This section documents the encoding of method types, which is rarely needed to use Objective-C. You should skip it at a first reading; the runtime provides functions that will work on methods and can walk through the list of parameters and interpret them for you. These functions are part of the public “API” and are the preferred way to interact with method signatures from user code.
But if you need to debug a problem with method signatures and need to know how they are implemented (i.e., the “ABI”), read on.
Methods have their “signature” encoded and made available to the runtime. The “signature” encodes all the information required to dynamically build invocations of the method at runtime: return type and arguments.
The “signature” is a null-terminated string, composed of the following:
selfand the method selector
For example, a method with no arguments and returning
have the signature
i8@0:4 if the size of a pointer is 4. The
signature is interpreted as follows: the
i is the return type
8 is the total size of the parameters in
bytes (two pointers each of size 4), the
@0 is the first
parameter (an object at byte offset
:4 is the
second parameter (a
SEL at byte offset
You can easily find more examples by running the “strings” program
on an Objective-C object file compiled by GCC. You’ll see a lot of
strings that look very much like
i8@0:4. They are signatures
of Objective-C methods.