Johan Kool Johan Kool - 2 months ago 11
Objective-C Question

How to store a NSUInteger using NSCoding?

How do I store a

using the
protocol, given that there is no method on
-encodeUnsignedInteger:(NSUInteger)anInt forKey:(NSString *)aKey
like there is for

The following works, but is this the best way to do this? This does needlessly create objects.

@interface MYObject : NSObject <NSCoding> {
NSUInteger count;

- (void)encodeWithCoder:(NSCoder *)encoder {
[encoder encodeObject:[NSNumber numberWithUnsignedInteger:count] forKey:@"count"];

- (id)initWithCoder:(NSCoder *)decoder {
self = [super init];
if (self != nil) {
count = [[decoder decodeObjectForKey:@"count"] unsignedIntegerValue];
return self;


The problem is that NSUInteger may not be the same size as an unsigned int. On many (if not most by now) Mac OS X machines, NSUInteger will be an unsigned long, which will be twice as big. On the other hand, a keyed archiver should handle that without a problem, since it builds a dictionary.

Further complicating matters is the fact that NSCoder doesn't have any methods to deal with unsigned types. I can't think of how this would cause any data loss, but it would require some ugly casts, plus it just feels dirty.

If you want to insist upon an unsigned type, the simplest way would be to encode the raw bytes (preferably in network byte order using htonl and ntohl) in the largest type available (unsigned long long) using encodeBytes:length:forKey: and decodeBytesForKey:returnedLength:. For maximum safety, you should check the length of what you decoded and cast the pointer (or use a union) to extract the correct-sized type.

The drawback of this is that the value will be represented in the output as data, not an integer. This mainly matters only if somebody decides to read in the raw plist data for your archive instead of using the keyed unarchiver like you do, and even then only to them. The other cases where it might matter is if Apple (or you) should ever switch to an architecture that has even larger integer types, types whose size in bits is not a power of two (there's at least one old platform where a word was 24 bits), or types with an unusual layout (not big- or little-endian).

As for your NSNumber solution: You might want to crack open your archive in Property List Editor and see what it emitted. If the output contains an integer element, then it's the same as using encodeInteger:forKey:. If the output contains a data element, then it's the same as the solution I mentioned above. To be thorough, you should check the output from every architecture you support.