How to Use a UIPickerView as Input For a UITextField Using Swift

I have previously posted on how to use the UIPickerview. One of the more interesting uses I have found to solve a user interaction problem is using a picker as the entry selector for a text field. Here is how you do that.

The Problem

So you need a user to input something in a text field, but you want to be sure they are following your desired format. Or maybe you want to restrict their options of what they can put in the text field. In other words, freeform entry is not what you want.

A good example of this is my Code Notes application that I am building (Github link). I want the user to select a programming language, but I want to be sure they do not add ‘JavaScript’ and ‘Java Script’. So I used a picker with a defined list.

Let’s look at how you can do that.

The Solution

I have created a simple one screen application with a text field. The end goal is for the user to touch on the text field where they will be presented with a list of options to choose from, the currently selected option will appear in the text field. Currently, I have the textfield and no code.

Firstly, I need to create an outlet for the UITextfield so that when the selection in the picker changes, I can update the displayed text.


Next, I need to create a UIPickerView in my viewDidLoad() function. This serves as the picker that will be displayed when needed. Note that we create this instance in code rather than add to the storyboard. The reason for this is simple, I do not want the picker to appear all the time, only when the text field is selected.


With everything in place, we now need to tell the text field that the picker view will be used as the input method when a user touches on it. To do that we assign the picker as the inputView for the text field. This is very straight forward, in the viewDidLoad() we just need to add one more line.


In this case, I gave my text field outlet the name theTextField, and my picker instance thePicker.

If you run the application now, everything should do what you expect. You touch on the text field and a picker appears, but yes … it is blank. We still need to give the picker some data to display!

There are a couple of steps we need to do here. We need to make use of our good iOS friend, the delegate. We need to make our view the delegate data source for the picker control. Then we need to provide it some data.

To do this, we need to say our class will conform to UIPickerViewDelegate and UIPickerViewDataSource. So look for the line of code with


And change it to


The first thing that will happen is we will get an error indicator that says something like

Type ‘ViewController’ does not conform to the protocol ‘UIPickerViewDataSource’

This simply means we need to implement the requirements to act as the delegate. Lucky for us, I know that we need to add the following functions according to the Swift documentation.


Right now, this is still wrong, the functions are expecting to return something, and we need to add the rest of our code. We will fix all that now.

Before working on the functions, let’s get some data we can work with. For this example, I am going to use a simple String array. So inside the top of the class add the following,


Now that we have some data we can fill in those functions.


With the functions in place we have now satisfied the delegation, so all that remains is to tell out picker that this viewController is acting as it’s delegate. Back in the viewdidLoad() is where we do that.


Our work is complete, if you run the application and touch on the text field, a view picker should appear with our list in it. If you change the selection, the text field should update.

The Wrap

How cool is that? I bet you thought it was going to be harder and more involved. This can serve as a great way to get user input, but with predictable results.

I have uploaded the project used in this example to Github, feel free to download.

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