Adding placeholder support to UITextView

Oct 31, 2017 · Follow on Twitter and Mastodon swiftuikit

This post shows how to apply the UITextField placeholder behavior to a UITextView, which natively lacks this support.

I basically solved this by adding two extension functions to UITextView:

extension UITextView {
    func setupPlaceholder(text: String, textColor: UIColor) {
        guard self.text.isEmpty else { return }
        self.text = text
        self.textColor = color
    func setupPlaceholderBeforeEditing(
        textColor: UIColor, 
        placeholderColor: UIColor) {
        guard self.textColor == placeholderColor else { return }
        self.text = ""
        self.textColor = textColor

The placeholder text and color is customizable. I add app-specific extensions that call the functions with app-specific colors, so I don’t have to pass around colors.

When I create a text view, I run setupPlaceholder(...) to set up a standard placeholder. This operation will abort if the view already has text content.

When editing begins, I call setupPlaceholderBeforeEditing(...) to ensure the placeholder text is correctly removed.

To determine if a view currently displays a placeholder, we compare text and placeholder colors. However, this requires that we use different text colors for text and placeholder text.

When editing ends, I call setupPlaceholder(...) once again to re-apply the placeholder, if the user hasn’t entered any text.

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