Objective-C dynamic properties at runtime?

Is it possible to create an Objective-C class that can have an arbitrary number of dynamic properties at runtime?

I want to be able to call mySpecialClass.anyProperty and intercept this inside my class to be able to provide my own custom implementation that can then return an NSString (for instance) at runtime with raising an exception. Obviously this all has to compile.

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  • Ideal would be if I could refer to my properties using something similar to the new literal syntax, e.g. mySpecialClass["anyProperty"].

    I guess in a way I want to create something like a dynamic NSDictionary with no CFDictionary backing store, that executes 2 custom methods on property getting and setting respectively, with the property name passed in to these accessor methods so they can decide what to do.

    3 Solutions Collect From Internet About “Objective-C dynamic properties at runtime?”

    There are at least two ways to do this.


    Use objectForKeyedSubscript: and setObject:forKeyedSubscript:

     @property (nonatomic,strong) NSMutableDictionary *properties;
     - (id)objectForKeyedSubscript:(id)key {
          return [[self properties] valueForKey:[NSString stringWithFormat:@"%@",key]];
     - (void)setObject:(id)object forKeyedSubscript:(id <NSCopying>)key {
          [[self properties] setValue:object forKey:[NSString stringWithFormat:@"%@",key]];
     Person *p = [Person new];
     p[@"name"] = @"Jon";


    This is the objc_sendMsg executed by the runtime for all methods:


    If you look at the bottom, you have the opportunity to resolveInstanceMethod:, which lets you redirect the method call to one of your choosing. To answer your question, you need to write a generic getter and setter that looks-up a value on a dictionary ivar:

    // generic getter
    static id propertyIMP(id self, SEL _cmd) {
        return [[self properties] valueForKey:NSStringFromSelector(_cmd)];
    // generic setter
    static void setPropertyIMP(id self, SEL _cmd, id aValue) {
        id value = [aValue copy];
        NSMutableString *key = [NSStringFromSelector(_cmd) mutableCopy];
        // delete "set" and ":" and lowercase first letter
        [key deleteCharactersInRange:NSMakeRange(0, 3)];
        [key deleteCharactersInRange:NSMakeRange([key length] - 1, 1)];
        NSString *firstChar = [key substringToIndex:1];
        [key replaceCharactersInRange:NSMakeRange(0, 1) withString:[firstChar lowercaseString]];
        [[self properties] setValue:value forKey:key];

    And then implement resolveInstanceMethod: to add the requested method to the class.

    + (BOOL)resolveInstanceMethod:(SEL)aSEL {
        if ([NSStringFromSelector(aSEL) hasPrefix:@"set"]) {
            class_addMethod([self class], aSEL, (IMP)setPropertyIMP, "v@:@");
        } else {
            class_addMethod([self class], aSEL,(IMP)propertyIMP, "@@:");
        return YES;

    You could also do it returning a NSMethodSignature for the method, which is then wrapped in a NSInvocation and passed to forwardInvocation:, but adding the method is faster.

    Here is a gist that runs in CodeRunner. It doesn’t handle myClass["anyProperty"] calls.

    You’re asking different things. If you want to be able to use the bracket syntax mySpecialClass[@"anyProperty"] on instances of your class, it is very easy. Just implement the methods:

     - (id)objectForKeyedSubscript:(id)key
          return ###something based on the key argument###
     - (void)setObject:(id)object forKeyedSubscript:(id <NSCopying>)key
          ###set something with object based on key####

    It will be called everytime you use the bracket syntax in your source code.

    Otherwise if you want to create properties at runtime, there are different ways to proceed, take a look at NSObject‘s forwardInvocation: method, or look at the Objective-C Runtime Reference for functions to dynamically alter a class…

    Guillaume is right. forwardInvocation: is the way to go. This answer gives some more details: method_missing-like functionality in objective-c (i.e. dynamic delegation at run time)

    This has even more details: Equivalent of Ruby method_missing in Objective C / iOS

    And these are some other lesser known Obj-C features that might help you: Hidden features of Objective-C