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iOS8 Day-by-Day :: Day 14 :: Rotation Deprecation

Posted on 6 Aug 2014 Written by Sam Davies

Updated 9 Apr 2015: This post has been updated to Swift 1.2

This post is part of a daily series of posts introducing the most exciting new parts of iOS8 for developers – #iOS8DayByDay. To see the posts you’ve missed check out the index page, but have a read through the rest of this post first!

To enjoy each of the 39 posts all in one place, you can now also download the iOS8 Day-by-Day eBook free from our website! 


It might be scary to discover that as part of embracing adaptive UI in iOS8, the view controller rotation methods you’ve come to love have all been deprecated. In fact the new approach to rotation is far simpler and much more coherent.

In today’s article you’ll learn about how iOS8 deals with device rotation, and what you need to do to get your apps up to scratch.

The accompanying app is a simple app called RotateToDeprecate, which demonstrates how you can build a layout which rotates elegantly and then further customize the rotation behavior. You can find the source code for the app in the iOS8 Day-by-Day github repo at

Auto Layout to the rescue

The underlying principle for rotation in iOS8 is that from the point of view of the content, a rotation is simply a bounds change. Nothing more complicated than that.

If you think about it this makes perfect sense: the window needs to know that the device has been rotated so that it too can rotate to match the new orientation. It also needs to resize since there are currently no iOS devices with square screens. Now, from the point of view of the content of the window – i.e. your view controller hierarchy, you just need to respect the change of size of your parent – the fact that it is a rotation is not particularly relevant.

Therefore in the simplest case, dealing with rotation can be covered by having a suitably adaptive layout – which leads you to using auto layout, storyboards and size classes. If a rotation causes a size class change then your view controller will automatically transition from one layout to the new one. Note that if the rotation causes a trait collection change then your views will all get calls to traitCollectionDidChange() and your view controllers calls to willTransitionToTraitCollection().

For example, in the RotateToDeprecate app, the constraints on the large label are set up simply to ensure that it is centered both vertically and horizonally in its superview:



These constraints will be re-evaluated on rotation (or indeed on any superview bounds change) to ensure that they are always valid. This means that the label will be centered irrespective of orientation:

iPhone Preview

This is great news – and in most cases this is probably all you need to do. No longer do you manually have to relayout your content in one of the rotation methods. However, what if you do want to have some custom behavior? Read on…

Customizing rotation behavior

You’ve already seen one of the ways that you can customize behavior of some rotations – via the willTransitionToTraitCollection() method (which is on the UIContentContainer protocol, which is itself adopted by UIViewController). This method will be called whenever the trait collection for a container changes, which is true of rotations on an iPhone. It provides you with a transition coordinator which allows you to hook in to the transition animation.

However, this won’t be true for all rotations – for example, iPads have the same size classes irrespective of their orientation, and therefore won’t be transitioning between trait collections on rotation. Helpfully there is another method on the UIContentContainer protocol in the shape of viewWillTransitionToSize(_:, coordinator:), which will be called whenever the container is transitioning to a new size. You can override this method to customize the rotation functionality.

The second argument to this method is a UIViewControllerTransitionCoordinator, which you’ll no doubt remember from the forest of protocols associated with custom view controller transitions. In iOS8 their functionality has been extended to supporting transitioning within a view controller as well as between two view controllers.

If you wish to perform some custom animations you can use the animateAlongsideTransition(_:, completion:) method which allows you to hook into the system animation itself.

For example, in DeprecateToRotate, there are 2 possible background images – one which should be associated with a tall orientation, and one with wide. The following method performs the switch between the background images:

override func viewWillTransitionToSize(size: CGSize, withTransitionCoordinator coordinator: UIViewControllerTransitionCoordinator) {
  let transitionToWide = size.width > size.height
  let image = UIImage(named: transitionToWide ? "bg_wide" : "bg_tall")

    context in
    // Create a transition and match the context's duration
    let transition = CATransition()
    transition.duration = context.transitionDuration()

    // Make it fade
    transition.timingFunction = CAMediaTimingFunction(name: kCAMediaTimingFunctionEaseInEaseOut)
    transition.type = kCATransitionFade
    self.bgImageView.layer.addAnimation(transition, forKey: "Fade")

    // Set the new image
    self.bgImageView.image = image
    }, completion: nil)
  1. First we determine whether the transition is moving to a wide configuration, by looking at the provided size argument.
  2. This is used to choose which background image should be shown.
  3. The animateAlongsideTransition() method is used to animate from the current image to the new one.
  4. A CATransition is used to get a nice fade effect. Note that you are provided with a UIViewControllerTransitionCoordinatorContext, from which you can find the duration of the animation.

Portrait iPad Landscape iPad

You’ll note that throughout this there has been no mention of the actual rotation – which for 90% of cases is fantastic. However, there might be occasions that your animation requires knowledge of the rotation – for example complex rotation effects for parts of your content. In these instances you can use the targetTransform() method on the transition coordinator context to obtain the CGAffineTransform which represents the rotation. This will either be a +90, -90 or 180 rotation or the identity transform.


The thought of having to fix all your custom rotation code might seem daunting at first, but in actual effect, this new rotation behavior is far more logical. It enables you to not even think about rotation in 90% of the cases. You can consider your content, and how it should be displayed in different layouts – irrespective of not only the orientation but the device itself.

The sample project which accompanies today’s post is available on github at If you have any comments or just wanna say hi then hit me up on twitter – I’m @iwantmyrealname.


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