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7.4 Constant string objects

GNU Objective-C provides constant string objects that are generated directly by the compiler. You declare a constant string object by prefixing a C constant string with the character `@':

       id myString = @"this is a constant string object";

The constant string objects are by default instances of the NXConstantString class which is provided by the GNU Objective-C runtime. To get the definition of this class you must include the objc/NXConstStr.h header file.

User defined libraries may want to implement their own constant string class. To be able to support them, the GNU Objective-C compiler provides a new command line options -fconstant-string-class=class-name. The provided class should adhere to a strict structure, the same as NXConstantString's structure:

     @interface MyConstantStringClass
       Class isa;
       char *c_string;
       unsigned int len;

NXConstantString inherits from Object; user class libraries may choose to inherit the customized constant string class from a different class than Object. There is no requirement in the methods the constant string class has to implement, but the final ivar layout of the class must be the compatible with the given structure.

When the compiler creates the statically allocated constant string object, the c_string field will be filled by the compiler with the string; the length field will be filled by the compiler with the string length; the isa pointer will be filled with NULL by the compiler, and it will later be fixed up automatically at runtime by the GNU Objective-C runtime library to point to the class which was set by the -fconstant-string-class option when the object file is loaded (if you wonder how it works behind the scenes, the name of the class to use, and the list of static objects to fixup, are stored by the compiler in the object file in a place where the GNU runtime library will find them at runtime).

As a result, when a file is compiled with the -fconstant-string-class option, all the constant string objects will be instances of the class specified as argument to this option. It is possible to have multiple compilation units referring to different constant string classes, neither the compiler nor the linker impose any restrictions in doing this.