itself from being destroyed, but ``dealloc`` is really far too late
for the object to be raising such objections. Somewhat more legitimately, an
object may have been pool-allocated and should not be deallocated with
``free``; for now, this can only be supported with a ``dealloc``
implementation outside of ARC. Such an implementation must be very careful
to do all the other work that ``NSObject``'s ``dealloc`` would, which is
outside the scope of this document to describe.
The instance variables for an ARC-compiled class will be destroyed at some
point after control enters the ``dealloc`` method for the root class of the
class. The ordering of the destruction of instance variables is unspecified,
both within a single class and between subclasses and superclasses.
.. admonition:: Rationale
The traditional, non-ARC pattern for destroying instance variables is to
destroy them immediately before calling ``[super dealloc]``. Unfortunately,
message sends from the superclass are quite capable of reaching methods in
the subclass, and those methods may well read or write to those instance
variables. Making such message sends from dealloc is generally discouraged,
since the subclass may well rely on other invariants that were broken during
``dealloc``, but it's not so inescapably dangerous that we felt comfortable
calling it undefined behavior. Therefore we chose to delay destroying the
instance variables to a point at which message sends are clearly disallowed:
the point at which the root class's deallocation routines take over.
In most code, the difference is not observable. It can, however, be observed
if an instance variable holds a strong reference to an object whose
deallocation will trigger a side-effect which must be carefully ordered with
respect to the destruction of the super class. Such code violates the design
principle that semantically important behavior should be explicit. A simple
fix is to clear the instance variable manually during ``dealloc``; a more
holistic solution is to move semantically important side-effects out of
``dealloc`` and into a separate teardown phase which can rely on working with
well-formed objects.
.. _arc.misc.autoreleasepool:
To simplify the use of autorelease pools, and to bring them under the control
of the compiler, a new kind of statement is available in Objective-C. It is
written ``@autoreleasepool`` followed by a *compound-statement*, i.e. by a new
scope delimited by curly braces. Upon entry to this block, the current state
of the autorelease pool is captured. When the block is exited normally,
whether by fallthrough or directed control flow (such as ``return`` or
``break``), the autorelease pool is restored to the saved state, releasing all
the objects in it. When the block is exited with an exception, the pool is not
``@autoreleasepool`` may be used in non-ARC translation units, with equivalent
A program is ill-formed if it refers to the ``NSAutoreleasePool`` class.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Autorelease pools are clearly important for the compiler to reason about, but
it is far too much to expect the compiler to accurately reason about control
dependencies between two calls. It is also very easy to accidentally forget
to drain an autorelease pool when using the manual API, and this can
significantly inflate the process's high-water-mark. The introduction of a
new scope is unfortunate but basically required for sane interaction with the
rest of the language. Not draining the pool during an unwind is apparently
required by the Objective-C exceptions implementation.
.. _arc.misc.externally_retained:
Externally-Retained Variables
In some situations, variables with strong ownership are considered
externally-retained by the implementation. This means that the variable is
retained elsewhere, and therefore the implementation can elide retaining and
releasing its value. Such a variable is implicitly ``const`` for safety. In
contrast with ``__unsafe_unretained``, an externally-retained variable still
behaves as a strong variable outside of initialization and destruction. For
instance, when an externally-retained variable is captured in a block the value
of the variable is retained and released on block capture and destruction. It
also affects C++ features such as lambda capture, ``decltype``, and template
argument deduction.
Implicitly, the implementation assumes that the :ref:`self parameter in a
non-init method <arc.misc.self>` and the :ref:`variable in a for-in loop
<arc.misc.enumeration>` are externally-retained.
Externally-retained semantics can also be opted into with the
``objc_externally_retained`` attribute. This attribute can apply to strong local
variables, functions, methods, or blocks:
.. code-block:: objc
@class WobbleAmount;
@interface Widget : NSObject
-(void)wobble:(WobbleAmount *)amount;
@implementation Widget
-(void)wobble:(WobbleAmount *)amount
__attribute__((objc_externally_retained)) {
// 'amount' and 'alias' aren't retained on entry, nor released on exit.
__attribute__((objc_externally_retained)) WobbleAmount *alias = amount;
Annotating a function with this attribute makes every parameter with strong
retainable object pointer type externally-retained, unless the variable was
explicitly qualified with ``__strong``. For instance, ``first_param`` is
externally-retained (and therefore ``const``) below, but not ``second_param``:
.. code-block:: objc
void f(NSArray *first_param, __strong NSArray *second_param) {
// ...
You can test if your compiler has support for ``objc_externally_retained`` with
.. code-block:: objc
#if __has_attribute(objc_externally_retained)
// Use externally retained...
.. _arc.misc.self:
The ``self`` parameter variable of an non-init Objective-C method is considered
:ref:`externally-retained <arc.misc.externally_retained>` by the implementation.
It is undefined behavior, or at least dangerous, to cause an object to be
deallocated during a message send to that object. In an init method, ``self``
follows the :ref:``init family rules <>``.
.. admonition:: Rationale
The cost of retaining ``self`` in all methods was found to be prohibitive, as
it tends to be live across calls, preventing the optimizer from proving that
the retain and release are unnecessary --- for good reason, as it's quite
possible in theory to cause an object to be deallocated during its execution
without this retain and release. Since it's extremely uncommon to actually
do so, even unintentionally, and since there's no natural way for the
programmer to remove this retain/release pair otherwise (as there is for
other parameters by, say, making the variable ``objc_externally_retained`` or
qualifying it with ``__unsafe_unretained``), we chose to make this optimizing
assumption and shift some amount of risk to the user.
.. _arc.misc.enumeration:
Fast enumeration iteration variables
If a variable is declared in the condition of an Objective-C fast enumeration
loop, and the variable has no explicit ownership qualifier, then it is
implicitly :ref:`externally-retained <arc.misc.externally_retained>` so that
objects encountered during the enumeration are not actually retained and
.. admonition:: Rationale
This is an optimization made possible because fast enumeration loops promise
to keep the objects retained during enumeration, and the collection itself
cannot be synchronously modified. It can be overridden by explicitly
qualifying the variable with ``__strong``, which will make the variable
mutable again and cause the loop to retain the objects it encounters.
.. _arc.misc.blocks:
The implicit ``const`` capture variables created when evaluating a block
literal expression have the same ownership semantics as the local variables
they capture. The capture is performed by reading from the captured variable
and initializing the capture variable with that value; the capture variable is
destroyed when the block literal is, i.e. at the end of the enclosing scope.
The :ref:`inference <arc.ownership.inference>` rules apply equally to
``__block`` variables, which is a shift in semantics from non-ARC, where
``__block`` variables did not implicitly retain during capture.
``__block`` variables of retainable object owner type are moved off the stack
by initializing the heap copy with the result of moving from the stack copy.
With the exception of retains done as part of initializing a ``__strong``
parameter variable or reading a ``__weak`` variable, whenever these semantics
call for retaining a value of block-pointer type, it has the effect of a
``Block_copy``. The optimizer may remove such copies when it sees that the
result is used only as an argument to a call.
.. _arc.misc.exceptions:
By default in Objective C, ARC is not exception-safe for normal releases:
* It does not end the lifetime of ``__strong`` variables when their scopes are
abnormally terminated by an exception.
* It does not perform releases which would occur at the end of a
full-expression if that full-expression throws an exception.
A program may be compiled with the option ``-fobjc-arc-exceptions`` in order to
enable these, or with the option ``-fno-objc-arc-exceptions`` to explicitly
disable them, with the last such argument "winning".
.. admonition:: Rationale
The standard Cocoa convention is that exceptions signal programmer error and
are not intended to be recovered from. Making code exceptions-safe by
default would impose severe runtime and code size penalties on code that
typically does not actually care about exceptions safety. Therefore,
ARC-generated code leaks by default on exceptions, which is just fine if the
process is going to be immediately terminated anyway. Programs which do care
about recovering from exceptions should enable the option.
In Objective-C++, ``-fobjc-arc-exceptions`` is enabled by default.
.. admonition:: Rationale
C++ already introduces pervasive exceptions-cleanup code of the sort that ARC
introduces. C++ programmers who have not already disabled exceptions are
much more likely to actual require exception-safety.
ARC does end the lifetimes of ``__weak`` objects when an exception terminates
their scope unless exceptions are disabled in the compiler.
.. admonition:: Rationale
The consequence of a local ``__weak`` object not being destroyed is very
likely to be corruption of the Objective-C runtime, so we want to be safer
here. Of course, potentially massive leaks are about as likely to take down
the process as this corruption is if the program does try to recover from
.. _arc.misc.interior:
Interior pointers
An Objective-C method returning a non-retainable pointer may be annotated with
the ``objc_returns_inner_pointer`` attribute to indicate that it returns a
handle to the internal data of an object, and that this reference will be
invalidated if the object is destroyed. When such a message is sent to an
object, the object's lifetime will be extended until at least the earliest of:
* the last use of the returned pointer, or any pointer derived from it, in the
calling function or
* the autorelease pool is restored to a previous state.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Rationale: not all memory and resources are managed with reference counts; it
is common for objects to manage private resources in their own, private way.
Typically these resources are completely encapsulated within the object, but
some classes offer their users direct access for efficiency. If ARC is not
aware of methods that return such "interior" pointers, its optimizations can
cause the owning object to be reclaimed too soon. This attribute informs ARC
that it must tread lightly.
The extension rules are somewhat intentionally vague. The autorelease pool
limit is there to permit a simple implementation to simply retain and
autorelease the receiver. The other limit permits some amount of
optimization. The phrase "derived from" is intended to encompass the results
both of pointer transformations, such as casts and arithmetic, and of loading
from such derived pointers; furthermore, it applies whether or not such
derivations are applied directly in the calling code or by other utility code
(for example, the C library routine ``strchr``). However, the implementation
never need account for uses after a return from the code which calls the
method returning an interior pointer.
As an exception, no extension is required if the receiver is loaded directly
from a ``__strong`` object with :ref:`precise lifetime semantics
.. admonition:: Rationale
Implicit autoreleases carry the risk of significantly inflating memory use,
so it's important to provide users a way of avoiding these autoreleases.
Tying this to precise lifetime semantics is ideal, as for local variables
this requires a very explicit annotation, which allows ARC to trust the user
with good cheer.
.. _arc.misc.c-retainable:
C retainable pointer types
A type is a :arc-term:`C retainable pointer type` if it is a pointer to
(possibly qualified) ``void`` or a pointer to a (possibly qualifier) ``struct``
or ``class`` type.
.. admonition:: Rationale
ARC does not manage pointers of CoreFoundation type (or any of the related
families of retainable C pointers which interoperate with Objective-C for
retain/release operation). In fact, ARC does not even know how to
distinguish these types from arbitrary C pointer types. The intent of this
concept is to filter out some obviously non-object types while leaving a hook
for later tightening if a means of exhaustively marking CF types is made
.. _arc.misc.c-retainable.audit:
Auditing of C retainable pointer interfaces
:when-revised:`[beginning Apple 4.0, LLVM 3.1]`
A C function may be marked with the ``cf_audited_transfer`` attribute to
express that, except as otherwise marked with attributes, it obeys the
parameter (consuming vs. non-consuming) and return (retained vs. non-retained)
conventions for a C function of its name, namely:
* A parameter of C retainable pointer type is assumed to not be consumed
unless it is marked with the ``cf_consumed`` attribute, and
* A result of C retainable pointer type is assumed to not be returned retained
unless the function is either marked ``cf_returns_retained`` or it follows
the create/copy naming convention and is not marked
A function obeys the :arc-term:`create/copy` naming convention if its name
contains as a substring:
* either "Create" or "Copy" not followed by a lowercase letter, or
* either "create" or "copy" not followed by a lowercase letter and
not preceded by any letter, whether uppercase or lowercase.
A second attribute, ``cf_unknown_transfer``, signifies that a function's
transfer semantics cannot be accurately captured using any of these
annotations. A program is ill-formed if it annotates the same function with
both ``cf_audited_transfer`` and ``cf_unknown_transfer``.
A pragma is provided to facilitate the mass annotation of interfaces:
.. code-block:: objc
#pragma clang arc_cf_code_audited begin
#pragma clang arc_cf_code_audited end
All C functions declared within the extent of this pragma are treated as if
annotated with the ``cf_audited_transfer`` attribute unless they otherwise have
the ``cf_unknown_transfer`` attribute. The pragma is accepted in all language
modes. A program is ill-formed if it attempts to change files, whether by
including a file or ending the current file, within the extent of this pragma.
It is possible to test for all the features in this section with
.. admonition:: Rationale
A significant inconvenience in ARC programming is the necessity of
interacting with APIs based around C retainable pointers. These features are
designed to make it relatively easy for API authors to quickly review and
annotate their interfaces, in turn improving the fidelity of tools such as
the static analyzer and ARC. The single-file restriction on the pragma is
designed to eliminate the risk of accidentally annotating some other header's
.. _arc.runtime:
Runtime support
This section describes the interaction between the ARC runtime and the code
generated by the ARC compiler. This is not part of the ARC language
specification; instead, it is effectively a language-specific ABI supplement,
akin to the "Itanium" generic ABI for C++.
Ownership qualification does not alter the storage requirements for objects,
except that it is undefined behavior if a ``__weak`` object is inadequately
aligned for an object of type ``id``. The other qualifiers may be used on
explicitly under-aligned memory.
The runtime tracks ``__weak`` objects which holds non-null values. It is
undefined behavior to direct modify a ``__weak`` object which is being tracked
by the runtime except through an
:ref:`objc_storeWeak <arc.runtime.objc_storeWeak>`,
:ref:`objc_destroyWeak <arc.runtime.objc_destroyWeak>`, or
:ref:`objc_moveWeak <arc.runtime.objc_moveWeak>` call.
The runtime must provide a number of new entrypoints which the compiler may
emit, which are described in the remainder of this section.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Several of these functions are semantically equivalent to a message send; we
emit calls to C functions instead because:
* the machine code to do so is significantly smaller,
* it is much easier to recognize the C functions in the ARC optimizer, and
* a sufficient sophisticated runtime may be able to avoid the message send in
common cases.
Several other of these functions are "fused" operations which can be
described entirely in terms of other operations. We use the fused operations
primarily as a code-size optimization, although in some cases there is also a
real potential for avoiding redundant operations in the runtime.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_autorelease:
``id objc_autorelease(id value);``
*Precondition:* ``value`` is null or a pointer to a valid object.
If ``value`` is null, this call has no effect. Otherwise, it adds the object
to the innermost autorelease pool exactly as if the object had been sent the
``autorelease`` message.
Always returns ``value``.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_autoreleasePoolPop:
``void objc_autoreleasePoolPop(void *pool);``
*Precondition:* ``pool`` is the result of a previous call to
:ref:`objc_autoreleasePoolPush <arc.runtime.objc_autoreleasePoolPush>` on the
current thread, where neither ``pool`` nor any enclosing pool have previously
been popped.
Releases all the objects added to the given autorelease pool and any
autorelease pools it encloses, then sets the current autorelease pool to the
pool directly enclosing ``pool``.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_autoreleasePoolPush:
``void *objc_autoreleasePoolPush(void);``
Creates a new autorelease pool that is enclosed by the current pool, makes that
the current pool, and returns an opaque "handle" to it.
.. admonition:: Rationale
While the interface is described as an explicit hierarchy of pools, the rules
allow the implementation to just keep a stack of objects, using the stack
depth as the opaque pool handle.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_autoreleaseReturnValue:
``id objc_autoreleaseReturnValue(id value);``
*Precondition:* ``value`` is null or a pointer to a valid object.
If ``value`` is null, this call has no effect. Otherwise, it makes a best
effort to hand off ownership of a retain count on the object to a call to
<arc.runtime.objc_retainAutoreleasedReturnValue>` for the same object in an
enclosing call frame. If this is not possible, the object is autoreleased as
Always returns ``value``.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_copyWeak:
``void objc_copyWeak(id *dest, id *src);``
*Precondition:* ``src`` is a valid pointer which either contains a null pointer
or has been registered as a ``__weak`` object. ``dest`` is a valid pointer
which has not been registered as a ``__weak`` object.
``dest`` is initialized to be equivalent to ``src``, potentially registering it
with the runtime. Equivalent to the following code:
.. code-block:: objc
void objc_copyWeak(id *dest, id *src) {
objc_release(objc_initWeak(dest, objc_loadWeakRetained(src)));
Must be atomic with respect to calls to ``objc_storeWeak`` on ``src``.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_destroyWeak:
``void objc_destroyWeak(id *object);``
*Precondition:* ``object`` is a valid pointer which either contains a null
pointer or has been registered as a ``__weak`` object.
``object`` is unregistered as a weak object, if it ever was. The current value
of ``object`` is left unspecified; otherwise, equivalent to the following code:
.. code-block:: objc
void objc_destroyWeak(id *object) {
objc_storeWeak(object, nil);
Does not need to be atomic with respect to calls to ``objc_storeWeak`` on
.. _arc.runtime.objc_initWeak:
``id objc_initWeak(id *object, id value);``
*Precondition:* ``object`` is a valid pointer which has not been registered as
a ``__weak`` object. ``value`` is null or a pointer to a valid object.
If ``value`` is a null pointer or the object to which it points has begun
deallocation, ``object`` is zero-initialized. Otherwise, ``object`` is
registered as a ``__weak`` object pointing to ``value``. Equivalent to the
following code:
.. code-block:: objc
id objc_initWeak(id *object, id value) {
*object = nil;
return objc_storeWeak(object, value);
Returns the value of ``object`` after the call.
Does not need to be atomic with respect to calls to ``objc_storeWeak`` on
.. _arc.runtime.objc_loadWeak:
``id objc_loadWeak(id *object);``
*Precondition:* ``object`` is a valid pointer which either contains a null
pointer or has been registered as a ``__weak`` object.
If ``object`` is registered as a ``__weak`` object, and the last value stored
into ``object`` has not yet been deallocated or begun deallocation, retains and
autoreleases that value and returns it. Otherwise returns null. Equivalent to
the following code:
.. code-block:: objc
id objc_loadWeak(id *object) {
return objc_autorelease(objc_loadWeakRetained(object));
Must be atomic with respect to calls to ``objc_storeWeak`` on ``object``.
.. admonition:: Rationale
Loading weak references would be inherently prone to race conditions without
the retain.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_loadWeakRetained:
``id objc_loadWeakRetained(id *object);``
*Precondition:* ``object`` is a valid pointer which either contains a null
pointer or has been registered as a ``__weak`` object.
If ``object`` is registered as a ``__weak`` object, and the last value stored
into ``object`` has not yet been deallocated or begun deallocation, retains
that value and returns it. Otherwise returns null.
Must be atomic with respect to calls to ``objc_storeWeak`` on ``object``.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_moveWeak:
``void objc_moveWeak(id *dest, id *src);``
*Precondition:* ``src`` is a valid pointer which either contains a null pointer
or has been registered as a ``__weak`` object. ``dest`` is a valid pointer
which has not been registered as a ``__weak`` object.
``dest`` is initialized to be equivalent to ``src``, potentially registering it
with the runtime. ``src`` may then be left in its original state, in which
case this call is equivalent to :ref:`objc_copyWeak
<arc.runtime.objc_copyWeak>`, or it may be left as null.
Must be atomic with respect to calls to ``objc_storeWeak`` on ``src``.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_release:
``void objc_release(id value);``
*Precondition:* ``value`` is null or a pointer to a valid object.
If ``value`` is null, this call has no effect. Otherwise, it performs a
release operation exactly as if the object had been sent the ``release``
.. _arc.runtime.objc_retain:
``id objc_retain(id value);``
*Precondition:* ``value`` is null or a pointer to a valid object.
If ``value`` is null, this call has no effect. Otherwise, it performs a retain
operation exactly as if the object had been sent the ``retain`` message.
Always returns ``value``.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_retainAutorelease:
``id objc_retainAutorelease(id value);``
*Precondition:* ``value`` is null or a pointer to a valid object.
If ``value`` is null, this call has no effect. Otherwise, it performs a retain
operation followed by an autorelease operation. Equivalent to the following
.. code-block:: objc
id objc_retainAutorelease(id value) {
return objc_autorelease(objc_retain(value));
Always returns ``value``.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_retainAutoreleaseReturnValue:
``id objc_retainAutoreleaseReturnValue(id value);``
*Precondition:* ``value`` is null or a pointer to a valid object.
If ``value`` is null, this call has no effect. Otherwise, it performs a retain
operation followed by the operation described in
:ref:`objc_autoreleaseReturnValue <arc.runtime.objc_autoreleaseReturnValue>`.
Equivalent to the following code:
.. code-block:: objc
id objc_retainAutoreleaseReturnValue(id value) {
return objc_autoreleaseReturnValue(objc_retain(value));
Always returns ``value``.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_retainAutoreleasedReturnValue:
``id objc_retainAutoreleasedReturnValue(id value);``
*Precondition:* ``value`` is null or a pointer to a valid object.
If ``value`` is null, this call has no effect. Otherwise, it attempts to
accept a hand off of a retain count from a call to
:ref:`objc_autoreleaseReturnValue <arc.runtime.objc_autoreleaseReturnValue>` on
``value`` in a recently-called function or something it calls. If that fails,
it performs a retain operation exactly like :ref:`objc_retain
Always returns ``value``.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_retainBlock:
``id objc_retainBlock(id value);``
*Precondition:* ``value`` is null or a pointer to a valid block object.
If ``value`` is null, this call has no effect. Otherwise, if the block pointed
to by ``value`` is still on the stack, it is copied to the heap and the address
of the copy is returned. Otherwise a retain operation is performed on the
block exactly as if it had been sent the ``retain`` message.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_storeStrong:
``void objc_storeStrong(id *object, id value);``
*Precondition:* ``object`` is a valid pointer to a ``__strong`` object which is
adequately aligned for a pointer. ``value`` is null or a pointer to a valid
Performs the complete sequence for assigning to a ``__strong`` object of
non-block type [*]_. Equivalent to the following code:
.. code-block:: objc
void objc_storeStrong(id *object, id value) {
id oldValue = *object;
value = [value retain];
*object = value;
[oldValue release];
.. [*] This does not imply that a ``__strong`` object of block type is an
invalid argument to this function. Rather it implies that an ``objc_retain``
and not an ``objc_retainBlock`` operation will be emitted if the argument is
a block.
.. _arc.runtime.objc_storeWeak:
``id objc_storeWeak(id *object, id value);``
*Precondition:* ``object`` is a valid pointer which either contains a null
pointer or has been registered as a ``__weak`` object. ``value`` is null or a
pointer to a valid object.
If ``value`` is a null pointer or the object to which it points has begun
deallocation, ``object`` is assigned null and unregistered as a ``__weak``
object. Otherwise, ``object`` is registered as a ``__weak`` object or has its
registration updated to point to ``value``.
Returns the value of ``object`` after the call.