Category Archives: iOS

Programmatic iOS UI Development

Say what?

That was my initial reaction a few years ago when seeing the UI for an iOS app developed entirely in code. I thought to myself what a crazy idea and clearly the person doing this just didn’t understand storyboards or the power of them and Auto Layout. I had envisioned this developer as some old developer clinging with all their might to the old ways.

Senior Resisting Talking about Retirement Home

As time passed I heard more mention of it from other developers and then I came across these great YouTube tutorials here where the developer did everything in code. The speed and ease that he operated with was amazing (almost hypnotizing). Maybe this whole programmatic UI had something to it?

So I started to play around with the idea and developed some gists that I could use to copy from and speed up my coding. As time progressed I noticed my skills and knowledge were improving an my UI development was actually happening faster.

To get you started in the process I am going to cover that simple app that everyone loves, a table view that displays some basic rows of information.

Create Project

Start off with creating a Single View Application:

With the project setup let’s do a quick review of it and all the items that were created in the process of setting it up.

If you notice in Main Interface the dropdown has selected an item called Main. This is from the Main.storyboard that was created when the project was being setup. Let’s go ahead and select that item and just delete it so that the dropdown is blank.

Now look at the different files that were created.

Just to make sure there is nothing sneaky going on select the Main.storyboard file and delete it and ow if you run the app you will get a big black screen.

Not very exciting right?

Right now you are getting a black screen because we have not setup a window for the application to run with. To fix that click on the AppDelegate.swift file and let’s edit the application method so that the window which is already a property of the class gets created.


    window = UIWindow()
    let viewController = ViewController()
    window?.rootViewController = viewController


So what’s happening?

The first two lines we added are to create a window that will contain the view(s) for our application. Then the next two lines are going to instantiate the View Controller that was created with our project and then set the windows root view controller as our view just created. Go ahead and run the application again.

Another blank black screen what gives?

What is happening now is that we have created our applications window and associated a view with it. However the default color for the background of a UIViewController is black which explains our current situation. Let’s solve that so that we have something somewhat interesting and normal to what we would get using a storyboard.

Click on the ViewController.swift file and add the following line of code to the viewDidLoad method.


    view.backgroundColor = .white


When you are done your viewDidLoad should look similar the following:


    override func viewDidLoad() {

        // Do any additional setup after loading the view.
        view.backgroundColor = .white

If you run the application now it should show you a blank view controller and look like a new application would if you were using storyboard.

Setup Table View

So blank views are great and all but lets add some content; for this demo I want to display a few rows of information in a table view. Our rows of information will be some static information and in future tutorials I will cover things like connecting to a RESTful service or using Core Data to make the information more dynamic.

The first change to be made is changing the current View Controller so that it displays a table view. With the ViewController still open in the editor lets change it’s inheritance.


class ViewController: UITableViewController {


If you run the application again you will notice that your blank view has changed slightly and it is displaying a collection of blank rows. Exciting right?

So let’s add some meat to our new Table View controller so that it displays some rows with information.

Register Cell for Rows

In order to display rows of information we will have to register at least one type of cell that we will want displayed. Since table views have the ability to display different sections as well header and footer rows they also give us the power to display different types of rows for each.

For this demo I am just going to register a classic UITableViewCell. In the viewDidLoad let’s make an update to it so it looks like the following:


    override func viewDidLoad() {

        // Do any additional setup after loading the view.
        view.backgroundColor = .white

        // register a cell type that will be displayed
        tableView.register(UITableViewCell.self, forCellReuseIdentifier: "cellId")


This change will make more sense as we make the changes to display each row with it’s own information being displayed.

Display Rows

With the inheritance of UITableViewController comes the requirement that we implement two required methods that come from the UITableViewDataSource protocol. The following method shows a basic implementation that sets the number of rows to be created and populated with data as five rows:


    override func tableView(_ tableView: UITableView, numberOfRowsInSection section: Int) -> Int {
        return 5;


For populating each row you have to implement the method that requests for you to create a cell for a row at a specified index. The following method shows a quick example of creating a row and populating it with some text:


    override func tableView(_ tableView: UITableView, cellForRowAt indexPath: IndexPath) -> UITableViewCell {
        let cell = tableView.dequeueReusableCell(withIdentifier: "cellId", for: indexPath) as! UITableViewCell
        cell.textLabel?.text = "some text"
        return cell


I remember many years ago when I started working with UITableViews I wondered what is that dequeReusableCell? So what’s happening here is that while you can specify your table has several hundred rows in it what’s actually going to happen is that only the rows being displayed will be created and as you scroll through your table view it will continually call this method allowing you to update each row based on the index (using indexPath) into your data source.

Where did that text label come from?

A UITableViewCell comes built in with an UIImageView named imageView and two UILabels named textLabel and detailTextLabel. The part that is cool about these controls is that the cell will orient itself based on the use of each control. For more detail review the Apple Documentation here that discusses configuring a cells content.

Data Source

We could leave the example as it is but instead lets tie to a very basic data source. In this situation we will create a member variable in the ViewController that is an array of strings and that can be used to populate the number of rows as well as information in each cell.


    var dataSource = ["Row One", "Row Two", "Row Three", "Row Four"]


Finally update the methods for returning the row count as well as a UITableViewCell for each row.


    override func tableView(_ tableView: UITableView, cellForRowAt indexPath: IndexPath) -> UITableViewCell {
        let cell = tableView.dequeueReusableCell(withIdentifier: "cellId", for: indexPath) as! UITableViewCell
        cell.textLabel?.text = dataSource[indexPath.row]
        return cell
    override func tableView(_ tableView: UITableView, numberOfRowsInSection section: Int) -> Int {
        return dataSource.count;


With all that in place you can build an run the application and assuming you are using a simulator you should see something similar to the following:


I will admit in the beginning I had some initial reservations about the idea of building my UI programmatically but I gave it a fair shake. As time progressed I found that while doing things programmatically I was actually gaining a better of how Auto Layout and how components were laid out and handled on the screen.

Am I going to totally abandon using storyboard? Probably not but honestly my first and most preferred approach has become developing my UI’s programmatically.

In future articles I will start detailing more about control layout. For now though I hope this was enough to get you started and thinking you want to see and learn more.

For now you can view the complete source here and as always Happy Coding!!!

Coming Back!!!

It has been a couple of years since I have last written and so much has happened in that time-frame. Some personal projects with friends and family as well as life changes.

Along the way I was able to further hone my skills as an iOS developer and self publish some more apps. During this time I expanded my knowledge and with a desire to always share my new found knowledge I would constantly think “hey I should write a blog article on this” yet the actions fell short. As more time passed I started to dismiss writing because I wasn’t sure how to start back up. Which brings me back to this post and something I have been thinking and praying about these past few weeks.

Part of me has been thinking that I should just delete all the previous articles or maybe event create a whole different site. Then I read through some of my previous posts and thought how could I delete these great memories? In short I couldn’t. =)

So in this past week I decided to leave everything in place but start writing my articles with an approach of going over some simple problems with new approaches I have picked up over these past couple of years. Some of it might repeat what I have done previously but with a different twist. I also plan to share some of my tricks and snipets that I use a lot.

I will try to reference sights where I gained knowledge for some of these articles. In case I miss it I would recommend viewing my Resources page because in it you will find all of my favorite sites for tools and also as a source of where I have gained much of my knowledge.

So keep watching as my goal is to write an article a week and maybe even expand this platform further.

Enjoy and as always Happy Coding!!!

Resolutions and Challenges

Well an old year has gone and new one is on its way.

Achievements of 2016

Each year, like everyone else, I make some resolutions and do my best to achieve each of them during the year. I can say that last years achievement I am most proud of was giving up soda and any other carbonated drinks. After a lifetime of drinking carbonated drinks this was harder to achieve than I expected it would be.

I can now say though that while eating at restaurants I really enjoy drinking water now and when I see my savings on the check it makes me feel a bit better.

At the same time I wanted to make sure that I didn’t replace carbonated drinks with high sugar drinks. Again a success and I found a new taste for a Green Tea.  Success!!

On the technical front last year was quiet and I decided to focus my time on getting more comfortable with my current knowledge set and just enjoy what I had.

Resolution for 2017

For my personal achievements I want to stop going out to eat as much as we normally do and instead eat at home more often. When I discussed this with my wife it caused some initial frustrations but I explained to her with the savings it will help achieve my other resolution for the next year. I would like for our family to take either a European vacation or something that allows us to travel to the east coast.

On the technical front I have the following planned:

  • Rewrite with a Swift and Vapor backend.
  • Complete the first phase of smart mirror project.
  • Update iOS apps with more features.
  • Start going to more programmer meetings again.
  • Do a presentation on Vapor and Server Side Swift.

As I complete or work on some of my resolutions for the new year I will write about them and share my experiences.

Until then Happy Coding!!!