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C++ bindings for monotouch using SWIG

| Sunday, January 27, 2013
I love bindings. I've always loved them. Back in the days, I was binding gtk+ and other gobject libs to C# for fun and f-spot usage. Then I bound some obj-C libs to monotouch for a client and some for pleasure.

But last week I faced something new. I wanted to bind (for monotouch) a C++ iPhone lib for which I only received the binaries and the headers files. The component was too large to even think about doing a manual C glue code. I googled about the possible solutions and the only valuable advice was to use SWIG, without any rationale or tutorial. This is then probably a first. An explanation on why SWIG can help you for this, the problem I ran into and the solutions I found.

Mono.Cxxi is sexy, but not all-purpose

I'm not the kind of guy who blindly follows recommendations, so my first try was to use anything but SWIG. I opted for Mono.Cxxi and created a full binding in a few hours. It was really easy after I figured out the gcc-xml installation steps and caveats with clang. But when I first tried to use inside my monotouch project, it was to no avail. A quick reality-check confirmed my fears:

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That being said, Mono.Cxxi is great stuff, check it out. But don't count on it for static AOT.

Miguel was, once again right. SWIG was the only sensible option. I've used SWIG in the 90's for python (iirc), and it looks like the website hasn't left this era. But that's for the surface only. The tool is quite capable, is well suited for .NET and you can customise it to your liking. There's even a tutorial so I won't cover the basics. 

Read more: Stephane's log
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