Majid's Blog about Swift development

View composition in SwiftUI

SwiftUI is a declarative framework for building User Interfaces on Apple platforms. The keyword here is declarative. Declarative means that you need to declare what you want to achieve, and the framework takes care of it. Framework knows the best way to render the User Interface, which you declare.

View decomposition

Containers in SwiftUI has a nasty limitation for the count of children. It is limited to ten items. This restriction can sound ugly, but I think it is awesome. Let’s accept it as a rule. Whenever you reach this limitation, decompose your view into several views. Don’t be afraid to extract your complex views into small pieces and then compose them into a large view.

Sometimes to make that possible, we have to embed our views into additional layout containers like stacks. But don’t worry about additional containers, it won’t affect your rendering performance. SwiftUI is smart enough to understand the final result and optimize your layout to ignore unnecessary layout containers. Let’s take a look at the example of complex view decomposition.

struct SleepDetailsView : View {
    private var chartSection: some View {
        // return some view here
    }

    private var sleepSection: some View {
        // return some view here
    }

    private var phasesSection: some View {
        // return some view here
    }

    private var heartRateSection: some View {
        // return some view here
    }

    var body: some View {
        List {
            chartSection
            sleepSection
            phasesSection
            heartRateSection
        }
    }
}

In the example above, we extract our sections into the computed properties. It makes our codebase more clean, easy to follow, and still very fast because SwiftUI knows how to optimize your layout.

Groups

Group is another way to get around the restriction of ten child views and achieve view composition in SwiftUI. Group doesn’t have any layout logic like VStack/HStack/ZStack, and It is completely transparent. When you put Group inside a VStack, it behaves like VStack and arranges children in a vertical direction. In the case when Group embedded into HStack, it renders views horizontally.

It looks like SwiftUI has a Group component to get rid of that ten element limitation only. But it is not. Group component has unusual behavior. Any view modifier added to the Group component will apply to every child view separately. Let’s take a look at the sample to understand how it works.

import SwiftUI

struct ContentView: View {
    var body: some View {
        VStack {
            Group {
                Text("Hello")
                Text("World")
                Text("!!!")
            }
            .background(Color.yellow)
            .padding()
        }
    }
}

In this example, we add padding and background color to a group of text components. These modifiers won’t affect Group component itself. Instead, Group applies them to every text individually. It means every text inside Group will have a yellow background and padding. In other words, Group maps every child view with modifiers, which was applied to the Group.

ViewModifiers

ViewModifiers is a third form of view composition in SwiftUI. All these things which we use to modify our views like foreground color, padding, font, etc. are ViewModifiers. When you find yourself repeating the same code to alter your views, just introduce a ViewModifier for that and reuse it across your codebase. Here is a small example of extracting few modifiers into a single custom ViewModifier.

import SwiftUI

struct SubheadlineModifier: ViewModifier {
    func body(content: Content) -> some View {
        content
            .foregroundColor(.secondary)
            .font(.subheadline)
    }
}

Text("subhead")
    .modifier(SubheadlineModifier())

All the subheads in my apps use the same styling. That’s why I decide to extract it into a custom ViewModifier, which I can reuse across my codebase. To learn more about ViewModifiers, please check my “ViewModifiers in SwiftUI” post.

Conclusion

Today we learned three ways of view composition in SwiftUI. Composition allows us to build a highly reusable codebase that we can easily support and maintain. I hope you enjoy the post. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and ask your questions related to this post. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!