5 helpful UIKit features in the iOS 5 SDK

There are so many new features in the iOS 5 SDK that it is sometimes hard to keep up. This article covers some of the most helpful additions to the UIKit framework that will prove very useful for your app.

1. Custom Appearance for UIKit Controls

Every developer sighed relief when he or she saw this feature. It essentially gives the developer more control over the look and feel of their app without having to spend tremendous countless hours reinventing the wheel. Customizing the appearance of UIKit views and controls has become a lot easier with the UIAppearance protocol

Almost every control in UIKit now has a tint color which means you can match the color scheme of your app to the color palette provided by a designer. In addition, you can set the tint color, background image, and title position properties (among others) on a wide variety of objects, including toolbars, navigation bars, search bars, buttons, sliders, and some other controls.

The UIAppearance protocol serves as a proxy to modify the default appearance of visual objects. And if you are building visual components yourself then you can use the appearance protocol to provide the ability to modify the look and feel of your controls.

Here is a screenshot showing the capabilities of this new protocol.

iOS Appearance Protocol

2. Container View Controller

A lot of times you want to build a view controller that contains and manages a lot of other view controllers. UINavigationController and UITabBarController classes are examples of container view controllers provided by UIKit. But what happens when you want to write one of your own? Well then you have to do a lot of heavy lifting yourself. Well, not anymore, in iOS 5 a custom UIViewController can also act as a container view controller.

Take the latest Instapaper 4 iPad version as an example. This is a great example of a container view. The left bar contains a persistent navigation that manages the child controllers displayed on the right (not sure if this how it was designed but it makes the case for it).

Instapaper 4

3. iBooks style page turner

If you ever wanted to build a book, magazine or newspaper app then you will love this controller. It brings you page turn animation between view controllers. Not only that, the animation can be produced programmatically or along with user controlled gestures. Basically, the animation follows the user’s finger during a navigation gesture. This was a complex task before this controller came along so it is a great addition to iOS 5.

iBooks page turn effect

4. Storyboarding

Storyboarding is a great way to envision a product while planning it and before you spend too much time writing code. A lot of times its hard to tell if the user flow for a new app feels right by just looking at the mockups. Some user experience issues don’t come until it’s too late. Over the years a lot of prototyping tools tried to solve this problem but none ever solved the problem. Essentially you want to build the look and feel of an app with minimal effort, therefore, Storyboarding was introduced in iOS 5 and Xcode 4.2

Storyboarding allows you to graphically arrange all your views within a single design canvas, where you can then define the app’s logical flow, and even assign transition animations. You don’t need to wait for your next project but can convert an existing project to use Storyboarding.

Storyboarding

5. Accessibility

VoiceOver is a feature available to help people with visual impairments use their iOS-based devices and has been around since 3.0. With the latest release not only have they made several improvements to the UIAccessibility protocol but they have added a new protocol UIAccessibilityReadingContent which enables your app to provide a continuous, page-turning reading experience.

Accessibility Reading Content

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