Objective-C 2.0 introduced properties. While I personally think properties are nice addition to the language, I have seen a trend of making every instance variable as a property. Apple sample codes are no exceptions to this. I believe this is against the spirit of OOP, and since it exposes a lot more implementation details of a class to the client than they need to know.

What guidelines do you suggest for the proper usage properties in Objective C?

3 Answers 3


I make all my instance variables properties. That primary reason for that is that it makes memory management much easier and consistent. Making them public would go against good OO, so I always make them private using a category like this:

// File: ProjectManager.m:
@interface ProjectManager ()

@property (nonatomic, copy) NSString *slotID;
@property (nonatomic, retain) SubmitHandler *submitHandler;


@implementation ProjectManager

@synthesize slotID, submitHandler;

- (void)dealloc
    self.slotID = nil;
    self.submitHandler = nil;
  • 1
    +1 for private properties.
    – user4595
    Oct 28, 2011 at 11:11

According to this page: "Objective-C “declared properties” feature provides a simple way to declare and implement an object’s accessor methods."

So properties are a way to declare and/or implement getter/setters.

Do you think getter/setters are "against the spirit of OOP"? If yes: go for immutable data structures, if no: i don't see a problem with properties.

  • Setters/Getters are definitely within the spirit of OOP. Properties simplify getters & setters. As a result people tend to declare properties for every single instance variable. Which is a bit annoying.
    – ab79
    Jan 13, 2011 at 13:20

I'm suggesting:

  1. Declare only those properties you really need to reach outside declared object scope. Otherwise - leave it only as instance variable.
  2. Declare properties read-only if you only need to read the property and not set it.
  3. More of a tip, but make sure you do not declare retained property for your custom object's delegate.
  • Also: where you don't want someone mutating your object's property behind your back, you should make that a copy property in the class.
    – user4051
    Nov 10, 2012 at 8:43

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