Tag Archives: UICollectionView

How to implement context menus for cut/copy/paste in a UICollectionView

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.56.47

By default a collection view cell is implementing a long press gesture recogniser. If activated the cell will bring up the familiar context menu for cut, copy and paste. It’s up to us to enable it, and it’s also up to us how to react to this menu. Here’s how we can do that.

The following three methods are provided as commented stubs in the CollectionViewController template.

Showing the Menu

First we need to tell our class that the menu is to be shown:

Returning YES here will show the menu for every cell, but since we also get an indexPath, we could make decisions based on which cell has been tapped and make the menu show up conditionally.

Next we need to decide which items we want to show:

Returning YES here will show cut, copy and paste. We can make this conditional too, based both in the indexPath for each cell, but also based on the action parameter. Here’s a variation which will only show cut and paste, but not copy:

Menu Actions

It’s up to us what happens when either of those menu items is selected by the user. We can either use the UIPasteboard to retrieve and store our values, or create a property and store out entire object in it. I only have an NSString value per cell and will use the UIPasteboard.

This method is called when the user taps a menu item:

It looks more complex than it really is: we first procure the value of our cell, and then add it to (or remove it from) the underlying data source. Typically it’s a mutable array or Core Data. Once the data is updated, we ask the collection view to reload its data which then makes the changes appear.

That’s it!

How to build a UICollectionView in iOS 8

In this episode I’ll show you how to build a UICollectionView from scratch in Xcode 6. The class is available for both iPhone and iPad since iOS 6. If you know how to build a UITableView then building a UICollectionView will be familiar to you.

I’ll start with a single view application, delete the ViewController class and start fresh with a UICollectionViewController. Next I’ll add a custom class for the UICollectionViewController and UICollectionViewCell and then we’ll hook it up in the storyboard.

By the end we’ll have a simple Collection View App which allows multiple selections. I’m going to use this project to build on with other features in the future.

Custom CollectionViewController Class

The template provides a few good starting points, but they need to be changed to work. First there’s the cell’s reuse identifier, conveniently added as a static at the top of the implementation file. It’s there so we only need to change this once in the file. Replace it with your own, and remember to make the same change in the storyboard:

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.11.03

Next up is the viewDidLoad method. To make dequeuing cells easier, Apple have provided a registerClass method. If you don’t add your custom cell here, nothing will appear when you run the app. I found that simply commenting out the line works just as well.

The reason they provide this is so that the dequeueCellWithIdendifier method knows which custom cell class to instantiate (prior to iOS 6 it returned nil, but that check is no longer necessary).

I’m also adding multiple selections here, something that cannot be done in the storyboard.


Much like with UITableViews, we need to provide the number of sections, as well as the number of items in each section:

If you don’t provide the sections method, it is assumed that you have one section. Usually we’d have some data and would return a count of how many items we have rather than fixed values here.

We also need to provide what’s in each cell. Here we can add data to labels, populate UIImageViews and many other things our collection view cells may need:


With UITableViews there were four styles of table cells we could choose from out of the box. A collection view cell on the other hand is completely blank, and we’re expected to provide everything inside it. This means we need a custom UICollectionViewCell class for our project.

Anything we drag into the prototype cell in the storyboard can be hooked up to that custom class and the configured in the above cellForItemAtIndexPath method. Make sure any outlets are defined in the cell’s header file.

Cell Selections

Collection view cells have several views layered on top of each other. At the bottom is the backgroundView and the selectedBackgroundView. These are not configured by default, but if we add our own views here, the cell knows how display selections.

Above the background/selectedBackgroundView is the contentView, and on top of the contentView is where we can add out own outlets (like labels and images). If we leave the contentView’s background colour transparent, the views underneath will be visible, and hence selections are visible too.

Here’s how to configure our custom cell with two colours for selection and deselection. I’m doing this in awakeFromNib, which is called as soon as our cell is instantiated:

Demo Project

The code I’m writing here is available as a demo project on GitHub:

Watch the full course in one convenient playlist:
Catch this episode on my iOS Dev Diary Podcast: