const app = {
lines: document.getElementById('lines'),
textbox: createTextbox(),
lineTemplate: createLineTemplate(),

const socket = connect(

initial({ lines, uuid, charLimit }) {
app.uuid = uuid
app.charLimit = charLimit

added(line) {

removed(i) {

server.onclose = (ws) => {
if (ws.line) {
const i = lines.indexOf(ws.line)
lines.splice(i, 1)
server.sendToAll({ removed: i })

server.commands = {

begin(ws) {
const line = {
hash: ws.hash,
uuid: ws.uuid,
text: '',

ws.line = line
server.sendToAll({ added: line })

run() {
console.log(`Running on port ${this.port}`)

this.wss = new WebSocket.Server({
port: this.port,
verifyClient: this.verify.bind(this)

this.pruneInterval * 1000


Steven Degutis

Full-stack software developer for hire

Concatenating Objective-C String Literals

May 30, 2017

When we made our app Quick List, we had to decide on a language. When we chose Objective-C, we lost some of the convenience that Swift brought to the table. But using obscure features of C and Objective-C, we were able to get some of that convenience back.

Say you’re making an iOS app, and you want to create some convenience strings for linking to your app on the app store, one for linking directly to it within the App Store, and one using HTTPS for reliable sharing on social media. Plus we want to store the app ID separately, so that we can reuse the app store link definitions in different apps.

In Swift, it’s as easy as this:

let appId             = "1232494353"
let appStoreUrlBase   = "://" + appId + "?mt=8"
let appStoreUrlHttps  = "https"     + appStoreUrlBase
let appStoreUrl       = "itms-apps" + appStoreUrlBase
let appStoreReviewUrl = appStoreUrl + "&action=write-review"

But in Objective-C, the only way to concatenate strings is via the runtime method -stringByAppendingString: (and -stringByAppendingFormat:). Since it happens at runtime, we can’t just define it in a header or at the top level. Dang, game over, time to give up and head on home, right?

WRONG! Fortunately C has a mostly useless and often error-prone feature where you can concatenate C string literals by just putting them next to each other! Behold:

char* foo = "foo" "bar"; // note: this is at the top level

void foobar(void) {
    printf("%s", foo); // prints "foobar"

Cool, right? Wrong again! See, this only works on string literals. So this won’t work:

char* appId = "123";
char* foo = appId "bar";

“But what if we make them static?” you may find yourself asking.

static char* appId = "123";
static char* foo = appId "bar";

Nope, still doesn’t work.

So what do we do? We abuse the C preprocessor of course! Using #define we can create “variables” that are just string literals, and reuse them multiple times, giving us the illusion of named constants that we were trying to get to all along:

#define foo   "foo"
#define bar   foo "bar"
#define qux   foo "qux"

When used, these literally translate to this:

char* x = bar /* "foo" "bar" */ ;  // x is now "foobar"
char* y = qux /* "foo" "qux" */ ;  // y is now "fooqux"

Great, right? Nope! That’s still C, not Objective-C! Well true, but Objective-C borrowed this feature for who knows why. Just use an @ sign in each string as usual:

#define foo   @"foo"
#define bar   foo @"bar"
#define qux   foo @"qux"

And voila, you have a bunch of predefined NSString constants.

Going back to our original example, and you can do this:

#define APP_ID                 @"1232494353"
#define APP_STORE_URL_BASE     @"://" APP_ID @"?mt=8"
#define APP_STORE_URL_HTTPS    @"https"     APP_STORE_URL_BASE
#define APP_STORE_URL          @"itms-apps" APP_STORE_URL_BASE
#define APP_STORE_REVIEW_URL   APP_STORE_URL @"&action=write-review"

In general this feature is a bad idea and C shouldn’t have it, because it most often leads to bugs like when you forget a comma in an array literal like const char* array[] = {"foo" "bar"}, it becomes a concatenative expression and results in {"foobar"} which isn’t even close to what we meant. But in situations like the above, it comes in handy.

About me


My name is Steven Degutis, and I've been writing software professionally for a decade. During that time, I've written many apps and websites, quite a few technical articles, and kept up-to-date with the rapidly evolving software industry.

If you have software needs for web, mobile, or desktop, and are looking for a seasoned software professional, please reach out to me at to set up a phone call.

Work Experience

  • Self-employed – present
  • Clean Coders – 5 years
  • 8th Light – 2 years
  • Big Nerd Ranch – 1 year
  • Self-employed - 1 year


  • Web: full-stack
  • iOS (UIKit)
  • macOS (Cocoa)
  • AWS / EC2 / ELB


  • JavaScript
  • HTML5 / CSS
  • Swift
  • Objective-C
  • Clojure


  • Node.js
  • Express.js
  • React
  • Vue.js
  • Electron

Technical articles

Over the past decade, I've written a total of 172 technical articles on various programming languages, frameworks, best practices, and my own projects, as I kept up-to-date and active in the software industry.

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Here are some of the projects I'm most proud of. They were created using a variety of technologies, running on several different platforms and OSes. They're all finished products, and many of them are open source.

Website - Online Video Store

I wrote this web store for Robert "Uncle Bob" Martin, using Clojure for the back-end, and JavaScript for the front-end. Over the course of 5 years, I took the site from a simple three-page website to a full enterprise-ready business solution, with nearly 100% test coverage.

  • Clojure
  • Datomic
  • jQuery / D3.js
  • JavaScript
  • ClojureScript


macOS app - Dock Utility

I made Docks in 2009 for users who wanted to swap out icons in their Dock with a single click. Its unique functionality and design aesthetic attracted the attention of Apple, Engadget, MacWorld, and led to an acquisition of my start-up by Big Nerd Ranch.

  • Staff Pick
  • MacWorld 4/5 Rating
  • MacWorld Gem of the Year
  • Featured on


macOS app - Clojure IDE

Source Code

While working on, a website written completely in Clojure, I increased my productivity by building a custom IDE for macOS designed specifically for Clojure projects.

  • Objective-C
  • Clojure
  • C / C++
  • Cocoa
  • Themeable


macOS app - Hackable Automation

Source Code

This began as an experiment to see how many languages I could use to script a custom macOS window manager using our custom TCP protocol. Eventually it had bindings for Clojure, Ruby, Python, Go, JavaScript, CoffeeScript, Node.js, Chicken Sceme, and Racket, as well as other community additions.

  • TCP / Unix sockets
  • Custom protocol
  • Highly Scriptable
  • 10+ language bindings
  • Open source community

Bubble Maker

iOS app - Bubble simulator

This toy was made in a weekend to entertain my 1 year old daughter. It lets you create bubbles with your fingers, which then simulate physics by bumping into each other and falling.

  • SpirteKit
  • Custom art
  • Physics simulation
  • iOS
  • tvOS

Quick List

iOS app - Todo list app

When I couldn't find an app in the App Store that let me make very simple lists extremely quickly, I made one myself. I use it almost every day to organize and track my activities.

  • In-app purchases
  • Custom UI / UX
  • Social media
  • App Store artwork
  • Spring animations

Website - Personal Portfolio

Source Code

This very site itself was written from scratch in about a day. It uses best practices for modern responsive web design, and a custom build phase to compile the sources into a single HTML file.

  • Node.js
  • Pug / Jade
  • LessCSS
  • HTML5
  • WebSockets


Java app - Game

Source Code

The game 2048 (created by Gabriele Cirulli) is so fun that my kids wanted their own copy. So I wrote this version in Java 8, using JavaFx for attractive graphics and silky smooth animations.

  • Java 8
  • JavaFx
  • Modular code
  • Customizable
  • Animations


macOS app - Window Manager

Source Code

I created this app to increase my productivity by letting me move windows around in macOS using keyboard shortcuts. It grew into a community-driven highly extensible app, using Lua for its plugin system.

  • Objective-C
  • Embedded Lua
  • Plugin system
  • Fully documented
  • 5,000 GitHub stars

Website - Social Network

Implementing this elite social network gave me experience integrating both Apple Pay and credit card payments (via seamlessly into web apps, for a frictionless and pain-free payment experience.

  • Clojure
  • Elastic Beanstalk
  • PostgreSQL
  • Apple Pay


Website - Live Chatroom

Source Code

This isn't just any chatroom. In this web app, you can see what everyone is typing while they type it. I made this in order to scratch my itch for making real-time apps and games, and learned how to use WebSockets in the process.

  • JavaScript
  • WebSockets
  • Node.js
  • Vue.js
  • CSS


macOS app - Music Player

Source Code

As iTunes went through many user interface changes, I wanted an app that was consistent, intuitive, and easy to use. So I created Bahamut, a minimal music player for macOS with a custom user interface.

  • Objective-C
  • Custom UI
  • Cocoa
  • Core Data
  • AVFoundation


macOS app - Chat (IRC) Client

Source Code

This was written in 2009, before the time of Slack, when IRC was the main way for programmers to get short-term assistance from each other. Its purpose was to be a beautiful app with an emphasis on simplicity and usability over technical power.

  • Async networking
  • Core Animation
  • Core Text
  • IRC Protocol
  • UI Design


macOS app - Window Manager

Source Code

This is an app I actually use every single day. It lets you move windows with global keyboard shortcuts. Since it uses Vim-like key bindings, it should feel pretty natural to any programmer. There's no configuration needed; it Just Works™.

  • Minimalist UI
  • Simple UI
  • Vim-like Hotkeys
  • Global Hotkeys
  • Zero-configuration


macOS app - Lua window manager

Source Code

As an evolution of Phoenix, Hydra was my first attempt at embedding a full Lua virtual machine into an Objective-C app, to make a lightweight and efficient window manager that focused on speed, low memory usage, low CPU usage, and overall being gentle on laptop batteries.

  • Embedded Lua
  • Generated docs
  • Lightweight
  • Memory efficient
  • CPU efficient


macOS app - JavaScript window manager

Source Code

As an evolution of Zephyros, Phoenix was my attempt to use Cocoa's native JavaScript bindings to make a more lightweight and efficient window manager, that focused on speed, low memory usage, low CPU usage, and overall being gentle on laptop batteries.

  • JavaScriptCore
  • JavaScript API
  • Lightweight
  • Memory efficient
  • CPU efficient

Smaller projects

These may be tiny, but they're interesting technical feats.

Lua4Swift Swift framework for embedding Lua with a native Swift API.
choose Command line fuzzy-matching tool for macOS that uses a GUI
music Command line music daemon for macOS that only speaks JSON
hecto Command line text editor with an embedded Lua plugin system
ZephSharp Window manager for Windows using Clojure for scripting
management Minimalist EC2 configuration & deployment tool in Ruby.
go.assert Assertion helper package for writing tests in Go.
go.shattr Go library for printing shell-attributed strings to stdout.
OCDSpec2 Objective-C based testing framework with Xcode integration.