ios alphabetically - How do I sort an NSMutableArray with custom objects in it?

objective nsarray (21)

You use NSSortDescriptor to sort an NSMutableArray with custom objects

 NSSortDescriptor *sortingDescriptor;
 sortingDescriptor = [[NSSortDescriptor alloc] initWithKey:@"birthDate"
 NSArray *sortArray = [drinkDetails sortedArrayUsingDescriptors:@[sortDescriptor]];

What I want to do seems pretty simple, but I can't find any answers on the web. I have an NSMutableArray of objects, and let's say they are 'Person' objects. I want to sort the NSMutableArray by Person.birthDate which is an NSDate.

I think it has something to do with this method:

NSArray *sortedArray = [drinkDetails sortedArrayUsingSelector:@selector(???)];

In Java I would make my object implement Comparable, or use Collections.sort with an inline custom on earth do you do this in Objective-C?

I did this in iOS 4 using a block. Had to cast the elements of my array from id to my class type. In this case it was a class called Score with a property called points.

Also you need to decide what to do if the elements of your array are not the right type, for this example I just returned NSOrderedSame, however in my code I though an exception.

NSArray *sorted = [_scores sortedArrayUsingComparator:^(id obj1, id obj2){
    if ([obj1 isKindOfClass:[Score class]] && [obj2 isKindOfClass:[Score class]]) {
        Score *s1 = obj1;
        Score *s2 = obj2;

        if (s1.points > s2.points) {
            return (NSComparisonResult)NSOrderedAscending;
        } else if (s1.points < s2.points) {
            return (NSComparisonResult)NSOrderedDescending;

    // TODO: default is the same?
    return (NSComparisonResult)NSOrderedSame;

return sorted;

PS: This is sorting in descending order.

NSMutableArray *stockHoldingCompanies = [NSMutableArray arrayWithObjects:fortune1stock,fortune2stock,fortune3stock,fortune4stock,fortune5stock,fortune6stock , nil];

NSSortDescriptor *sortOrder = [NSSortDescriptor sortDescriptorWithKey:@"companyName" ascending:NO];

[stockHoldingCompanies sortUsingDescriptors:[NSArray arrayWithObject:sortOrder]];

NSEnumerator *enumerator = [stockHoldingCompanies objectEnumerator];

ForeignStockHolding *stockHoldingCompany;

NSLog(@"Fortune 6 companies sorted by Company Name");

    while (stockHoldingCompany = [enumerator nextObject]) {
        NSLog(@"Purchase Share Price:%.2f",stockHoldingCompany.purchaseSharePrice);
        NSLog(@"Current Share Price: %.2f",stockHoldingCompany.currentSharePrice);
        NSLog(@"Number of Shares: %i",stockHoldingCompany.numberOfShares);
        NSLog(@"Cost in Dollars: %.2f",[stockHoldingCompany costInDollars]);
        NSLog(@"Value in Dollars : %.2f",[stockHoldingCompany valueInDollars]);

Sorting NSMutableArray is very simple:

NSMutableArray *arrayToFilter =
     [[NSMutableArray arrayWithObjects:@"Photoshop",
                                       @"Acrobat", nil] autorelease];

NSMutableArray *productsToRemove = [[NSMutableArray array] autorelease];

for (NSString *products in arrayToFilter) {
    if (fliterText &&
        [products rangeOfString:fliterText
                        options:NSLiteralSearch|NSCaseInsensitiveSearch].length == 0)

        [productsToRemove addObject:products];
[arrayToFilter removeObjectsInArray:productsToRemove];

Sort using NSComparator

If we want to sort custom objects we need to provide NSComparator, which is used to compare custom objects. The block returns an NSComparisonResult value to denote the ordering of the two objects. So in order to sort whole array NSComparator is used in following way.

NSArray *sortedArray = [employeesArray sortedArrayUsingComparator:^NSComparisonResult(Employee *e1, Employee *e2){
    return [e1.firstname compare:e2.firstname];    

Sorts Using NSSortDescriptor
Let’s assume, as an example, that we have an array containing instances of a custom class, Employee has attributes firstname, lastname and age. The following example illustrates how to create an NSSortDescriptor that can be used to sort the array contents in ascending order by the age key.

NSSortDescriptor *ageDescriptor = [[NSSortDescriptor alloc] initWithKey:@"age" ascending:YES];
NSArray *sortDescriptors = @[ageDescriptor];
NSArray *sortedArray = [employeesArray sortedArrayUsingDescriptors:sortDescriptors];

Sort using Custom Comparisons
Names are strings, and when you sort strings to present to the user you should always use a localized comparison. Often you also want to perform a case insensitive comparison. Here comes an example with (localizedStandardCompare:) to order the array by last and first name.

NSSortDescriptor *lastNameDescriptor = [[NSSortDescriptor alloc]
              initWithKey:@"lastName" ascending:YES selector:@selector(localizedStandardCompare:)];
NSSortDescriptor * firstNameDescriptor = [[NSSortDescriptor alloc]
              initWithKey:@"firstName" ascending:YES selector:@selector(localizedStandardCompare:)];
NSArray *sortDescriptors = @[lastNameDescriptor, firstNameDescriptor];
NSArray *sortedArray = [employeesArray sortedArrayUsingDescriptors:sortDescriptors];

For reference and detailed discussion please refer:

NSSortDescriptor  *sort = [[NSSortDescriptor alloc] initWithKey:@"_strPrice"
                                                 ascending:sortFlag selector:@selector(localizedStandardCompare:)] ;

Your Person objects need to implement a method, say compare: which takes another Person object, and return NSComparisonResult according to the relationship between the 2 objects.

Then you would call sortedArrayUsingSelector: with @selector(compare:) and it should be done.

There are other ways, but as far as I know there is no Cocoa-equiv of the Comparable interface. Using sortedArrayUsingSelector: is probably the most painless way to do it.

I just done multi level sorting based on custom requirement.

//sort the values

    [arrItem sortUsingComparator:^NSComparisonResult (id a, id b){

    ItemDetail * itemA = (ItemDetail*)a;
    ItemDetail* itemB =(ItemDetail*)b;

    //item price are same
    if (itemA.m_price.m_selling== itemB.m_price.m_selling) {

        NSComparisonResult result=  [itemA.m_itemName compare:itemB.m_itemName];

        //if item names are same, then monogramminginfo has to come before the non monograme item
        if (result==NSOrderedSame) {

            if (itemA.m_monogrammingInfo) {
                return NSOrderedAscending;
                return NSOrderedDescending;
        return result;

    //asscending order
    return itemA.m_price.m_selling > itemB.m_price.m_selling;

iOS 4 blocks will save you :)

featuresArray = [[unsortedFeaturesArray sortedArrayUsingComparator: ^(id a, id b)  
    DMSeatFeature *first = ( DMSeatFeature* ) a;
    DMSeatFeature *second = ( DMSeatFeature* ) b;

    if ( first.quality == second.quality )
        return NSOrderedSame;
        if ( eSeatQualityGreen  == m_seatQuality || eSeatQualityYellowGreen == m_seatQuality || eSeatQualityDefault  == m_seatQuality )
            if ( first.quality < second.quality )
                return NSOrderedAscending;
                return NSOrderedDescending;
        else // eSeatQualityRed || eSeatQualityYellow
            if ( first.quality > second.quality )
                return NSOrderedAscending;
                return NSOrderedDescending;
}] retain]; a bit of description

There is a missing step in Georg Schölly's second answer, but it works fine then.

NSSortDescriptor *sortDescriptor;
sortDescriptor = [[[NSSortDescriptor alloc] initWithKey:@"birthDate"
                                              ascending:YES] autorelease];
NSArray *sortDescriptors = [NSArray arrayWithObject:sortDescriptor];
NSArray *sortedArray;
sortedArray = [drinkDetails sortedArrayUsingDescriptor:sortDescriptors];

I tried all, but this worked for me. In a class I have another class named "crimeScene", and want to sort by a property of "crimeScene".

This works like a charm:

NSSortDescriptor *sorter = [[NSSortDescriptor alloc] initWithKey:@"crimeScene.distance" ascending:YES];
[self.arrAnnotations sortUsingDescriptors:[NSArray arrayWithObject:sorter]];

You can use the following generic method for your purpose. It should solve your issue.

//Called method
-(NSMutableArray*)sortArrayList:(NSMutableArray*)arrDeviceList filterKeyName:(NSString*)sortKeyName ascending:(BOOL)isAscending{
    NSSortDescriptor *sorter = [[NSSortDescriptor alloc] initWithKey:sortKeyName ascending:isAscending];
    [arrDeviceList sortUsingDescriptors:[NSArray arrayWithObject:sorter]];
    return arrDeviceList;

//Calling method
[self sortArrayList:arrSomeList filterKeyName:@"anything like date,name etc" ascending:YES];

You have to create sortDescriptor and then you can sort the nsmutablearray by using sortDescriptor like below.

 let sortDescriptor = NSSortDescriptor(key: "birthDate", ascending: true, selector: #selector(
 let array = NSMutableArray(array: self.aryExist.sortedArray(using: [sortDescriptor]))

I've used sortUsingFunction:: in some of my projects:

int SortPlays(id a, id b, void* context)
    Play* p1 = a;
    Play* p2 = b;
    if (p1.score<p2.score) 
        return NSOrderedDescending;
    else if (p1.score>p2.score) 
        return NSOrderedAscending;
    return NSOrderedSame;

[validPlays sortUsingFunction:SortPlays context:nil];

-(NSMutableArray*) sortArray:(NSMutableArray *)toBeSorted 
  NSArray *sortedArray;
  sortedArray = [toBeSorted sortedArrayUsingComparator:^NSComparisonResult(id a, id b) 
    return [a compare:b];
 return [sortedArray mutableCopy];

Sort Array In Swift

For Swifty Person below is a very clean technique to achieve above goal for globally. Lets have an example custom class of User which have some attributes.

class User: NSObject {
    var id: String?
    var name: String?
    var email: String?
    var createdDate: Date?

Now we have an array which we need to sort on the basis of createdDate either ascending and/or descending. So lets add a function for date comparison.

class User: NSObject {
    var id: String?
    var name: String?
    var email: String?
    var createdDate: Date?
    func checkForOrder(_ otherUser: User, _ order: ComparisonResult) -> Bool {
        if let myCreatedDate = self.createdDate, let othersCreatedDate = otherUser.createdDate {
            //This line will compare both date with the order that has been passed.
            return == order
        return false

Now lets have an extension of Array for User. In simple words lets add some methods only for those Array's which only have User objects in it.

extension Array where Element: User {
    //This method only takes an order type. i.e ComparisonResult.orderedAscending
    func sortUserByDate(_ order: ComparisonResult) -> [User] {
        let sortedArray = self.sorted { (user1, user2) -> Bool in
            return user1.checkForOrder(user2, order)
        return sortedArray

Usage for Ascending Order

let sortedArray = someArray.sortUserByDate(.orderedAscending)

Usage for Descending Order

let sortedArray = someArray.sortUserByDate(.orderedAscending)

Usage for Same Order

let sortedArray = someArray.sortUserByDate(.orderedSame)

Above method in extension will only be accessible if the Array is of type [User] || Array<User>

I have created a small library of category methods, called Linq to ObjectiveC, that makes this sort of thing more easy. Using the sort method with a key selector, you can sort by birthDate as follows:

NSArray* sortedByBirthDate = [input sort:^id(id person) {
    return [person birthDate];

For NSMutableArray, use the sortUsingSelector method. It sorts it-place, without creating a new instance.

NSSortDescriptor *sortDescriptor;
sortDescriptor = [[[NSSortDescriptor alloc] initWithKey:@"birthDate" ascending:YES] autorelease];
NSArray *sortDescriptors = [NSArray arrayWithObject:sortDescriptor];
NSArray *sortedArray;
sortedArray = [drinkDetails sortedArrayUsingDescriptors:sortDescriptors];

Thanks, it's working fine...

Compare method

Either you implement a compare-method for your object:

- (NSComparisonResult)compare:(Person *)otherObject {
    return [self.birthDate compare:otherObject.birthDate];

NSArray *sortedArray = [drinkDetails sortedArrayUsingSelector:@selector(compare:)];

NSSortDescriptor (better)

or usually even better:

NSSortDescriptor *sortDescriptor;
sortDescriptor = [[NSSortDescriptor alloc] initWithKey:@"birthDate"
NSArray *sortedArray = [drinkDetails sortedArrayUsingDescriptors:@[sortDescriptor]];

You can easily sort by multiple keys by adding more than one to the array. Using custom comparator-methods is possible as well. Have a look at the documentation.

Blocks (shiny!)

There's also the possibility of sorting with a block since Mac OS X 10.6 and iOS 4:

NSArray *sortedArray;
sortedArray = [drinkDetails sortedArrayUsingComparator:^NSComparisonResult(id a, id b) {
    NSDate *first = [(Person*)a birthDate];
    NSDate *second = [(Person*)b birthDate];
    return [first compare:second];


The -compare: and block-based methods will be quite a bit faster, in general, than using NSSortDescriptor as the latter relies on KVC. The primary advantage of the NSSortDescriptor method is that it provides a way to define your sort order using data, rather than code, which makes it easy to e.g. set things up so users can sort an NSTableView by clicking on the header row.

Java 8 offers a new answer: convert the entries into a stream, and use the comparator combinators from Map.Entry:

Stream<Map.Entry<K,V>> sorted =

This will let you consume the entries sorted in ascending order of value. If you want descending value, simply reverse the comparator:

Stream<Map.Entry<K,V>> sorted =

If the values are not comparable, you can pass an explicit comparator:

Stream<Map.Entry<K,V>> sorted =

You can then proceed to use other stream operations to consume the data. For example, if you want the top 10 in a new map:

Map<K,V> topTen =
          Map.Entry::getKey, Map.Entry::getValue, (e1, e2) -> e1, LinkedHashMap::new));

Or print to System.out:


ios objective-c sorting cocoa-touch nsmutablearray