Overview

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Details of how the binding process works

Binding an Objective-C library for use with Xamarin takes of three steps:

  1. Write a C# "API definition" to describe how the native API is exposed in .NET, and how it maps to the underlying Objective-C. This is done using standard C# constructs like interface and various binding attributes (see this simple example).

  2. Once you have written the "API definition" in C#, you compile it to produce a "binding" assembly. This can be done on the command line or using a binding project in Xamarin Studio or Visual Studio.

  3. That "binding" assembly is then added to your Xamarin application project, so you can access the native functionality using the API you defined. The binding project is completely separate from your application projects.

NOTE: Step 1 can be automated with the assistance of Objective Sharpie. It examines the Objective-C API and generates a proposed C# "API definition." You can customize the files created by Objective Sharpie and use them in a binding project (or on the command line) to create your binding assembly. Objective Sharpie does not create bindings by itself, it's merely an optional part of the larger process.

You can also read more technical details of how it works, which will help you to write your bindings.

Command Line Bindings

You can use the btouch-native for Xamarin.iOS (or bmac-native if you are using Xamarin.Mac) to build bindings directly. It works by passing the C# API definitions that you've created by hand (or using Objective Sharpie) to the command line tool (btouch-native for iOS or bmac-native for Mac).

The general syntax for invoking these tools is:

# Use this for Xamarin.iOS:
bash$ /Developer/MonoTouch/usr/bin/btouch-native -e cocos2d.cs -s:enums.cs -x:extensions.cs
# Use this for Xamarin.Mac:
bash$ bmac-native -e cocos2d.cs -s:enums.cs -x:extensions.cs

The above command will generate the file cocos2d.dll in the current directory, and it will contain the fully bound library that you can use in your project. This is the tool that Xamarin Studio uses to create your bindings if you use a binding project (described below).

Binding Project

A binding project can be created in Xamarin Studio or Visual Studio (Visual Studio only supports iOS bindings) and makes it easier to edit and build API definitions for binding (versus using the command line).

Follow this getting started guide to see how to create and use a binding project to produce a binding.

Objective Sharpie

Objective Sharpie is another, separate command line tool that helps with the initial stages of creating a binding. It does not create a binding by itself, rather it automates the initial step of generating an API definition for the target native library.

Read the Objective Sharpie docs to learn how to parse native libraries, native frameworks, and CocoaPods into API defintions that can be built into bindings.

How Binding Works

It is possible to use the [Register] attribute, [Export] attribute, and manual Objective-C selector invocation together to manually bind new (previously unbound) Objective-C types.

First, find a type that you wish to bind. For discussion purposes (and simplicity), we'll bind the NSEnumerator type (which has already been bound in Foundation.NSEnumerator; the implementation below is just for example purposes).

Second, we need to create the C# type. We'll likely want to place this into a namespace; since Objective-C doesn't support namespaces, we'll need to use the [Register] attribute to change the type name that Xamarin.iOS will register with the Objective-C runtime. The C# type must also inherit from Foundation.NSObject:

namespace Example.Binding {
    [Register("NSEnumerator")]
    class NSEnumerator : NSObject
    {
        // see steps 3-5
    }
}

Third, review the Objective-C documentation and create ObjCRuntime.Selector instances for each selector you wish to use. Place these within the class body:

static Selector selInit       = new Selector("init");
static Selector selAllObjects = new Selector("allObjects");
static Selector selNextObject = new Selector("nextObject");

Fourth, your type will need to provide constructors. You must chain your constructor invocation to the base class constructor. The [Export] attributes permit Objective-C code to call the constructors with the specified selector name:

[Export("init")]
public NSEnumerator()
    : base(NSObjectFlag.Empty)
{
    Handle = Messaging.IntPtr_objc_msgSend(this.Handle, selInit.Handle);
}
// This constructor must be present so that Xamarin.iOS
// can create instances of your type from Objective-C code.
public NSEnumerator(IntPtr handle)
    : base(handle)
{
}

Fifth, provide methods for each of the Selectors declared in Step 3. These will use objc_msgSend() to invoke the selector on the native object. Note the use of Runtime.GetNSObject() to convert an IntPtr into an appropriately typed NSObject (sub-)type. If you want the method to be callable from Objective-C code, the member must be virtual.

[Export("nextObject")]
public virtual NSObject NextObject()
{
    return Runtime.GetNSObject(
        Messaging.IntPtr_objc_msgSend(this.Handle, selNextObject.Handle));
}
// Note that for properties, [Export] goes on the get/set method:
public virtual NSArray AllObjects {
    [Export("allObjects")]
    get {
        return (NSArray) Runtime.GetNSObject(
            Messaging.IntPtr_objc_msgSend(this.Handle, selAllObjects.Handle));
    }
}

Putting it all together:

using System;
using Foundation;
using ObjCRuntime;

namespace Example.Binding {
    [Register("NSEnumerator")]
    class NSEnumerator : NSObject
    {
        static Selector selInit       = new Selector("init");
        static Selector selAllObjects = new Selector("allObjects");
        static Selector selNextObject = new Selector("nextObject");

        [Export("init")]
        public NSEnumerator()
            : base(NSObjectFlag.Empty)
        {
            Handle = Messaging.IntPtr_objc_msgSend(this.Handle,
                selInit.Handle);
        }

        public NSEnumerator(IntPtr handle)
            : base(handle)
        {
        }

        [Export("nextObject")]
        public virtual NSObject NextObject()
        {
            return Runtime.GetNSObject(
                Messaging.IntPtr_objc_msgSend(this.Handle,
                    selNextObject.Handle));
        }

        // Note that for properties, [Export] goes on the get/set method:
        public virtual NSArray AllObjects {
            [Export("allObjects")]
            get {
                return (NSArray) Runtime.GetNSObject(
                    Messaging.IntPtr_objc_msgSend(this.Handle,
                        selAllObjects.Handle));
            }
        }
    }
}

 

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