I'm learning objective-c and keep bumping into the @ symbol. It is used in different scenarios, for example at the start of a string or to synthesise accessor methods.

What's does the @ symbol mean in objective-c?

+5  A: 

From Objective-C Tutorial: The @ Symbol, the reason it is on the front of various keywords:

Using @ should make it easier to bolt an Objective-C compiler on to an existing C compiler. Because the @ isn't valid in any context in C except a string literal, the tokenizer (an early and simple step in the compiler) could be modified to simply look for the @ character outside of a string constant (the tokenizer understands string literals, so it is in a position to distinguish this). When @ is encountered the tokenizer would put the rest of the compiler in "Objective-C mode." (The Objective-C parser would be responsible for returning the compiler back to regular C mode when it detects the end of the Objective-C code).

Also when seen in front of a string literal, it makes an NSString rather than a 'char *' in C.

+14  A: 

The @ character isn't used in C or C++ identifiers, so it's used to introduce Objective-C language keywords in a way that won't conflict with the other languages' keywords. This enables the "Objective" part of the language to freely intermix with the C or C++ part.

Thus with very few exceptions, any time you see @ in some Objective-C code, you're looking at Objective-C constructs rather than C or C++ constructs.

The major exceptions are id, Class, nil, and Nil, which are generally treated as language keywords even though they may also have a typedef or #define behind them. For example, the compiler actually does treat id specially in terms of the pointer type conversion rules it applies to declarations, as well as to the decision of whether to generate GC write barriers.

Other exceptions are in, out, inout, oneway, byref, and bycopy; these are used as storage class annotations on method parameter and return types to make Distributed Objects more efficient. (They become part of the method signature available from the runtime, which DO can look at to determine how to best serialize a transaction.) There are also the attributes within @property declarations, copy, retain, assign, readonly, readwrite, nonatomic, getter, and setter; those are only valid within the attribute section of a @property declaration.

Chris Hanson
+3  A: 

From Macrumors: Objective-C Tutorial, when in front of string literal:

There are also @"" NSString literals. It is essentially shorthand for NSString's +stringWithUTF8String method.

The @ also adds unicode support to C strings.

Van Nguyen