I'm sorry if this is a bit of a C-noob question: I know I need to swot up on my pointers. Unfortunately I'm on a deadline so don't have time to work through a whole book chapter, so I'm hoping for a bit more targeted advice.
I want to store some objective-C objects in a C array. I'm using ARC. If I were on the Mac I'd be able to use NSPointerArray instead, but I'm on iOS and that's not available.
I'll be storing a three-dimensional C array: conceptually my dimensions are day, height, and cacheNumber. Each element will either be a pointer to an objective-C object, or NULL.
The number of caches (i.e. the size of the cacheNumber dimension) is known at compile time, but the other two are not known. Also, the array could be very large, so I need to dynamically allocate memory for it.
Regarding ownership semantics, I need strong references to the objects.
I would like the whole three-dimensional array to be an instance variable on an objective-C object.
I plan to have a method that is
- tableForCacheNumber:(int)num days:(int*)days height:(int*)height. That method should return a two-dimensional array, that is one specific cache number. (It also passes back by reference the size of the array it is returning.)
What order should I put my dimensions so that I can easily return a pointer to the subarray for one specific cache number? (I think it should be first, but I'm not 100%.)
What should the return type of my method be, so that ARC doesn't complain? I don't mind if the returned array has an increased reference count or not, as long as I know which it's doing.
What type should my instance variable that holds the three dimensional array be? I think it should just be a pointer, since that ivar just represents the pointer to the first item that's in my array. Correct? If so, how do I specify that?
When I create the three-dimensional array (for my ivar), I guess I do something like
calloc(X * Y * Z, sizeof(id)), and cast the result to the type for my ivar?
When accessing items from the three-dimensional array in the ivar, I believe I have to dereference the pointer each time, with something like
Will the two-dimensional array I return from the method be similarly accessed?
Do I need to tag the returned two-dimensional array with
I'm sorry once again that this is a bit of a bad Stack Overflow question (it's too long and with too many parts). I hope the SO citizens will forgive me. To improve my interweb karma, maybe I'll write it up as a blog post when this project has shipped.
Answering my own question because this web page gave me the missing bit of info I needed. I've also upvoted Graham's answer, since he was very helpful in getting my head round some of the syntax.
The trick I was missing is knowing that if I want to refer to items in the array via the
array syntax, and that I don't know the sizes of my array at compile time, I can't just
calloc() a single block of data for it.
The easiest to read (although least efficient) method of doing that is just with a loop:
__strong Item ****cacheItems;
cacheItems = (__strong Item ****)calloc(kMaxZooms, sizeof(Item ***));
for (int k = 0; k < kMaxZooms; k++)
cacheItems[k] = (__strong Item ***)calloc((size_t)daysOnTimeline, sizeof(Item **));
for (int j = 0; j < daysOnTimeline; j++)
cacheItems[k][j] = (__strong Item **)calloc((size_t)kMaxHeight, sizeof(Item *));
I'm allocating a three dimensional array of
Item being an objective-C class. (I have of course left out the error handling code in this snippet.)
Once I've done that, I can refer to my array using the square brackets syntax:
cacheItems[zoom][day][heightToUse] = item;
The web page I linked to above also describes a second method for performing the memory allocations, that uses only one call to
calloc() per dimension. I haven't tried that method yet, as the one I've just described is working well enough at the moment.