Objective-c – What’s the Best Way to Shuffle an NSMutableArray

cocoaobjective-cshuffle

If you have an NSMutableArray, how do you shuffle the elements randomly?

(I have my own answer for this, which is posted below, but I'm new to Cocoa and I'm interested to know if there is a better way.)


Update: As noted by @Mukesh, as of iOS 10+ and macOS 10.12+, there is an -[NSMutableArray shuffledArray] method that can be used to shuffle. See https://developer.apple.com/documentation/foundation/nsarray/1640855-shuffledarray?language=objc for details. (But note that this creates a new array, rather than shuffling the elements in place.)

Best Solution

I solved this by adding a category to NSMutableArray.

Edit: Removed unnecessary method thanks to answer by Ladd.

Edit: Changed (arc4random() % nElements) to arc4random_uniform(nElements) thanks to answer by Gregory Goltsov and comments by miho and blahdiblah

Edit: Loop improvement, thanks to comment by Ron

Edit: Added check that array is not empty, thanks to comment by Mahesh Agrawal

//  NSMutableArray_Shuffling.h

#if TARGET_OS_IPHONE
#import <UIKit/UIKit.h>
#else
#include <Cocoa/Cocoa.h>
#endif

// This category enhances NSMutableArray by providing
// methods to randomly shuffle the elements.
@interface NSMutableArray (Shuffling)
- (void)shuffle;
@end


//  NSMutableArray_Shuffling.m

#import "NSMutableArray_Shuffling.h"

@implementation NSMutableArray (Shuffling)

- (void)shuffle
{
    NSUInteger count = [self count];
    if (count <= 1) return;
    for (NSUInteger i = 0; i < count - 1; ++i) {
        NSInteger remainingCount = count - i;
        NSInteger exchangeIndex = i + arc4random_uniform((u_int32_t )remainingCount);
        [self exchangeObjectAtIndex:i withObjectAtIndex:exchangeIndex];
    }
}

@end