Customer Reviews: Objective-C Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide (Big Nerd Ranch Guides)
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on November 27, 2011
From time to time, I'll think, gee, I have this great idea for an iPad/iPhone/Mac app, and I'll fiddle around with Xcode. I'll get absolutely nowhere, despite 30+ years in the software business. (Before you laugh at this, try to figure out Xcode with no experience in Objective C. For that matter, try to figure out Objective C by reading Apple developer docs. I know they try, but they sure don't make it easy.) I bought book after book, and still got nowhere.

Then I happened on the iOS 5 Developer Cookbook. One of the first pages in that book has a flowchart that goes like this:
1) Do you know C? no - learn C, and they show an appropriate book.
2) Do you know Objective C? no - learn Objective C. They show two books for that, and this is one of them.
The chart goes on with books on Xcode and iOS.

So I picked up this book. At first I thought, uh oh, this might have been a waste of money, since there's a pretty big section on basic C skills in the beginning. (Having been writing C more or less since the late '70s, I felt pretty safe in skipping those chapters.)

Then... pay dirt! I'm about halfway through the remaining Objective C part of the book. Objective C can be pretty confusing, even to someone who's been doing OO for several years. Mr. Hillegass does not disappoint - as with other Big Nerd Ranch books, the subject is presented in a clear, understandable, sometimes even beautiful way. I find myself thinking, If only I'd started my OO days with training like this, I might have liked it better.

I think this time around, once I finish one or two more of these books, I might actually get that great app coded, tested, and into the App Store. This book is a great place to start.
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on November 22, 2011
I must say that as a retired programmer who came from the PC world (via mini's prior to that) I was surprised at how much I could not grasp Objective-C. Granted, the last C/C++ code I had written was some 15 years ago, but really how hard could it be to grasp a new syntax? Was I ever in for a surprise!

After taking the smart move to start using Apple products in 2009 I got bitten by the bug to write some software to support a hobby, maybe even sell it if I could get it to work. I started programming computers in 1968 (no minis or PCs then) and kept up (more or less) until 2000, so this should be fairly easy. After all, Apple gives away the developer tools and provides a massive amount of guidance... well, okay maybe I need some hand holding here. I tried another highly recommended book and indeed it did clear up some of the confusion but I was still left somewhat adrift. I thought to myself, I need a book on Cocoa programming, and besides, it seemed as if Apple was changing the tools, operating system, etc.; every time I seemed to start to get a handle what was going on, another change happened.

I saw that Aaron Hillegass seemed like the "go to" author for folks wanting to understand Cocoa and he had a 4th edition of his Cocoa Programming book coming out shortly covering all the changes in the tools, operating system, etc. So I pre-ordered it and while I was here at Amazon and poking around I saw that he had a newer edition of his Objective-C Programming (this book) and it was on Kindle for a reasonable price. Since I had to wait for the Cocoa book I bought it and downloaded it.

Let me say that if you know nothing of programming, this book will give you the tools to begin to understand what is going on. Indeed, it will teach you what you need to know to actually do some basic C and Objective-C programming if you are a complete novice. If you have a programming background (doesn't really matter what language) this book will tell you all you need to understand about entry level Objective-C. If you are an experienced C or C++ programmer and don't just blow off reading the parts you think you know, you can blast through this book in a couple of weeks and do everything in it, including the challenges.

The point is, if you are having a hard time understanding Objective-C, no matter what your level of programming experience, this book can walk you through the pitfalls and mysteries that seem to leap out at every turn in the Apple documentation. Are some of the new things Apple introduced in Xcode worrisome? Aaron gets you going painlessly. Is ARC giving you trouble? Aaron explains it and points out its pitfalls and where you can still leak memory. If you don't know what that is, you need this book anyway.

All I can say, is even an old programmer can learn new tricks and this may be the best self-paced training guide I have ever used. I can only hope my new Cocoa Programming book (arrived a couple of days ago) is as wonderful as this one proved to be. Thank you Aaron Hillegass for showing me the way.
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on October 16, 2011
My intent is for this to be a living review. I'm not all the way through this book yet. I hope that doesn't make any of you think of this review as less than helpful.

I have no real programming experience other than things I'd call "scripting". Bash, perl, ruby... shell stuff, mostly. It's easy to read the writing on the wall and see the future is a mobile one. That made me want to learn how to program for iOS. Like Hillegass mentions in the beginning... all of his other books that users rave about are for experienced programmers.

Having been through other tutorials on learning languages that weren't as well written, this one is a breath of fresh air. He writes well and explains his points well. I even found a small error which doesn't discourage me about the quality of the book, it actually *encourages* me... because I've learned enough in what I've read so far (I am in Chapter 10, right now) to be able to discover it for myself.

The analogies Aaron is using to communicate the technical concepts make sense. He doesn't waste time either. Like he said in the first part of this book, don't expect this to be an easy read. It's not. That said, I'm learning... and it's making sense. I think if you're serious about your desire to learn Objective-C and developing for Apple stuff, you'd do well do go through *ALL* the exercises in this book as well as the end-of-chapter challenges. He wants to make you think and go beyond just the material that he's covering in the chapter.

Not only that, but he's helping you learn about the libraries that come with the languages, as well as the development tool (Xcode). I like where this book is taking me and I'd definitely recommend it to others wanting to learn Apple development!
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on May 13, 2012
The good news: it's the best book out there teaching the subject

The bad news: programming books generally stink if you are a beginner. They typically jump over little steps here and there, eventually those little steps snowball and you become completely lost. This one is better than the others, but by page 82, I am completely lost. And that's going slowly and rereading the chapters. Something that doesn't help: the author doesn't publish explanations of the answers to the challenges. They get hashed out in a piecemeal way on the forums by well-intentioned people who clearly have experience programming, but the end result is a mishmash for the beginner. Who has time to sort through 10 threads to see which one is right? Or to sort through the additional concepts that people throw into the discussion when you're still struggling to understand the problem at hand.

And just flat out ignoring dot notation, just not helpful.
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on December 2, 2011
My background is in Visual Basic for Applications, mainly creating small databases in Microsoft Access. I was a teacher for the first part of my career, so I understand starting with small blocks of knowledge and building on that knowledge with reinforcement. This book is great from a teaching and learning standpoint. You can really tell Aaron not only knows the subject material, but knows how to teach. That makes a huge difference when it comes time to learn. Lot's of people have knowledge, but few have learned how to teach.

I would however recommend a small primer for this book, just because it helped me. (I didn't stumble upon this book right away, so it wasn't my first attempt to learn Objective-C) You Tube Channel "thenewboston" has a free series on Objective-C that will get you started. That way, when you get to this book, the first half will stick better and the second half will make more sense.

By the way, you NEED to type the examples and do the challenges from this book and any others you may read. That is the big secret to really learning this material.

Anyways... a great book about a tough subject. I'm almost done with it after only 2 weeks of reading and I have already ordered the Cocoa Programming book. Thanks Aaron!
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on November 16, 2011
I have been studying Objective-C and iPhone development for more than a year and I have read a lot of books and articles seeking for clarity. I have a background in web development and have never worked with a real programming language before taking on Objective-C. As a result many of the books on iPhone programming have been, shall we say, "over my head". Reading them generated more questions than answers.

I was hopeful, but also a bit skeptical when I saw that this book was available - you can spend a lot of money on books that don't really help. Nevertheless my determination to learn Objective-C was enough to give it a try. I have been absolutely thrilled with this book. Page after page, Aaron's explanations of concepts make it increasingly clear. I drive my wife nuts with outbursts of, "you gotta hear this!". The clear explanations, using examples from the real world, logically build on each other, making an ever broader and more solid foundation of understanding.

If you are new to Objective-C and iPhone development, do yourself a favor and read this book. I tried to leapfrog directly into iPhone development and kept running into walls of ignorance about the fundamentals of programming (integers, functions, loops, pointers, etc.) and this book is removing those walls as fast as I can study the material.

Thanks to Aaron and his team for taking the time to demystefy Objective-C.
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on October 14, 2011
I never review stuff on here because I rarely find something that's so incredible that I think I should take the time to add a score. But hey, this is one of those things. I've gone through a lot of Obj-C books recently trying to find something that works for me -- I've done some basic programming but Objective-C is a whole new game for me. I've found a lot of these books really overwhelming and impossible to enjoy or keep going through.

This book is a lot different. The examples are all unique, down to a "Hello World" that's actually kind of cool. How often do you see that?

I'm halfway through the book and I'm having a blast. I went to sleep last night actually understanding classes and inheritance, polymorphism, etc. You have no idea how stoked I am about that.

Try this one, especially if everything else was scary before. Trust me, Aaron knows his stuff.
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on November 25, 2011
I had been doing a lot of research and analysis for the last 2-3 months to decide on the best way to learn IPhone/IPad development. I have done a lot of C#, Java and Apex(salesforce) programming and was looking for a good book that would bring me up to speed with the basics of iPhone development.

The first thing I realized after reading a lot of forums and reviews, was that I needed to get a good foundation on Obj-C. My initial plan was to get the "programming Obj-C" book by Stephen Kochen, but I realized that with apple making many changes with the 5.0 version (ARC), that book was pretty outdated (the 4 edition is coming out in Jan). So I ended up getting this book and I am very glad that I started my foray into Obj-C with this excellent book !!!

In the last two days I have finished chapters 1-26 and 29-32 (wanted to finish the advanced topics before starting the iPhone app chapter :) ). The fact that i was able to do all these in 2 days is entirely due to the way the chapters have been written by Aaron - to the point, very clear explanations with good examples. It was more like reading a nail-biting thriller. As soon as I finished one chapter, i wanted to immediately try the next one and see what new stuff Aaron was going to explain! The challenges at the end of each chapter were extremely useful in understanding the basic concepts of Obj-C and I would definitely recommend people to do it.

If you want to develop iphone/ipad applications, and want to know the basics of Obj-C, get this book!!
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on February 2, 2012
Doing C# for my day job, I thought learning Objective C would just be a syntax change. If you are like me, got your first mac, you just installed xCode, got your iOS dev membership and now you want to start making some cool phone apps on that same night. So you figure you can learn by examples from code snippets off the internet and eventually you will catch on like the way you first learned classic ASP. I can only say good luck.

This is my 6th book. I have lost count actually. I started with quick starts and code recipe books. Problem is until you understand all the little nuances of this language you won't be able to successfully finish a working app and publish to app store.

I like this book in particular from others I tried because the author takes you through learning the syntax, operators and objective-c gotchas with simple console apps (at least the first half is console apps) so you can focus solely on the programming concept you are working on and not be cluttered with irrelevant code. That is the only way I would recommend learning.

Every code sample in the book so far has worked flawlessly. That is a rarity in of itself compared to some of the other books I have tried.

I am only half way through this book and I can already go back to looking at those previous internet code snippets, recipe books and be able to make some sense of their code.
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on December 28, 2011
Boy I love this author - he can explain simple concepts without over explaining them. He uses multiple simple examples that gradually build up to something useful - unlike books that focus on boring "super projects" that get very very old by the time you're finished with the book. He knows that you're not really going to understand something until you do it, make a bunch of mistakes, and do it 15 more times, so he doesn't waste time trying to keep you from failing. You're going to make mistakes, and that's how you learn. The author gets that.

I think this is a good, intermediate programming book. This probably isn't a great first programming book, but if that's where you're at you'd be better off starting with a simple scripting language like Python, PHP or Perl, mastering that, and then moving onto a full language like C++, Java or Objective-C. What's covered here will let you hit the ground running, but as the author makes clear, Objective C is such a vast world compared to the simpler languages that ultimately you'll be teaching yourself from the documentation. Especially since Apple keeps changing the development landscape so radically!

And that's where this book shines: a real effort is made to keep books in this series up to the minute to deal with the fast-breaking changes introduced by Snow Leopard, Lion, iOS 4, objective C 2 and XCode 4. The author stays up to date on the latest changes and keeps you up to date, teaching you only what you need to know going forward. The forums are great - I once asked a question and heard back from the author within 5 minutes. Full errata corrections and new solutions are posted there along with updates to the digital products. Honestly, I've never had a tech book that felt like it was so professionally managed as the books in these series are.

For true beginners, you might look at Programming in Objective-C (4th Edition) (Developer's Library) - which includes more comprehensive coverage in a beginner-friendly format. The exercises aren't nearly as challenging and the examples more basic, but that's perfect for anyone new to programming. This book is better for those with prior exposure to some programming language. Both are great books in their own way.
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