Show Menu

Looking for an iOS Developer?

Submit your 30 day Job Listing for FREE

In this tutorial I am going to teach you how to create your own NSObject that can make calls to your own web REST API and use it to retrieve the response received from the server. I am going to do this with the help of ASIFormDataRequest (ASIHTTPRequest). This will mean your iOS app will be able to make calls to your web server and download information to your app. The following tutorial is useful for if you want to perform tasks such as logging into an online account or registering a new user from within your application.

Getting Started – Initial Steps

Before we do anything, we need to create a new XCode iOS project. Do this, making sure that the project is a navigation-based project. Then we need to make sure that ASIHTTPRequest builds correctly in your project. So firstly, download it from their GitHub page here: Download Link. You then need to copy the files over into your project making sure iPhone projects have ASIAuthenticationDialog.h/m and Reachability.h/m included.

Once you have included the files into your XCode project, the next step is to add the following frameworks into your project as well:

  • CFNetwork.framework
  • SystemConfiguration.framework
  • MobileCoreServices.framework
  • CoreGraphics.framework
  • libz.1.2.3.dylib

After these initial steps, you should be able to build your project without any errors. If you do come into any problems, refer to the ASIHTTPRequest setup instructions.

Let’s Do This!

Now you have the required classes in your project we can really start to have some fun! Let us start by creating an NSObject that will handle all the calls to your server and return only the necessary data back to your controllers. This is very useful as it keeps all the networking code away from your view controllers. By the end of this tutorial you will be able to use the following few lines of code to make a call to an API and return back information:


DWNetwork * network = [[DWNetwork alloc] init];
int response= [network sendTitle:@"My Title" withBody:@"This is the body for the post"];

For example, the two lines above would create our own object (in this case called DWNetwork) and the second line will use the object to send two strings to a web API. Later on in the tutorial I will show you how to use threading to make sure your application does not hang whilst this data is being sent.

Creating the NSObject

With your project already open, create a new file by clicking

File > New > New File > Objective-C Class > Subclass of NSObject > Next

and then save the file as DWNetwork.

When we initialise the object from our controller, we want to return our DWNetwork object and use this method to initialise any values within our object. So from DWNetwork.h, make the file contain the following:


#import 

@interface DWNetwork : NSObject {

}

- (DWNetwork *)init;

@end

And the counterpart (DWNetwork.m) to contain:


#import "DWNetwork.h"

@implementation DWNetwork

- (DWNetwork *)init
{
  return self;
}

@end

Now with what we have written we can already create an instance of our object ready to make calls to it. Now we need to include ASIHTTPRequest into the application and make our first API call!

Including ASIFormDataRequest in the NSObject

All we have to do for this is include

#import "ASIFormDataRequest.h" 

at the top of the DWNetwork.m file.

Making our first API call

As an example, I am going to use my DWNetwork object to create a blog post on a website using POST data to its API. The URL string that I am going to use is:

http://website.com/api/blog/new_post

On the server this takes the following form POST keys:


@"post_title"
@"post_body"

So naturally, I want to create a public method in DWNetwork that allows me to pass in the title and body of a blog post that it will handle and send to the API in the correct format. To do this I first go into the header file and write the following line beneath the init:


- (int) sendTitle:(NSString *)title withBody:(NSString *)body;

This lets other controllers that are using my object to see that this method is available and therefore can be used. Then within the implementation, I will write the following code:


- (int) sendTitle:(NSString *)title withBody:(NSString *)body
{
  return nil;
}

Now our object has its first proper method that can be called (Albiet returns nil)!

Within this method we want to utilize the title and body that we pass into it plus use the URL that they are going to be posted to. Now we get down implementing ASIFormDataRequest that will take all this information and do something magical with it!

In the line above return nil; we will write the following:


NSString * urlString = [NSString stringWithFormat:@"http://website.com/api/blog/new_post"];

This is the URL that ASIFormDataRequest will use. Then we write:


ASIFormDataRequest * request = [ASIFormDataRequest requestWithURL:[NSURL URLWithString:urlString]];

If all is written down correctly, then building the project shouldn’t come up with any errors (although it will come up with a warning for a the unused request).

Now we can start adding the title and body to our API call:


  [request setPostValue:title forKey:@"post_title"];
  [request setPostValue:body forKey:@"post_body"];

As I wrote previously, post_title and post_body are the keys that the REST API on the server will use for the title and body of the new blog post. So we use the [request setPostValue:(id) forKey:(NSString *)]; to pass in our variables.

Finally, we call:


[request startSynchronous];

to start up the connection to the API and transmit the data from our application.

Following this correctly so far, your DWNetwork.m file should look like the following:


#import "DWNetwork.h"
#import "ASIFormDataRequest.h"

@implementation DWNetwork

- (DWNetwork *)init
{
  return self;
}

- (int) sendTitle:(NSString *)title withBody:(NSString *)body
{
  NSString *urlString = [NSString stringWithFormat:@"http://website.com/api/blog/new_post"];

  ASIFormDataRequest *request = [ASIFormDataRequest requestWithURL:[NSURL URLWithString:urlString]];
  [request setPostValue:title forKey:@"post_title"];
  [request setPostValue:body forKey:@"post_body"];
  [request startSynchronous];

  return nil;
}

@end

At the moment (if the server is set up correctly) the request will send the data to the server. However, we are yet to know if this has failed or succeeded. So our next step is to return the response status code from the server.

Returning the response status code

This is a very simple step as ASIFormDataRequest has a built in method to call to retrieve the status code from the server.

All we have to do is replace:


  return nil;

with


  return [request responseStatusCode];

This will return an int that can be checked by your application to notify the user of the response from the API call. For example, the following numbers may be returned:

  • 200 – Successful
  • 400 – Bad Request
  • 401 – Unauthorized
  • 403 – Forbidden
  • 404 – Not Found
  • 405 – Method Not Allowed

You can find a full list HERE.

ASIFormDataRequest also allows you to return an NSString with different information. We won’t be using it yet, but in the future you could return methods such as:


  // Returns the status message
  return [request responseStatusMessage];
  // Returns the whole response as a string
  return [request responseString];

Now we have an NSObject (DWNetwork) that:

  • Can be initialised
  • Get sent an NSString of the post title and post body
  • Send the strings to a server
  • Check the response status code

We are yet to actually create this object from a controller so it can interact with your UI. Now we have a basic object, we will do just that!

Creating a simple UI

We want the application to run as follows:

  • User types in the blog title and body
  • Presses a post button
  • Sends the data to a server
  • Gets an appropriate response message through a UIAlertView.

The first step is to write the code that Interface Builder can use. We do this by accessing the RootViewController.h file and making sure it looks like the following:


#import 

@interface RootViewController : UIViewController
{
  IBOutlet UITextField * titleField;
  IBOutlet UITextField * bodyField;
}

@end

You may notice that I have replace UITableViewController with UIViewController. This is because we don’t touch anything UITableView based in this small application.

Next, modify the RootViewController.m file to look like this:


#import "RootViewController.h"
#import "DWNetwork.h"

@implementation RootViewController

- (void)viewDidLoad
{
  [super viewDidLoad];
  UIBarButtonItem * barButtonItem = [[UIBarButtonItem alloc] initWithTitle:@"Post"
                                                                     style:UIBarButtonItemStyleBordered
                                                                    target:self
                                                                    action:@selector(post)];
  self.navigationItem.rightBarButtonItem = barButtonItem;
  [barButtonItem release];
}

- (void)post
{

}

- (void)didReceiveMemoryWarning
{
  [super didReceiveMemoryWarning];
}

- (void)viewDidUnload
{
  [super viewDidUnload];
}

- (void)dealloc
{
  [super dealloc];
}

@end

This creates a UIBarButtonItem in the UINavigationBar that calls the post method in which we will shortly be placing the code to call DWNetwork.

Next is to modify your RootViewController.xib file:

  • Remove the UITableView

  • Create a UIView

  • Connect up the UIView to view

  • Add the two UITextFields

  • Connect up the UITextFields

  • Finally, Go back to RootViewController.m

Connecting up the UI to DWNetwork

By using the post method we have previously created, will we enter in the following code to create our DWNetwork object and make our first API call using the UI on iOS:


- (void)post
{
  DWNetwork * network = [[DWNetwork alloc] init];
  int response = [network sendTitle:titleField.text withBody:bodyField.text];
  NSLog(@"The response was: %d", response);
}

Running the application, the user will now be able to enter in a title and body for the post, and then pressing the top right UIBarButtonItem will send the data to the server. In the debug console there will be an output of the response code.

So far so good, however there are a few things that still need to be done to improve our code. First of all, our code will lock all user interaction with the iPhone whilst this code is being ran. This is because it is sending on the main thread, so it will naturally run line by line and only after the code has ran will it give control back to the user. We can overcome this by creating a new thread for it to happen in the background.

The second thing, is that we are not yet doing anything with the response code except for outputting it to the console (which the end user definitely will not see). So now onto our next step.

Creating a new thread

Threads are really useful and will come in handy when you create a web heavy application such as a Twitter client, online game etc. And the great thing is, they are so simple to implement! All we need to do is create the method that the actual thread runs, and two other methods that will handle the response once the thread has completed.

Modify your RootViewController.m file so that the post method is changed and looks like the following:


- (void)post
{
  [NSThread detachNewThreadSelector:@selector(postThread:) toTarget:self withObject:nil];
}

- (void)postThread:(NSConnection *)connection
{
  NSLog(@"New thread started");
  NSAutoreleasePool *pool = [[NSAutoreleasePool alloc] init];

  DWNetwork * network = [[DWNetwork alloc] init];
  int response = [network sendTitle:titleField.text withBody:bodyField.text];
  if (response == 200) {
    [self performSelectorOnMainThread:@selector(postSuccess) withObject:nil waitUntilDone:YES];
  } else {
    [self performSelectorOnMainThread:@selector(postFailure) withObject:nil waitUntilDone:YES];
  }

  [pool release];
}

- (void)postSuccess
{
  UIAlertView * alertView = [[UIAlertView alloc] initWithTitle:@"Success!"
                                                       message:@"Your post has been sent"
                                                      delegate:self
                                             cancelButtonTitle:@"Ok"
                                             otherButtonTitles:nil, nil];
  [alertView show];
  [alertView release];
}

- (void)postFailure
{
  UIAlertView * alertView = [[UIAlertView alloc] initWithTitle:@"Error!"
                                                       message:@"Your post failed to send"
                                                      delegate:self
                                             cancelButtonTitle:@"Ok"
                                             otherButtonTitles:nil, nil];
  [alertView show];
  [alertView release];
}

Now when the user clicks the Post button, the UI will not lock up, and also a UIAlertView will be shown with its contents dependant on whether the post succeeded or failed to send!

Finished

And there you go! You can now:

  • Create your own NSObject to handle REST API calls
  • Use threading to do these calls in the background.

 

 

having issues?

We have a Questions and Answer section where you can ask your iOS Development questions to thousands of iOS Developers.

Ask Question

FREE Download!

Get your FREE Swift 2 Cheat Sheet and quick reference guide PDF download when you sign up to SwiftMonthly


Sharing is caring

If you enjoyed this tutorial, please help us and others by sharing using one of the social media buttons below.


Written by:

Dominic Wroblewski started off as a developer early on in high school, creating simple applications as fun projects. Through time, he developed applications for the iPhone and iPad for both himself and for his clients. Currently he is co-director of his own company TerraCoding Ltd and works as a freelance developer for a number of clients and start-ups. He is moving into his final year as a Masters Computer Science student at the University of Sheffield.

Comments

comments