Starting out with Swift commands

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In this post I want starting out with Swift commands. So, we will discuss some of the things I discovered I needed to get to a place where I could comfortably contribute to projects. I recommend you start out with a playground. A playground is basically where you can test out anything. It is easy to use, you do not have to concern yourself with print statements to see whether your code is working. Simply open Xcode, press Command+N , select playground and get your hands dirty. But before, it is important to set up your environment as I explained in my previous post.

Variables and Constants

So, in Swift as in other languages, variables have to be declared before they are used. Variables are mutable and are declared with the keyword var while constants are immutable and are declared with the keyword let.

let someType: String = “I am explicitly declared”

var secretType = “You can infer what type I am”

The first one is a constant that has been explicitly declared as a string, the second example is a variable whose type has not been declared. The type is however inferred and the variable is known to contain a string. Some common types you will come across in Swift are String, Bool, Int, Float.

One of the most exciting things about Swift is optionals. Optionals are used where a variable may not contain a value.

var integer: Int = 9

var optionalInt: Int?

The first variable is an integer, it can never be nil. However, with the optionalInt the value can be nil. When it is first declared as an optional, it is nil by default.

Unwrapping Optionals

Optional variables have to be unwrapped before they are used. If you tried to perform an operation between Integer and optionalInt you would get an error that optionalInt is not unwrapped.

var optionalInt1: Int? = 10

var optionalInt2: Int? = 4

// Buildtime error: Value of optional type not unwrapped
var sum = optionalInt1 + optionalInt2

There are two ways to unwrap optionals; optional binding and forced unwrapping.

Forced Unwrapping

var optionalInt1: Int? = 10

var optionalInt2: Int? = 4

var sum = optionalInt1! + optionalInt2!

The above example works, it is however not recommended. This is because whenever the optional is nil, the app crashes. Therefore, unless you are absolutely sure the value will never be nil, never use forced unwrapping . There is a better and prettier way to solve the unwrapping problem: optional binding.

func add() -> Int? {
    let optionalInt: Int? = 10
    let someInt: Int = 8
    guard let unwrappedInt = optionalInt else { 
        // optional binding using guard statement
        return nil
    return (unwrappedInt + someInt)

Collection Types

Collection types in Swift are a way to group related items together. So, the values in the types are strongly typed. This means the compiler is aware of the types and you can therefore for example, not insert a string into an array of integers.


These store items in an ordered list.

Creating, accessing and manipulating an array

// explicitly declare contents
var list1 = ["cookies", "cakes", "muffins"]

// initialiser
var list2 = [String]()

// type annotation
var list3: [String] = [] 

// returns 3, the number of items in the list

// this adds the object

// access the object on index(0); the first item

// attempts to replace item on subscripted index, 
// this raises an error as it is a different type from the one expected
list1[1] = "1" 

// prints each of the items and adds the "are yummy" 
// at the end
for item in list1 {
    print("\(item) are yummy")

There are numerous operations that can be performed on arrays. The swift documentation shows in great details how to work with Collection types.


A set is very similar to an array except that it stores distinct items in an unordered manner. Modifying and accessing a set is very similar to the same in an array.

var planets = Set<String>()

var coolPlanets: Set<String> = ["Earth", "Pluto", "Saturn"]

var sadPlanets: Set = ["Uranus", "Pluto"]


A dictionary is used to create key, value pairs.

Creating, accessing and manipulating a dictionary

// type annotation
var dictionary: [Int: String] = [:]

// initialiser
var dictionary2 = [Int: Int]()
var italianDict = ["house": "casa", "money": "soldi"]

//print the value associated with subscripted key

//print the number of key, value pairs

//replace the value at given key
italianDict["house"] = "something"

//remove the key as it no longer has a value associated with it
italianDict["house"] = nil

//will print "money in Italian is soldi"
for (key, value) in italianDict {
    print("\(key) in Italian is \(value)")

Control Flow

In Swift, various statements are used to achieve control flow. These are statements that make decisions based on some conditions. Control flow statements include; those that perform tasks multiple times, those that iterate and those that perform certain tasks based on some conditions.

While and repeat-while

// This loop executes until the given condition is false. 
// In this case, it executes while counter is <5
var counter = 0
while counter < 5 {
    print("Counter is at \(counter)")
    counter += 1

if and if-else

It executes a certain block only if the condition is true. In Swift, the condition to be evaluated has to be either true or falseunlike in Objective-C.

var time = 1
if time > 4 { 
    // this returns true or false
    print("I am starving!")
} else {
    // this block is executed
    print("i could eat!")


It is used to transfer control. The conditions should evaluate to true or false.

func printEvenPostiveNumber(_ num: Int) {
    guard num > 0 else { print(“\(num) is not > 0”)
    guard num % 2 == 0 else { print(“\(num) is not even”)

printEvenPostiveNumber(-1) // “-1 is not > 0\n”
printEvenPostiveNumber(3) // “3 is not even\n”


This compares a value with several matching patterns then executes a block based on which it matches first.

let temperature: Int = 20
switch temperature {
case 1..<15:
    print("It's sweater weather")
case 15..<30:
    print("Less Monday more summer")
    print("We don't recognise what is happening here")


These are used to loop over collection types or a range of numbers

// this prints all the values between 1 and 5
for values in 1...5 {
    print (values)


Functions are chunks of code that perform a task.

In the spirit of writing self-documenting code. It is important to give a function a name according to what it does. One of the things I came to appreciate when I was getting into Objective-C is developers who give functions accurate names, these men and women are the heroes who don’t wear capes.

// this function has no arguments
func basic() {}

// has an argument that matches the parameter name
func withParameter(parameter: Int) {}
withParameter(parameter: 3) 

// returns a value 2, you can ignore it, if you do not write a 
// return, it raises an error as the function expects a return
func withReturn() -> Int { return 2 }

func withMultipleParameter(parameter1: Int, parameter2: Int) {}
withMultipleParameter(parameter1: 3, parameter2: 5)

// return (2,3)
func returnsTuple() -> (Int, Int) { return (2,3) }

// a _ before the parameter label tells the compiler that we do not 
// want to write the argument label when calling the function
func drawLine(from point1: Int, to point2: Int) {}
drawLine(from: 3, to: 6)
func optionalParameterName(_ optionalParameterName: Int, justParameter: Int) {}
optionalParameterName(3, justParameter: 5) 

There is special type of functions known as closures. Closures are fun, closures will make you a bad ass. I recommend swift documentation on this.

Structs and Classes

If you have some previous experience with programming, you have definitely come across classes. Classes are ideally the same across the board. However, in swift there is this sweet little thing we call structures. Structures are ideally similar to classes save for a neat little difference. Classes are reference types while structures are value types. One of the things I suffered through when I was trying to navigate swift was the difference between these two, where to use them and the advantage of one over the other. This post made things so much easier. Here is an example that will hopefully clear out the differences.

Reference Types

An object in a class is a reference type.

class ClassObject { var a = "Hey" }

var object1 = ClassObject()

var object2 = object1 

//creates a shared instance, both variables refer to the same 
object1.a = "There!"

//prints "There There"
print(object1.a, object2.a)

Value Types

An object in a structure on the other hand is a value type.

struct StructObject { var a = "Hey" }

var object1 = StructObject()

//creates two independent instances, each with a copy of it's own 
var object2 = object1 

//prints "hey there"
object2.a = "There!"
print(object1.a, object2.a)

Other than this difference, structures and classes are essentially the same.

// give the class a meaningful name
class Example {
    // class property
    var subject: String = "Structures" 

    // class method
    func giveDefinition() { 
        print("This is the definition for \(subject)")

//instantiating a class
var example = Example()

//calling the class method

Classes and structures have variables or constants that are referred to as properties and functions that are referred to as method. If you do not give an initial value for properties in the classes, you will get an error.

class Example { var subject: String
    init() { subject = "swift" }
    func giveDefinition() {
        print("This is the definition for \(subject)")

var example = Example()


Sometimes you have classes that have some functionality in only special cases. Say you have a class that draws a chart. This class may be used in several places in your app. However, you may need it to have special divisions in some cases. It does not make sense to add such functionality globally yet it will be applicable in limited places. Enter extensions; these add computed properties, methods, initializers or protocols. We have not spoken about protocols I know. Worry not, protocols is another super power that swift possesses that we will look at shortly.

class BareMinimum {}

//add functionality to the above class
extension BareMinimum { }

Extensions are very exciting to study and work with. You could take a deep dive and discover all the cool things you can do with extensions.


These group related values so that you are able to work with them in a type safe way.

//after first assigning it, you can use dot syntax to access other 
enum Color { case blue, green, yellow, red, black}

var colorToWear =
colorToWear = .red 

Matching enumerations with a switch statement

enum Color { case blue, green, yellow, red }

var colorToWear =
colorToWear = .red

switch colorToWear {
  case .blue:
    print("someone's not feeling too good")
  case .yellow:
    print("It's celebration time")
  case .green:
    print("we have a sunflower!")
  case .red:
    print("It's a siren")
    print("Sorry, who are you?")

Access Control

Access control restricts access to parts of your code from code in other source files and modules.

A module is defined as a single unit block of code that is built and shipped as a single unit. It can be imported by another module. A classic example you could come across is UIKit . This deals with all things user interface(UI). When working with the UI, you import it and use it’s various functionalities. Sometimes, you want to restrict control to some parts of your code. This is achieved using access control. There are various levels of access control;

  • Open: this is the least control. Entities can be used in defining module and in any module that imports the file. These entities can be subclassed and overridden as well. This is typically used for frameworks.
  • Public: this is essentially the same as open control except that the module cannot be overridden/subclassed by the module that imports it.
  • Internal: this is the default access level. Entities are only used inside the defining module.
  • File-Private: used when an entity is to be used within one single swift file
  • Private: the entity can only be used inside the defining method, class or function

An important thing to note however, an entity cannot be defined in terms of another with a more restrictive level. This answer perfectly explains what this means.


You might have come across Object Oriented Programming(OOP) in other languages. In swift we have OOP, which is generally used as in other languages. However, because swift just won’t quit delighting us, we have Protocol Oriented Programming. Here is a great differentiation of the two.

A protocol is a blueprint for how things are to be done. Classes, structures and enumerations can conform to protocols. This means they have to implement the functionality given in the protocol.

//this protocol specifies a variable
protocol thisProtocol { var someName: String { get } }

//the struct has to have the variable that was specified in the 
struct thisStruct: thisProtocol { var someName: String }

If var someName { get } makes you shake in your boots, worry not. There is a great explanation on stored and computed properties here.

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