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I am Tom Krcha, Gaming Evangelist at Adobe. These are my notes

HOWTO: Transfer Number, String, int/uint and Boolean with AIR Native Extensions for iOS back and forth

February 7th, 2012

Casting basic types from ActionScript 3 to C

Your probably first and immediate question when programming ANE for iOS is: “How to transfer data from AS3 to C and back to AS3?”. Once you break through this essential stage you enter the world of endless possibilities in Adobe AIR with native extensions.

There has been already plenty of articles on how to begin writing your native extensions, I am not going to explain that, just share the source code needed for that.
I am using Adobe Flash Builder 4.6 with ANE support for AS3 and Apple Xcode for coding the C part + packaging the static library (*.a file).
But let me quickly remind you the workflow. You need 3 projects, one is Flex Library project in FB (AS3 interface for C as *.swc), second is native library in Xcode (C interface and implementation as static library *.a), third is the actual test project in FB to run the native extension (*.ane).

Fig: Native Extension Creation Process

In this tutorial I want to illustrate how to transfer some basic types like Number, String, int/uint and Boolean from AS3 to C, process them and return back to AS3. In the next tutorial, we will look into more complex data types like Array, ByteArray and BitmapData.
*UPDATE: Casting Array and Vector from AS3 to C

Good starting point: Native C API Reference for Adobe AIR extensions. There is also a good page Coding native side with C for AIR.

But there is nothing better than samples. Let’s dig into some real code:

Number (AS3->C->AS3) Sum function

AS3 part:

public function sum(number1:Number,number2:Number):Number{
       // call C function sum with 2 arguments, number 1 and number2 and return a value
	var ret:Number ="sum",number1,number2) as Number;
	return ret;

C part:

FREObject sum(FREContext ctx, void* funcData, uint32_t argc, FREObject argv[]){
    // argc ... argument count, uint
    // argv ... argument values, Array
    // retrieve first argument and write it to a variable
    double number1;
    FREGetObjectAsDouble(argv[0], &number1);
    // retrieve second argument and write it to a variable
    double number2;
    FREGetObjectAsDouble(argv[1], &number2);
    // add first and second number together
    double sum = number1 + number2;
    // write computed sum to FREObject that will be returned back to AS3
    FREObject sumToReturn = nil;
    FRENewObjectFromDouble(sum, &sumToReturn);
    return sumToReturn;

int (AS3->C->AS3) Subtract function

AS3 part:

public function subtract(int1:int,int2:int):int{
	var ret:Number ="subtract",int1,int2) as int;
	return ret;

C part:

FREObject subtract(FREContext ctx, void* funcData, uint32_t argc, FREObject argv[]){
    int32_t int1;
    FREGetObjectAsInt32(argv[0], &int1);
    int32_t int2;
    FREGetObjectAsInt32(argv[1], &int2);
    int32_t sum = int1 - int2;
    FREObject sumToReturn = nil;
    FRENewObjectFromInt32(sum, &sumToReturn);
    return sumToReturn;

uint (AS3->C->AS3) Multiply function

AS3 part:

public function multiply(uint1:uint,uint2:uint):uint{
	var ret:Number ="multiply",uint1,uint2) as uint;
	return ret;

C part:

FREObject multiply(FREContext ctx, void* funcData, uint32_t argc, FREObject argv[]){
    uint32_t uint1;
    FREGetObjectAsUint32(argv[0], &uint1);
    uint32_t uint2;
    FREGetObjectAsUint32(argv[1], &uint2);
    uint32_t sum = uint1*uint2;
    FREObject sumToReturn = nil;
    FRENewObjectFromUint32(sum, &sumToReturn);
    return sumToReturn;

String (AS3->C->AS3) Concatenate function

AS3 part:

public function concatenate(str1:String,str2:String):String{
	var ret:String ="concatenate",str1,str2) as String;
	return ret;

C/Obj-C part:
// in this sample I wanted to go even further and utilize Obj-C function for concatenating strings and also demonstrate how to pass strings between C and Obj-C

FREObject concatenate(FREContext ctx, void* funcData, uint32_t argc, FREObject argv[]){
    // To be filled
    uint32_t string1Length;
    const uint8_t *string1;
    FREGetObjectAsUTF8(argv[0], &string1Length, &string1);
    uint32_t string2Length;
    const uint8_t *string2;
    FREGetObjectAsUTF8(argv[1], &string2Length, &string2);
    // Convert C strings to Obj-C strings
    NSString *string1ObjC = [NSString stringWithUTF8String:(char*)string1];
    NSString *string2ObjC = [NSString stringWithUTF8String:(char*)string2];
    // Concat strings
    NSString *returnString = [string1ObjC stringByAppendingString:string2ObjC];
    // Convert Obj-C string to C UTF8String
    const char *str = [returnString UTF8String];
    // Prepare for AS3
    FREObject retStr;
	FRENewObjectFromUTF8(strlen(str)+1, (const uint8_t*)str, &retStr);
    // Return data back to ActionScript
	return retStr;

Boolean (AS3->C->AS3) Opposite function

AS3 part:

public function opposite(bool:Boolean):Boolean{
	var ret:Boolean ="opposite",bool) as Boolean;
	return ret;

C part:

FREObject opposite(FREContext ctx, void* funcData, uint32_t argc, FREObject argv[]){
    uint32_t boolean;
    FREGetObjectAsBool(argv[0], &boolean);
    uint32_t oppositeValue = !boolean;
    FREObject retBool = nil;
    FRENewObjectFromBool(oppositeValue, &retBool);
    return retBool;   

Full C-part source code: IOSExtension.m
Download whole C-project for Xcode

Complete AS3 SWC lib part:

Test project source (SWF/IPA):

For compiling native extension (*.ane) I use this command in file/script

unzip -o IOSExtension.swc
/PATH/TO/FLEX_AIR_SDK/bin/adt -package -target ane IOSExtension.ane extension.xml -swc IOSExtension.swc -platform iPhone-ARM library.swf libIOSExtension.a

extension.xml looks like this:

<extension xmlns="">
      <platform name="iPhone-ARM">

Facebook comments:


  1. [...] time I wrote about casting basic types from AS3 to C like Number, String, Boolean, int and uint. Now I’d like to cover two more complex types: [...]

    Pingback by HOWTO: Transfer Array and Vector from AS3 to C with AIR Native Extensions for iOS — — February 8, 2012 @ 5:28 pm

  2. Really appreciate you sharing this article.Really looking forward to read more. Great.

    Comment by Stefan Raposa — April 24, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

  3. Great writeup. With respect to strings, I am writing C/C++ code with no objective C, so no NSString manipulation for me. Do you have any examples of how to take a wstring and pack it into a FREObject to hand back to AS3?

    Comment by Brad — April 26, 2012 @ 7:34 am

  4. Really NICE..
    thanks :)

    Comment by wow — May 30, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

  5. Is that possible to create adobe native extensions using
    if yes then how

    Thank you in advance

    Comment by Mayur — December 3, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

  6. Sir, can u please tell how to convert string into char of the ANE’s c code…

    Comment by Mayur — December 5, 2012 @ 6:16 am

  7. Thanks Tom! Just what i needed today!

    Comment by Bruce — December 13, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

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