UILabel is one the most smart view in UIKit family. It knows a lot about itself. If you constraint it to a certain width, the UILabel can calculate the height for itself. Another smart thing about UILabel is that is saves you machine cycles by not redrawing its content unless something is actually modified. And if you use NSAttributedString, you can in fact draw a more sophisticated text content.

Given so many good things with a UILabel, it is very tempting to subclass a UILabel to render our custom text content. Say if you’re working on a game or app, say a chat messenger, you may like to have a view where you render you text and have some decorations around it, like a speech bubble with an optional image. And, if you’ve ever worked on such a task, you know how painful it actually is!.

A UILabel is the perfect fit whenever you’ve a need to render some text on screen. Recently had to undergo such a job of subclassing UILabel, and it surprisingly hard to find a good source of information that shows how to properly subclass UILabel. It might work for the text data you have right now, but there are so many screen sizes and edge cases possible. If you’re one of those person, I don’t want you to discover this knowledge the hard way like I did, I’ll share the knowledge I’ve acquired from my adventure.

Even if you’re not directly using UILabel but rendering your content on an OpenGL canvas using Freetype library or something, the knowledge of how UILabel works should be really helpful in designing your own view. But, you can take my word for it, that rendering text is one of the most challenging things in the UI problem domains. You have to render all sort of glyphs, in all sort of writing directions with a lot of kerning, ligatures and other text attributes. If you’re one of those adventure seeker, you should definitely try building your own text rendering system. Just for the inspiration, these are from the days when I was building one:

Fixing font rendering the long way pic.twitter.com/hJtCBKLqBN

— Sidharth Juyal (@chunkyguy) June 26, 2013

One day work = FreeType font rendering pic.twitter.com/FJMrcPPu

— Sidharth Juyal (@chunkyguy) February 6, 2013

Someday, I should probably also share my experiences with building a UILabel-like view from scratch, I mean on top of freetype. But, today we just extend over the work UILabel already does for us. Let’s begin with creating a new project.

We simply create a new project with a single view and add a RoundedRectLabel class. Next, we write our basic code to render the label on screen.

``` {.brush: .cpp; .title: .; .notranslate title=””}

class RoundedRectLabel: UILabel {

}

class ViewController: UIViewController {

override func viewDidLoad() {

    super.viewDidLoad()

    

    view.backgroundColor = .lightGrayColor()

    

    let chatBubbleLabel = RoundedRectLabel()

    chatBubbleLabel.text = "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise. Fear and surprise. Two chief weapons, fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency! Er, among our chief weapons are: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, and near fanatical devotion to the Pope! Um, I'll come in again."

    chatBubbleLabel.textColor = .blackColor()

    chatBubbleLabel.backgroundColor = .cyanColor()

    chatBubbleLabel.numberOfLines = 0

    chatBubbleLabel.textAlignment = .Justified

    view.addSubview(chatBubbleLabel)

    

    chatBubbleLabel.setTranslatesAutoresizingMaskIntoConstraints(false)

    view.addConstraint(NSLayoutConstraint(item: chatBubbleLabel, attribute: .CenterY, relatedBy: .Equal, toItem: view, attribute: .CenterY, multiplier: 1.0, constant: 0.0))

    view.addConstraints(NSLayoutConstraint.constraintsWithVisualFormat("H:|-[chatBubbleLabel]-|", options: NSLayoutFormatOptions(0), metrics: nil, views: ["chatBubbleLabel": chatBubbleLabel]))

}



override func prefersStatusBarHidden() -> Bool {

    return true

}

} ```

Now the two important methods to subclass within a UILabel are:

``` {.brush: .cpp; .title: .; .notranslate title=””}

func textRectForBounds(bounds: CGRect, limitedToNumberOfLines numberOfLines: Int) -> CGRect

func drawTextInRect(rect: CGRect) ```

The textRectForBounds(_:limitedToNumberOfLines:) provides us an opportunity to update the drawing area of the text within the UILabel. And the drawTextInRect() is for you to do you custom drawing within the view.

If you notice, this is a little different than your usual UIView subclassing, where you typically draw you content in drawRect(). Another thing to keep in mind is that you typically also don’t want to modify the intrinsicContentSize(). Overriding these two methods will do whatever you want to do with you custom UILabel.

For sake of getting a deeper understanding, let’s print out the order of execution.

``` {.brush: .cpp; .title: .; .notranslate title=””}

class RoundedRectLabel: UILabel {

override func textRectForBounds(bounds: CGRect, limitedToNumberOfLines numberOfLines: Int) -> CGRect {

    let textRect = super.textRectForBounds(bounds, limitedToNumberOfLines: numberOfLines)

    println("\(__FUNCTION__): \(textRect)")

    return textRect

}



override func drawTextInRect(rect: CGRect) {

    super.drawTextInRect(rect)

    println("\(__FUNCTION__): \(rect)")

}



override func intrinsicContentSize() -> CGSize {

    let size = super.intrinsicContentSize()

    println("\(__FUNCTION__): \(size)")

    return size

}

} ```

Here’s the output:

``` {.brush: .cpp; .title: .; .notranslate title=””}

textRectForBounds(_:limitedToNumberOfLines:): (0.0, 0.0, 2122.5, 20.5)

intrinsicContentSize(): (2122.5, 20.5)

textRectForBounds(_:limitedToNumberOfLines:): (0.0, 0.0, 342.5, 142.0)

intrinsicContentSize(): (342.5, 142.0)

drawTextInRect: (0.0, 0.0, 343.0, 142.0) ```

The interesting thing to notice here is that whatever is calculated from the super.textRectForBounds(_:limitedToNumberOfLines:) is also passed on to the intrinsicContentSize(). Another interesting thing is that, the methods are called multiple times. First time with some estimated values by UIKit and second time after the values have been evaluated accurately enough.

Not implementing the intrinsicContentSize() also means that, you don’t need to invalidateIntrinsicContentSize() yourself. Since, the default drawing mode of UILabel is UIViewContentMode.Redraw, the content is redrawn automatically whenever the content updates. To confirm, if you update the text after a while, you can see the drawing methods being invoked again.

``` {.brush: .cpp; .title: .; .notranslate title=””}

class ViewController: UIViewController {

override func viewDidLoad() {

    super.viewDidLoad()

    

    view.backgroundColor = .lightGrayColor()

    

    let chatBubbleLabel = RoundedRectLabel()

    chatBubbleLabel.text = "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise. Fear and surprise. Two chief weapons, fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency! Er, among our chief weapons are: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, and near fanatical devotion to the Pope! Um, I'll come in again."

    chatBubbleLabel.textColor = .blackColor()

    chatBubbleLabel.backgroundColor = .cyanColor()

    chatBubbleLabel.numberOfLines = 0

    chatBubbleLabel.textAlignment = .Justified

    view.addSubview(chatBubbleLabel)

    

    chatBubbleLabel.setTranslatesAutoresizingMaskIntoConstraints(false)

    view.addConstraint(NSLayoutConstraint(item: chatBubbleLabel, attribute: .CenterY, relatedBy: .Equal, toItem: view, attribute: .CenterY, multiplier: 1.0, constant: 0.0))

    view.addConstraints(NSLayoutConstraint.constraintsWithVisualFormat("H:|-[chatBubbleLabel]-|", options: NSLayoutFormatOptions(0), metrics: nil, views: ["chatBubbleLabel": chatBubbleLabel]))

    

    dispatch_after(dispatch_time(DISPATCH_TIME_NOW, Int64(NSEC_PER_SEC * 3)), dispatch_get_main_queue()) { () -> Void in

        println("---------")

        chatBubbleLabel.text = "All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"

    }

}



override func prefersStatusBarHidden() -> Bool {

    return true

}

} ```

Output:

``` {.brush: .cpp; .title: .; .notranslate title=””}

textRectForBounds(_:limitedToNumberOfLines:): (0.0, 0.0, 2122.5, 20.5)

intrinsicContentSize(): (2122.5, 20.5)

textRectForBounds(_:limitedToNumberOfLines:): (0.0, 0.0, 342.5, 142.0)

intrinsicContentSize(): (342.5, 142.0)

drawTextInRect: (0.0, 0.0, 343.0, 142.0)


textRectForBounds(_:limitedToNumberOfLines:): (0.0, 0.0, 1403.0, 20.5)

intrinsicContentSize(): (1403.0, 20.5)

textRectForBounds(_:limitedToNumberOfLines:): (0.0, 0.0, 323.5, 101.5)

intrinsicContentSize(): (323.5, 101.5)

drawTextInRect: (0.0, 0.0, 343.0, 101.5) ```

This is good, because it means if you’re subclassing a UILabel, you need to focus on just these two methods and the UILabel will take care of the rest. So, lets focus first on the drawTextInRect().

The first thing is to calculate the edge insets or padding you wish to give your label.

``` {.brush: .cpp; .title: .; .notranslate title=””}

let edgeInsets = UIEdgeInsets(top: 10, left: 20, bottom: 10, right: 20)



override func drawTextInRect(rect: CGRect) {

    let textRect = UIEdgeInsetsInsetRect(rect, edgeInsets)

    super.drawTextInRect(textRect)

} ```

As you can see, we’ve the required padding from all edges as we wanted, but the text is truncated at the end. This is because the UILabel currently is trying to draw the text within the original frame it had calculated. So the next task is to provide the new drawing frame to UILabel. This is done within textRectForBounds(_:limitedToNumberOfLines:). The important question is how do we calculate what frame size do we need to draw the entire text content?

The NSString has a handy extension that does this calculations. The method we’re particularly interested in is

``` {.brush: .cpp; .title: .; .notranslate title=””}

func boundingRectWithSize(size: CGSize, options: NSStringDrawingOptions, attributes: [NSObject : AnyObject]!, context: NSStringDrawingContext!) -> CGRect ```

We just need to provide this method our estimated size of drawing area and other rendering attributes, and it will return the actual frame we need to render this text. This brings us to the part II of the problem: How do we calculate the estimated size of the drawing area?

Let’s see, we know the width that we wish to draw in.

``` {.brush: .cpp; .title: .; .notranslate title=””}

let estimatedWidth = CGRectGetWidth(textRect) - (edgeInsets.left + edgeInsets.right) ```

But, UILabel passes the same original width to textRectForBounds(_:limitedToNumberOfLines:) and drawTextInRect(). So, this means if the original width of the UILabel is 100 pts and we wish to have a padding of 10 pts from all edges. If NSString API calculates the required height for width = 80, is lets say it’s 200. The size passed down to drawTextInRect() is 100×200, where we again shrink the size down to 80×180. In order to compensate for this second clipping, we must calculate the height for an 2 times smaller width.

``` {.brush: .cpp; .title: .; .notranslate title=””}

let estimatedWidth = CGRectGetWidth(rect) - (2 * (edgeInsets.left + edgeInsets.right)) ```

But what about the height? Don’t worry, this is just an estimated height, we can provide a very high value, and hope for the best.

``` {.brush: .cpp; .title: .; .notranslate title=””}

let estimatedWidth = CGRectGetWidth(rect) - (2 * (edgeInsets.left + edgeInsets.right))

let estimatedHeight = CGFloat.max

let calculatedFrame = NSString(string: text).boundingRectWithSize(CGSize(width: estimatedWidth, height: estimatedHeight), options: .UsesLineFragmentOrigin, attributes: [NSFontAttributeName: font], context: nil) ```

Next, remember, the boundingRectWithSize(...) will try to wrap our text in as less space as possible, because that is the default behavior. So, we need to explicitly provide the extra top and bottom padding to the size calculated.

``` {.brush: .cpp; .title: .; .notranslate title=””}

let calculatedWidth = ceil(CGRectGetWidth(calculatedFrame))

let calculatedHeight = ceil(CGRectGetHeight(calculatedFrame))

let finalHeight = (calculatedHeight + edgeInsets.top + edgeInsets.bottom)

rect.size = CGSize(width: calculatedWidth, height: finalHeight) ```

The ceil() should raise fractional mathematical value to a renderable screen value. The entire code is below.

``` {.brush: .cpp; .title: .; .notranslate title=””}

class RoundedRectLabel: UILabel {

let edgeInsets = UIEdgeInsets(top: 10, left: 20, bottom: 10, right: 20)



override func textRectForBounds(bounds: CGRect, limitedToNumberOfLines numberOfLines: Int) -> CGRect {

    var rect = super.textRectForBounds(bounds, limitedToNumberOfLines: numberOfLines)



    if let text = text {

        let estimatedWidth = CGRectGetWidth(rect) - (2 * (edgeInsets.left + edgeInsets.right))

        let estimatedHeight = CGFloat.max

        let calculatedFrame = NSString(string: text).boundingRectWithSize(CGSize(width: estimatedWidth, height: estimatedHeight), options: .UsesLineFragmentOrigin, attributes: [NSFontAttributeName: font], context: nil)

        let calculatedWidth = ceil(CGRectGetWidth(calculatedFrame))

        let calculatedHeight = ceil(CGRectGetHeight(calculatedFrame))

        let finalHeight = (calculatedHeight + edgeInsets.top + edgeInsets.bottom)

        rect.size = CGSize(width: calculatedWidth, height: finalHeight)

    }

    

    return rect

}



override func drawTextInRect(rect: CGRect) {

    let textRect = UIEdgeInsetsInsetRect(rect, edgeInsets)

    super.drawTextInRect(textRect)

}

} ```

To finish it off, we just need some custom drawing code. Feel free to draw whatever you like.

``` {.brush: .cpp; .title: .; .notranslate title=””}

override func drawTextInRect(rect: CGRect) {

    

    UIColor.cyanColor().setFill()

    UIColor.blackColor().setStroke()

    

    let edgePath = UIBezierPath(roundedRect: rect, cornerRadius: 50)

    edgePath.lineWidth = 5.0

    edgePath.lineJoinStyle = kCGLineJoinRound

    edgePath.fill()

    edgePath.stroke()

    

    let textRect = UIEdgeInsetsInsetRect(rect, edgeInsets)

    super.drawTextInRect(textRect)

} ```

The entire code is also available at github. https://github.com/chunkyguy/RoundedRectLabel.