Bringing platform-specific types together in SwiftUI

Apr 25, 2022 swiftuimulti-platform

SwiftUI’s amazing multi-platform support makes it easy to develop apps for iOS, macOS, tvOS and watchOS. But how do you handle types that differ between platforms? Let’s take a look.

Consider a SwiftUI app that lists images in a stack or grid, where tapping an image should open up a share sheet that can be used to share the image.

If list items over the network, the item type could look something like this:

struct ImageItem: Codable {

    let created: Date
    let title: String
    let imageData: Data

This is a platform-agnostic type, since there are no platform-specific parts. However, to do anything with the image, we need to convert it to UIImage for UIKit, NSImage for AppKit and Image for SwiftUI.

For convenience, lets add an image property that maps the imageData to an image. Since we may want to use it for more than just showing it in the app, let’s not make it a SwiftUI Image.

For UIKit, we could do it like this:

extension ImageItem {

    var image: UIImage {
        UIImage(data: imageData)

For AppKit, it would look almost identical, but using NSImage instead of UIImage:

extension ImageItem {

    var image: NSImage {
        NSImage(data: imageData)

While we could wrap these extensions in #if os(iOS) and #if os(macOS), we may have to work with images in more places and should therefore look for a more platform-agnostic way to do so.

To handle these situations, I prefer to create a platform-agnostic typealias, for instance:

#if os(macOS)
import Cocoa

public typealias ImageResource = NSImage

#if os(iOS) || os(tvOS) || os(watchOS)
import UIKit

public typealias ImageResource = UIImage

Since both UIImage and NSImage has a data initializer, we can now rewrite the image property:

extension ImageItem {

    var image: ImageResource {
        ImageResource(data: imageData)

We could also extend SwiftUI Image to make it easier to initialize it with this new type:

extension Image {
    init(_ imageResource: ImageResource) {
        #if os(iOS) || os(watchOS) || os(tvOS)
        self.init(uiImage: imageResource)
        #elseif os(macOS)
        self.init(nsImage: imageResource)

This lets us display the image of an ImageItem in SwiftUI like this:


We could extend ImageItem further and add an imageView extension, but I think you get the point.

This is all easy when the underlying types share the same api:s, but how about when they don’t? For instance UIImage has a jpegData(compressionQuality:) function that NSImage lacks.

To fix this, we can just fill in the gaps by implementing the missing functionality that we need. We could for instance implement jpegData for NSImage by first defining a cgImage property:

extension NSImage {
    var cgImage: CGImage? {
        cgImage(forProposedRect: nil, context: nil, hints: nil)

then use it to define a jpegData function:

extension NSImage {
    func jpegData(compressionQuality: CGFloat) -> Data? {
        guard let image = cgImage else { return nil }
        let bitmap = NSBitmapImageRep(cgImage: image)
        return bitmap.representation(using: .jpeg, properties: [.compressionFactor: compressionQuality])

One drawback with this approach is that the UIImage and NSImage implementations will be defined at various places, where UIImage defines this within UIKit and you defined it in a custom extension.

In this case, I think the jpegData extension is fine, since it’s a convenience that is always true for an NSImage. For other cases, consider extending the ImageResource typealias instead, for instance:

extension ImageResource {

    func compressedForSharing() -> ImageResource? {
        jpegData(compressionQuality: 0.7)

Since we defined jpegData for NSImage and UIImage already has an identical function in UIKit, ImageResource can use it without any #if os(...) switches.


SwiftUI multi-platform apps work amazingly well, but you may have to put work into bridging underlying types. For more complex situations and larger systems, consider using protocols to define things further.

You can find the types and extensions in this post in the SwiftUIKit library. Feel free to try them out and let me know what you think.


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