SwiftUI changes everything, again.

Auto Layout is the past. With SwiftUI, we have these tools at our disposal:

  1. Alignment Guides
  2. Geometry Reader
  3. Anchor Preferences

How layout works?

Watch WWDC 2019 advanced composition and layout for a good introduction of the new layout system.

The process is basically:

  1. Parent proposes a size for child
  2. Child chooses its own size
  3. Parent places child in parent’s coordinate space

SwiftUI is very different because it is the child who defines it’s own size! It is modern parenting (compared to olden days, UIKit is more “traditional”).

The children can even be rebellious – choosing a size bigger than proposed, and positioning itself out of the parent! There is nothing the parent can do about that..

No more auto layout constraints

In place of constraints, you have view modifiers like aspectRatio, padding, frame, offset etc..

This will feel unnatural. Constraints like equal width is now difficult to achieve. There are lots of trade off, but still cool.

We now look at the 3 new concepts to handle layout.

1. Alignment Guides

The layout system aligns multiple views by positioning all of them along an imaginary line (the guide).

To do that, you need to specify a CGFloat value for your view, for a particular alignment. The built-in alignments are top, trailing, center, etc that we know.

We can have custom alignments too. This is a boilerplate to creating one:

// Create a custom vertical alignment
extension VerticalAlignment {
    private enum SomeVerticalAlignment : AlignmentID {
        static func defaultValue(in d: ViewDimensions) -> CGFloat {
            return d[]
    static let someVerticalAlignment = VerticalAlignment(SomeVerticalAlignment.self)

Then use it in your views.

HStack(alignment: .someVerticalAlignment) {
  Text("Center +10")
    .alignmentGuide(.someVerticalAlignment) { $0[.center] + 10 }
  Text("Center -10")
    .alignmentGuide(.someVerticalAlignment) { $0[.center] - 10 }

The HStack says it is using the custom alignment, and the 2 texts specify where that alignment is for their view.

The best resource out there is from The SwiftUI Lab. Read it for more info.

2. Geometry Reader

Might come as a surprise, but Geometry Reader is also a view!

A container view that defines its content as a function of its own size and coordinate space.

Using GeometryReader, children can know the size and position of their parent (the container).

GeometryReader { geometry in
  VStack {
    // The children can now use the size, position etc
      .frame(width: geometry.size.width * 0.3, height: 40)

3. Anchor Preferences

Preferences is like a contract that you can pass between views.

Access view preferences and provide child views with configuration data.

Anchor Preferences is a special kind of preferences, useful for setting & retrieving geometry from child views.

While Geometry Reader is for child to know their parent, Preference is the other way round - for parent (and anyone) to know children.

It require a 4 steps to use:

// 1. Define a data for holding the preference
struct MyAnchorPreferenceData {
    let bounds: Anchor<CGRect> // It can also be some kind of CGPoint data

// 2. Define a preference key
struct MyAnchorPreferenceKey: PreferenceKey {
    static var defaultValue: [MyAnchorPreferenceData] = []
    static func reduce(value: inout [MyAnchorPreferenceData], nextValue: () -> [MyAnchorPreferenceData]) {
        value.append(contentsOf: nextValue())

// 3. Child: Set anchor preference
// `value` is the bounds (CGRect) for the view. It can also be top, center, etc (CGPoint)
// `transform` will create the preference, and $0 will be a CGRect/CGPoint as per `value` type
childView.anchorPreference(key: MyAnchorPreferenceKey.self, value: .bounds, transform: { [MyAnchorPreferenceData(bounds: $0)] })

// 4. Parent: Retrieve anchor preference
parentView.backgroundPreferenceValue(MyAnchorPreferenceKey.self) { preferences in
    return GeometryReader { geometry in
        // Return a view as a background
        // Use geometry and preferences like this to get the child bounds:
        let preference = preferences.first! // preferences is [MyAnchorPreferenceData], and you should filter to your needs
        let bounds = geometry[preference.bounds]

Note that the bounds will automatically be in the parent’s CoordinateSpace. Usually, GeometryReader has to work with a CoordinateSpace (where you can name one with “string”, and that’s ugly). By using Anchor Preferences with Geometry Reader, we can avoid the CoordinateSpace.

The parent can also use .overlayPreferenceValue(), which will draw in front instead.

Again, SwiftUI Lab has good write up on the topic:

PITFALL: VerticalAlignment or HorizontalAlignment

Most of the time, you can be lazy and just use .center. But in some cases, it could have undesirable effect.

HStack(alignment: .someVerticalAlignment) {}
  SomeView().alignmentGuide(.someVerticalAlignment) {
    $0[.center] // Sometimes, this might be inferred as
    $0[] // This will be what we want




Back to Home