Generic datasources for UITableView and UICollectionView in Swift, with support for YapDatabase





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Taylor Source

Taylor Source is a Swift framework for creating highly configurable and reusable data sources.


Taylor Source is available through CocoaPods. To install it, simply add the following line to your Podfile:

pod ’TaylorSource’


Taylor Source defines a DatasourceType protocol, which has an associated FactoryType protocol. These two protocols are the building blocks of the framework. Each has basic concrete implementation classes: StaticDatasource and StaticSectionDatasource for DatasourceType, and BasicFactory for FactoryType. Both protocols have been designed to be easily implemented.

The Basics

The factory is responsible for registering and vending views. It is a generic protocol, which allows you to configure the base type for cell & view types etc.

The datasource in initialised with a factory and data, and it can be used to generate UITableViewDataSource for example.

We recommend that a datasource be composed inside a bespoke class. For example, assuming a model type Event, a bespoke datasource would be typed:

class EventDatasource: DatasourceProviderType {
  typealias Factory = BasicFactory<Event, EventCell, EventHeaderFooter, UITableView>
  typealias Datasource = StaticDatasource<Factory>

  let datasource: Datasource

Configuring Cells

Configuring cells is done by providing a closure along with a key and description of the cell type. Huh? Lets break this down.

The closure type receives three arguments, the cell, an instance of the model, and the index to the item. In the basic factory, this is an NSIndexPath. But it can be customised.

The cell is described with either, a reuse identifier and class:

.ClassWithIdentifier(EventCell.self, EventCell.reuseIdentifier)

with a reuse identifier and nib:

.NibWithIdentifier(EventCell.nib, EventCell.reuseIdentifier)

or with just a reuse identifier, when the cell is already accessible to the view (such as storyboard prototype cells):


(see ReusableView and ResuableViewDescriptor)

The key is just a string used to associate the configuration closure with the cell. Putting this all together means registering and configuring cells is as easy as:

datasource.factory.registerCell(.ClassWithIdentifier(EventCell.self, EventCell.reuseIdentifier), inView: tableView, withKey: “Events”) { (cell, event, indexPath) in
  cell.textLabel!.text = “\(event.date.timeAgoSinceNow())”

although it’s recommended to provide the configuration block as a class function on your custom cell type. See the example project for this.

Supplementary Views

Supplementary views are headers and footers, although UICollectionView allows you to define your own. This is all supported, but headers and footers have convenience registration methods.

Apart from the kind of the supplementary view, they function just like cells, except only one closure can be registered per kind. In other words, the same closure will configure all your table view section headers.


The basics only support static immutable data. Because if you want more than that, it’s best to use a database. The example project in the repo, is inspired by the default Core Data templates from Apple, but are for use with YapDatabase. To get started:

pod ’TaylorSource/YapDatabase’

which make new Factory and Datasource types available. The bespoke datasource from earlier would become:

class EventDatasource: DatasourceProviderType {
  typealias Factory = YapDBFactory<Event, EventCell, EventHeaderFooter, UITableView>
  typealias Datasource = YapDBDatasource<Factory>

  let datasource: Datasource

YapDBDatasource implements DatasourceType except it fetchs its data from a provided YapDatabase instance. Internally, it uses YapDatabase’s view mappings, which are configured and composed by a database Observer. It can be used configured with YapDatabase views, filtered views and searches. I strongly recommend you read the YapDatabase wiki pages. But a simple way to think of views, is that they are like saved database queries, and perform filtering, sorting and mapping of your model items. YapDBDatabase then provides a common interface for UI components - for all of your queries.

YapDBFactory Cell & View Configuration

The index type provided to the cell (and supplementary view) configuration closure is customisable. For BasicFactory these are both NSIndexPath. However for YapDBFactory the cell index type is a structure which provides not only an NSIndexPath but also a YapDatabaseReadTransaction. This means that any additional objects required to configure the cell can be read from the database in the closure.

For supplementary view configure blocks, the index type further has the group which the YapDatabaseView defined for the current section. Often, this is the best way to define a “model” for a supplementary view - by making the group an identifier of another type which can be read from the database using the read transaction.

Multiple Cell & View Types

Often it might be necessary to have different cell designs in the same screen. Or, perhaps different supplementary views. This can be achieved by registering each cell and view with the datasource’s factory. There are some caveats however.

The Datasource’s Factory implements FactoryType which defines the generic type CellType and SupplementaryViewType. When the design encompasses more than one cell class (or supplementary view class), this generic type becomes the common parent class.

For a table view design, all cells inherit from UITableViewCell, so given two cell subclasses, EventCell and ReminderCell the definition from the example above would be:

class EventCell: UITableViewCell { }

class ReminderCell: UITableViewCell { }

class EventDatasource: DatasourceProviderType {
  // Note that cell is common parent class.
  typealias Factory = YapDBFactory<Event, UITableViewCell, EventHeaderFooter, UITableView>
  typealias Datasource = YapDBDatasource<Factory>

  let datasource: Datasource

In some situations it is often efficient to use a base cell class, for example, ReminderCell could in fact be a specialized EventCell.

class EventCell: UITableViewCell { }

class ReminderCell: EventCell { }

class EventDatasource: DatasourceProviderType {
  // Note that here EventCell is our common parent cell.
  typealias Factory = YapDBFactory<Event, EventCell, EventHeaderFooter, UITableView>
  typealias Datasource = YapDBDatasource<Factory>

  let datasource: Datasource

The same rules apply for supplementary views e.g. section headers and footers, which inherit from UITableHeaderFooterView for table views, and UICollectionReusableView for collection views.

Registering multiple cells

Registering a cell requires the containing view, e.g. UITableView instance. So, recommended best practice is to initialise a custom datasource provider with the table view. Following on with the example of two cell subclasses:

class EventDatasource: DatasourceProviderType {
  typealias Factory = YapDBFactory<Event, UITableViewCell, EventHeaderFooter, UITableView>
  typealias Datasource = YapDBDatasource<Factory>

  let datasource: Datasource

  init(db: YapDatabase, view: Factory.ViewType) {
    // Create a factory. This closure is discussed below.
    let factory = Factory(cell: { (event, index) in return event.isReminder ? "reminder" : "event" } )
    // Create the datasource
    datasource = Datasource(
      // this can be whatever you want, to help debugging. 
      id: "Events datasource", 
      // the YapDatabase instance - see YapDB from YapDatabaseExtensions.
      database: db, 
      // the factory we defined above.
      factory: factory, 
      // provided by TaylorSource to auto-update from YapDatabase changes.
      processChanges: view.processChanges, 
      // See example code for info on creating YapDB Configurations. Essentially this is a database fetch request for Event objects.
      configuration: eventsConfiguration()

    // Register the cells
      // See ReusableView in TaylorSource.
      .ClassWithIdentifier(EventCell.self, EventCell.reuseIdentifier), 
      inView: view, 
      // The key used to look up the correct cell. See discussion below.
      withKey: "event", 
      // This is a static fnction which returns a closure. See below.
      configuration: EventCell.configuration() 
      .NibWithIdentifier(ReminderCell.nib, ReminderCell.reuseIdentifier), 
      inView: view, 
      withKey: "reminder",      
      configuration: ReminderCell.configuration()

This requires both cell classes to implement ReusableView and return a configuration block. This is a feature of using TaylorSource, the configuration of cells is defined by a static closure on the cell itself, which decouples them from view controllers - increasing usability.

The factory will vend an instance of the cell Therefore inside the configuration closure, it must be cast. For example:

class EventCell: UITableViewCell {

  @IBOutlet var iconView: UIImageView!
  class func configuration() -> EventsDatasource.Datasource.FactoryType.CellConfiguration {
    /* The `cell` constant here is typed as EventsDatasource.Datasource.FactoryType.CellType, 
     which in this example is UITableViewCell because we also have ReminderCell registered. */
    return { (cell, event, index) in
      cell.textLabel!.text = “\(event.date.timeAgoSinceNow())”
      if let eventCell = cell as! EventCell {
        eventCell.iconView.image = event.icon.image
      // Note that we are only concerned with configuring the EventCell here.  

How does the factory dequeue and configure the correct cell class?

The example above glossed over a closure which the factory was initialized with. This is a critical detail when using multiple cell classes in the same container. In such a scenario, some cells are one design, other cells are another. The logic of this switch is provided to TaylorSource's Factory class (which is the base implementation of FactoryType) via closures at its initialization. These closures are typed as follows:

Factory.GetCellKey = (Item, CellIndexType) -> String
Factory.GetSupplementaryKey = (SupplementaryIndexType) -> String

For cells, this means that the closure will receive the model item, and it's index inside the datasource. For YapDBDatasources, this means that the index will be a struct providing both the NSIndexPath but also a YapDatabaseReadTransaction. The closure should use this information and return a String, which is used as a look up key for the cell. In our example above, the Event model has an isReminder boolean property.

The keys returned by the closure are used as the withKey argument when registering the corresponding cell.

See the Gallery example project for an demonstration of using multiple cell styles in the same datasource.

Using enums for multiple models

If the design calls for a table view (or collection view) with multiple different cells, each with their own model, use an enum to wrap the corresponding models. For the example above, consider that EventCell requires an Event model, and ReminderCell requires a Reminder model. How would we put this into a datasource?

struct Event {}
struct Reminder {}

enum CellModel { // but come up with a better name!
  case Event(ModuleName.Event) // Use full name definition to avoid clashes.
  case Reminder(ModuleName.Reminder)

extension CellModel {
  static var getCellKey: EventDatasource.Datasource.FactoryType.GetCellKey {
    return { (item, _) in 
      switch item {
        case .Event(_): return "event"
        case .Reminder(_): return "reminder"

class EventDatasource: DatasourceProviderType {
  typealias Factory = YapDBFactory<CellModel, UITableViewCell, EventHeaderFooter, UITableView>
  typealias Datasource = YapDBDatasource<Factory>

  let datasource: Datasource

  init(db: YapDatabase, view: Factory.ViewType) {
    // Create a factory. Use the closure as defined on the cell model.
    let factory = Factory(cell: CellModel.getCellKey)

    // etc

Editable Table View Data Sources

Apple’s UITableViewDataSource has some optional methods which support the table view when it is in editing mode. Editing a table view in general means inserting, deleting or moving rows.

TaylorSource support this functionality via optional closures defined on DatasourceProviderType. To enable the optional methods on the generated UITableViewDataSource from TableViewDatasourceProvider all four closures must be provided, using an empty implementation if necessary.

See the Events example project for how deleting rows from a YapDatabase backed table view works.

Design Goals

  1. Be D.R.Y. - I never want to have to implement func tableView(_: UITableView, numberOfRowsInSection: Int) -> Int ever again.
  2. Be super easy to decouple data source types from view controllers.
  3. Support custom cell and supplementary view classes.
  4. Customise cells and views with type safe closures.
  5. Be super easy to compose and extend data source types.


Until TaylorSource's APIs have stabilized (post Swift 2.0) I am not looking for contribution for code. Contributions in the form of pull requests for improvements to documentation, spelling mistakes, unit tests, integration aids are always welcome.


Daniel Thorpe - @danthorpe


Taylor Source is available under the MIT license. See the LICENSE file for more info.

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