Integration of UIKit into SwiftUI

You have already seen how UIHostingController can be used to integrate SwiftUI Views into UIKit. But how does it work the other way round — how can views or view controllers from the UIKit world be integrated into SwiftUI? Why is this even necessary? In the previous part of the series, we dealt with a modal view controller that dismisses itself and has no connection to other view controllers. But it is also possible to migrate a view controller that is located in the middle or at the beginning of a navigation sequence. Depending on the architecture used, you might want to link to a UIKit view controller from within SwiftUI to navigate to it. Another reason might be that you want to insert a view controller or a view from the UIKit world into a SwiftUI view. Since SwiftUI is a very recent framework, not all UI controls available in UIKit are available in SwiftUI yet. For example, there is no alternative to UIActivityViewController which can be used for example to share content from an app.

The solution to this problem is the UIViewRepresentable and UIViewControllerRepresentable protocols provided by SwiftUI. With these protocols, UIKit views and view controller can be made SwiftUI compatible. When migrating the Image Recognition Playground app, the next step is to migrate the CategoryViewController. This view controller displays all images that are assigned to a certain category of a data set (e.g. all hot dog images). As shown in the storyboard below (bottom, second to last view controller), there are two navigation paths from the CategoryViewController to other view controllers. One of these is the CameraViewController used to take photos of objects to extend the existing data set. Because this one should be migrated at a later point, its UIKit version should be used for the time being.

Storyboard of the Image Recognition Playground app before the migration
Storyboard of the Image Recognition Playground app before the migration

So, to be able to link to the CameraViewController from SwiftUI we use the UIViewControllerRepresentable protocol. First, we create a new view CameraView which meets the requirements of the protocol by implementing the methods makeUIViewController(context:) and updateUIViewController(_:context:). The former is used to initialize the view controller and the latter to update it when a state in SwiftUI changes.

Whenever a new photo is shot, the CameraViewController calls the onPictureTaken(image:) method of the CameraViewControllerDelegate protocol. To pass the new photos to a SwiftUI view we have to implement a Coordinator which fulfils the requirements of the CameraViewControllerDelegate protocol and initialize it in the makeCoordinator() method of the UIViewControllerRepresentable protocol. The CameraView is then provided with a property handleTakenPicture of the type (UIImage) -> Void, i.e. a function which receives a UIImage. Every time the coordinator is informed about a newly taken photo via the onPictureTaken(image:) method, it calls the handleTakenPicture method and thus forwards the image.

import SwiftUI

typealias TakenPictureHandler = (UIImage) -> Void

struct CameraView: UIViewControllerRepresentable {
    var handleTakenPicture: TakenPictureHandler
    
    func makeUIViewController(context: Context) -> CameraViewController {
        let storyboard = UIStoryboard(name: "Main", bundle: nil)
        guard let cameraVC = storyboard.instantiateViewController(
          identifier: "CameraVC") as? CameraViewController else {
            fatalError("\(#function) Can't load CameraViewController")
        }
        cameraVC.delegate = context.coordinator
        return cameraVC
    }
    
    func updateUIViewController(_ uiViewController: CameraViewController,
                                context: Context) {}
    
    func makeCoordinator() -> Coordinator {
        Coordinator(handleTakenPicture: handleTakenPicture)
    }
    
    class Coordinator: NSObject, CameraViewControllerDelegate,
                       UINavigationControllerDelegate {
        var handleTakenPicture: TakenPictureHandler
        
        init(handleTakenPicture: @escaping TakenPictureHandler) {
            self.handleTakenPicture = handleTakenPicture
        }
        
        func onPictureTaken(image: UIImage) {
            handleTakenPicture(image)
        }
    }
}
CameraView (SwiftUI) based on the CameraViewController (UIKit)

When migrating the CategoryViewController to a SwiftUI version, we can now add a button in the form of a NavigationLink, which navigates to the CameraView, which in turn represents the CameraViewController. While initializing the CameraView, we can pass the handleTakenPicture method. In our case, this method forwards the image to a view model.

NavigationLink(destination: CameraView() { image in
    DispatchQueue.main.async {
        self.manager.add(image)
    }
}) {
    Image(systemName: "camera")
    // ...
}
Navigation to CameraView using NavigationLink
ObjectCategoryView (SwiftUI) CameraView (SwiftUI) consisting of CameraViewController (UIKit)
left: ObjectCategoryView (SwiftUI)
right: CameraView (SwiftUI) consisting of CameraViewController (UIKit)

Migration of the Entry Point and Navigation Controller

At a certain point in the migration process, the situation will arise where the initial view controller should be migrated. For this purpose, the entry point of the app has to be adapted. The same applies if the used NavigationController (UIKit) should be migrated to a NavigationView (SwiftUI).

The entry point is determined by the app lifecycle management. In the previous two iOS/iPadOS versions changes have been made to this mechanism. On iOS/iPadOS 12 the lifecycle was monitored via the AppDelegate. With version 13 (where SwiftUI was introduced) the SceneDelegate was established in addition to the AppDelegate to allow launching multiple windows of an app. However, SceneDelegate is still a solution from the UIKit world. With iOS 14 a new SwiftUI-based app lifecycle management was introduced, so that SceneDelegate and AppDelegate are no longer mandatory. The disadvantage of this is that on the one hand, it does not yet offer all the features of the SceneDelegate and AppDelegate solution and on the other hand, the deployment target has to be increased to iOS/iPadOS 14.

Because iOS/iPadOS 14 was released only recently when starting this series of blog posts, we use the solution compatible with version 13 of the operating systems. However, the following shows how to migrate the entry point of a project created before version 13 — i.e. one that is not yet equipped with SceneDelegate lifecycle management. First of all, the initial view controller is made SwiftUI compatible using UIViewControllerRepresentable as described in the previous post of the series. In the case of the Image Recognition Playground app, the DataSetLibraryViewController is the initial view controller. If the corresponding view controller has already been migrated to a SwiftUI view, you can proceed directly to the next step.

import SwiftUI

struct DataSetLibraryView: UIViewControllerRepresentable {

    func makeUIViewController(context: Context) -> DataSetLibraryViewController {
        let storyboard = UIStoryboard(name: "Main", bundle: nil)
        guard let dataSetLibraryVC = storyboard.instantiateViewController(
          identifier: "DataSetLibraryVC") as? DataSetLibraryViewController else {
            fatalError("\(#function) Can't load DataSetLibraryViewController")
        }
        return dataSetLibraryVC
    }
    
    func updateUIViewController(_ uiViewController: DataSetLibraryViewController,
                                context: Context) {}
}
DataSetLibraryView (SwiftUI) based on the DataSetLibraryViewController (UIKit)

Next, we create the MainView containing a NavigationView in which the initial view will be embedded.

import SwiftUI

struct MainView: View {
    var body: some View {
        NavigationView {
            DataSetLibraryView()
        }
    }
}
MainView containing NavigationView and DataSetLibraryView

Now we just have to make sure that we do not load the initial view controller either from the storyboard or programmatically, but the previously implemented MainView. For this purpose, we extend the existing AppDelegate class with the following two methods:

// MARK: UISceneSession Lifecycle

func application(_ application: UIApplication,
                 configurationForConnecting connectingSceneSession: UISceneSession,
                 options: UIScene.ConnectionOptions) -> UISceneConfiguration {
    // Called when a new scene session is being created.
    // Use this method to select a configuration to create the new scene with.
    return UISceneConfiguration(name: "Default Configuration",
                                sessionRole: connectingSceneSession.role)
}

func application(_ application: UIApplication,
                 didDiscardSceneSessions sceneSessions: Set<UISceneSession>) {
    // Called when the user discards a scene session.
    // If any sessions were discarded while the application was not running,
    // this will be called shortly after application:didFinishLaunchingWithOptions.
    // Use this method to release any resources that were specific
    // to the discarded scenes, as they will not return.
}
UISceneSession Lifecycle Methods in AppDelegate

Then we create a file SceneDelegate.swift with the following content:

import SwiftUI

class SceneDelegate: UIResponder, UIWindowSceneDelegate {

    var window: UIWindow?


    func scene(_ scene: UIScene,
               willConnectTo session: UISceneSession,
               options connectionOptions: UIScene.ConnectionOptions) {
        // Use this method to optionally configure and attach
        // the UIWindow `window` to the provided UIWindowScene `scene`.
        // If using a storyboard, the `window` property will
        // automatically be initialized and attached to the scene.
        // This delegate does not imply the connecting scene or session
        // are new (see `application:configurationForConnectingSceneSession` instead).

        // Create the SwiftUI view that provides the window contents.
        let mainView = MainView()

        // Use a UIHostingController as window root view controller.
        if let windowScene = scene as? UIWindowScene {
            let window = UIWindow(windowScene: windowScene)
            window.rootViewController = UIHostingController(rootView: mainView)
            self.window = window
            window.makeKeyAndVisible()
        }
    }

    func sceneDidDisconnect(_ scene: UIScene) {
        // Called as the scene is being released by the system.
        // This occurs shortly after the scene enters the background,
        // or when its session is discarded.
        // Release any resources associated with this scene
        // that can be re-created the next time the scene connects.
        // The scene may re-connect later, as its session was not
        // neccessarily discarded (see `application:didDiscardSceneSessions` instead).
    }

    func sceneDidBecomeActive(_ scene: UIScene) {
        // Called when the scene has moved from an inactive state to an active state.
        // Use this method to restart any tasks that were paused
        // (or not yet started) when the scene was inactive.
    }

    func sceneWillResignActive(_ scene: UIScene) {
        // Called when the scene will move from an active state to an inactive state.
        // This may occur due to temporary interruptions (ex. an incoming phone call).
    }

    func sceneWillEnterForeground(_ scene: UIScene) {
        // Called as the scene transitions from the background to the foreground.
        // Use this method to undo the changes made on entering the background.
    }

    func sceneDidEnterBackground(_ scene: UIScene) {
        // Called as the scene transitions from the foreground to the background.
        // Use this method to save data, release shared resources,
        // and store enough scene-specific state information
        // to restore the scene back to its current state.
    }
}
UISceneDelegate Lifecycle Methods in SceneDelegate

As you can see in the code, the MainView is embedded in an UIKit HostingController to make it UIKit compatible. This is necessary because, as mentioned in the beginning, the AppDelegate and SceneDelegate lifecycle management comes from the UIKit world and expects a view controller. As the last step, the Info.plist of the app has to be adjusted. Therefore, we open the file as source code in Xcode: Right-click on Info.plist in the Project Navigator > “Open As” > “Source Code”. After inserting the following code, the app should now load the MainView on start.


<key>UIApplicationSceneManifest</key>
<dict>
<key>UIApplicationSupportsMultipleScenes</key>
<false/>
<key>UISceneConfigurations</key>
<dict>
    <key>UIWindowSceneSessionRoleApplication</key>
    <array>
        <dict>
            <key>UISceneConfigurationName</key>
            <string>Default Configuration</string>
            <key>UISceneDelegateClassName</key>
            <string>$(PRODUCT_MODULE_NAME).SceneDelegate</string>
        </dict>
    </array>
</dict>
</dict>
UIApplicationSceneManifest addition in Info.plist
Open Info.plist as Source Code
Open Info.plist as Source Code

If unexpected behavior occurs, it can be helpful to delete the app on the test device or simulator and reinstall it. Another option is to delete the contents of the DerivedData folder. The corresponding path can be found in the Xcode settings (“Xcode” > “Preferences” > “Locations”).

Determination of the DerivedData location
Determination of the DerivedData location

Further Information

In this blog post series, we presented the tools and settings needed to migrate an app from UIKit to SwiftUI. To quickly get started with SwiftUI, Apple offers some resources. For example, there are written step-by-step instructions with code examples or video tutorials of the Worldwide Developer Conference. To begin with, you can use the Talk »Introduction to SwiftUI«. Further videos deal e.g. with this year’s innovations in SwiftUI as well as with the new SwiftUI-based App Lifecycle Management mentioned in this blog post.