UITableView and its UITableViewDataSource

iOS 7 screen shots:

iOS 6 screen shots:

Source code in States.zip

  1. main.m
  2. Class StatesAppDelegate
  3. Class TableViewController
  4. Alaska.jpg

Create the project

Select the States folder in the Xcode Project Navigator.
File → New → File…
Chose a template for your new file:
Objective-C class
Choose options for your new file:
Class: TableViewController
Subclass of: UITableViewController
Don’t check iPad or XIB

To add Alaska.jpg to the project, drag the file to the Supporting Files folder in the Xcode Project Navigator.
Choose options for adding these files
Destination ☑ Copy items into destination group’s folder (if needed)

Apple’s documentation

The Settings app has lots of examples of table views.

  1. Table View Programming Guide for iOS
  2. Table View in the iOS Human Interface Guidelines
  3. Classes UITableView, UITableViewController, and UITableViewCell
  4. Protocols UITableViewDataSource and UITableViewDelegate

The table view

A table view is made of cells (rows) called UITableViewCells. Each cell contains two UILabels called the textLabel (the title) and the detailtextLabel (the subtitle). A table view can scroll because it is derived from class UIScrollView; see the initWithStyle: method of class TableViewController. Our table view was created by its view controller, and the tableView property of the view controller points to the table view.

Unofficial measurements

By default, each cell is 44 pixels (or pixel pairs) high: 43 pixels of white space, plus a one-pixel hairline. By default, the font of the textLabel of the cell is [UIFont boldSystemFontOfSize: 20]. These defaults are not in the documentation, and are not guaranteed by Apple. I measured them so you could anticipate how many lines will fit on the screen, and make the rest of your app consistent with the table view.

Data source, delegate, and view controller

A UITableView requires a UITableViewDataSource and a TableViewDelegate, just like the UIPickerView we saw here requires a UIPickerViewDataSource and a UIPickerViewDelegate. The data source and the delegate of the table view will usually be the table view’s view controller. A table view’s view controller has to be a special type of view controller called a UITableViewController. Class UITableViewController already adopts the protocols UITableViewDataSource and TableViewDelegate.

The most important method we give to a view controller is usually loadView, which creates the view controller’s view. But we don’t have to write any loadView for a UITableViewController. The UITableViewController is hardwired to always create a UITableView. Similarly, we do not have to set the dataSource and delegate properties of a table view created by a table view controller. These properties already point to the table view controller.

To sum up, the table view controller object plays three rôles: it’s the view controller, data source, and delegate.

The data source

Every table view needs a data source object. For our table view, the data source will be the view controller. For other apps the data source will be a separate object, often referred to as the “model” when we talk in terms of Model-View-Controller.

The table view calls the following three required methods of the data source.

  1. numberOfSectionsInTableView: returns 1 in this app
  2. tableView:numberOfRowsInSection: returns 50 in this app
  3. tableView:cellForRowAtIndexPath: returns a UITableViewCell, preferably recycled. See the cellReuseIdentifier instance variable of the TableViewController.

The arguments and return values of the data source methods are NSIntegers, agreeing with the section and row properties of an NSIndexPath.

The delegate

A table view delegate is needed only if we want to make the cells do more than turn blue in response to a touch.

Things to try

  1. In the initWithStyle: method of the ViewController, change some of the default properties of the table view.

  2. Display the dimensions of a typical table view cell and the font of the cell’s textLabel. Insert the following code immediatelty before the return statement in tableView:cellForRowAtIndexPath:. Run the app and scroll down to Wyoming.
    	if ([cell.textLabel.text isEqualToString: @"Wyoming"]) {
    		NSLog(@"cell.frame == (%g, %g), %g × %g",
    		NSLog(@"font == %@ %g",
    2013-08-14 16:24:46.873 States[20641:c07] cell.frame == (0, 2156), 320 × 44
    2013-08-14 16:24:46.875 States[20641:c07] font == Helvetica-Bold 20

  3. Change the style of the cells from UITableViewCellStyleDefault to UITableViewCellStyleSubtitle. In tableView:cellForRowAtIndexPath:, change the call to dequeueReusableCellWithIdentifier: to the following.
    	UITableViewCell *cell =
    		[tableView dequeueReusableCellWithIdentifier: cellReuseIdentifier];
    	if (cell == nil) {
    		cell = [[UITableViewCell alloc] initWithStyle: UITableViewCellStyleSubtitle reuseIdentifier: cellReuseIdentifier];
    Also insert the following code immediatelty before the return statement in tableView:cellForRowAtIndexPath:.
    	cell.detailTextLabel.text = [NSString stringWithFormat:
    		@"%@ is state number %ld of %lu",
    		cell.textLabel.text, indexPath.row + 1, states.count];
    Try the other styles: UITableViewCellStyleValue1, etc.

  4. The delegate of our table view is the view controller. Give the delegate a tableView:didSelectRowAtIndexPath: method, called automatically when a cell is touched.
    - (void) tableView: (UITableView *) tableView
    	didSelectRowAtIndexPath: (NSIndexPath *) indexPath
    	UITableViewCell *cell = [tableView cellForRowAtIndexPath: indexPath];
    	cell.accessoryType = UITableViewCellAccessoryCheckmark;
    Better yet, toggle the checkmark instead of setting it.
    	UITableViewCell *cell = [tableView cellForRowAtIndexPath: indexPath];
    	if (cell.accessoryType == UITableViewCellAccessoryNone) {
    		cell.accessoryType = UITableViewCellAccessoryCheckmark;
    	} else {
    		cell.accessoryType = UITableViewCellAccessoryNone;
    A more cryptic way to say the above is
    	UITableViewCell *cell = [tableView cellForRowAtIndexPath: indexPath];
    	cell.accessoryType = cell.accessoryType == UITableViewCellAccessoryNone
    		? UITableViewCellAccessoryCheckmark
    		: UITableViewCellAccessoryNone;