Bridging SwiftUI and UIKit: Blending the New with the Familiar

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Bridging SwiftUI and UIKit: Blending the New with the Familiar


As the landscape of iOS development continues to evolve, two technologies often find themselves at the forefront of the conversation: SwiftUI and UIKit. While UIKit has been the bedrock of iOS development for over a decade, SwiftUI — introduced by Apple in 2019 — is a modern, intuitive, and powerful framework designed to interoperate seamlessly with the existing UIKit framework.

Both SwiftUI and UIKit are integral to the iOS ecosystem, each bringing unique advantages to the table. UIKit offers immense power and flexibility, having been refined over the years. On the other hand, SwiftUI offers a simple, declarative syntax that makes UI development faster and more efficient.

Yet, despite their distinct advantages, neither SwiftUI nor UIKit is a silver bullet. Each has its limitations and scenarios where the other shines. As an iOS developer, understanding how to bridge SwiftUI and UIKit to harness the power of both frameworks is an invaluable skill.

Understanding SwiftUI and UIKit

Before we can explore the process of integration, it is crucial to understand the fundamental differences between SwiftUI and UIKit.

UIKit is a robust and versatile framework that has been part of the iOS development toolkit since its inception. It is based on an imperative programming style and requires a deep understanding of the view-controller lifecycle. Its maturity and comprehensive nature make it an excellent choice for complex applications that require fine-grained control over UI elements.

SwiftUI, on the other hand, is a new, innovative framework that uses a declarative programming paradigm. This means that you state what you want to achieve, and SwiftUI determines how to implement it. The result is a simplified development process that is more straightforward to understand, easier to debug, and less prone to errors.

Despite the evident benefits of SwiftUI, it does not entirely replace UIKit. SwiftUI is still in its early stages and doesn't support every feature that UIKit does. That’s where the necessity to blend SwiftUI and UIKit arises.

In the next section, we will delve deeper into the reasons why integrating SwiftUI and UIKit is not only beneficial but often necessary in real-world applications.

The Need for Integration

The limitations of SwiftUI and UIKit when used in isolation become evident in real-world scenarios. For example, SwiftUI does not yet support every UIKit view and view controller. Additionally, since many apps in production still use UIKit extensively, rewriting them entirely in SwiftUI would be a herculean task and is not always practical or necessary.

Instead, integrating SwiftUI views into UIKit or using UIKit views in SwiftUI can lead to the best of both worlds. This approach is especially beneficial for applications in the transition phase or apps looking to incrementally adopt SwiftUI without entirely phasing out UIKit.

In the next sections, we'll explore practical ways to integrate SwiftUI and UIKit, starting with the concept of UIViewRepresentable and UIViewControllerRepresentable.

SwiftUI and UIKit: Building the Bridge

With a clear understanding of SwiftUI, UIKit, and the need for their integration, let's delve into the mechanics of how this can be achieved.

The bridge between SwiftUI and UIKit is built primarily via two protocols provided by SwiftUI - UIViewRepresentable and UIViewControllerRepresentable.

  1. UIViewRepresentable: This protocol is used to wrap UIKit views and make them available in SwiftUI. When you create a struct conforming to UIViewRepresentable, you are required to implement two methods - makeUIView(context:) and updateUIView(_:context:). The first one is where you create and return an instance of your UIKit view. The second one is where you update the configuration of your view in response to changes in data.

  2. UIViewControllerRepresentable: Similarly, this protocol is used to wrap UIKit view controllers for use in SwiftUI. It also requires the implementation of two methods - makeUIViewController(context:) and updateUIViewController(_:context:), which work similarly to their UIViewRepresentable counterparts.

By leveraging these two protocols, SwiftUI allows us to interface with UIKit. In the subsequent sections, we will explore real-world examples of how UIViewRepresentable and UIViewControllerRepresentable can be used to bridge SwiftUI and UIKit.

Case Study 1: Using UIViewRepresentable

Let's consider an example where we want to use UIKit’s UISlider in our SwiftUI View. SwiftUI has its Slider control, but for the sake of understanding UIViewRepresentable, we will use UIKit's UISlider.

Firstly, we need to create a struct that conforms to UIViewRepresentable and implement the required methods:

import SwiftUI
import UIKit

struct UIKitSlider: UIViewRepresentable {
    @Binding var value: Float

    func makeUIView(context: Context) -> UISlider {
        let slider = UISlider(frame: .zero)
        slider.addTarget(context.coordinator, action: #selector(Coordinator.valueChanged(_:)), for: .valueChanged)
        return slider

    func updateUIView(_ uiView: UISlider, context: Context) {
        uiView.value = value

    func makeCoordinator() -> Coordinator {

    class Coordinator: NSObject {
        var slider: UIKitSlider

        init(_ slider: UIKitSlider) {
            self.slider = slider

        @objc func valueChanged(_ sender: UISlider) {
            slider.value = sender.value

In the code above, we create a UIKitSlider struct that conforms to UIViewRepresentable. It includes a @Binding var value: Float to allow SwiftUI to communicate with the UIKit view.

The makeUIView(context:) function creates a UISlider and sets up an action target for valueChanged events, pointing to the Coordinator.

The Coordinator class is a bridge that facilitates communication between SwiftUI's data flow and the UIKit view.

In updateUIView(_:context:), we update the slider's value as per the SwiftUI data.

Case Study 2: Using UIViewControllerRepresentable

Continuing from our previous discussion, let's now delve into a practical example that demonstrates the usage of UIViewControllerRepresentable in SwiftUI. For instance, SwiftUI does not have a native component that directly replaces UIImagePickerController from UIKit. To use it in a SwiftUI application, we must bridge it using UIViewControllerRepresentable.

Let's walk through how to implement this:

import SwiftUI
import UIKit

struct ImagePicker: UIViewControllerRepresentable {
    @Binding var selectedImage: UIImage?
    @Environment(\.dismiss) var dismiss

    func makeUIViewController(context: Context) -> UIImagePickerController {
        let picker = UIImagePickerController()
        picker.delegate = context.coordinator
        return picker

    func updateUIViewController(_ uiViewController: UIImagePickerController, context: Context) { }

    func makeCoordinator() -> Coordinator {

    class Coordinator: NSObject, UINavigationControllerDelegate, UIImagePickerControllerDelegate {
        let parent: ImagePicker

        init(_ parent: ImagePicker) {
            self.parent = parent

        func imagePickerController(_ picker: UIImagePickerController, didFinishPickingMediaWithInfo info: [UIImagePickerController.InfoKey : Any]) {
            if let image = info[.originalImage] as? UIImage {
                parent.selectedImage = image


In the code above, we have a SwiftUI view ImagePicker which is a wrapper for UIImagePickerController. This wrapper conforms to UIViewControllerRepresentable.

The makeUIViewController(context:) method creates an instance of UIImagePickerController and assigns its delegate to the Coordinator.

The Coordinator class conforms to UINavigationControllerDelegate and UIImagePickerControllerDelegate, providing a bridge for the delegate method imagePickerController(_:didFinishPickingMediaWithInfo:) back to SwiftUI. This method updates selectedImage when an image is selected and calls dismiss() to close the view.

This example effectively demonstrates the power of UIViewControllerRepresentable, enabling us to seamlessly incorporate UIKit view controllers into SwiftUI interfaces.

Cross Communication: SwiftUI to UIKit

Having learned how to integrate UIKit views and view controllers into SwiftUI, the next crucial step is understanding how to enable communication between the two. In the previous examples, we used @Binding and Coordinator to communicate changes from SwiftUI to UIKit components.

In the next section, we will be addressing the other side of the equation - passing information from UIKit to SwiftUI.

Cross Communication: UIKit to SwiftUI

We've seen how SwiftUI can communicate with UIKit components using @Binding and a Coordinator. But how can UIKit components send information back to SwiftUI? This two-way communication is critical to ensure your app behaves as expected.

In our previous ImagePicker example, we already saw this in action. When the user selects an image, the UIKit view controller notifies SwiftUI via the Coordinator:

func imagePickerController(_ picker: UIImagePickerController, didFinishPickingMediaWithInfo info: [UIImagePickerController.InfoKey : Any]) {
    if let image = info[.originalImage] as? UIImage {
        parent.selectedImage = image

In the code snippet above, parent.selectedImage = image passes the selected image back to the SwiftUI view. The SwiftUI view's state is then updated to reflect this change, and SwiftUI re-renders the relevant parts of the UI.

This process of UIKit informing SwiftUI about changes is the fundamental way that UIKit to SwiftUI communication is handled. Essentially, UIKit talks to SwiftUI via the Coordinator and @Binding mechanism.

Advanced Integration Techniques

While the UIViewRepresentable and UIViewControllerRepresentable protocols cover many scenarios, sometimes, more complex integration is required. For instance, you may need to handle events that are not directly supported by these protocols or need to communicate more complex changes from UIKit to SwiftUI.

This is where the Combine framework can be beneficial. Combine is a reactive framework introduced by Apple, and it provides a powerful way to handle event processing in a declarative manner, similar to SwiftUI.

By creating custom publishers in your UIKit components, you can broadcast changes that SwiftUI can subscribe to and respond.

For example, suppose we want to broadcast whenever a certain action happens in our UIKit component. In that case, we can define a custom publisher for that action and send updates through it. Then, in SwiftUI, we can use the onReceive(_:perform:) modifier to react to these updates.

In essence, more advanced integration techniques involve building upon the foundations we've discussed so far, applying additional tools and frameworks as needed to address more complex use-cases.

Potential Pitfalls and Best Practices

Like any technology integration, bridging SwiftUI and UIKit comes with its potential pitfalls and challenges. One such challenge is lifecycle synchronization.

Given their different paradigms (declarative vs. imperative), SwiftUI and UIKit handle view lifecycles differently, which can sometimes lead to inconsistencies if not managed carefully.

A best practice here is to make sure all data-driven updates happen in updateUIView(_:context:) or updateUIViewController(_:context:) rather than relying on UIKit's lifecycle methods.

Similarly, keeping the UIKit views and view controllers 'dumb', i.e., making them unaware of data logic and letting SwiftUI handle the data flow, can make the integration smoother and the codebase cleaner and easier to maintain.

A general rule of thumb is to keep things as simple as possible and only use SwiftUI/UIKit integration where necessary.


In an ever-evolving iOS development landscape, SwiftUI and UIKit have their distinctive roles. While SwiftUI continues to mature, UIKit remains a powerful and versatile toolkit for iOS development. The ability to bridge SwiftUI and UIKit, therefore, presents a significant advantage, enabling developers to harness the best of both worlds.

As we have seen, SwiftUI provides the tools we need for this integration in the form of UIViewRepresentable and UIViewControllerRepresentable. Using these protocols, we can make UIKit views and view controllers available within SwiftUI and establish communication between the two.

Yet, like all powerful tools, they come with their complexities. Developers need to be aware of potential pitfalls, like lifecycle synchronization issues, and follow best practices to maintain a clean and maintainable codebase.

As SwiftUI continues to grow and gain more features, the dependency on UIKit might decrease. However, for the foreseeable future, the ability to bridge SwiftUI and UIKit remains a crucial skill for iOS developers.


  1. Apple Inc. (2020). SwiftUI Tutorial: Integrating UIKit with SwiftUI. Apple Developer Documentation.

  2. Apple Inc. (2020). UIKit Framework. Apple Developer Documentation.

  3. Hacking with Swift. (2020). How to use UIViewRepresentable to create SwiftUI views wrapping UIKit, MapKit, and more. Hacking with Swift.

That concludes our in-depth exploration of bridging SwiftUI and UIKit. I hope you found it informative and enlightening. I would love to hear any questions, comments, or points of discussion you might have!