When to (not) use UIViewController::loadView

It is pretty confusing how one is supposed to use the loadView method. My initial understanding was “do not implement loadView if you have a nib file, do implement it to create your view controller’s view in code.” Fine. But what if you are writing a middle layer UIViewController subclass that programmatically constructs part of the view hierarchy? Where should you do so? The answer is the UIViewController::loadView documentation, so let’s study it line by line (more or less).

- (void)loadView

You should never call this method directly. The view controller calls this method when its view property is requested but is currently nil. This method loads or creates a view and assigns it to the view property.

So if you refer to [self view] early on you may trigger loadView if your view controller’s view property is still nil.

If the view controller has an associated nib file, this method loads the view from the nib file. […] If the view controller does not have an associated nib file, this method creates a plain UIView object instead.

This is key: loadView IS called even if your v.c. uses a nib file. We can infer that UIViewController’s implementation of loadView NEEDS to be reached since that’s the only place that can possibly do “load the view from the nib file.

If you use Interface Builder to create your views and initialize the view controller, you must not override this method. You can override this method in order to create your views manually. […] Your custom implementation of this method should not call super.

Ok, this makes sense: if your v.c. uses a nib, do not override loadView. However this has subtle ramifications. If you have a hierarchy of view controllers such asĀ AppVC : MyFrameworkVC : UIViewController, it follows that MyFrameworkVC must ALSO NOT override loadView. If it did, its custom implementation is required not to call [super loadView] which would imply that the [UIViewController loadView] logic (that parses the nib, see above) will not be invoked. And that would be wrong.

So this means that loadView is just meant to build the view hierarchy from scratch. Nothing else. It is an application-level method and should be extended once in application code only.


If you want to perform any additional initialization of your views, do so in the viewDidLoad method.

leaves it open to programmatically create new subviews in viewDidLoad, if needed, whether you’re using nibs or not.

Final corollary

All of this made me realize something perhaps obvious to many: Apple docs are targeted toward application coders, not much framework developers. That’s more likely their target audience. Once you make this realization (totally not obvious to me) the docs make more sense.


– if you’re writing framework code, never implement loadView. You can’t make the assumption your clients will use nibs or not. Do not choose for them: you’ll end up with clusterfucks like Three20, which does everything wrong (plenty of [super loadView] there). If you have some view initialization code that your subclasses might benefit from, put it in a new method, such as loadBaseView.

– if you’re writing application code and you use nibs, never implement loadView. Stick to viewDidLoad.

– if you’re writing application code and you do NOT use nibs, implement loadView and don’t call [super loadView]. Your loadView code should produce a functional and complete view hierarchy and assign the v.c. view property.


Localizing Nibs

Localizing Nib/Xib files is tedious and error prone. You want to reduce the manual edit to a minimum. (Basically, just the traslation.) Oversights and other weirdness may still happen though. This is the process I follow.

  1. Save Nib in en.lproj folder.
  2. In Xcode, select the Nib, open the Utilities pane and select the first tab (View > Utilities > File Inspector) and add a localization (e.g. Italian). Xcode will create a new file in the right location (it.lproj folder).
  3. From Terminal:
# extract all strings from original nib file
$ ibtool --generate-strings-file text.strings en.lproj/MyNib.xib 

# open file in Xcode, translate all the strings and save
$ open text.strings

# create a new nib exactly like the original but with the localized strings
$ ibtool --strings-file text.strings --write it.lproj/MyNib.xib en.lproj/MyNib.xib

Finally, Run the app. If the localized Nib is not displayed, it’s because iOS is holding a cache of the Nib file. Remove the app from the simulator or the device and reinstall it. Now it should show the new localized Nib.

How to view XML source in Mobile Safari

I see a lot of XML code at Goodreads while working on their iOS app, but some time ago I realized I didn’t have an easy way to see the XML source of a given API response on the iPad. Incidentally, when I realized that I was in bed, and the iPad was the only device within my reach.

So I found this script on ravelrumba.com which worked fine for HTML pages, but not so much with pure XML content.

Being not a JavaScript expert, it took me a while to make the script work on Mobile Safari, but the following fix seems to do its job. The trick was to replace the usage of document.documentElement.innerHTML with XMLSerializer:: serializeToString(), which serializes a XML tree to a string.

Here’s the whole thing. Just add it as a bookmarklet on your Mobile Safari bookmarks bar:

javascript:(function(){var a=window.open('about:blank').document;a.write('
Source of '+location.href+'');a.close();var b=a.body.appendChild(a.createElement('pre'));b.style.overflow='auto';b.style.whiteSpace='pre-wrap';b.appendChild(a.createTextNode((new XMLSerializer()).serializeToString(document.documentElement)))})();

iOS 4.2 update and the Base SDK Missing error

If after updating to iOS 4.2 SDK you get a “Base SDK Missing” error:

  1. open Project settings and choose “Latest iOS” under Base SDK for All Configurations
  2. open your target and make sure the settings applies to it (in case you overrode it)
  3. (yes, somehow the “Base SDK Missing” error seems to stick)
  4. shutdown Xcode and reopen.

The SDK now is set.

Updating your Apple Push Notification Service certificates

Just a quick checklist to get up to speed when your APN certificates expire.

  1. Login into the Provisioning Portal, click “App IDs” on the left side column
  2. Click “Configure” on the App ID of your app
  3. Click Revoke for the expired Push SSL certificate
  4. Open Keychain Access on your Mac. Click the “My Certificates”, find the expired cert and just delete it.
  5. From the Provisioning Portal, start creating a brand new Push SSL certificate. Just follow the instructions.
  6. Don’t forget to download the signed cert and double-click it to install it (aps_developer_identity.cer) in your default keychain.
  7. Select My Certificates, find the newly created cert, click the disclose triangle. Then:
    • Right-click on the private key entry without selecting the parent, and select Export. A .p12 file will be saved.
    • Right-click on the actual certificate without selecting the child key, and select Export. Another .p12 file will be saved. UPDATE 2017: it looks like you don’t need to do this anymore. The cert file includes a bag with both cert and key, so deploying that should work.
  8. If your server requires .pem style certificates, run this:
    $ openssl pkcs12 -in apn_cert.p12 -out apn_cert.pem -nodes
    $ openssl pkcs12 -in apn_key.p12 -out apn_key.pem -nodes
  9. Deploy the .pem files in the right location accessible by your application server that will be sending the Push notifications.
  10. UPDATE (2015): it seems like each exported files contains both key and certificate now and therefore are identical. I don’t recall that being the case at the time of this writing.

Now push notifications should be up and running once again.

Quickly rebuild your iOS app when Provisioning Profile expires

  1. Login into the Provisioning Portal, click “Provisioning” on the left side column
  2. Renew your expired profile (or create new one) and download it
  3. Drag it over the Xcode dock icon (or add it into the Organizer)
  4. Remove old profiles from Xcode Organizer
  5. Open your Device target. Select the Build tab -> Code Signing Identity, and make sure the new profile is the one in use.
    Xcode has the habit of not automatically updating its targets to use the newly installed provisioning profile. (Even if you physically removed the old one.)

At this point you should be able to rebuild the app.

Changing a UIButton title and dealing with button States

If you are changing the title of a UIButton programmatically, you will naturally use the method setTitle:forState:. Easy enough… well, sort of. What do you put in the state parameter?

My first reaction was “I’m going to put all possible states since I just want the button title to change no matter what.” So I blindly bit-OR‘ed all the possible values defined in the docs.

[myButton setTitle:@"New Title" 
          forState:UIControlStateNormal | UIControlStateHighlighted | UIControlStateDisabled | UIControlStateSelected];

Sound reasonable right? Wrong. If you do that here, your button title is probably not going to change at all. The problem is that the “normal” state (per Apple docs that’s “enabled, not selected, not highlighted”) is defined as such:

enum {
    UIControlStateNormal   = 0,
    UIControlStateHighlighted  = 1 << 0,
    UIControlStateDisabled     = 1 << 1,
    UIControlStateSelected     = 1 << 2,

so if you bit-OR all of them you are actually going to set the title for ALL states EXCEPT the “normal” (most common) state!