Back to Basics: Simple UITableViews

Following up on my previous post in this series, I’m going to continue talking about beginner topics that I and many other developers take for granted. So for this entry in my “Back To Basics” series I’d like to talk about UITableViews, and how to simply and easily construct one without convoluted or confusing code.

This topic in particular is something I’ve struggled over in the past and never managed to find a clear example for how to get started. Certainly there’s a lot of examples to show how to construct a table view, how to create a datasource for it, and the basics for how to construct cells. But hardly anyone tells you how to easily and conveniently construct a menu of options without going down a maze of twisty passages.

So today I’ll show you how you can use simple “typedef” structures to describe and control a simple menu of options.

Continue reading “Back to Basics: Simple UITableViews”

Back To Basics: Positioning UIViews

These days I’ve been working on some fairly advanced iOS development techniques on my various projects: I’ve taught myself (badly) about Core Audio, I’m learning OpenGL, I’m developing a series of applications using Core Data, asynchronous parsing of JSON from a streaming HTTP connection, etc. It’s extremely fun and easy once you understand the basics.

What I tend to forget however is that you have to crawl before you can walk, and many people still struggle with some of the simpler techniques that I’ve learned that may not be so obvious, even when reading books or tutorials on Objective-C programming.

Since my previous series of articles on Core Animation (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) were so well received, I thought I’d do another series of articles titled “Back To Basics”.

So without further ado, I give you the first part in my series: Positioning UIViews.

Continue reading “Back To Basics: Positioning UIViews”

Smarter and More Reusable Core Data

Like most developers, I look to Apple’s default application templates to get up-to-speed on what would appear as being the Right Way™ of developing apps on iOS. In practice however what you need to realize is Apple’s templates are meant to be the easiest introduction to a set of tools that can be fairly complicated for beginners to understand.  Core Data is one of those areas. The problem is when you try to grow your application you’ve built on top of Apple’s sample template. You’ll experience some annoying growing pains, and will need to give your code a thorough washing and a fresh coat of wax to be able to mature your application.

In my code I’ve learned to share and reuse my classes with other applications I’m writing by encapsulating a lot of the boilerplate into reusable classes, as well as wrapping my whole Core Data model in a reusable static library. This wasn’t the most intuitive thing to get right, but now that it’s done it was really worth the effort. Let me show you how it’s done.

Continue reading “Smarter and More Reusable Core Data”

Building iOS apps for Over-The-Air AdHoc distribution

I’ve written about building iOS applications with Hudson Jenkins, but until recently there hasn’t been a convenient way of getting those applications to your testers. Of course the most important part of your build output will be the app bundle you send to Apple’s iTunes Connect web interface, but throughout your development cycle you’ll want to test your app.  Sure you could build and deploy a debug build straight to your own personal device, but you get the most benefit from having other people beta test your app.

With recent releases of Xcode and the iOS SDK, Apple improved their AdHoc distribution support with two main enhancements:

  1. Mobile provisioning files can now be embedded in the App’s IPA itself, meaning you don’t have to maintain and update separate .mobileprovision files separately;
  2. A specially-formated manifest Plist file can be created that, when linked to properly, allows test devices to install new versions of your AdHoc app without needing to plug into a computer to sync the app using iTunes.

These improvements are huge, but require some changes to your build scripts and your Continuous Integration environment.  I’d like to show you how to do this in your own installations, and show you some options for how to distribute your apps to your testers.

Continue reading “Building iOS apps for Over-The-Air AdHoc distribution”

Animating Interfaces with Core Animation: Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of posts I’m writing on animating iOS interfaces using Core Animation. In the first post I created a planetary orbit demo using nested CALayer objects. The second post showed how to dress up a UI by animating an image. The third post shows how you can trigger animations in response to button actions.

This post will show how you can create the beginnings of a full game using Core Animation combined with CAShapeLayer and UIBezierPath objects.

Read on to see more

Continue reading “Animating Interfaces with Core Animation: Part 4”

Animating Interfaces with Core Animation: Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts I’m writing on animating iOS interfaces using Core Animation. In the first post I created a planetary orbit demo using nested CALayer objects. The second post showed how to dress up a UI by animating an image.

This time I’ll show how you can trigger animations in response to button actions to illustrate to the user that an action is taking place.

Read on to see more

Continue reading “Animating Interfaces with Core Animation: Part 3”

Animating Interfaces with Core Animation: Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts I’m writing on animating iOS interfaces using Core Animation. In the previous post I created a planetary orbit demo using nested CALayer objects.

This time I’m going to show how you can dress up a UI by creating a simple effect using an image and Core Animation.

Read on to see more

Continue reading “Animating Interfaces with Core Animation: Part 2”

Animating Interfaces with Core Animation: Part 1

One of the greatest things about the iOS platform and applications people see on it is its beauty. Smooth gradients, consistent transitions, and animations that illustrate the transition of UI elements from one state to another. Animations are more than flashy eye-candy; they tell the user what’s happening. If an element is being deleted, instead of it simply disappearing it fades or slides out of view. Unlike traditional desktop or web applications where a “2 items deleted” statusbar message is necessary, these animations are in many cases enough.

Knowing where to start with animations can be a problem for developers though, because there’s many different steps involved. Instead of walking you through it fully here in the blog, I highly recommend you watch the WWDC 2010 videos on the topic. I truly mean it; anything I do here will simply be a rehash of that material, and I don’t see the point in reproducing perfectly good documentation unnecessarily.

  • WWDC 2010 Session 123 – Building Animation Driven Interfaces
  • WWDC 2010 Session 424 – Core Animation in Practice, Part 1
  • WWDC 2010 Session 425 – Core Animation in Practice, Part 2

Read on to see more

Continue reading “Animating Interfaces with Core Animation: Part 1”

iOS Development Link Roundup: Part 1

I’ve often been asked by people about where to start with iOS programming, whether they be co-workers, colleagues in the same line of work at other companies, or even total strangers who happen to see me happily working away on my personal projects in Xcode. Some rather naïve people assume that I learned from a book, still others even think I took a class to learn all of this! I can say definitively that it’s in my opinion that to be a great iOS developer, you just need to write apps, and lots of them. Experiment, try different things out, and more importantly, buy a few really good iPad and iPhone apps so you can see for yourself the design patterns that make good apps, and those that make poor apps.

More than that however is knowing how to implement tiny techniques. It’s the tips to get you started on animations or laying out UITableViewControllers, or perhaps how to do that tiny bit of custom drawing you need. It’s also the libraries and 3rd-party modules that fill in the gaps in Apple’s SDK, such as handy progress indicator alert classes, or easy-to-use async HTTP libraries. Knowing a few key points can take you a long way toward building your first few apps, and in the process you’ll learn more than if you were to take a class.

I usually keep my bookmarks organized using, being one of their early adopters (back when their domain was Check my iPhone tag on Delicious to see my full list of links that I found bookmark-worthy. For a more decisive list that isn’t sorted chronologically, here’s my breakdown of some of the better sites to find information on iOS mobile development. Continue reading “iOS Development Link Roundup: Part 1”

Fun shadow effects using custom CALayer shadowPaths

Shadowed view using a rectangular shadowPath

I recently had to improve the performance of a few views that utilized CALayer-based shadows on rounded-rect UIView objects. On this particular iPad application, when the device was rotated, the views rotated quite a lot slower than we would have hoped. It wasn’t a show-stopper, but the jerky rotation animation made it look cheap and unpolished. The easiest way to have our cake, and eat it too, was to set a custom CGPath to the layer’s shadowPath property. This told UIKit to set the inside of the path to opaque, reducing the amount of work the rendering engine needed to perform.

// Add background tile
UIImage *bgImage = [UIImage imageNamed:@"embedded_bg.png"];
self.view.backgroundColor = [UIColor colorWithPatternImage:bgImage];

// Add the reference view
UIImage *image = [UIImage imageNamed:@"dccp.jpeg"];
UIImageView *imgView = [[UIImageView alloc] initWithImage:image];
[self.view addSubview:imgView]; =;

imgView.layer.shadowColor = [UIColor blackColor].CGColor;
imgView.layer.shadowOpacity = 0.7f;
imgView.layer.shadowOffset = CGSizeMake(10.0f, 10.0f);
imgView.layer.shadowRadius = 5.0f;
imgView.layer.masksToBounds = NO;

UIBezierPath *path = [UIBezierPath bezierPathWithRect:imgView.bounds];
imgView.layer.shadowPath = path.CGPath;

[imgView release];

The resulting image, as you can see above, has a shadow as you’d expect. But since we’ve declared the shape the path will have, the iPad can drastically improve its rendering performance.

Through that process however, I decided to see what sort of effects I could pull off by passing in a path other than the default rectangular bounds of the layer. Since you can create any sort of path you want, I considered the different effects I could get away with by making non-rectangular paths and using them as shadows. Continue reading “Fun shadow effects using custom CALayer shadowPaths”