#ifdef replacement in the Swift language

i0S Swift Issue

Question or problem with Swift language programming:

In C/C++/Objective C you can define a macro using compiler preprocessors.
Moreover, you can include/exclude some parts of code using compiler preprocessors.

#ifdef DEBUG
    // Debug-only code

Is there a similar solution in Swift?

How to solve the problem:

Solution 1:

Yes you can do it.

In Swift you can still use the “#if/#else/#endif” preprocessor macros (although more constrained), as per Apple docs. Here’s an example:

    let a = 2
    let a = 3

Now, you must set the “DEBUG” symbol elsewhere, though. Set it in the “Swift Compiler – Custom Flags” section, “Other Swift Flags” line. You add the DEBUG symbol with the -D DEBUG entry.

As usual, you can set a different value when in Debug or when in Release.

I tested it in real code and it works; it doesn’t seem to be recognized in a playground though.

You can read my original post here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: -DDEBUG=1 doesn’t work. Only -D DEBUG works. Seems compiler is ignoring a flag with a specific value.

Solution 2:

As stated in Apple Docs

The Swift compiler does not include a preprocessor. Instead, it takes advantage of compile-time attributes, build configurations, and language features to accomplish the same functionality. For this reason, preprocessor directives are not imported in Swift.

I’ve managed to achieve what I wanted by using custom Build Configurations:

  1. Go to your project / select your target / Build Settings / search for Custom Flags
  2. For your chosen target set your custom flag using -D prefix (without white spaces), for both Debug and Release
  3. Do above steps for every target you have

Here’s how you check for target:

#if BANANA print("We have a banana") #elseif MELONA print("Melona") #else print("Kiwi") #endif 

enter image description here

Tested using Swift 2.2

Solution 3:

In many situations, you don’t really need conditional compilation; you just need conditional behavior that you can switch on and off. For that, you can use an environment variable. This has the huge advantage that you don’t actually have to recompile.

You can set the environment variable, and easily switch it on or off, in the scheme editor:

enter image description here

You can retrieve the environment variable with NSProcessInfo:

    let dic = NSProcessInfo.processInfo().environment
    if dic["TRIPLE"] != nil {
        // ... do secret stuff here ...

Here’s a real-life example. My app runs only on the device, because it uses the music library, which doesn’t exist on the Simulator. How, then, to take screen shots on the Simulator for devices I don’t own? Without those screen shots, I can’t submit to the AppStore.

I need fake data and a different way of processing it. I have two environment variables: one which, when switched on, tells the app to generate the fake data from the real data while running on my device; the other which, when switched on, uses the fake data (not the missing music library) while running on the Simulator. Switching each of those special modes on / off is easy thanks to environment variable checkboxes in the Scheme editor. And the bonus is that I can’t accidentally use them in my App Store build, because archiving has no environment variables.

Solution 4:

A major change of ifdef replacement came up with Xcode 8. i.e use of Active Compilation Conditions.

Refer to Building and Linking in Xcode 8 Release note.

New build settings


“Active Compilation Conditions” is a new build setting for passing conditional compilation flags to the Swift compiler.

Previously, we had to declare your conditional compilation flags under OTHER_SWIFT_FLAGS, remembering to prepend “-D” to the setting. For example, to conditionally compile with a MYFLAG value:

    // stuff 1
#elseif MYFLAG2
    // stuff 2
    // stuff 3

The value to add to the setting -DMYFLAG

Now we only need to pass the value MYFLAG to the new setting. Time to move all those conditional compilation values!

Please refer to below link for more Swift Build Settings feature in Xcode 8:

Solution 5:

As of Swift 4.1, if all you need is just check whether the code is built with debug or release configuration, you may use the built-in functions:

  • _isDebugAssertConfiguration() (true when optimization is set to -Onone)
  • _isReleaseAssertConfiguration() (true when optimization is set to -O) (not available on Swift 3+)
  • _isFastAssertConfiguration() (true when optimization is set to -Ounchecked)


func obtain() -> AbstractThing {
    if _isDebugAssertConfiguration() {
        return DecoratedThingWithDebugInformation(Thing())
    } else {
        return Thing()

Compared with preprocessor macros,

  • ✓ You don’t need to define a custom -D DEBUG flag to use it
  • ~ It is actually defined in terms of optimization settings, not Xcode build configuration
  • ✗ Undocumented, which means the function can be removed in any update (but it should be AppStore-safe since the optimizer will turn these into constants)

    • these once removed, but brought back to public to lack of @testable attribute, fate uncertain on future Swift.
  • ✗ Using in if/else will always generate a “Will never be executed” warning.

Hope this helps!