Delegation is an object-oriented design pattern, a relationship between two objects, in which the first object’s behavior is customized or assisted by the second. The second object is the first object’s delegate. No subclassing is involved, and indeed the first object is agnostic about the second object’s class.

As implemented by Cocoa, here’s how delegation works. A built-in Cocoa class has an instance variable, usually called delegate (it will certainly have delegate in its name). For some instance of that Cocoa class, you set the value of this instance variable to an instance of one of your classes. At certain moments in its activity, the Cocoa class promises to turn to its delegate for instructions by sending it a certain message: if the Cocoa instance finds that its delegate is not nil, and that its delegate is prepared to receive that message (see Chapter 10 on respondsToSelector:), the Cocoa instance sends the message to the delegate.

In the old days, delegate methods were listed in the Cocoa class’s documentation, and their method signatures were made known to the compiler through an informal protocol (a category on NSObject). Now, though, a class’s delegate methods are usually listed in a genuine protocol with its own documentation. There are over 70 Cocoa delegate protocols, showing how heavily Cocoa relies on delegation. Most delegate methods are optional, but in a few cases you’ll discover some that are required.

To customize a Cocoa instance’s behavior through ...

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