Apr 27

The UITableView class is a wonder of efficient memory management, if you use it correctly.

Here’s the standard template code that Xcode generates when you create a subclass of UITableViewController:

// Customize the appearance of table view cells.
- (UITableViewCell *)tableView:(UITableView *)tableView cellForRowAtIndexPath:(NSIndexPath *)indexPath {

    static NSString *CellIdentifier = @"Cell";

    UITableViewCell *cell = [tableView dequeueReusableCellWithIdentifier:CellIdentifier];
    if (cell == nil) {
        cell = [[[UITableViewCell alloc] initWithStyle:UITableViewCellStyleDefault reuseIdentifier:CellIdentifier] autorelease];

    // Set up the cell...

    return cell;

The keys here are the CellIdentifier variable and the call to dequeueReusableCellWithIdentifier, which enable the iPhone OS to reuse existing instances of UITableViewCell whenever possible.

(Don’t create a unique reuse identifier for each row as I’ve seen some developers do. Yes, it’s much easier to deal with asynchronous download of images for each row if you know how to uniquely identify the cell, and you know that the cell is still in memory. But that totally defeats the efficient memory management that UITableView is capable of.)

Under normal circumstances a UITableView will create one instance of a UITableViewCell per row that is visible on the screen. As you scroll, the cell instance that just rolled off the screen will be reused for the cell that is about to appear.

To verify that this memory management is working as it should, add a log statement each time a new cell is created:

if (cell == nil) {
    DLog(@"creating a new cell");
    cell = [[[UITableViewCell alloc] initWithStyle:UITableViewCellStyleDefault reuseIdentifier:CellIdentifier] autorelease];

When you run your app and start scrolling your table view, you should not see any creation of cells beyond the initial list (plus one). If you see “creating a new cell” log statements scrolling off the screen as you scroll the table view, you’ve got a problem.

If you just follow the standard Xcode template above, you should be fine. However if you’re loading a Nib for a custom table view cell layout using Apple’s recommended way, there’s an important detail you must not forget. (Tip of the hat to Jeff LaMarche for inspiring this blog post.)

Here’s the typical NIB loading code from Apple:

- (UITableViewCell *)tableView:(UITableView *)tableView cellForRowAtIndexPath:(NSIndexPath *)indexPath {
    static NSString *CellIdentifier = @"CheckedTableViewCell";

    UITableViewCell *cell = [tableView dequeueReusableCellWithIdentifier:CellIdentifier];
    if (cell == nil) {
        DLog(@"creating a new cell");

        // Load the table view cell from a Nib file.
        [[NSBundle mainBundle] loadNibNamed:@"CheckedTableViewCell" owner:self options:nil];

        // The checkedTableViewCell property is just a temporary placeholder for loading the Nib.
        cell = checkedTableViewCell;

        // We don't need this anymore, so set to nil.
        self.checkedTableViewCell = nil;

    return cell;

The key here is that the CellIdentifier value must also be entered into Interface Builder, like this:


If you don’t do this, then UITableViewCells will not be reused. (A telltale sign of this is that you’ll see lots of “creating a new cell” log messages.) There is no compiler or runtime warning if you fail to enter this critical piece of information into Interface Builder. So that log statement can be a useful warning.

(BTW, if you’re wondering what DLog is, then see this post: The Evolution of a Replacement for NSLog.)

written by Nick \\ tags: , , , ,

Sep 02

To change the height of the cells in a UITableView, use the property rowHeight. Or change the value in Interface Builder.

There is a method called heightForRowAtIndexPath in UITableViewDelegate, where you can also set the height. However this is NOT recommended. Apple’s release notes states the following about this method:

It is very, very expensive to customize row heights (via tableView:heightForRowAtIndexPath:).

It makes sense that having rows with different heights in your table will wreak havoc with the table view’s reuse of cells. But it also turns out that if you return the same value from this method for each row, you also suffer a significant performance penalty.

So just use the simple rowHeight property. It’s less code to type, and it’s significantly faster.

Thanks to Brent for the performance testing.

Addendum: If you really, really must have different row heights in your table. Then heightForRowAtIndexPath is the only way to achieve this. If your table only has a handful of rows then performance will not be a big issue. But if you have hundreds of rows, all with varying heights, then I would suggest looking at constructing the table using HTML in a web view instead.

written by Nick \\ tags: , ,

Oct 10

Fancy UILabels

Craig Hockenberry’s battles with improving the scrolling performance of UITableView.

Cocoa for Scientists (Part XXVIII): Bonjour and How Do You Do?

A great article on low level networking: How do you find and talk to another iPhone or Mac?

iPhone Developer’s Cookbook, The: Building Applications with the iPhone SDK, Adobe Reader

Erica Sadun’s book is now published. It’s a very good read. My only complaint is that there’s more emphasis on private APIs then I’m comfortable with.

Sample code for the book is available here.

Update: The sample code contains a description on how to use the coverflow API hidden in the bowels of the iPhone. Apple has since rejected apps that use this private API.

The How and Why of Cocoa Initializers

While not specifically an iPhone topic, there has been a long ongoing controversy among Cocoa developers on how to properly write init methods. Bottom line is to follow Apple’s example. This article explains why.

written by Nick \\ tags: , , , ,

Oct 03

Now that the NDA has been lifted it’s going to be a lot easier to find interesting links to other blogs discussing iPhone Development.

Code Sample Videos

Erica Sadun has posted sample videos accompanying her upcoming iPhone Programmer’s Cookbook

Glassy Scrolling with UITableView

Some great advice on improving the performance of table views.

Sliding UITextFields around to avoid the keyboard

Managing the keyboard and ensuring that text fields are visible when you enter text is painful. Matt Gallagher presents a generic solution to this problem.

Cocoa Touch Tutorial: iPhone Application Example

A very nice tutorial from Matt Long on creating your first iPhone application using Interface Builder.

A touch of Cocoa: inside the iPhone SDK

A series of articles describing the software internals of the iPhone.

written by Nick \\ tags: , , ,