Swift: the difference between nil, Nil, NULL, NSNull
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Last Updated on December 1, 2021 by deya

As a programmer, sometimes you will need to define “nothingness”… 🧐
Data stores can have a value, or simply be nothing, this nothing comes in different flavors (nil, Nil, Null, NSNull) which all came to be called “null”.

NULLliteral null value for C pointers
nilliteral null value for Objective-C objects
Nilliteral null value for Objective-C classes
NSNullsingelton object used to represent null
null types

In Swift, you will not be able to deal directly with NULL and Nil,
say you have this code in Objective C

// Machine.h
#import <Foundation/Foundation.h>

@interface Machine : NSObject

@property (strong, nonatomic) id serialNumber;

- (void) summary;


// Machine.m
#import <Foundation/Foundation.h>
#import "Machine.h"

@implementation Machine

- (void) summary {
    NSLog(@"Initializing Machine");
    NSString *label1 = @"label1";
    NSString *label2 = nil;
    NSString *label3 = [NSNull null];
    NSString *label4 = Nil;
    NSString *label5 = NULL;
    NSLog(@"Label1 = %@",label1);
    NSLog(@"Label2 = %@",label2);
    NSLog(@"Label3 = %@",label3);
    NSLog(@"Label4 = %@",label4);
    NSLog(@"Label4 = %@",label5);



after preparing the bridging header, you will be able to create Machine Objects

let OC_Machine = Machine()
OC_Machine.serialNumber = 21
OC_Machine.serialNumber = nil
OC_Machine.serialNumber = NSNull()
//OC_Machine.serialNumber = Nil
//OC_Machine.serialNumber = Null

As you can see, the commented lines will not compile in swift, but should be running ok in Objective C, you will see this output

Label1 = label1
Label2 = (null)
Label3 = <null>
Label4 = (null)
Label4 = (null)

[NSNull null] is a wrapper for nil

nil is defined as : #define nil NULL and is Objective C equivalent for C NULL

Nil is for object pointers, NULL is for non pointers, Null and Nil both defined to be equal to the value zero.

NULL is a void *nil is an id, and Nil is a Class pointer, NULL is used for non-object pointer (like a C pointer) in Objective-C. Like nil , NULL got no value nor address (used to check if a struct is empty).

keep in mind:

In Objective-C: nil is a pointer to a non-existent object.
In Swift: nil is not a pointer, it’s the absence of a value of a certain type.

NULL and nil are equal to each other, but nil is an object value while NULL is a generic pointer value ((void*)0, to be specific). [NSNull null] is an object that’s meant to stand in for nil in situations where nil isn’t allowed. For example, you can’t have a nil value in an NSArray. So if you need to represent a “nil”, you can use [NSNull null].

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