You’re always trying to show tables of something to people. Always.

The UITableView & UITableViewController classes, help you specifically with

In this post we’ll discover how to use them.


The UITableView class of the iOS API, is quite robust and powers millions of
tables on iOS across the world.

UITableView is a view component that can be used to display a list of items in
a table, and can be embedded into a view. If you’re simply looking to implement
a quick hassle-free and a straight forward table, the UITableViewController
object is the way to go.


UITableViewController = UITableView + UIViewController

The UITableViewController is a subclass of UIViewController that manages a table
view, and can be used independantly.

How to?

Now that we have an idea about how tables are used, let’s look at how to
implement them.

The UITableView requires two things to function:

  • Datasource
  • Delegate

The Datasource provides all things content, or the data for the table, and other
information that the table needs to construct the table.

The Delegate manages the table configuration, selection, editing, and other

Usually the view controller that manages the tableview acts as the Datasource
and Delegate for the corresponding table. This is accompolished by making the
View Controller adopt the following protocols:

  • UITableViewDataSource: for the datasource methods

  • UITableViewDelegate: for the delegate methods

I have personally only used IB and AutoLayout to create my UIs so far, but to
move away from this practice and to start writing UIs programmatically, I’m
going to stick to creating UIs programmatically in these posts that I write in
the hope that I learn along the way. If you need help setting up XCode without
storyboards, give this article a quick read.

Step I:

Prepare Items & Table view

In ViewController.swift, intialize two variables — one that holds a new
UITableView object and the other that holds the items that you’re going to
display in the table.

let tableView: UITableView = UITableView()
let items: [String] = ["One", "Two", "Three"]

Step II:

Configure TableView

Before adding our tableview to our view, there are three things that we need to
take care of:

  • The Table View’s Frame in the view
  • The Table View’s Datasource and Delegate
  • The Table View’s Cell Reuse Identifier

In your viewWillAppear() method:

  1. Setup Frame:
let screenSize: CGRect = UIScreen.main.bounds
let width = screenSize.width
let height = screenSize.height

tableView.frame = CGRect(x: 0, y: 0, width: width, height: height)

There are two things happening here:

  • We’re obtaining the screen’s width and height using the bounds property of our
    UIScreen — UIScreen.main.bounds
  • Setting our Table View’s frame using the frame property on our table view —
  1. Set Table View’s Datasource and Delegate

After setting the tableview’s frame, we may now set the tableview’s datasource
and delegate to our own class that implements the tableview. In this case, *self
*points to our *ViewController *class.

tableView.dataSource = self
tableView.delegate = self

After setting the tableview’s datasource and delegate, its important we
implement the datasource and delegate methods.

  1. Set Reuse Identifier
tableView.register(UITableViewCell.self, forCellReuseIdentifier: "cell")

Set the reuse identifier that you would like to use for the cell, so the cell
instance can be reused during run time.

Step III:

Implement Datasource & Delegate Methods

  extension ViewController: UITableViewDataSource {
    func numberOfSections(in tableView: UITableView) -> Int {
      return 1 

    func tableView(_ tableView: UITableView, numberOfRowsInSection section: Int) -> Int {
      return items.count

    func tableView(_ tableView: UITableView, cellForRowAt indexPath: IndexPath) -> UITableViewCell {
      let cell = tableView.dequeueReusableCell(withIdentifier: "cell", for: indexPath)
      cell.textLabel?.text = items[indexPath.row]
      return cell

What’s happening here?

I like to use extensions to keep things clean and modular —

We first create an extension to our class, and make the class adopt to the
UITableViewDataSource protocol.

The tableview requests its datasource for information regarding the structure of
the table to build it.

Within the extension, there are three methods that have been implemented:

numberOfSections(in tableView: UITableView) -> Int

This specifies the number of sections that the table is going to have.

tableView(_ tableView: UITableView, numberOfRowsInSection section: Int) -> Int

This returns the total number of rows the table will have. Ideally we return the
count of our datasource (in our case an array of items) — items.count

tableView(_ tableView: UITableView, cellForRowAt indexPath: IndexPath) -> UITableViewCell

This returns an instance of the tableview cell for an index path. This is where
the data binding usually happens.

let cell = tableView.dequeueReusableCell(withIdentifier: "cell", for: indexPath)
cell.textLabel?.text = items[indexPath.row]
return cell
  • A tableview cell is dequeued for the correspoding indexpath
  • The cell’s textLabel property holds the text from our array
  • The Cell is returned

Step IV:

Adding Table View to the View

Now that our Table View has been setup, all that’s left is adding it to our

In your *viewDidLoad() *method:


Now when you Build and Run, you should see your table populated with the data
from the items array.

That’s how a simple table is created, a complex one builds over the same
concepts and a cell could be designed to hold text, images, and even videos.

I hope that was useful.