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Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X (3rd Edition) [Paperback]

Aaron Hillegass
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 15, 2008 0321503619 978-0321503619 3

The best-selling introduction to Cocoa, once again updated to cover the latest Mac programming technologies, and still enthusiastically recommended by experienced Mac OS X developers.


“Aaron’s book is the gold standard for Mac OS X programming books—beautifully written, and thoughtfully sculpted. The best book on Leopard development.”

—Scott Stevenson,


“This is the first book I’d recommend for anyone wanting to learn Cocoa from scratch. Aaron’s one of the few (perhaps only) full-time professional Cocoa instructors, and his teaching experience shows in the book.”

—Tim Burks, software developer and creator of the Nu programming language,


“If you’re a UNIX or Windows developer who picked up a Mac OS X machine recently in hopes of developing new apps or porting your apps to Mac users, this book should be strongly considered as one of your essential reference and training tomes.”

—Kevin H. Spencer, Apple Certified Technical Coordinator


If you’re developing applications for Mac OS X, Cocoa® Programming for Mac® OS X, Third Edition, is the book you’ve been waiting to get your hands on. If you’re new to the Mac environment, it’s probably the book you’ve been told to read first. Covering the bulk of what you need to know to develop full-featured applications for OS X, written in an engaging tutorial style, and thoroughly class-tested to assure clarity and accuracy, it is an invaluable resource for any Mac programmer.


Specifically, Aaron Hillegass introduces the three most commonly used Mac developer tools: Xcode, Interface Builder, and Instruments. He also covers the Objective-C language and the major design patterns of Cocoa. Aaron illustrates his explanations with exemplary code, written in the idioms of the Cocoa community, to show you how Mac programs should be written. After reading this book, you will know enough to understand and utilize Apple’s online documentation for your own unique needs. And you will know enough to write your own stylish code.


Updated for Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5, this revised edition includes coverage of Xcode 3, Objective-C 2, Core Data, the garbage collector, and CoreAnimation.

Frequently Bought Together

Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X (3rd Edition) + Objective-C Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide (Big Nerd Ranch Guides)
Price for both: $67.72

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Aaron Hillegas runs Big Nerd Ranch, well-known for its popular Cocoa programming classes. Previously, he was a developer at NeXT and Apple. At Next, he wrote the first course on OpenStep, the predecessor to today's Cocoa tools. At Apple, he created and taught courses in Cocoa directly for and to Apple engineers. This book is based on Aaron's Big Nerd Ranch course and is influenced by 15 years of work with OpenStep and Cocoa.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

If you are developing applications for the Mac, or are hoping to do so, this book is just the resource you need. Does it cover everything you will ever want to know about programming for the Mac? Of course it doesn’t. But it does cover probably 80% of what you need to know. You can find the remaining 20%, the 20% that is unique to you, in Apple’s online documentation.

This book, then, acts as a foundation. It covers the Objective-C language and the major design patterns of Cocoa. It will also get you started with the three most commonly used developer tools: Xcode, Interface Builder, and Instruments. After reading this book, you will be able to understand and utilize Apple’s online documentation.

There is a lot of code in this book. Through that code, I will introduce you to the idioms of the Cocoa community. My hope is that by presenting exemplary code, I can help you to become not just a Cocoa developer, but a stylish Cocoa developer.

This third edition includes technologies introduced in Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5. These include Xcode 3, Objective-C 2, Core Data, the garbage collector, and CoreAnimation.

This book is written for programmers who already know some C programming and something about objects. You are not expected to have any experience with Mac programming. It’s a hands-on book and assumes that you have access to Mac OS X and the developer tools. The developer tools are free. If you bought a shrink-wrapped copy of Mac OS X, the installer for the developer tools was on the DVD. The tools can also be downloaded from the Apple Developer Connection Web site (

I have tried to make this book as useful for you as possible, if not indispensable. That said, I’d love to hear from you if you have any suggestions for improving it.

Aaron Hillegass

Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 3 edition (May 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321503619
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321503619
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Aaron Hillegass worked at NeXT and then Apple before creating Big Nerd Ranch, a training and consulting company that specializes in Mac, iPhone, and Open Source technologies.

He lives in Atlanta, where Big Nerd Ranch teaches most of its classes. These classes have led to the creation of a series of books: The Big Nerd Ranch Guides. These books follow a consistent style that features a hands-on approach and a clear and conversational tone.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange and Difficult June 12, 2010
I did a lot of research before buying this book, and the overwhelming accolades seemed to assure me that my [...] bucks would be money well-spent. Personally, I feel very let down by it. The way the author jumps into code without explanation, routinely giving you half a page of calls with absolutely zero previous discussion of what they do or where they come from, is both baffling and frustrating.

Most of the exercises are conducted with a tone along the lines of "Just do what I tell you and it'll make sense later," which doesn't suit my learning style.

Much of the book is focused on multi-chapter projects, which can be problematic for someone who has a project in mind and simply wants to learn how different aspects of Cocoa work.

Also, the text really fails at answering any questions you might have about anything. Seriously, if you have a question in your head, you will never find the answer unless you muddle through the assignment. The book has a tendency to never talk about anything in particular with any depth, and only explains things in as much as they apply to the current example.

For future editions, here are some recommendations:

1) When you introduce a new object, give us a list of methods near the beginning of the chapter, so we aren't constantly guessing what you're talking about. There are times when every new line of code feels like a surprise.

2) Cover some basic things that actual people want to know. Here's a big one: "How do I open and parse a file?"

3) Take it easy on the line drawings. They sometimes make things seem a lot more complex than they actually are.

4) The cavalier handling of Bindings is often infuriating.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OS X developer must have October 6, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you plan to write for Mac OS X, and have some programming experience, this book is a MUST HAVE. This is by far the best introductory book I have ever read on any language.

If you DO NOT have programming experience, I would still recommend this book. There are some spots where the logic might be hard to grasp, but Aaron Hillegass walks you through it.

In either case, but more so for beginners, I would also recommend Programming in Objective-C (Developer's Library). The less experience you have, the more strongly I would suggest reading this book first. It will walk you through the basics of straight Objective-C and then start you off using frameworks in OS X. If you are a Windows user and do not have a Mac, Programming in Objective-C (Developer's Library) will show you how to write and compile Objective-C in Windows.
(Look for the new version of this book which uses Objective-C 2.0)

I come from Windows development, having programmed in VB 6, VB.NET, C (and variants), and java. Aaron Hillegass takes you right into the heart of the Mac OS X development environment and gives you a guided tour. Showing you the basics of both Cocoa and the X Code development environment. Pick the book up and you won't regret it. This is a walkthrough tutorial style book. It is not a reference book. Apples online documentation is the best reference for Cocoa.

There are a lot of resources out there for Cocoa programmers. If you are looking for more help with Cocoa, check out the free podcasts that are available on iTunes.
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32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for beginners August 3, 2010
Despite the accolades by some, this is not a book for beginners. To learn programming you need lots of examples, lots of exercises in a defined problem space (so you can solve them! and learn...) and good explanations not only of what a particular feature does, but what it is for and how to use it, practically, and in your own programs. This book fails on all these criteria. Further, some of the examples don't work, and they are so complex that a beginner is baffled as to where even to start looking to fix them.

If you don't know Objective C (which was my situation - my background was self taught programming in C and the GEM GUI on the Atari Falcon) or even don't know C, Steve Kochan has written an excellent book, "Programming in Objective C 2.0", on these issues and also on the Foundation Kit. His book satisfies all the criteria mentioned above. We need him to write a similar book on Cocoa. Don't waste your time, or your money, on Hillegass.

After spending several fruitless months on Hillegass's book, I found free help elsewhere: my friends, the sad news is that there is no avoiding reading Apple's guides to XCode and Interface Builder, and above all, the Cocoa Fundamentals Guide, and dipping into other guides, as necessary. I recommend working through Apple's Cocoa Application Tutorial (much to learn there) and Apple's sample programs in the Image Kit Programming Guide (even more to learn, not just image-kit specific stuff) - and note that these programs DO work. The Wikibooks "Programming Mac OS X with Cocoa for Beginners" is another excellent tutorial, with excellent explanations. I also found the Cocoa tutorials by Julius Guzy (start at: [...]) to be invaluable. These have the great merit of focusing on just one topic at a time - so if you stuff up, as invariably happens sometimes, you have a defined problem space which, yes, you can indeed solve with some ingenuity and perseverance, and learn from having solved.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly Outdated Now
This is a good reference manual for anyone wanting to learn Cocoa and Obj-C (to a certain degree) with the intent to build OS X applications. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Jared Hawthorne
3.0 out of 5 stars awesome delivery date
great book for anyone who would want to study the old stuff if your going to study something new go get a new version not the crap...
Published 19 months ago by christian
5.0 out of 5 stars A great intro to Cocoa & Objective-C
I was worried based on some of the reviews that this book would jump into the middle of the topic and leave me frustrated. Not at all! Read more
Published on April 19, 2012 by Jeffrey Smedley
5.0 out of 5 stars Great random access book
I'm new in Mac OS X dev and this book has been a real help for solve the difficulties that i have found in the way.
Published on October 3, 2011 by Luis Espinoza
1.0 out of 5 stars Hard to Understand; Outdated
This book teaches you by example. The problems are, the explanations are too brief and the book is clogged with technical terms that you won't be able to figure out unless you... Read more
Published on May 3, 2011 by Joseph Riggie
1.0 out of 5 stars Very poor. Needs to be updated.
This book is one of the most poorly done "introductory" documents I have ever seen. The examples do not work. The book is so out of date with current cocoa concepts it is useless. Read more
Published on February 20, 2011 by JimR
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book or shall I say Kindle version?
I must say that this one is one of the best written technical books I've read in a while. The author does a great job at introducing the user to cocoa programming. Read more
Published on December 8, 2010 by L. Romero
2.0 out of 5 stars needs an update
This book suffers in the same way as two others that I've tried. XCode is frequently updated and the screenshots do not match the new version of the IDE. Read more
Published on November 27, 2010 by Mike Watts
5.0 out of 5 stars Great starting book coming from iOS Development!
With the recent introduction of the Mac App Store, I needed to pick up a book that would get me the foundation I needed to start converting my iOS app into a mac app. Read more
Published on November 7, 2010 by Samer A
1.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book but totally obsolete
The book is very well written, with pragmatic approach that will get you going with Mac Apps quickly. Read more
Published on September 30, 2010 by Galli
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Topic From this Discussion
Kindle Edition?
I have the 2nd edition on Kindle. I actually prefer the paper edition; the number of code listings and screenshots in the book mean that I spend lots more time scrolling on the Kindle than I would like to.
May 22, 2008 by Paul Robichaux |  See all 4 posts
Changes from previous version?
My situation is very similar to you. I have the 2nd ed. Have read some parts of it and learnt some useful things (as it is not my first cocoa book, I do not follow the book from the beginning). Basically it had sit around for more than one year or two.

When I give it a second look recently, I've... Read More
Apr 22, 2009 by mwTse |  See all 3 posts
Why is this linked from the 3rd edition paperback?
I think the even better question is: where is the 3rd edition kindle edition? Is this an example of the "buy it now, and we'll update you to the 3rd edition when we get it" feature we've heard about? If so I'll buy the 2nd edition as a kindle edition and eagerly await the update to the... Read More
May 25, 2008 by Joseph Turner |  See all 3 posts
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