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Creating context menus

Paul Hudson    @twostraws   

When the user taps a button or a navigation link, it’s pretty clear that SwiftUI should trigger the default action for those views. But what if they press and hold on something? On older iPhones users could trigger a 3D Touch by pressing hard on something, but the principle is the same: the user wants more options for whatever they are interacting with.

SwiftUI lets us attach context menus to objects to provide this extra functionality, all done using the contextMenu() modifier. You can pass this a selection of buttons and they’ll be shown in order, so we could build a simple context menu to control a view’s background color like this:

struct ContentView: View {
    @State private var backgroundColor = Color.red

    var body: some View {
        VStack {
            Text("Hello, World!")
                .padding()
                .background(backgroundColor)

            Text("Change Color")
                .padding()
                .contextMenu {
                    Button("Red") {
                        backgroundColor = .red
                    }

                    Button("Green") {
                        backgroundColor = .green
                    }

                    Button("Blue") {
                        backgroundColor = .blue
                    }
                }
        }
    }
}

Just like TabView, each item in a context menu can have text and an image attached to it using a Label view.

For example, we could use one of Apple’s SF Symbols like this:

Button("Red", systemImage: "checkmark.circle.fill") {
    backgroundColor = .red
}

Apple really likes these menu items to look somewhat uniform across apps, so if you were to try adding a foregroundStyle() modifier to the above code it would be ignore – trying to color menu items randomly just won’t work.

If you really want that item to appear red, which as you should know means destructive, you should use a button role instead:

Button("Red", systemImage: "checkmark.circle.fill", role: .destructive) {
    backgroundColor = .red
}

I have a few tips for you when working with context menus, to help ensure you give your users the best experience:

  1. If you’re going to use them, use them in lots of places – it can be frustrating to press and hold on something only to find nothing happens.
  2. Keep your list of options as short as you can – aim for three or less.
  3. Don’t repeat options the user can already see elsewhere in your UI.

Remember, context menus are by their nature hidden, so please think twice before hiding important actions in a context menu.

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