Latest 1.0.0
License MIT
Platforms ios 6.0, requires ARC
Dependencies ISUtilities

Determining the correct set of updates for UITableView and UICollectionView is hard. ISListViewAdapter does all the work for you, automatically determine the additions, removals, updates and moves, which can then be applied to UITableView and UICollectionView using the various convenience methods provided:

  • Clients provide ISListViewAdapter with an ordered list of opaque item identifiers along with methods to fetch the data and meta-data associated with an item identifier by adopting the ISListViewAdapterDataSource protocol.
  • ISListViewAdapter maps these unique identifiers to NSIndexPath indexes as used by UITableView and UICollectionView and provides utility methods to count sections, items and fetch items by index path.
  • When invalidated, ISListViewAdapter will re-generate the mapping of items to index paths and notify observers of any index path changes.


ISListViewAdapter is available through CocoaPods:

platform: ios, '6.0'
pod "ISListViewAdapter", "~> 1.0"

Getting Started


Clients must provide a custom implementation of the ISListViewAdapterDataSource protocol which serves as the data model for ISListViewAdapter. ISListViewAdapterDataSource indexes items by opaque identifiers and ISListViewAdapter maintains a mapping between the index paths used by UITableView and UICollectionView and these identifiers.

A simple implementation of this protocol that corresponds to the example given above might look as follows. This simply exposes the contents on an NSDictionary:

#import <ISListViewAdapter/ISListViewAdapter.h>
#import "CustomDataSource.h"

@interface CustomDataSource ()
@property (nonatomic, strong) NSDictionary *items;
@property (nonatomic, strong) ISListViewAdapterInvalidator *invalidator;

@implementation CustomDataSource

- (id)init
  self = [super init];
  if (self) {
    self.items =
    @{@"item_a": @{@"title": @"Title For Item A",
                   @"section": @"Section One"},
      @"item_b": @{@"title": @"Title For Item B",
                   @"section": @"Section Two"},
      @"item_c": @{@"title": @"Title For Item C",
                   @"section": @"Section One"}};
  return self;

// Required

- (void)identifiersForAdapter:(ISListViewAdapter *)adapter completionBlock:(ISListViewAdapterBlock)completionBlock
  completionBlock([self.items allKeys]);

- (void)adapter:(ISListViewAdapter *)adapter itemForIdentifier:(id)identifier completionBlock:(ISListViewAdapterBlock)completionBlock
  NSDictionary *item = self.items[identifier];

// Optional

- (id)adapter:(ISListViewAdapter *)adapter summaryForIdentifier:(id)identifier
  NSDictionary *item = self.items[identifier];
  return [NSString stringWithFormat:
          @"%@, %@",

- (NSString *)adapter:(ISListViewAdapter *)adapter sectionForIdentifier:(id)identifier
  NSDictionary *item = self.items[identifier];
  reeturn item[@"section"];

// Called when the data source is added to the adapter.
// ISListViewAdapterInvalidator should be retained if it is ever necessary for
// the data source to invalidate the ISListViewAdapter.
- (void)adapter:(ISListViewAdapter *)adapter initialize:(ISListViewAdapterInvalidator *)invalidator
  self.invalidator = invalidator;


All datasource callbacks are performed on the main run loop. Results for long-running operations can be provided to the ISListViewAdapter asynchronously by means of the completion blocks. N.B. Since all callbacks are performed on the main run loop you should cross-post any long running operations to avoid blocking the UI.

Summary and section callbacks are optional:

  • adapter:summaryForIdentifier: returns an id conforming to NSObject (to be compared using isEqual:) that describes the current state of the item for a given identifier. It is used by ISListViewAdapter to identify updates to items. If no summary is provided, it is assumed that objects are immutable and items will not be updated or reloaded.
  • adapter:sectionForIdentifier: returns the title (assumed unique) for the section in which the item for a given identifier should be shown. Item ordering within sections corresponds to the ordering returned via. identifiersForAdapter:completionBlock:. Section ordering corresponds to the order in which items for a given section are seen as returned via. identifiersForAdapter:completionBlock:.

ISListViewAdapter and ISListViewAdapterConnector

Once you have a data source, you must create an ISListViewAdapter instance and ‘connect’ this to your list view instance. ISListViewAdapterConnector provides an off-the-shelf connector between an ISListViewAdapter instance and table views and collection views:

#import <ISListViewAdapter/ISListViewAdapter.h>
#import "CustomTableViewController.h"
#import "CustomDataSource.h"

@interface CustomTableViewController ()
@property (nonatomic, strong) id<ISListViewAdapterDataSource> dataSource;
@property (nonatomic, strong) ISListViewAdapter *adapter;
@property (nonatomic, strong) ISListViewAdapterConnector *connector;

@implementation CustomTableViewController

- (void)viewDidLoad
  self.dataSource = [CustomDataSource new]
  self.adapter = [ISListViewAdapter adapterWithDataSource:dataSource];
  self.connector = [ISListViewAdapterConnector connectorWithAdapter:adapter

- (void)viewDidAppear:(BOOL)animated
  [super viewDidAppear:animated];

  // Inform the connector that our view has been fully constructed and it is safe to
  // apply incremental updates to our UITableView (or UICollectionView).
  [self.connector ready];

- (NSInteger)numberOfSectionsInTableView:(UITableView *)tableView
  return [self.connector numberOfSections];

- (NSInteger)tableView:(UITableView *)tableView
  return [self.connector numberOfItemsInSection:section];

- (NSString *)tableView:(UITableView *)tableView
  return [self.adapter titleForSection:section];

- (UITableViewCell *)tableView:(UITableView *)tableView
         cellForRowAtIndexPath:(NSIndexPath *)indexPath
  UITableViewCell *cell =
  [self.tableView dequeueReusableCellWithIdentifier:kCellIdentifier
  NSDictionary *item = [self.adapter itemForIndexPath:indexPath];

  // Configure the cell using the details of the fetched item. e.g.
  cell.textLabel.text = item[@"title"];

  return cell;


If you wish to use ISListViewAdapter with your own list view implementation, or process the changes in a custom way (perhaps by scrolling changed items into view, etc), you can implement the ISListViewAdapterObserver protocol and observe the ISListViewAdapter using addAdapterObserver: and removeAdapterObserver:.

- (void)adapter:(ISListViewAdapter *)adapter performBatchUpdates:(ISListViewAdapterChanges *)changes
  for (ISListViewAdapterOperation *operation in changes.operations) {
    // Check the type of the operation and determine the correct change...

Fetching Items

ISListViewAdapterItem is provides a mechanism to fetch an item for a given NSIndexPath. Items themselves are of type id, allowing you to use any object internally: the example above makes use of NSDictionary instances as items, but this could just as well be your own custom object, NSManagedObject, FCModel, etc.

Items can be fetched both synchronously and asynchronously. Typically it is safe to fetch items synchronously (if you are using a fast mechanism such as NSDictionary for item lookup), but you may wish to use an asynchronous fetch if you are performing a fetch from a database, or some slower data source. In an extreme case, asynchronous fetches might be used to fetch items directly from the network.

Synchronous Fetches

- (UITableViewCell *)tableView:(UITableView *)tableView
         cellForRowAtIndexPath:(NSIndexPath *)indexPath
  UITableViewCell *cell = /* ... */

  id myItem = [self.adapter itemForIndexPath:indexPath];

  // Configure the cell...

  return cell;

Asynchronous Fetches

ISListViewAdapterItem fetch: guarantees that callbacks occur on the main run loop, irrespective of the behaviour of the backing data source:

- (UITableViewCell *)tableView:(UITableView *)tableView
         cellForRowAtIndexPath:(NSIndexPath *)indexPath
  UITableViewCell *cell = // ...

  [self.adapter itemForIndexPath:indexPath complectionBlock:^(id myItem) {
    UITableViewCell *c = [tableView cellForRowAtIndexPath:indexPath];
    if (c) {

      // Configure the cell...

      // Ensure the cell is redrawn.

  return cell;

Transitioning Data Sources

Occasionally it is useful to transition between data sources:

CustomDataSource *secondDataSource = [CustomDataSource new];
[self.adapter transitionToDataSource:secondDataSource];


ISListViewAdapter is designed for very large data sets:

  • Only the data required to determine the positions of items in the list and to calculate changes when the contents changes is fetched and maintained in-memory: items themsevles are fetched asynchronously and only when required to render items in the UI.
  • Change calculation is performed asynchronously, with each new ISListViewAdapter creating its own dispatch queue: updates may be slower to calculate with larger data sets, but doing so should never block the main run loop.


ISListViewAdapter includes some fairly comprehensive soak tests which attempt to drive UITableView and UICollectionView with as varied an input as possible.

cd Sample
pod install
xcodebuild build -workspace ISListViewAdapterSample.xcworkspace -scheme ISListViewAdapterSample


ISListViewAdapter determines changes by first identifying and applying section insertions, deletions and moves and then, only once the section changes have been applied does it determine item changes. This means that items will never be animated transitioning between sections in the current implementation.


Version 1.0.0, May 2014

  • Initial release.


ISListViewAdapter is available under the MIT license. See the LICENSE file for more info.

Latest podspec

    "name": "ISListViewAdapter",
    "version": "1.0.0",
    "summary": "Adapter for managing UICollectionView and UITableView animations",
    "homepage": "",
    "license": {
        "type": "MIT",
        "file": "LICENSE"
    "authors": {
        "Jason Barrie Morley": "[email protected]"
    "source": {
        "git": "",
        "tag": "1.0.0"
    "source_files": "Classes/*.{h,m}",
    "private_header_files": "Classes/*Private.h",
    "requires_arc": true,
    "platforms": {
        "ios": "6.0"
    "dependencies": {
        "ISUtilities": [
            "~> 1.0"

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