NSString is empty


I hate to throw another log on this exceptionally old fire, but I'm leery about editing someone else's answer - especially when it's the selected answer.

Jacob asked a follow up question: How can I do this with a single method call?

The answer is, by creating a category - which basically extends the functionality of a base Objective-C class - and writing a "shorthand" method for all the other code.

However, technically, a string with white space characters is not empty - it just doesn't contain any visible glyphs (for the last couple of years I've been using a method called isEmptyString: and converted today after reading this question, answer, and comment set).

To create a category go to Option+Click -> New File... (or File -> New -> File... or just command+n) -> choose Objective-C Category. Pick a name for the category (this will help namespace it and reduce possible future conflicts) - choose NSString from the "Category on" drop down - save the file somewhere. (Note: The file will automatically be named NSString+YourCategoryName.h and .m.)

I personally appreciate the self-documenting nature of Objective-C; therefore, I have created the following category method on NSString modifying my original isEmptyString: method and opting for a more aptly declared method (I trust the compiler to compress the code later - maybe a little too much).

Header (.h):

#import <Foundation/Foundation.h>

@interface NSString (YourCategoryName)

/*! Strips the string of white space characters (inlcuding new line characters).
 @param string NSString object to be tested - if passed nil or @"" return will
     be negative
 @return BOOL if modified string length is greater than 0, returns YES; 
 otherwise, returns NO */
+ (BOOL)visibleGlyphsExistInString:(NSString *)string;


Implementation (.m):

@implementation NSString (YourCategoryName)

+ (BOOL)visibleGlyphsExistInString:(NSString *)string
    // copying string should ensure retain count does not increase
    // it was a recommendation I saw somewhere (I think on stack),
    // made sense, but not sure if still necessary/recommended with ARC
    NSString *copy = [string copy];

    // assume the string has visible glyphs
    BOOL visibleGlyphsExist = YES;
    if (
        copy == nil
        || copy.length == 0
        || [[copy stringByTrimmingCharactersInSet:[NSCharacterSet whitespaceAndNewlineCharacterSet]] length] == 0
        ) {
        // if the string is nil, no visible characters would exist
        // if the string length is 0, no visible characters would exist
        // and, of course, if the length after stripping the white space
        // is 0, the string contains no visible glyphs
        visibleGlyphsExist = NO;

    return visibleGlyphsExist;



To call the method be sure to #import the NSString+MyCategoryName.h file into the .h or .m (I prefer the .m for categories) class where you are running this sort of validation and do the following:

NSString* myString = @""; // or nil, or tabs, or spaces, or something else
BOOL hasGlyphs = [NSString visibleGlyphsExistInString:myString];

Hopefully that covers all the bases. I remember when I first started developing for Objective-C the category thing was one of those "huh?" ordeals for me - but now I use them quite a bit to increase reusability.

Edit: And I suppose, technically, if we're stripping characters, this:

[[copy stringByTrimmingCharactersInSet:[NSCharacterSet whitespaceAndNewlineCharacterSet]] length] == 0

Is really all that is needed (it should do everything that category method does, including the copy), but I could be wrong on that score.