iOS

Storyboard Tutorial: Create Tab Bar Controller and Web View


This is the third article of the Storyboards series. Last time, we discussed how to pass data between view controllers with segue. It should be easy, right? Now let’s continue to polish our Storyboard project and see how you can create to two other common UI elements in iPhone apps.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn:

  • How to Create a Tab Bar Controller
  • How to Create an About page using UIWebView

If you’re new to Storyboards, I suggest you to check out the first tutorial. All the materials discussed in this material are based on the work we’ve done before.

Tab Bar Controller and UIWebView

First, as usual, let’s have a brief introduction for Tab Bar Controller and UIWebView. You may not be familiar with the term “Tab Bar” but it’s commonly found in most of the iPhone apps. Just take a look at the below sample apps. All of them make use of the Tab Bar controller to display distinct view in each tab. Normally the Tab Bar contains at least two tabs and you’re allowed to add up to five tabs depending on your needs.

Sample App with Tab Bar Interface

Sample App with Tab Bar Interface

UIWebView, on the other hand, is a handy component to load web content. In some cases, you want to display a single web page locally in your app or let users access external web pages within your app. You can simply embed the UIWebView object in your app and send it a request to load the web content.

Creating a Tab Bar Controller

Now back to our Xcode project. Let me first recap what we’ve done. If you’ve followed the previous tutorial, you should build a simple recipe app with Navigation interface. It’s not completely implemented but just works.

Recipe App With Correct Detail View

Final Deliverable in Previous Tutorial

In this tutorial, we’re going to polish the app and create a tab bar interface. You may think it’ll be difficult and requires a lot of coding. The introduction of Storyboarding feature simplifies everything. It’s so easy to embed the navigation controller into a tab bar controller with just point and click.

First, select the “Navigation Controller” in MainStoryboard.storyboard. Then select “Editor” in the menu and choose “Embed in”, followed by “Tab Bar Controller”.

Storyboard Embed Tab Bar Controller

Embed Navigation Controller in Tab Bar Controller

As you can see from below figure, Xcode automatically puts the navigation controller inside a tab bar controller. Super easy, right? You may think that’s trivial. Before Apple introduced the Storyboarding feature, you would need to write code and design a separate NIB in order to embed a navigation controller.

Storyboards Tab Bar Controller Added

Navigation Controller is embedded in Tab Bar Controller

Changing Tab Bar Item Name

By default, the tab bar item is not named and without an icon. Select the tab item in Navigation Controller. You’re free to change the name and specify an icon in the Attributes Inspector. The tab bar item is default to the “custom” identifier. When it’s set to custom, that means you have to specify the title and image manually.

Storyboard Tab Bar Item

Customize Tab Bar Item

You can also use some built-in tab bar items (e.g. More, Favorites, Top Rated) that already include an icon. Let’s keep the tutorial simple and utilize the built-in item. Select “Featured” for the identifier and your screen should look like this:

Storyboard Featured Tab Bar Item

Change Tab Bar Item to Featured

Run Your App

It’s now ready to test the app. Hit the Run button and see how it looks. The app should be very similar the one we built in the previous tutorial but with the tab bar.

Recipe App with Tab Bar

Adding a New Tab

You use tab bar interface to organize your app into distinct modes of operation. Each tab delivers specific functions. Obviously, there are at least two tabs in an app when tab bar controller is used. So we’re going to create a new tab for displaying the app’s “About” page.

Drag a “Navigation Controller” object into the Storyboard. The default navigation controller is associated with a table view controller. Just leave it as is. We’ll change it later.

Tab Bar New Navigation Controller

Add a New Navigation Controller

Next, we have to establish a relationship between the new navigation controller and the existing tab bar controller. Press and hold the “control” key, click the Tab Bar Controller and drag the pointer to the new Navigation Controller.

Tab Bar Controller Links Navigation Controller

Link Up Tab Bar Controller and Navigation Controller

Release both buttons and a pop-up is displayed. Select the “Relationship – View Controllers” option. This tells Xcode that the new Navigation Controller is a part of Tab Bar Controller.

Tab Bar Controller Relationship Prompt

Establish Relationship with Navigation Controller

As soon as the relationship is established, the Tab Bar Controller automatically adds a new tab and associates it with the new Navigation Controller.

Tab Bar Controller with New Unamed Tab

Tab Bar Controller with New Tab

Change the tab bar item of the new Navigation Controller to “More”. Save the Storyboard and run the app again. Don’t you see the new “More” tab?

Recipe App with Two Tabs

Creating the ‘About’ Page with UIWebView

The “More” tab is now empty. We’re going to turn it into a web view for displaying the “About” page of the app. First, delete the “Table View Controller” and replace it with a View Controller. Simply select the “Table View Controller” and click DELETE button to remove it. Then drag the “View Controller” object from Object Library.

Storyboard Blank View Controller

Replace Table View Controller with View Controller

As of now, the blank View Controller is not associated with the Navigation Controller. We have to link them up. Press and hold the command key, select the Navigation Controller and drag it towards the View Controller.

Storyboard link View Controller

Link up View Controller and Navigation Controller

Like what we’ve done earlier, select the “Relationship – View Controllers” option to establish the relationship between both controllers.

Storyboard View Controller Relationship

Associated the Relationship Between View Controllers

The main purpose of this view controller is to render the “About” web page. iOS SDK has a built-in UIWebView object to display web content. You can simply embed the UIWebView object in any view controller. Later you send it a HTTP request and it automatically loads the web content for you. Locate the “Web View” in Object Library and add it into the View Controller.

View Controller UIWebView

Add Web View into View Controller

Assigning a New View Controller Class

As explained in previous tutorial, a blank view controller is assigned with the default UIViewController class, that only provides the fundamental view management model. Apparently, it doesn’t come with a variable for controlling the UIWebView. Yet we have to create a new View Controller class that extends from the UIViewController.

In the Project Navigator, right-click the “RecipeBook” folder and select “New File…”.

Storyboard New View Controller

Create New File in Xcode Project

Choose “Objective-C Class” under Cocoa Touch as the class template.

Storyboard New ObjectiveC Class

Select Objective C Class

Name the class as “AboutViewController” and it’s a subclass of “UIViewController”. Make sure you uncheck the option of “With XIB for user interface”. As we’re using Storyboards for designing the user interface, we do not need to create a separate interface builder file. Click “Next” and save the file in your project folder.

New Class AboutViewController

Create a new class – AboutViewController

Next, assign the view controller with the “AboutViewController”. Go back to the Storyboards editor and select the view controller. In the identity inspector, change the class to “AboutViewController”.

View Controller with AboutViewController

Set the Custom Class to AboutViewController

Use UIWebView to Load a Request

To request UIWebView to load web content, we have to write a few lines of code. In brief, there are three things we need to implement:

  • Add the “about.html” and “about.jpg” to your Xcode project
  • Assign a variable for UIWebView and associate it with the Web View object in Storyboard
  • Use the loadRequest: method in UIWebView to load web content

Adding ‘About.html’

The UIWebView class allows you to load web content both locally and remotely. You can send it a HTTP request (e.g. http://www.google.com) to load a remote website. Alternatively, you can tell UIWebView to load web pages embed in your app. For this tutorial, we’ll put the “about.html” inside our app.

You can create your own about.html. For your convenience, however, download the about.zip, extract it and add all the files into the Xcode project.

Assign a Variable for UIWebView

Select the “AboutViewController.h” and add a new property for UIWebView:

Go to the “AboutViewController.m” and add the synthesis for the variable. Make sure you place the code under “@implementation AboutViewController”:

If you’ve forgotten what the interface and implementation are, go back to this tutorial and revisit the concept.

As usual, it’s required to establish connection between the “webView” variable and the visual web view. In the Storyboards editor, press & hold the command key and then click the “View Controller” icon, drag it to the Web View object. Release both buttons and a pop-up shows variables for your selection. Choose the “webView” variable.

Link Up UIWebView and webView

Link Up UIWebView and webView Variable

Load Web Content

Inside viewDidLoad method, add the following code to load the “about.html”:

The UIWebView class provides a convenient method named “loadRequest:” to load web content. What you need to do is to pass it a URL request. Line 5 of the above code returns the system path of the “about.html” in the form of NSURL object. Line 6 creates a NSURLRequest using the URL. Obviously, line 7 sends the request to web view.

Final Deliverable

Hit the Run button and try out the app. If you got everything correctly, your final deliverable should look like below. When you select the “More” tab, it automatically loads the “about.html”.

Recipe App with Two Tabs

Summary

Storyboarding has streamlined the user interface design of iOS app. As you can see from this tutorial, without a single line of code, you can create a tab bar controller and embed other controllers in the tab items. We’ve also showed you how to use UIWebView to load web content. UIWebView offers basic function of a mobile browser. Whenever you need to display web page within your app, embed the web view and send it a request.

In the upcoming tutorials, we’ll continue to explore other new features of Storyboards. Stay tuned and make sure you leave us comment below if you have any questions.

Update: You can now download the full source code for your reference.

iOS
iOS Programming 101: Intro to MapKit API and Add an Annotation on Map
iOS
Handling Single and Multiple Selection in Collection View
iOS
Delete a Row from UITableView and Model-View-Controller
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get a free 7-day iOS programming course, plus weekly programming tutorials, tips and freebies.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Shares