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Reusable collection view controller and datasource


A reusable collection view controller where each row may be a different cell.


Package and dependencies:

.package(url: "git@github.com:janodev/collection.git", from: "1.0.0"),

.package(url: "git@github.com:janodev/autolayout.git", from: "1.0.0"),
.package(url: "git@github.com:janodev/log.git", from: "1.0.0"),
.package(url: "git@github.com:apple/swift-log.git", from: "1.2.0")


  • To create new headers and rows, copy paste the existing Header or subclass an existing one.
  • To create a controller subclass or instantiate CollectionViewController. Example.
let controller = CollectionViewController(sections: [Section(title: "UIModalPresentationStyle", rows: [])
controller.output = { [weak self] output in /* handle cell click */ }

You may inspect the code from the example project.


A collection is a good way to create data driven screens with heterogeneous elements. Think Instagram, where you have header, photo, description, comments, buttons, etc. However there is an obstacle to implement this: Swift must know all types at compilation time, which is why arrays are covariant.

Covariance is the property of admiting a type of subclasses of it. For instance, Array may contain animal or cat, but not fruits –cat is a subclass of animal but a banana is something else entirely.

So, if you want an heterogeneous array in Swift you may have at most

protocol Model {}
struct Cat: Model {}
struct Banana: Model {}
let models: [Model] = [Cat(), Banana()]

This poses a problem: what is the exact type you get from the Array? you don’t know. You have to cast to a known type and see if you are right. This is the approach taken by Codable: it casts to all known JSON types until it is successful.

You may think “enums are an alternative way that avoids casting”. Of course:

enum Model { case banana, cat }
let models: [Model] = [.cat, .banana]

However, you are restricted in the number of types. I wanted this to work with an unknown array of arbitrary types. Obviously I can’t check the underlying model against infinite types, so the solution is to tie model and cell. Basically this:


Given a Cat model, the datasource will do:

let model = sections[indexPath.section].rows[indexPath.row]
let cell = collectionView.dequeueReusableCell(withReuseIdentifier: model.reuseIdentifier(), for: indexPath)
if let cell = cell as? Configurable {

and the cell will do

public func configure(_ model: Model) {
    guard let catModel = model as? Cat else {
        log.error("Expected a Cat model, but got a \(model)")

What about generics? well, generics in Swift are invariant so you can’t pass arbitrary unknown types. You can do this, and add another generic type as a header, and even an initializer with a variadic parameter. It‘s useful for simple cases.

Header and row

You may base your own model/cells on the existing header:

Provided Header