objc-sys 0.1.0

Raw bindings to the Objective-C runtime and ABI
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Raw Rust bindings to the Objective-C runtime and ABI.

Runtime Support

Objective-C has a runtime, different implementations of said runtime exist, and they act in slightly different ways. By default, Apple platforms link to Apple's runtime, but if you're using another runtime you must tell it to this library using feature flags.

Apple's objc4

  • Feature flag: apple.

This is used by default on Apple platforms when no other feature flags are specified.

The supported runtime version (higher versions lets the compiler enable newer optimizations, at the cost of not supporting older operating systems) can be chosen using the standard X_DEPLOYMENT_TARGET environment variables:

    • Default: TODO
    • Minimum: 9.0 (theoretically)
    • Default: TODO
    • Minimum: 1.0 (theoretically)

A git mirror of the sources is available here.

GNUStep's libobjc2

  • Feature flag: gnustep-1-7, gnustep-1-8, gnustep-1-9, gnustep-2-0 and gnustep-2-1 depending on the version you're using. Recommended default is gnustep-1-8.

Window's WinObjC

  • Feature flag: winobjc.

This is essentially just a fork based on GNUStep's libobjc2 version 1.8, with very few user-facing changes.


  • Feature flag: objfw.


Other runtimes

This library will probably only ever support "Modern" Objective-C runtimes, since support for reference-counting primitives like objc_retain and objc_autoreleasePoolPop is a vital requirement for most applications.

Just so we're being clear, this rules out the GCC libobjc runtime (see this), and the mulle-objc runtime. (But support for ObjFW may be added). More information on different runtimes can be found in GNUStep's Objective-C Compiler and Runtime FAQ.

Advanced linking configuration

This crate defines the links key in Cargo.toml so it's possible to change the linking to libobjc, see the relevant cargo docs.

In the future, this crate may vendor the required source code to automatically build and link to the runtimes. Choosing static vs. dynamic linking here may also become an option.

Objective-C Compiler configuration

Objective-C compilers like clang and gcc requires configuring the calling ABI to the runtime you're using:

This is relevant if you're building and linking to custom Objective-C sources in a build script. To assist in compiling Objective-C sources, this crate's build script expose the DEP_OBJC_CC_ARGS environment variable to downstream build scripts.

Example usage in your build.rs (using the cc crate) would be as follows:

fn main() {
    let mut builder = cc::Build::new();

    for flag in std::env::var("DEP_OBJC_CC_ARGS").unwrap().split(' ') {


Design choices

It is recognized that the most primary consumer of this library will be macOS and secondly iOS applications. Therefore it was chosen not to use bindgen in our build script to not add compilation cost to those targets.1

Deprecated functions are also not included for future compability, since they could be removed in any macOS release, and then our code would break. If you have a need for these, please open an issue and we can discuss it!

Some items (in particular the objc_msgSend_X family) have cfgs that prevent their usage on different platforms; these are semver-stable in the sense that they will only get less restrictive, never more.

1 That said, most of this is created with the help of bindgen's commandline interface, so huge thanks to them!