iOS Swift- Auto Layout

What is AutoLayout in iOS Swift ?

In Apple iOS Swift, Auto Layout dynamically calculates the size and position of all the views in your view hierarchy, based on constraints placed on those views. For example, you can constrain a button so that it is horizontally centered with an Image view and so that the button’s top edge always remains 8 points below the image’s bottom. If the image view’s size or position changes, the button’s position automatically adjusts to match.

Two Types of AutoLayout

1. Without Constraints

2. With Constraints

1. Without Constraints : –

Stack views provide an easy way to leverage the power of Auto Layout without introducing the complexity of constraints. A single stack view defines a row or column of user interface elements. The stack view arranges these elements based on its properties.

Axis : (UIStackView only) defines the stack view’s orientation, either vertical or horizontal.

orientation : (NSStackView only) defines the stack view’s orientation, either vertical or horizontal.

distribution : defines the layout of the views along the axis.

alignment : defines the layout of the views perpendicular to the stack view’s axis.

spacing : defines the space between adjacent views.

To use a stack view, in Interface Builder drag either a vertical or horizontal stack view onto the canvas. Then drag out the content and drop it into the stack.

If an object has an intrinsic content size, it appears in the stack at that size. If it does not have an intrinsic content size, Interface Builder provides a default size. You can resize the object, and Interface Builder adds constraints to maintain its size.

To further fine-tune the layout, you can modify the stack view’s properties using the Attributes inspector. For example, the following example uses an 8-point spacing and a Fills Equally distribution.

2. With Constraints : –

There are three main options for setting up Auto Layout constraints in Interface Builder: You can control-drag between views, you can use the Pin and Align tools, and you can let Interface Builder set up the constraints for you and then edit or modify the results. Each of these approaches has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Most developers find that they prefer one approach over the others; however, being familiar with all three approaches lets you quickly switch between tools based on the task at hand.

Interface Builder provides four Auto Layout tools in the bottom-right corner of the Editor window. These are the Stack, Align, Pin, and Resolve Auto Layout Issues tools.

Using the Tools

1. Stack

2. Align

3. Pin

4. Resolve


Use the Pin and Align tools when you want fine control when making constraints or when you want to make multiple constraints at once. As an added advantage, when you use these tools, you don’t need to precisely place your views before creating the constraint. Instead, you can roughly set the relative position of the views, add your constraints, and then update the frames. This lets Auto Layout calculate the correct positions for you

1. Stack Tool

The Stack tool allows you to quickly create a stack view. Select one or more items in your layout, and then click on the Stack tool. Interface Builder embeds the selected items in a stack view and resizes the stack to its current fitting size based on its contents.

2. Align Tool

The Align tool lets you quickly align items in your layout. Select the items you want to align, and then click the Align tool. Interface Builder presents a popover view containing a number of possible alignments.

Select the options for aligning the selected views, and click the Add Constraints button. Interface Builder creates the constraints needed to ensure those alignments. By default, the constraints do not have any offset (the edges or centers are aligned with each other) and none of the frames are updated when the constraints are added. You can change any of these settings before creating the constraints.

You typically select two or more views before using the Align tool. However, the Horizontally in Container or Vertically in Container constraints can be added to a single view. You can use the popover to create any number of constraints at once—though it rarely makes sense to create more than one or two at a time.


3. Pin Tool

The Pin tool lets you quickly define a view’s position relative to its neighbors or quickly define its size. Select the item whose position or size you want to pin, and click the Pin tool. Interface Builder presents a popover view containing a number of options.

The top portion of the popover lets you pin the selected item’s Leading, Top, Trailing, or Bottom edge to its nearest neighbor. The associated number indicates the current spacing between the items in the canvas. You can type in a custom spacing, or you can click the disclosure triangle to set which view it should be constrained to or to select the standard spacing. The “Constrain to margins” checkbox determines whether constraints to the super view use the superview’s margins or its edges.

The lower portion of the popover lets you set the item’s width or height. The Width and Height constraints default to the current canvas size, though you can type in different values. The Aspect Ratio constraint also uses the item’s current aspect ratio; however, if you want to change this ratio, you need to review and edit the constraint after creating it.

Typically, you select a single view to pin; however, you can select two or more views and give them equal widths or equal heights. You can also create multiple constraints at once, or you can update the frames as you add the constraints. After you’ve set the options you want, click the Add Constraints button to create your constraints.


4. Resolve Auto Layout Issues Tool

The Resolve Auto Layout Issues tool provides a number of options for fixing common Auto Layout issues. The options in the upper half of the menu affect only the currently selected views. The options in the bottom half affect all views in the scene.

You can use this tool to update the views’ frames based on the current constraints, or you can update the constraints based on the views’ current location in the canvas. You can also add missing constraints, clear constraints, or reset the views to a set of constraints recommended by Interface Builder.

The commands to add or reset constraints are discussed in greater detail in Letting Interface Builder Create Constraints.


Viewing Constraints in the Canvas : –

The editor displays all the constraints affecting the currently selected view as coloured lines on the canvas. The shape, stroke type, and line color can tell you a lot about the current state of the constraint.

I-bars (lines with T-shaped end-caps). I-bars show the size of a space. This space can be either the distance between two items, or the height or width of an item.

Plain lines (straight lines with no end-caps). Plain lines show where edges align. For example, Interface Builder uses simple lines when aligning the leading edge of two or more views. These lines can also be used to connect items that have a 0-point space between them.

Solid Lines. Solid lines represent required constraints (priority = 1000).

Dashed Lines. Dashed lines represent optional constraints (priority < 1000).

Red Lines. One of the items affected by this constraint has an error. Either the item has an ambiguous layout, or its layout is not satisfiable. For more information, see the issues navigator or the disclosure arrow in Interface Builder’s outline view.

Orange Lines. Orange lines indicate that the frame of one of the items affected by this constraint is not in the correct position based on the current set of constraints. Interface Builder also shows the calculated position for the frame as a dashed outline. You can move the item to its calculated position using the Resolve Auto Layout Issues tool > Update Frames command.

Blue Lines. The items affected by the constraint have a non-ambiguous, satisfiable layout, and the item’s frame is in the correct position as calculated by the Auto Layout engine.

Equal Badges. Interface Builder shows constraints that give two items an equal width or an equal height as a separate bar for each item. Both bars are tagged with a blue badge containing an equal (=) sign inside.

Greater-than-or-equal and less-than-or-equal badges. Interface Builder marks all constraints representing greater-than-or-equal-to and less-than-or-equal-to relationships with a small blue badge with a >= or <= symbol inside.

Horizontal constraints. For most controls, use a zero-point constraint to the layout margins. The system automatically provides the correct spacing based on what the device is and how the app presents the view controller. For text objects that fill the root view from margin to margin, use the readable content guides instead of the layout margins. For items that need to fill the root view from edge to edge (for example, background images), use the view’s leading and trailing edges.

Vertical constraints. If the view extends under the bars, use the top and bottom margins. This is particularly common for scroll views, allowing the content to scroll under the bars. Note, however, that you may need to modify the scroll view’s content inset and scrollIndicatorInsets properties to correctly set the content’s initial position. If the view does not extend under the bars, constrain the view to the top and bottom layout guides instead.

Finding Constraints in the Size Inspector : –

The Size inspector lists all the constraints affecting the currently selected view. Required constraints appear with a solid outline, and optional constraints appear with a dashed outline. The description lists important information about the constraint. It always includes the affected attribute and the other item in the constraint. It may also include the relationship, the constant value, and the multiplier or ratio.


Examining and Editing Constraints : –

When you select a constraint either in the canvas or in the document outline, the Attribute inspector shows all of the constraint’s attributes. This includes all the values from the constraint equation: the first item, the relation, the second item, the constant, and the multiplier. The Attribute inspector also shows the constraint’s priority and its identifier.


When you select a constraint either in the canvas or in the document outline, the Attribute inspector shows all of the constraint’s attributes. This includes all the values from the constraint equation: the first item, the relation, the second item, the constant, and the multiplier. The Attribute inspector also shows the constraint’s priority and its identifier.

You can also mark the constraint as a placeholder. These constraints exist only at design time. They are not included in the layout when the app runs. You typically add placeholder constraints when you plan to dynamically add constraints at runtime. By temporarily adding the constraints needed to create a non-ambiguous, satisfiable layout, you clear out any warnings or errors in Interface Builder.

You can freely modify the Constant, Priority, Multiplier, Relation, Identifier, and Placeholder attributes. For the first and second item, however, your options are more limited. You can swap the first and second item (inverting the multiplier and constant, as needed). You can also change the item’s attribute, but you cannot change the item itself. If you need to move the constraint to a completely different item, delete the constraint and replace it with a new constraint.