Application Kit

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Calendar, a macOS application using AppKit.

The Application Kit, usually called AppKit[1], is a graphical user interface toolkit for macOS. It comprises a collection of Objective-C classes and protocols that can be used to build an application for the Mac. These classes can also be used in Swift through its Objective-C bridge. Xcode has built-in functionality for developing a Cocoa application using AppKit, including the ability to visually design user interfaces with Interface Builder.

AppKit, along with Foundation and Core Data, is part of Cocoa. Accordingly, it relies heavily on patterns like reference types, delegation, notifications, target–action, and model–view–controller.

Most of the applications bundled with macOS—for example, the Finder, TextEdit, Calendar, and Preview–use AppKit to provide their user interface.

While AppKit is primarily associated with macOS, it was originally developed for use on NeXTSTEP[2] (and, later, OPENSTEP). As in Foundation, its classes and protocols still use the “NS” prefix as a result of this heritage. An open-source clone of AppKit is maintained as part of GNUstep for various other Unix-based OSes.

iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS use a framework called UIKit, which is derived from AppKit and uses many similar structures.


Of the more than 170 classes included in the Application Kit, the following classes form the core[3]:

  • NSApplication: a singleton object that represents the application as a whole and tracks its windows and other global state
  • NSWindow: an object representing a window on screen, it holds a hierarchy of views
  • NSView: an object representing a rectangular region; it may draw UI content of its own (using drawing engines like Quartz, Core Animation, and Metal), and it may also hold a subtree of other views
  • NSResponder: an object that can respond to events during the application's lifetime; NSApplication, NSWindow, and NSView are all subclasses of NSResponder
  • NSDocument: an object representing a document saved on disk that manages its display in a window
  • NSController: an abstract class implementing some functionality for a controller, mediating between views and model objects

See also[edit]