Auto Layout when the Keyboard is Shown and Hidden

When I first started using Auto Layout, I found it particularly frustrating that previously simple layouts seemed so much harder to implement. So now I find it especially rewarding when Auto Layout makes previously difficult or tedious layouts trivial. One such example is responding to the appearance of the system keyboard. In this article I’ll show you a simple approach for adjusting layout in response to the system keyboard as Apple recommends:

When asked to display the keyboard, the system slides it in from the bottom of the screen and positions it over your app’s content. Because it is placed on top of your content, it is possible for the keyboard to be placed on top of the text object that the user wanted to edit. When this happens, you must adjust your content so that the target object remains visible.

Auto Layout and the Keyboard

To demonstrate this I’ve made a simple app that shows a picture and a text field. The text field contains the editable name of the picture.

Auto Layout Keyboard HiddenWhen the keyboard is displayed the view’s layout should look like this:

Auto Layout Keyboard ShownPhoto by Gemma Stiles

Auto Layout – Constraints

There’s several important aspects for this layout:

  • The image should always maintain its original aspect
  • There is always a minimum 8 point vertical space between the image and the text field
  • There is always a minimum 10 point vertical space between the text field and the keyboard

Additionally we want to animate the view’s layout changes when the keyboard is shown and hidden. So to get started we need to add a  UIImageView:

Auto Layout Keyboard IB

Then set its contentMode  to ScaleAspectFit

Auto Layout Keyboard Image View


Pin the left, top, and right to its superview’s margins:

Auto Layout Keyboard Image View Constraints

To finish the views we add a UITextField  and a hidden UIView. The hidden UIView is a space view. It allows us to specify a constant padding between either the bottom of the view or the top of the keyboard:

Auto Layout Keyboard Text Field

For the UITextField  we pin its top, 8 points to the bottom of the  UIImageView. Its left and right are pinned to its superview’s margins. It’s bottom is pinned to the spacer view’s top. Finally we give it a constant height of 50 points:

Auto Layout Keyboard Text Field Constraints


The final constraints required are for the spacer view. We don’t care about the width so we just pin its left and right to its superview’s margins. Its bottom is pinned to the bottom layout guide. Its height is 10 points which ensures the padding we require.

Auto Layout Keyboard Spacer View Constraints


At this point we’ve set up our views and all their required constraints. Looking at Preview in the Assistant Editor our layout looks good on both a 3.5 inch display and a 5.5 inch display:

Auto Layout Keyboard Preview

Auto Layout – Animating

We’ve achieved a layout that is correctly adjusting to devices with different widths and heights. This is great, because all we need to do now is adjust the space between the spacer view and the bottom layout guide. This is done by adjusting the constant property on the corresponding NSLayoutConstraint.

Adjusting the constant value will be done in code in response to the keyboard being shown or hidden. First the constraint needs to be connected from the storyboard to our UIViewController  subclass. This is done by control clicking and then dragging from the constraint between the spacer view and the bottom layout guide:

Auto Layout Keyboard Wiring Up


Now we’re ready to write the code required to make everything functional. In order to respond to the keyboard being shown and hidden, we need to listen for the appropriate UINotification objects. We add observers in viewWillAppear and remove them in viewWillDisappear. This ensures we start observing once the view appears and stop once it disappears:

Next, we implement the functions that the notifications will call. These are simple functions that simply re-route to a function that will handle the layout update for us:

The NSNotification object contains useful data about how the keyboard will be displayed. We’re interested in the keyboard’s animation duration and its animation curve. This data tells us how we should animate our layout changes. The notification also contains the frame that this keyboard will have at the end of the animation. Pulling these constants out is mostly straightforward.

However, the  animationCurve requires us to jump through some hoops. In order to animate the change to the constraint’s constant, we’ll be using the class method  animateWithDuration:delay:options:animations:completion: on UIView. In order to specify the animation curve we pass in a  UIViewAnimationOptions value to this method. This is a mask of options as defined in  UIViewAnimationOptions. In particular the values for animation curves must be shifted to the left by 16 bits. Once we have the shifted value for the animation curve, we then use the fromRaw function onUIViewAnimationOptions struct to get the value we need.

To accommodate the space where the keyboard will be, we need to adjust our bottomLayoutConstraint’s constant. Effectively we want the constant to be 0 when the keyboard is not visible. When the keyboard is visible we want the constant to reflect the space from the bottom of our view to the top of the keyboard. To calculate the constant we just need  CGRectGetMaxY(view.bounds) - CGRectGetMinY(convertedKeyboardEndFrame). After updating the constraint’s constant, the final step is to animate the layout change.

That’s it! Apart from some boiler plate code to interact with the keyboard notification, adjusting our layout boils down to a single line of code that changes a constraint’s constant. The full source for this project is available here.

Evenly Spacing Views in Auto Layout

I’m a big fan of Auto Layout in iOS. However, in the beginning trying to use Interface Builder to create a responsive layout with Auto Layout was particularly challenging. Things just didn’t work the way you expected in Xcode 4:

Well, I just loaded in Xcode 5. I mainly wanted to see if they fixed auto layout. After my 10 hours using it, it does seem much better. Autolayout seems to make sense to me now.

I found Xcode 5 actually made Auto Layout fun and Xcode 6 has made it even better. Whilst all the tooling advances help, implementing seemingly simple layouts are often not obvious. It’s important to develop an understanding of common layout patterns to apply when using Auto Layout. To that end, in this post I’m going to cover how to evenly space views. What we’d like to achieve is three labels that are evenly spaced regardless of the size of the labels or where they appear in their superview. This will allow our view’s layout to respond appropriately on different screen sizes and to events like a banner sliding down, a keyboard sliding up, or an interface rotation:



Getting Started

So we create our three labels in Interface Builder. We also add a banner view at the top of the view. If you haven’t used Interface Builder’s Preview feature you should definitely try it now. Simply open the Assistant Editor and choose the Preview option from the Jump Bar. Without any constraints yet, the results are predictably un-useful:


Spacer Views

To solve this we need a way of telling Auto Layout how to control the space between the three UILabel instances. In order to do this we’ll use spacer views. These will be hidden UIView instances which give us the ability to specify constraints for our spacing. These spacer views won’t be visible to the user but they will participate within the Auto Layout system.


The key constraints required here are for equal heights on the spacer views. We also specify a constant width for the spacer views:


Having equal heights for the spacer views ensures their height is always equal and thus the spacing between our labels will also be equal. Of course just adding those constraints is not enough to satisfy Auto Layout:


Spacing the Spacers

Now we want to add some vertical spacing between our labels and spacer views. Select all three labels and both the spacer views and then add vertical space constraints with a constant of 10:



We also need to specify a constraint so Auto Layout knows how to position these views horizontally. We’ll just make them all centered:



Final Constraints

Finally we need to add constraints for our blue banner view at the top of our view. We’ll just pin the banner’s height, left, right, and top space:

AL7 Wrapping Up

Once all these constraints are in place you can set the spacer views’ hidden property as YES. Finally make sure you update all the frames in Interface Builder so your view’s layout reflects its constraints. Your view should now have no Auto Layout warnings or errors. The source code for this post is available here.