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Learn Objective-C on the Mac (Learn Series) Paperback – May 5, 2009
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About the Author
Scott Knaster is a legendary Mac hacker and author of such bestselling books as Hacking Mac OS X Tiger and Macintosh Programming Secrets. His book How to Write Macintosh Software was required reading for Mac programmers for more than a decade.
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What's good: mostly clear, straightforward exposition of Obj-C principles with example code available both to download and printed in-line in the chapters.
What's bad: this is a 'watch how we do it and listen to the reasons why' methodology, rather than a 'this is how we did this, now it's your turn' kind of book. It's the latter I need, not the former. Reading and understanding how someone else built an arbitrary bit of code to demonstrate a concept is one thing. Actually employing those concepts in a novel project is another.
I read the first few chapters of this book and thought 'Yup, I got that', but then couldn't remember what I'd read later on because the book doesn't give opportunities to practice on your own, to struggle with the concepts and to fix them in your long-term memory. I've found the Kochan book does much better at that, giving the reader plenty of exercises at the end of each chapter.
Another irritant with this book is it claims you should know C first, which I do. However, at times the book proceeds to waste page space talking at length in baby-language about basic programming concepts that any C programmer will already know. Worse, it then leaves some new Obj-C concepts under-explained. I bought the book for exposition of the latter, not the former.
When I've finished the Kochan book, I may come back to this to review/ check my understanding or use as a reference. As a book to learn from though, not so great. The authors should consider throwing in some exercises at the end of each chapter in the next edition.
You might catch a bug or two in this book. It references XCode 4 when you likely already have XCode 6 installed. Some of the newer language features and simplifications aren't documented in this older book. But for the important stuff that experienced developers need to know like Automatic Reference Counting (ARC), threading, and everything to know about how to design an Objective-C class - it's all here.
Complement this book with the BNR book on Objective-C Programming. Both books cover about the same stuff and fill in gaps between each other. But I like this book better since it doesn't waste time trying to reteach C programming.
The section on iOS is very out of date. From memory it refers to iOS 5 as the latest (iOS 8 has just been announced at the time of this review). Similar story with the OSX section, it's a couple of years old, which in computer terms is eons!
The bulk of the book on objective-c is still relevant and it has certainly helped me with my programing skills. It was a good next step from the "Learn C on the Mac" book that I read first.
I would recommend it if you're just getting started in Objective-C.
I began trying to learn Objective-C and Xcode from Apple's online material. Their stuff is good, a piece at a time, but I found I could not connect the pieces. Whenever I tried to write something on my own, I'd get stuck. When I found their topic that I thought would get me unstuck, it contained too many other things that I was not ready to understand.
Going through this book was a joy. The concepts are covered in a nice orderly way. When you get to new topic, you've been given what you need to understand it in what you already read. I especially liked the Memory Management chapter, both because of the way it is written and where it is placed in the ordering of chapters. I'm certain that I would have gotten it wrong in my own projects if I had not read it here. When I finished the chapter, I imagined the number of hours I could have wasted chasing memory leaks in my own code. (I'm certain I'll waste some anyway but I think I'll have an easier time finding them.)
Most new topics build on the same general project. I found that to be nice approach. It lets you focus directly on the newly introduced Objective-C topic using code that's mostly familiar.
Download the source code. There are a few (very few) instances where the code in the book is not quite right. I found no problems with the online code. Also, I have the Kindle version of the book and chapters 14, 15 and 16 are mis-ordered in a rather peculiar way. Finally, I am using Xcode 4.5.2. There are minor differences between it and the version used in the book but I'm an Xcode novice too and the differences caused no trouble at all.