Vitamin C

Swift Language Reflection


  • Mirror(reflecting: instance) // Initializes a mirror with the subject to reflect
  • mirror.displayStyle // Display style used for Xcode playgrounds
  • mirror.description // Textual representation of this instance, see CustomStringConvertible
  • mirror.subjectType // Returns the type of the subject being reflected
  • mirror.superclassMirror // Returns the mirror of the super-class of the subject being reflected


  1. General Remarks:

A Mirror is a struct used in the introspection of an object in Swift. Its most prominent property is the children array. One possible use case is to serialize a struct for Core Data. This is done by converting a struct into a NSManagedObject.

  1. Basic Usage for Mirror Remarks:

The children property of a Mirror is an array of child objects from the object the Mirror instance is reflecting. A child object has two properties label and value. For example a child might be a property with the name title and the value of Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire.

Basic Usage for Mirror

Creating the class to be the subject of the Mirror

class Project {
    var title: String = ""
    var id: Int = 0
    var platform: String = ""
    var version: Int = 0
    var info: String?

Creating an instance that will actually be the subject of the mirror. Also here you can add values to the properties of the Project class.

let sampleProject = Project()
sampleProject.title = "MirrorMirror" = 199
sampleProject.platform = "iOS"
sampleProject.version = 2 = "test app for Reflection"

The code below shows the creating of Mirror instance. The children property of the mirror is a AnyForwardCollection<Child> where Child is typealias tuple for subject's property and value. Child had a label: String and value: Any.

let projectMirror = Mirror(reflecting: sampleProject)
let properties = projectMirror.children

print(properties.count)        //5
print(properties.first?.label) //Optional("title")
print(properties.first!.value) //MirrorMirror

for property in properties {

Output in Playground or Console in Xcode for the for loop above.

info:Optional("test app for Reflection")

Tested in Playground on Xcode 8 beta 2

Getting type and names of properties for a class without having to instantiate it

Using the Swift class Mirror works if you want to extract name, value and type (Swift 3: type(of: value), Swift 2: value.dynamicType) of properties for an instance of a certain class.

If you class inherits from NSObject, you can use the method class_copyPropertyList together with property_getAttributes to find out the name and types of properties for a class - without having an instance of it. I created a project on Github for this, but here is the code:

func getTypesOfProperties(in clazz: NSObject.Type) -> Dictionary<String, Any>? {
    var count = UInt32()
    guard let properties = class_copyPropertyList(clazz, &count) else { return nil }
    var types: Dictionary<String, Any> = [:]
    for i in 0..<Int(count) {
        guard let property: objc_property_t = properties[i], let name = getNameOf(property: property) else { continue }
        let type = getTypeOf(property: property)
        types[name] = type
    return types

func getTypeOf(property: objc_property_t) -> Any {
    guard let attributesAsNSString: NSString = NSString(utf8String: property_getAttributes(property)) else { return Any.self }
    let attributes = attributesAsNSString as String
    let slices = attributes.components(separatedBy: "\"")
    guard slices.count > 1 else { return getPrimitiveDataType(withAttributes: attributes) }
    let objectClassName = slices[1]
    let objectClass = NSClassFromString(objectClassName) as! NSObject.Type
    return objectClass
   func getPrimitiveDataType(withAttributes attributes: String) -> Any {
        guard let letter = attributes.substring(from: 1, to: 2), let type = primitiveDataTypes[letter] else { return Any.self }
        return type

Where primitiveDataTypes is a Dictionary mapping a letter in the attribute string to a value type:

let primitiveDataTypes: Dictionary<String, Any> = [
    "c" : Int8.self,
    "s" : Int16.self,
    "i" : Int32.self,
    "q" : Int.self, //also: Int64, NSInteger, only true on 64 bit platforms
    "S" : UInt16.self,
    "I" : UInt32.self,
    "Q" : UInt.self, //also UInt64, only true on 64 bit platforms
    "B" : Bool.self,
    "d" : Double.self,
    "f" : Float.self,
    "{" : Decimal.self
   func getNameOf(property: objc_property_t) -> String? {
        guard let name: NSString = NSString(utf8String: property_getName(property)) else { return nil }
        return name as String

It can extract the NSObject.Type of all properties which class type inherits from NSObject such as NSDate (Swift3: Date), NSString(Swift3: String?) and NSNumber, however it is store in the type Any (as you can see as the type of the value of the Dictionary returned by the method). This is due to the limitations of value types such as Int, Int32, Bool. Since those types do not inherit from NSObject, calling .self on e.g. an Int - Int.self does not return NSObject.Type, but rather the type Any. Thus the method returns Dictionary<String, Any>? and not Dictionary<String, NSObject.Type>?.

You can use this method like this:

class Book: NSObject {
    let title: String
    let author: String?
    let numberOfPages: Int
    let released: Date
    let isPocket: Bool

    init(title: String, author: String?, numberOfPages: Int, released: Date, isPocket: Bool) {
        self.title = title = author
        self.numberOfPages = numberOfPages
        self.released = released
        self.isPocket = isPocket

guard let types = getTypesOfProperties(in: Book.self) else { return }
for (name, type) in types {
    print("'\(name)' has type '\(type)'")
// Prints:
// 'title' has type 'NSString'
// 'numberOfPages' has type 'Int'
// 'author' has type 'NSString'
// 'released' has type 'NSDate'
// 'isPocket' has type 'Bool'

You can also try to cast the Any to NSObject.Type, which will succeed for all properties inheriting from NSObject, then you can check the type using standard == operator:

func checkPropertiesOfBook() {
    guard let types = getTypesOfProperties(in: Book.self) else { return }
    for (name, type) in types {
        if let objectType = type as? NSObject.Type {
            if objectType == NSDate.self {
                print("Property named '\(name)' has type 'NSDate'")
            } else if objectType == NSString.self {
                print("Property named '\(name)' has type 'NSString'")

If you declare this custom == operator:

func ==(rhs: Any, lhs: Any) -> Bool {
    let rhsType: String = "\(rhs)"
    let lhsType: String = "\(lhs)"
    let same = rhsType == lhsType
    return same

You can then even check the type of value types like this:

func checkPropertiesOfBook() {
    guard let types = getTypesOfProperties(in: Book.self) else { return }
    for (name, type) in types {
        if type == Int.self {
            print("Property named '\(name)' has type 'Int'")
        } else if type == Bool.self {
            print("Property named '\(name)' has type 'Bool'")

LIMITATIONS This solution does not work when value types are optionals. If you have declared a property in you NSObject subclass like this: var myOptionalInt: Int?, the code above won't find that property because the method class_copyPropertyList does not contain optional value types.

Got any Swift Language Question?