DrGary DrGary - 2 months ago 15
iOS Question

How do you load custom UITableViewCells from Xib files?

The question is simple: How do you load custom UITableViewCells from Xib files? Doing so allows you to use Interface Builder to design your cells. The answer apparently is not simple due to memory managment issues. This thread mentions the issue and suggests a solution, but is pre NDA-release and lacks code. Here's a long thread that discusses the issue without providing a definitive answer.

Here's some code I've used:

static NSString *CellIdentifier = @"MyCellIdentifier";

MyCell *cell = (MyCell *)[tableView dequeueReusableCellWithIdentifier:CellIdentifier];
if (cell == nil) {
NSArray *nib = [[NSBundle mainBundle] loadNibNamed:CellIdentifier owner:self options:nil];
cell = (MyCell *)[nib objectAtIndex:0];
}


To use this code, create MyCell.m/.h, a new subclass of UITableViewCell and add IBOutlets for the components you want. Then create a new "Empty XIB" file. Open the Xib file in IB, add a UITableViewCell object, set its identifier to "MyCellIdentifier", and set its class to MyCell and add your components. Finally, connect the IBOutlets to the components. Note that we did not set the File's Owner in IB.

Other methods advocate setting the File's Owner and warn of memory leaks if the Xib is not loaded via an additional factory class. I tested the above under Instruments/Leaks and saw no memory leaks.

So what's the canonical way to load cells from Xibs? Do we set File's Owner? Do we need a factory? If so, what's the code for the factory look like? If there are multiple solutions, let's clarify the pros and cons of each of them...

Answer

Here are two methods which the original author states was recommended by an IB engineer.

See the actual post for more details. I prefer method #2 as it seems simpler.

Method #1:

- (UITableViewCell *)tableView:(UITableView *)tableView cellForRowAtIndexPath:(NSIndexPath *)indexPath {
    UITableViewCell *cell = [tableView dequeueReusableCellWithIdentifier:@"BDCustomCell"];
    if (cell == nil) {
        // Create a temporary UIViewController to instantiate the custom cell.
        UIViewController *temporaryController = [[UIViewController alloc] initWithNibName:@"BDCustomCell" bundle:nil];
        // Grab a pointer to the custom cell.
        cell = (BDCustomCell *)temporaryController.view;
        [[cell retain] autorelease];
        // Release the temporary UIViewController.
        [temporaryController release];
    }

    return cell;
}

Method #2:

- (UITableViewCell *)tableView:(UITableView *)tableView cellForRowAtIndexPath:(NSIndexPath *)indexPath {
    UITableViewCell *cell = [tableView dequeueReusableCellWithIdentifier:@"BDCustomCell"];
    if (cell == nil) {
        // Load the top-level objects from the custom cell XIB.
        NSArray *topLevelObjects = [[NSBundle mainBundle] loadNibNamed:@"BDCustomCell" owner:self options:nil];
        // Grab a pointer to the first object (presumably the custom cell, as that's all the XIB should contain).
        cell = [topLevelObjects objectAtIndex:0];
    }

    return cell;
}

Update (2014): Method #2 is still valid but there is no documentation for it anymore. It used to be in the official docs but is now removed in favor of storyboards.

I posted a working example on Github:
https://github.com/bentford/NibTableCellExample