Modern cell configuration

Description: Discover new techniques for configuring collection view and table view cells to quickly build dynamic interfaces in your app. Explore configuration types you can use to easily populate cells with content and apply common styles. Take advantage of powerful APIs to customize the appearance of cells for different states. Find out about patterns and best practices that simplify your code, eliminate bugs, and improve performance.

Xcode 12 brings new APIs to configure the content and styling of cells.

Getting started with configurations

With iOS 14, standard cells should use the new content configurations:

var content = cell.defaultContentConfiguration()

content.image = UIImage(systemName: "star")
content.text = "Hello WWDC!"

cell.contentConfiguration = content

The cell's defaultContentConfiguration():

  • always return a clean configuration (with nothing set on it)
  • has a default styling, based on the cell and table view style

The same approach is used for any cell that supports configurations (UITableViewCells, UICollactionViewcells, ..), this is possible because these standard cell layouts and appearances are now available as independent pieces that can plug right into any cell or view that supports them.

Using configurations will let the system take care of the multiple states a cell can be in, for example:

  • normal
  • highlighted
  • highlighted and selected
  • disabled

and more.

What are configurations?

  • Configurations describe the cell appearance for a specific state
  • applied to a view to render
  • composable
  • lightweight (inexpensive to create)
  • built for performance

Configuration types

Two types:

  • Background Configuration
  • List Content Configuration

Background configurations let you set things such as:

  • background color
  • visual effect (blur)
  • stroke
  • insets and corner radius
  • custom view

List Content configurations give you the standard layout for cells, headers, and footers:

  • image
  • text
  • secondary text
  • layout metrics and behaviors

You can change configurations at will, for example within an animation

Configuration state

  • Configuration state represents the various inputs that you use to configure your cells and views: it's a collection of all the different traits, states, and your own custom states wrapped together in one place.
  • Each cell, header and footer has its own configuration state

Two Types:

  • View configuration state
  • Cell configuration state

View configuration state

This state has:

  • a trait collection
  • four different (boolean) states: highlighted, selected, disabled, focused
  • and a custom state: this is key value storage for you to add any extra states or data that you want to use when configuring your view

Cell configuration state

Cell configuration state has everything from the View configuration state plus the following extra states:

  • (boolean) editing, swiped, expanded
  • Drag and drop states

We can ask a new configuration by passing a new state:

let updatedConfiguration = configuration.updated(for: state)

By default these configurations update by themselves when we set a new configuration, thanks to the cell automaticallyUpdatesContentConfiguration and automaticallyUpdatesBackgroundConfiguration properties:
in other words, when you set a background or content configuration on the cell, any time the cell's configuration state changes it will automatically ask the configuration to return an updated version of itself and then reapply that new configuration back to the cell.

If you'd like to do this manually instead, you can override the cell's new function updateConfiguration(using:):
this method is always called before your cell first displays and will be called again anytime the configuration state may have changed so you can configure your cell for the new state.

Here's an example that customizes the cell colors based on the state:

override func updateConfiguration(using state: UICellConfigurationState) {
    var content = self.defaultContentConfiguration().updated(for: state)
    content.image = self.item.icon
    content.text = self.item.title
    if state.isHighlighted || state.isSelected {
        content.imageProperties.tintColor = .white
        content.textProperties.color = .white
    self.contentConfiguration = content

Background and content configurations

  • Each cell has a default background and content configuration, however we can ask for a specific configuration just as easily:
var background = UIBackgroundConfiguration.listSidebarCell()
var content = UIListContentConfiguration.sidebarCell()
  • Configurations are designed to be used with self-sizing cells where their height can be flexible depending on the exact configuration and environment
  • Content configurations give you control over the layout margins (blue), and various padding properties (orange)

Missing anything? Corrections? Contributions are welcome 😃


Written by

Federico Zanetello

Federico Zanetello

iOS Engineer with strong passion for Swift, minimalism, and design. When he’s not busy automating things, he can be found writing at FIVE STARS and/or playing with the latest shiny toys.