What's new in AppKit

Written by Darren Ford

Description: Discover the latest advances in Mac app development. We'll share improvements to controls and menus and explore the tools that can help you break free from your (view) bounds. Learn how to add motion to your user interface, take advantage of improvements to text input, and integrate your existing code with Swift and SwiftUI.


  • Aasim Kandrikar, AppKit Engineer
  • Raleigh Ledet, AppKit Engineer

NSTableView/NSOutlineView improvements

Easier column visibility 🆕

A new delegate API method on NSTableViewDelegate to present column customization menus.

  • The menu allows users to toggle visibility of columns in your table
  • Specify which columns the user can hide, and AppKit will handle the rest (including localization and state restoration)
Image showing the column hiding menu UI
func tableView(_ tableView: NSTableView, userCanChangeVisibilityOf column: TableColumn) -> Bool {
   return column.identifier != "Name"


NSProgressIndicator now works automatically with the Progress type in Foundation

  • Assign the progress to the new observedProgress property on NSProgressIndicator
  • progress indicator will automatically update its value as the progress changes, even on background threads
func fetchData() {
   let url = URL(string: "https://developer.apple.com/wwdc23/")!
   let task = URLSession.shared.dataTask(with: .init(url: url))
   progressIndicator.observedProgress = task.progress

NSButton updates

  • ⚠️ All previously discouraged bezel styles are now deprecated.

⚠️ Bevel style names have changed

  • Existing bezel style names have changed - no longer using appearance descriptions. Names are now semantic, based on their semantic use.
    • Rounded ➔ Push
    • Regular Square ➔ Flexible Push
    • Textured Rounded ➔ Toolbar
    • Recessed ➔ Accessory Bar
    • Round Rect ➔ Accessory Bar Action
    • Inline ➔ Badge
An image showing the mapping between the old naming style for NSButton bezel styles and the new semantic naming

New bezel style 'automatic' 🆕

  • New bezel style .automatic
    • Adopts the most appropriate style depending on the contents and view hierarchy position of the button
    • ⚠️ Is the default style now for all NSButton initializers

Inspector split view type 🆕

  • New split view item type like Xcode's Inspector pane
  • Is a trailing split view item
  • Displays contextual information about content that is currently selected in a document
  • ⚠️ Deployable back to Big Sur.
let inspectorItem = NSSplitViewItem(inspectorWithViewController: inspectorViewController)

func toolbarDefaultItemIdentifiers(_ toolbar: NSToolbar) -> [NSToolbarItem.Identifier] {
    [.toggleSidebar, .sidebarTrackingSeparator, .flexibleSpace, .addPlant, 
     .inspectorTrackingSeparator, .flexibleSpace, .toggleInspector]
An image showing Xcode's inspector panel as an example of the new Inspector split-view type


Anchoring to a toolbar item 🆕

  • Can now anchor a popover to a toolbar item using the popover.show(relativeTo: toolbarItem) method
  • If the item is in the toolbar's overflow menu the popover appears anchored to the overflow chevron
An NSPopover attached to a toolbar item
func toolbarAction(_ toolbarItem: NSToolbarItem) {
    let popover = NSPopover()
    popover.contentViewController = PopoverViewController()
    popover.show(relativeTo: toolbarItem)

Full size content (FINALLY!!!) 🆕

  • Set .hasFullSizeContent on the popover to extend content into the popover's chevron area
  • Use the safe area rect to layout content that shouldn't be obscured inside the popover
An image showing how full size content expands into a popover's chevron


  • Completely re-written to take advantage of Cocoa
  • improved performance

Section headers 🆕

  • Easily add section headers to your menu using .sectionHeader class method on NSMenuItem.
  • Used for conveying groups in your menu
A menu containing section headers
menu.items = [
   .sectionHeader(title: "Section 1"), .init(title: "Item 1"),
   .init(title: "Item 1", …),
   .init(title: "Item 2", …),

   .sectionHeader(title: "Section 2"), .init(title: "Item 2"),
   .init(title: "Item 1", …),
   .init(title: "Item 2", …),
   .sectionHeader(title: "Section 3"), .init(title: "Item 3"),
   .init(title: "Item 1", …),
   .init(title: "Item 2", …)

Palette menus 🆕

An NSMenu laying out its items as a horizontal series.

A menu containing a palette menu containing a series of colored circles
  • Set the menu's .presentationStyle to palette
  • For each menu item in the palette menu
    • set its image (template images will automatically tint)
    • alternatively, set the onStateImage and offStateImage
    • The title is used for accessibility -- USE IT
    • Two selection modes, .selectAny and .selectOne
    • You can get/set item selection via the .selectedItems property on the menu
    • selectionMode and selectedItems work by organizing menu items that have the same target/action pair into a logical group
    • When manually creating palette menu items, give each item the same target/action pair to take advantage of the new selectionMode and selectedItems behavior
  • NSMenu provides some convenience functions to create common palette menus.
  • Optional closure parameter that gets called whenever the selection changes

Using tinted images

  • Template images will automatically tint to indicate selection
A palette menu showing a series of templated images
paletteMenu.presentationStyle = .palette
let item = NSMenuItem(title: "Fishing", action: #selector(action(_:)), keyEquivalent: "")
item. image = NSImage (systemSymbolName: "figure.fishing", accessibilityDescription: "Fishing")

Using OnState/OffState images

  • .offStateImage indicates no selection
  • .onStateImage indicates selection
A palette menu showing a series of on-off images
paletteMenu.presentationStyle = .palette
let item = NSMenuItem(title: "Tag", action: #selector(action(_:)), keyEquivalent: "")
item.offStateImage = flagImage
item.onStateImage = checkImage

Menu badges 🆕

  • Menu items can be easily badged
  • A simple string, or a count
  • Three specialized count badges that automatically take care of badge localization :-
    • new items
    • alerts
    • updates
item.badge = NSMenuItemBadge (string: "#WWDC23")
item.badge = NSMenuItemBadge (count: 6)
item.badge = newItems (count: 3)
item.badge = .alerts (count: 4)
item.badge = .updates (count: 5)
A menu showing the new badge types

Cooperative app activation 🆕

In macOS Sonoma, cooperative app activation reduces unexpected application switches, for example, an app switch while you are in the middle of typing.

  • Activate is now a request, NOT a command
  • The ignoringOtherApps parameter is now ignored
    • ⚠️ activate(ignoringOtherApps:) and activateIgnoringOtherApps are now deprecated
    • Only the active application can influence the activate context
    • The currently active application will be asked to yield, and it can choose whether to honor the request.
    • To manually hand activation to another application, yieldActivation to the target NSRunningApplication or bundle identifier


  • You can now create an NSBezierPath from a CGPath and vice versa
  • NOT toll free bridged (always creates a copy of the path)

CADisplayLink 🆕

  • Now available on macOS
  • You can get a CADisplayLink from an NSView, NSWindow or NSScreen
  • Follows views across screens
  • Best approach is to get a CADisplayLink from the most specific applicable element, usually a view
  • Automatically suspends when the view is not on a display
var displayLink: CADisplayLink?

func startAnimating() {
   displayLink = displayLink(target: self, selector: #selector (stepAnimation))
   displayLink?.add(to: main, forMode: .common)
func stopAnimating() {
   displayLink?.invalidate ()
   displayLink = nil


The new system fill colors with 5 panels of varying shades
  • Five new color variations for macOS Sonoma
    • .systemFill
    • .secondarySystemFill
    • .tertiarySystemFill
    • .quaternarySystemFill
    • .quinarySystemFill
    • Automatically adapt to different appearances, such as dark mode and high contrast.

NSView Clipping ‼️

  • Prior to macOS Sonoma, NSView clips to its bounds
  • Starting in macOS Sonoma, NSView does NOT explicitly clip to its bounds (!!!)
  • New property NSView.clipsToBounds to explicitly set whether a view clips to bounds.
  • Supported back to Mavericks 10.9 (!!!). Earlier systems may have problems with .clipsToBounds = false
  • ⚠️ An NSViews calculated visibleRect may extend past its bounds
  • ⚠️ dirtyRect is no longer constrained to the view's bounds
  • Drawing outside the dirtyRect is always safe
  • ⚠️ In macOS Sonoma, most NSViews no longer clip to their bounds
  • Hit testing remains unchanged

Important takeaways

  • AppKit reserves the right to pass a dirtyRect that is larger than the view's bounds
  • AppKit also reserves the right to subdivide drawing into as many rectangles as it needs

This means that you should use the dirtyRect to decide what to draw, not where to draw!

Symbols 🆕

Symbol Effects

Symbol effects are great way to emphasize an action that has occurred or state change in your apps.

  • Set an NSImageView's image property to a symbol image
  • call addSymbolEffect to the image view
wifiImageView.image = NSImage(systemSymbolName: "wifi", accessibilityDescription: "wifi icon")
wifiImageView.addSymbolEffect(.variableColor.iterative, options: .repeating)

See: Animate symbols in your app

Symbol Localization

Shows different locale variations for a SF Symbol
  • Asset catalog images and symbols now automatically adapt to the system locale language
  • Access alternate variants using image(locale: Locale)

High Dynamic Range (HDR) content 🆕

  • Starting with macOS Sonoma, NSImageView now displays HDR images in HDR on Extended Dynamic Range capable hardware.
  • To display HDR content in standard dynamic range, use the preferredImageDynamicRange property

See: Support HDR images in your apps

Asset Catalog static names 🆕

  • Starting in Xcode 15, Images and colors in your asset catalog are automatically reflected into your code as static properties on NSImage and NSColor
  • Static properties are non optional, so can use simple .dot notation
let imageView = NSImageView(image: .tree)

Typing experience 🆕

Starting with macOS Sonoma, text entry has a new look.

Changes to the editing cursor

  • Text entry cursor adapts to the current accent color
  • Has a cursor accessory view UNDER the cursor which tracks the cursor.
  • Cursor accessory shows useful information (such as input mode, dictation state, and caps lock state)
  • Cursor accessory is pinned to the bottom of the document if the cursor isn't visible
  • All apps using standard AppKit text views get this for free
  • ⚠️ API is available for custom text views for adoption (add NSTextInsertionIndicator as a subview of your custom text view to adopt the behaviour)
    Shows the new cursor accessory view underneath the editing cursor


    • Leaves a glow as you dictate text (!!!)
    Shows text being entered into a text view via dictation and the subtle glow that follows the cursor as the text is entered

    Non-english languages

    • Text entry now uses text styles (like .title1, .body etc) to provide custom word wrapping behaviour in different languages to improve language legibility.
    • Important to start adopting text style in your app.

    Better SwiftUI interaction

    • SwiftUI has also been updated to allow you to use SwiftUI views and modifiers in more places in your AppKit app.
    • Most AppKit classes are now marked as @MainActor (restricted to the main thread)
    • Transferable is a Swift protocol to describe how objects can be serialized and deserialized. This powers features like Drag and Drop and Sharing in SwiftUI. In macOS Sonoma NSImage, NSColor, and NSSound conform to the Transferable protocol. This makes it easier for AppKit apps to adopt features like Drag and Drop or Sharing in SwiftUI Views.


    • In macOS Ventura 13.3 we introduced a new property wrapper for NSViewController, @ViewLoading.
    • Use @ViewLoading on properties that are initialized in loadView. If these properties were previously optional, you can remove the optionality and any related checks
    • A similar property wrapper, @WindowLoading, is also available for properties on NSWindowController
    class ViewController: NSViewController {
        @ViewLoading var datePicker: NSDatePicker
        var date = Date() {
            didSet {
                datePicker.dateValue = date
        override func loadView() {
            datePicker = NSDatePicker()
            datePicker.dateValue = date

    Missing anything? Corrections? Contributions are welcome 😃