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SwiftUI Forms 101: A Breakdown for Mobile Developers

SwiftUI Forms 101: A Breakdown for Mobile Developers

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With the introduction of SwiftUI in September 2019, Apple once again pushed the envelope forward into the future of development workflows. By creating a more intuitive and interactive way to create and compose their views, the team at Cupertino made sure that we as developers have the best in the market in terms of tools and patterns, allowing us to create beautiful and intuitive apps for our users.

A lot has changed with SwiftUI, and since it has been almost two years since its formal launch, most developers have already learned to adopt the new user interface workflow in all aspects of their apps. One such aspect is Forms.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to stretch your muscles with this new workflow or you’re new to the platform and you’re looking for a simple and straightforward introduction to SwiftUI, this is the article for you.

This article will briefly introduce SwiftUI, the most common UI elements included in SwiftUI Forms, and examples of some basic testing. By the end of this article, you’ll have in your hands a simple iOS project with the fundamentals already implemented.

This article assumes that you have experience working with the Swift language and Xcode 12. If you have no background in these tools, please take some time to explore them first.

xcode welcome

Create Your First Application

First things first, let’s create our app by opening Xcode and starting a new project. You can do this by clicking the “Create a new Xcode project” button.

After this, click on the “App” template in the “Application” section.

swift ui choose template

Note: From here, you could select to create a platform-specific app or a (universal) multiplatform app by clicking on the tabs in the top section. For this article, we’ll be working on a multiplatform app.

You’ll then be presented with the option to name your project. As you can see, I have proceeded to name the project “SwiftUISample,” but you can call it anything you like.

swiftui new template

Note: You’ll also have to provide an organization identifier that will serve as the unique identifier linking applications you produce to you. This aspect is not relevant to this article, so you can name it anything you like.

Make sure to have the “Include Tests” option selected so that Xcode bundles the basic test skeletons on your project.

Once all this is done and you’ve told Xcode where to store your project, Xcode will present you with something very similar to the following.

swiftui start project

Note: Don’t worry if you can’t see the device preview right away. Just click on the “Resume” button on the previewer’s top right, and it will display the “Hello World!” text correctly.

Et voilà! You have created a SwiftUI-powered universal app.

Moving forward, I’ll assume that you’ve taken some time to familiarize yourself with the IDE and the structure of Swift projects.

swiftui pull quote

Understanding the SwiftUI Workflow

Although a lot has changed in the workflow required to develop SwiftUI projects, Xcode still feels very familiar. If you haven’t had the opportunity to work on a SwiftUI project before, I would highly recommend that you go here and get yourself acquainted with it. A deep dive into the workflow is outside the scope of this article.

Nevertheless, I’ll give you a very brief summary of what you have in front of you right now.

As you can see, your project currently has two files in it. A ContentView.swift file and an <APP_NAME>App.swift file, where APP_NAME is the name you used for the project.

The latter is the root application class. Don’t worry about it for now. The former, however, is where we’ll be working.

All SwiftUI View classes have the same structure: a View struct that defines the view structure and functionality and a Preview View struct that serves as a helper for the emulator to display your work in real time.

As you can see, in the ContentView struct, there is a body variable of type View that defines the body of that view. Therefore, any modification that you want to make to your view must be done in this variable.

Currently, that view contains a Text view object containing the titular “Hello World!” statement.

We can now start working on our view.

SwiftUI Forms

Now that you have successfully created an app and have a good grasp of the SwiftUI workflow, we can add a simple form to allow the user to input information.

Doing so is extremely easy. For example, you can embed the Text object in a Form like so.

import SwiftUI

struct ContentView: View {
   var body: some View {
       Form(content: {
           Text("Hello World!")
       })
   }
}

As you can see, if you have the preview running, you can immediately see the results of your code—pretty neat.

Now, this doesn’t look like a proper form as we know and love it, right? So let’s add a modifier to the Form to add a heading text.

import SwiftUI

struct ContentView: View {
   var body: some View {
       Form(content: {
           Text("Hello World!")
       })
       .navigationBarTitle("User Form")
   }
}

Wait. Why doesn’t it show up?

Well, you need to have a NavigationView element for the Form to put the title on.

Following the same steps we used to embed our Text into a Form, we can embed our Form into a NavigationView.

import SwiftUI

struct ContentView: View {
   var body: some View {
       NavigationView {
           Form(content: {
               Text("Hello World!")
           })
           .navigationBarTitle("User Form")
       }
   }
}

Nice! Looking good!

Next, we’ll be adding some fields to the form so the user can input data into it. But first, let’s quickly go through them.

The Common Form Elements of SwiftUI

If you have some experience working with Swift or even Objective-C, you can expect to find all the elements you’re familiar with in SwiftUI. Labels, Toggles, Button, Picker, you name it.

Here’s a list of the most common elements and a sample constructor for each of them.

  • Text: Mostly used for displaying mutable information in the view.
Text("This is a text!")
  • TextField: Basic input field for forms and other views.
TextField("Username", text: $name)
  • Label: Mostly used for displaying text information in the view.
Label("Lightning", systemImage: "bolt.fill")
  • Button: Action input for forms and other views.
Button(action: signIn) { Text("Sign In")}
  • Toggle: Action input for binary data.
Toggle("Public", isOn: $isPublic)
  • Picker: Select input for collection of options.
Picker("Color", selection: $selectedColor) {
   Text("Red")
   ...
}

Adding Functionality to Our Form in SwiftUI

Now that we’re more familiar with the elements that can exist in a form, let’s add some of them.

First, let’s add a TextField element so the user can input some credentials.

import SwiftUI

struct ContentView: View {
   @State var name: String = ""

   var body: some View {
       NavigationView {
           Form(content: {
               // Text field
               TextField("Username", text: $name)
           })
           .navigationBarTitle("User Form")
       }
   }
}

Wait. What’s that variable prefixed by @State?

As the prefix indicates, it is a state variable that holds the value inputted by the user and is accessible in between views through the lifespan of the operation. These variables are required for all elements of the form.

We can also add a secure TextField for fields that shouldn’t display their inputted value, like password fields.

import SwiftUI

struct ContentView: View {
   @State var name: String = ""
   @State var password: String = ""

   var body: some View {
       NavigationView {
           Form(content: {
               // Text field
               TextField("Username", text: $name)
               // Secure field
               SecureField("Password", text: $password)
           })
           .navigationBarTitle("User Form")
       }
   }
}

Next, let’s add gender, birth date, and language fields.

import SwiftUI

struct ContentView: View {
   enum Gender: String, CaseIterable, Identifiable {
       case male
       case female
       case other

       var id: String { self.rawValue }
   }

   enum Language: String, CaseIterable, Identifiable {
       case english
       case french
       case spanish
       case japanese
       case other

       var id: String { self.rawValue }
   }

   @State var name: String = ""
   @State var password: String = ""

   @State var gender: Gender = .male
   @State var language: Language = .english
   @State private var birthdate = Date()

   var body: some View {
       NavigationView {
           Form(content: {
               // Text field
               TextField("Username", text: $name)
               // Secure field
               SecureField("Password", text: $password)
               // Segment Picker
               Picker("Gender", selection: $gender) {
                   ForEach(Gender.allCases) { gender in
                       Text(gender.rawValue.capitalized).tag(gender)
                   }
               }
               .pickerStyle(SegmentedPickerStyle())
               // Date picker
               DatePicker("Date of birth",
                          selection: $birthdate,
                          displayedComponents: [.date])
               // Scroll picker
               Picker("Language", selection: $language) {
                   ForEach(Language.allCases) { language in
                       Text(language.rawValue.capitalized).tag(language)
                   }
               }
           })
           .navigationBarTitle("User Form")
       }
   }
}

Alright, there’s some stuff to unpack from there.

Firstly, the Picker requires an array of elements to display as options, which has been done with the enum struct.

Secondly, the options are being processed with a ForEach, which in SwiftUI is a clause to process and return a list of views to a parent.

Finally, let’s add a button for submitting the form—a piece of cake.

import SwiftUI

struct ContentView: View {
   enum Gender: String, CaseIterable, Identifiable {
       case male
       case female
       case other

       var id: String { self.rawValue }
   }

   enum Language: String, CaseIterable, Identifiable {
       case english
       case french
       case spanish
       case japanese
       case other

       var id: String { self.rawValue }
   }

   @State var name: String = ""
   @State var password: String = ""

   @State var gender: Gender = .male
   @State var language: Language = .english
   @State private var birthdate = Date()

   var body: some View {
       NavigationView {
           Form(content: {
               // Text field
               TextField("Username", text: $name)
               // Secure field
               SecureField("Password", text: $password)
               // Segment Picker
               Picker("Gender", selection: $gender) {
                   ForEach(Gender.allCases) { gender in
                       Text(gender.rawValue.capitalized).tag(gender)
                   }
               }
               .pickerStyle(SegmentedPickerStyle())
               // Date picker
               DatePicker("Date of birth",
                          selection: $birthdate,
                          displayedComponents: [.date])
               // Scroll picker
               Picker("Language", selection: $language) {
                   ForEach(Language.allCases) { language in
                       Text(language.rawValue.capitalized).tag(language)
                   }
               }

               // Button
               Button("Save") {
                   // DO SOMETHING
               }
           })
           .navigationBarTitle("User Form")
       }
   }
}

Alright. Looking good!

mobile form 1

Or so I would like to say. It doesn’t really look very clean, does it? After all, having all the fields cramped together is not what Steve taught us at UX school.

Well, let’s now work on some styling.

Customizing Our Form Appearance in SwiftUI

The first thing we can do to improve our form appearance is to group elements that belong together.

We can do that with the Section clause.

import SwiftUI

struct ContentView: View {
   enum Gender: String, CaseIterable, Identifiable {
       case male
       case female
       case other

       var id: String { self.rawValue }
   }

   enum Language: String, CaseIterable, Identifiable {
       case english
       case french
       case spanish
       case japanese
       case other

       var id: String { self.rawValue }
   }

   @State var name: String = ""
   @State var password: String = ""

   @State var gender: Gender = .male
   @State var language: Language = .english
   @State private var birthdate = Date()

   var body: some View {
       NavigationView {
           Form(content: {
               Section(header: Text("Credentials")) {
                   // Text field
                   TextField("Username", text: $name)
                   // Secure field
                   SecureField("Password", text: $password)
               }

               Section(header: Text("User Info")) {
                   // Segment Picker
                   Picker("Gender", selection: $gender) {
                       ForEach(Gender.allCases) { gender in
                           Text(gender.rawValue.capitalized).tag(gender)
                       }
                   }
                   .pickerStyle(SegmentedPickerStyle())
                   // Date picker
                   DatePicker("Date of birth",
                              selection: $birthdate,
                              displayedComponents: [.date])
                   // Scroll picker
                   Picker("Language", selection: $language) {
                       ForEach(Language.allCases) { language in
                           Text(language.rawValue.capitalized).tag(language)
                       }
                   }
               }

               Section {
                   // Button
                   Button("Save") {
                       // DO SOMETHING
                   }
               }
           })
           .navigationBarTitle("User Form")
       }
   }
}

That gives us this.

mobile form 2

That already looks better, doesn’t it? Everything organized into context groups and properly labeled.

Now, let’s add some final touches to make the form look a bit more professional and make the button look better.

import SwiftUI

struct ContentView: View {
   enum Gender: String, CaseIterable, Identifiable {
       case male
       case female
       case other

       var id: String { self.rawValue }
   }

   enum Language: String, CaseIterable, Identifiable {
       case english
       case french
       case spanish
       case japanese
       case other

       var id: String { self.rawValue }
   }

   @State var name: String = ""
   @State var password: String = ""

   @State var gender: Gender = .male
   @State var language: Language = .english
   @State private var birthdate = Date()

   @State var isPublic: Bool = true

   @State private var showingAlert = false

   var body: some View {
       NavigationView {
           Form(content: {
               Section(header: Text("Credentials")) {
                   // Text field
                   TextField("Username", text: $name)
                   // Secure field
                   SecureField("Password", text: $password)
               }

               Section(header: Text("User Info")) {
                   // Segment Picker
                   Picker("Gender", selection: $gender) {
                       ForEach(Gender.allCases) { gender in
                           Text(gender.rawValue.capitalized).tag(gender)
                       }
                   }
                   .pickerStyle(SegmentedPickerStyle())
                   // Date picker
                   DatePicker("Date of birth",
                              selection: $birthdate,
                              displayedComponents: [.date])
                   // Scroll picker
                   Picker("Language", selection: $language) {
                       ForEach(Language.allCases) { language in
                           Text(language.rawValue.capitalized).tag(language)
                       }
                   }
               }

               Section {
                   // Toggle
                   Toggle(isOn: $isPublic, label: {
                       HStack {
                           Text("Agree to our")
                           // Link
                           Link("terms of Service", destination: URL(string: "https://www.example.com/TOS.html")!)
                       }
                   })
                   // Button
                   Button(action: {
                       showingAlert = true
                   }) {
                       HStack {
                           Spacer()
                           Text("Save")
                           Spacer()
                       }
                   }
                   .foregroundColor(.white)
                   .padding(10)
                   .background(Color.accentColor)
                   .cornerRadius(8)
                   .alert(isPresented: $showingAlert) {
                       Alert(title: Text("Form submitted"),
                             message: Text("Thanks \(name)\n We will be in contact soon!"),
                             dismissButton: .default(Text("OK")))
                   }
               }
           })
           .navigationBarTitle("User Form")
       }
   }
}

Now we have this.

mobile final form

Excellent work. Steve Jobs would be proud. *Chef’s kiss!*

Testing Your Work

Alrighty, now that you have a good-looking form on your hands, you should probably test it. To do that, we’ll be working with Xcode’s UI testing framework, which is already bundled into the project.

If you open the Test iOS group in the left bar, you will see a Test_iOS.swift class file. In it, you can see that you have pretty much everything you need set up for you. Therefore, you can proceed and run it if you want to see the app running in the emulator.

To test that the code is working as intended, let’s add the following code to the testExample() function.

func testExample() throws {
   // UI tests must launch the application that they test.
   let app = XCUIApplication()
   app.launch()

   app.textFields["Username"].tap()
   app.textFields["Username"].typeText("test")
   app.textFields["Username"].typeText("\n")

   app.buttons["Save"].tap()

   XCTAssertTrue(app.alerts["Form submitted"].waitForExistence(timeout: 1))
   XCTAssert(app.alerts["Form submitted"].staticTexts["Thanks test\n We will be in contact soon!"].exists)

   // Use recording to get started writing UI tests.
   // Use XCTAssert and related functions to verify your tests produce the correct results.
}

Now run that test and check that the username field is populated with the text “test” and the save button is pressed, presenting the alert with the message.

Nice!

Find more info on how to implement testing in Xcode UI here. And if you want to find out how to implement complex testing without needing to touch your code, you can explore great solutions like Waldo.io and take your code testing to the next level.

waldo pull quote

Bringing Elegance to the Market

Creating forms in applications is as old as the concept of a computer itself. Nevertheless, it has never been easier to create elegant and intuitive forms than now.

With tools like SwiftUI and Xcode in our belts, we can continue creating more creative and feature-rich applications that can excel in the market.

This post was written by Juan Reyes. Juan is an engineer by profession and a dreamer by heart who crossed the seas to reach Japan following the promise of opportunity and challenge. While trying to find himself and build a meaningful life in the east, Juan borrows wisdom from his experiences as an entrepreneur, artist, hustler, father figure, husband, and friend to start writing about passion, meaning, self-development, leadership, relationships, and mental health. His many years of struggle and self-discovery have inspired him and drive to embark on a journey for wisdom.

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