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Objective-C: Legacy Development for Apple Platforms

Objective-C has long been the programming language of choice for developing applications for Apple platforms. Although Apple introduced Swift as its primary programming language in 2014, Objective-C still holds an important place in the Apple developer community. In this article, we will explore the reasons why Objective-C is still relevant and how it can be used for legacy development on Apple platforms.

Understanding Objective-C

Objective-C is a superset of the C programming language and provides object-oriented programming capabilities. It was created by Brad Cox and Tom Love in the early 1980s and became the main programming language for Apple’s Macintosh operating system. With the introduction of iOS in 2007, Objective-C became the language of choice for developing apps for iPhones, iPads, and other Apple devices.

Why Objective-C is still relevant

Compatibility: One of the main reasons why Objective-C is still relevant is its compatibility with existing codebases. Many legacy applications have been built using Objective-C, and rewriting them in Swift can be a time-consuming and costly process. Objective-C allows developers to continue working on these applications without the need for a complete overhaul.

Support: Objective-C benefits from years of community support and extensive documentation. With a vast library of existing code and resources, developers can easily find solutions to common problems and leverage the collective knowledge of the Objective-C community.

Native access: Objective-C provides direct access to Apple’s frameworks and APIs, allowing developers to take full advantage of the platform’s capabilities. While Swift has made significant improvements in this area, Objective-C still offers a level of control and flexibility that can be beneficial in certain scenarios.

Interoperability: Objective-C and Swift are interoperable, meaning they can coexist within the same codebase. This allows developers to gradually migrate from Objective-C to Swift, adopting the newer language without discarding existing code. This flexibility is particularly valuable for teams working on large projects or maintaining legacy applications.

Legacy development with Objective-C

Maintaining and updating legacy code: Legacy applications often require maintenance and updates to address bugs, security vulnerabilities, or compatibility issues with newer versions of iOS or macOS. Objective-C provides a familiar environment for developers to work with and make necessary changes to ensure the application continues to function as intended.

Adding new features: While it is possible to develop new features using Swift, integrating them into an existing Objective-C codebase can be a challenging task. By leveraging Objective-C, developers can easily add new functionality to legacy applications without disrupting the existing code architecture.

Transitioning to Swift: Objective-C can act as a bridge for transitioning to Swift. Developers can start by rewriting specific modules or components in Swift while leaving the rest of the codebase intact. This gradual migration approach allows for a smoother transition and minimizes the risk of introducing new bugs or breaking existing functionality.


Objective-C continues to play a vital role in the Apple developer community, especially for legacy development. Its compatibility with existing codebases, extensive support, native access to Apple’s frameworks, and interoperability with Swift make it a valuable tool for maintaining and updating legacy applications. As Apple continues to evolve its platforms, developers can leverage Objective-C’s strengths while gradually transitioning to Swift, ensuring the longevity and future-proofing of their applications.