High resolution timing in Cocoa, revisited

A while back I wrote about high resolution timing in Cocoa. It's been a while, and I've updated it a bit – adding ARC support, adding a call to time a block, and removing some stuff that wasn't needed. Hopefullly you find it useful.

// MachTimer.h
#include <mach/mach_time.h>

@interface MachTimer : NSObject

+ (instancetype) timer;
+ (NSTimeInterval) timeForBlock:(void (^)(void))block;

- (void) start;
- (NSTimeInterval) elapsedSeconds;


// MachTimer.m
#import "MachTimer.h"

static mach_timebase_info_data_t timeBase;

@implementation MachTimer
    uint64_t timeZero;

+ (void) initialize
    (void) mach_timebase_info( &timeBase );

- (instancetype) init
    self = [super init];
    if( self ) {
        [self start];
    return self;

+ (instancetype) timer
#if( __has_feature( objc_arc ) )
    return [[[self class] alloc] init];
    return [[[[self class] alloc] init] autorelease];

+ (NSTimeInterval) timeForBlock:(void (^)(void))block
    MachTimer* aTimer = [self timer];

    [aTimer start];
    return [aTimer elapsedSeconds];

- (void) start
    timeZero = mach_absolute_time();

- (NSTimeInterval) elapsedSeconds
    return ((NSTimeInterval)(mach_absolute_time() - timeZero)) * ((NSTimeInterval)timeBase.numer) / ((NSTimeInterval)timeBase.denom) / 1000000000.0f;


You might use it like this:

MachTimer* aTimer = [MachTimer timer];
[self doSomeLengthyOperation];
NSLog( @"Lengthy operation took %f seconds", [aTimer elapsedSeconds] );

Or, with the new block call:

NSTimeInterval theTime = [MachTimer timeForBlock:^{
    // Do some lengthy operation.
NSLog( @"Lengthy operation took %f seconds", theTime );

Credit where credit is due

I originally found the basis for this code on the Apple message boards, here. I dunno who wrote that, but thanks, dude. If you're that guy, let me know, and I'll be happy to give you attribution. Since writing this, I've discovered Waffle Software has a similar thing, which has some additional functionality; check that out if you're interested.

If you want to follow me, I'm @zpasternack on Twitter and on app.net.

Relative date formatting like Mail.app

Mail.app on Mac OS has a cool way of showing you relative dates of messages. Messages received today show only the time (e.g., "12:55 PM"), whereas messages received prior to today show only the date (e.g., 3/13/14), and if the date was Yesterday, it shows that, rather than the date. I wanted this same functionality in one of my apps.

Googling around for a bit turned up this StackOverflow question, with which I was not happy. So I did it myself (and, of course, added my own answer to that question). Here's what I did.

NSDateFormatter (as of Mac OS 10.6 and iOS4) does relative date formatting (e.g., "Today", "Yesterday" for you, like so:

NSDateFormatter* formatter = [[NSDateFormatter alloc] init];
[formatter setTimeStyle:NSDateFormatterNoStyle];
[formatter setDateStyle:NSDateFormatterShortStyle];
[formatter setDoesRelativeDateFormatting:YES];

NSString* dateString = [formatter stringFromDate:[NSDate date]];    
NSLog( @"date = %@", dateString );

Which outputs:

2014-03-15 15:26:37.683 TestApp[1293:303] date = Today

But that still leaves the issue of instead using the time if the date is today. First, we need to be able to tell if a given date is today. For this I implemented a method isToday, as a category on NSDate. (Side note: I freaking love categories!)

@implementation NSDate (IsToday)

- (BOOL) isToday
    NSCalendar* calendar = [NSCalendar currentCalendar];

    // Components representing the day of our date.
    NSDateComponents* dateComp = [calendar components:NSYearCalendarUnit | NSMonthCalendarUnit | NSDayCalendarUnit
    NSDate* date = [calendar dateFromComponents:dateComp];

    // Components representing today.
    NSDateComponents* todayComp = [calendar components:NSYearCalendarUnit | NSMonthCalendarUnit | NSDayCalendarUnit
                                              fromDate:[NSDate date]];
    NSDate* todayDate = [calendar dateFromComponents:todayComp];

    // If the dates are equal, then our date is today.
    return [date isEqualToDate:todayDate];


Then, I made two date formatters, one for the day, and one for the time, and decided which to use based on whether the date is today or not. Like so:

- (NSString*) postDateToString:(NSDate*)aDate
    static NSDateFormatter* todayFormatter = nil;
    if( todayFormatter == nil ) {
        todayFormatter = [[NSDateFormatter alloc] init];
        [todayFormatter setTimeStyle:NSDateFormatterShortStyle];
        [todayFormatter setDateStyle:NSDateFormatterNoStyle];

    static NSDateFormatter* notTodayFormatter = nil;
    if( notTodayFormatter == nil ) {
        notTodayFormatter = [[NSDateFormatter alloc] init];
        [notTodayFormatter setTimeStyle:NSDateFormatterNoStyle];
        [notTodayFormatter setDateStyle:NSDateFormatterShortStyle];
        [notTodayFormatter setDoesRelativeDateFormatting:YES];

    NSDateFormatter* formatter = notTodayFormatter;

    if( [aDate isToday] ) {
        formatter = todayFormatter;

    return [formatter stringFromDate:aDate];

And there you have it.

If you want to follow me, I'm @zpasternack on Twitter and on app.net.