iOS. Apple. Indies. Plus Things.


// Written by Jordan Morgan // Mar 14th, 2015 // Read it in about 2 minutes // RE: Foundation

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It’s the little things.

The more you program, the more you begin to appreciate the discovery of helpful little classes by pure happenstance. I am particularly fond of those that solve a problem in a more pointed fashion than how you may have been solving them in the past.

For me, that’s NSURLComponents, this week’s topic of interest.


If you’ve been around Foundation for some time now, you’ve likely grown familiar with the way a URL will manifest itself: NSURL. With it, we are able to interact in a number of different ways using HTTP protocol.

let url = NSURL(string: "http://www.dreaminginbinary.co")

Like any protocol worth its salt, HTTP defines a structure and certain order of elements it expects to interact with. We can clearly see an example of this in its purest form from the URL above:

There are many components of a URL, and NSURL contains all of them specified in RCF 1808. So, as far as representing a valid and usable URL, NSURL does a fine job.

There comes a time, though, when a URL might need to be manipulated in some fashion. Say we decided not to visit www.dreaminginbinary.co, and instead opted for a quick visit to www.medium.com.

Not an issue, you say, and promptly code the following:

url.host = "www.medium.com"

Unfortunately, the previous code would produce a glorious compile time exception. If you were to visit the header file for NSURL or the docs, you’d quickly see why:

var host: [String][5]? { get } // Swift  
@property(readonly, copy) NSString *host //Objective-C

NSURL only exposes its components in a read-only capacity. NSURLComponents, on the other hand, was created specifically for situations like this. It’s members are exposed in a friendly, readwrite fashion.

You will have no learning curve in getting to know NSURLComponents if you’ve read this far. They can be created in the same fashion as an NSURL:

let components:NSURLComponents! = NSURLComponents(string: "http://www.dreaminginbinary.co")

And like NSURL, if the string supplied results in a malformed URL, nil will be responsibly set as the value.

Assuming our URL was valid, we are able to manipulate its components as needed:

components.host = "www.medium.com"

Its uses are manifested in situations where one could benefit from mutability. Suppose we had to create a URL dynamically, and all of the components needed are housed in a collection.

If we are to task NSURL with the responsiblity of creating such a URL, we’ll be left to several pieces of string concatenation — and before swift — string concatenation was slightly bloated and embarrassingly underpowered.

We’d be using the (not missed):

myURLSoFar = [myURLSoFar stringByAppendingString:theHost];

Or, the far less painful swift variant:

myURLSoFar += theHost

Turning to our new friend, however, yields a syntactically pleasant approach to solving the problem:

let components = NSURLComponents()  
components.scheme = @"https";  
components.user = @"jmorgan";  
components.password = @"notapassword";  
components.host = @"medium.com";  
components.path = @"/stories/drafts.html";  
components.fragment = @"paragraph4";  
let url = components.url;

Here, one can set the logical properties on NSURLComponents. When you are finished, just ask it (nicely) for the valid URL. You’ll be promptly returned a spec compliant NSURL, complete with percent escaping and other conveniences.

NSURLComponents has everything to clearly and concisely express a URL. Let’s take a sneak peek at all the components left at your disposal:

//All typed as string, save for port - which is a NSNumber and queryItems, which is an Array containing NSURLQueryItems

scheme //An invalid scheme results in an exception  
port //Likewise, a negative port also hands out free exceptions.  

One new property added in iOS 8 is the queryItem collection, which contains useful tuples of all the items contained in the query string.

If we had initialized an instance of NSURLComponents like so:

let comp:NSURLComponents! = NSURLComponents(string: "https://www.dreaminginbinary.co/jordan?isTired=true")

Printing out components.queryItem would yield the following:

Optional([ {name = isTired, value = true}])

And if you’re an especially astute reader — you’d notice that the query string conveys the message that I am indeed tired. No matter, though it be 2:00 am in Ozark, Missouri — our time with NSURLComponents is done for now.

Wrapping Up

Become a victim of randomly stumbling across helpful classes. NSURLComponents was a result of my curious snooping through header files a mere week ago. Who knows what other interesting secrets Foundation holds within its keep?

Until next time ✌️.


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