What are container controllers?

Container controllers are like a larger, older brother to the UIViewController. They come in extremely handy when dealing with things like Auth state and UIViewController transitions. UIKit already comes with a few container controllers that you most likely know very well. Some examples of these are the UINavigationController, or the UITabViewController. Each of those controllers have one or more sub-controllers and help with things like transitions or UI that needs to stay similar between each of the sub-controllers they contain.

Why should I spend the time to make one?

Container controllers do a few things that make life as a developer much easier. First, they naturally separate your UI code. Instead of having your Auth.onSignOut() function in your AppDelegate (which can get very messy, very quickly), you have the Auth.onSignOut() happen in a separated container that can directly interact with it’s sub-controllers without having to use any window.controllers.first junk.

First we need a few extensions.

Make a new file for this extension and put the following code in.

import UIKit

extension UIViewController {
  This method gives us a function to quickly add a child view controller,
  it takes care of adding the child, adding the view as a subview and then 
  telling the subview that it's moved to a new parent.
  func add(_ child: UIViewController) {
    child.didMove(toParent: self)

  This method makes it simpler to remove a child view controller.
  func remove() {
// First we check if the parent view controller exists, 
// if not we can stop the whole thing right now.
    guard parent != nil else { return }
// Here we enumerate through each subview telling them that their
// going to be removed and then removing them.
      $0.willMove(toParent: nil)
// These tell this view controller that it will be moving to nil parent
// and then removes it from the parent view controller.
    willMove(toParent: nil)

Read through the comments above for more detail on this peice of code. Basically this extension makes it easier to add and remove child view controllers.

Implementing the Container Controller.

Here’s the main code of the controller.

import UIKit

class ContainerController: UIViewController {
  static let shared = ContainerController()
  var displayedView: UIViewController?
  override func viewDidLoad() {
    if displayedView == nil {
      displayedView = UIStoryboard(name: "Main", bundle: nil).instantiateInitialViewController()
  public func transitionTo(_ view: UIViewController) {
    if displayedView != nil{
    displayedView = view

Simple. In it we give a simple UIViewController with one method called transitionTo(_ view:) which can be called by outside controllers to change what view is displayed.

We also added a default view to be displayed in the viewDidLoad(). It just makes sure that when we initialize this class it automatically populates the displayedView variable. In this example I intitialize the root controller from the main storyboard, but you can replace it with any view controller or even omit this code entirely.

Also! I created a singleton by adding a static let shared = ContainerController() variable. You can read more about singletons here but they basically make it so we can keep track of one container controller for the entire app.

TL;DR: Some people dislike singletons. However, in this case the ability to access the container controller from anywhere in your app without having to implement a delegate method or callback into every single view controller greatly outweighs the tiny bit of overhead a singleton creates.

Sweet. How do I use it?

Really easily. The main way I use it is in my AppDelegate (or SceneManager) like so:

import UIKit

class AppDelegate: UIResponder, UIApplicationDelegate {

  func application(_ application: UIApplication, didFinishLaunchingWithOptions launchOptions: [UIApplication.LaunchOptionsKey: Any]?) -> Bool {
    var controller: UIViewController!
    let container = ContainerController.shared
    // In this example I'm using FirebaseAuth for authentication.
    // I check if a user is logged in, and if they are I send them
    // to the "Admin" view. Otherwise they go to the "Auth" view.
    if Auth.auth().currentUser != nil {
      let storyboard = UIStoryboard(name: "Admin", bundle: nil)
      controller = storyboard.instantiateInitialViewController()!
    } else {
      let storyboard = UIStoryboard(name: "Auth", bundle: nil)
      controller = storyboard.instantiateInitialViewController()!
    // Make the container the root view controller.
    self.window?.rootViewController = container
    // Transition to the pre-defined controller
    return true


Really fairly simple to use. It can also be used from a view controller after the app is already running. To access the container at the root one can simply use ContainerController.shared.

This post was heavily inspired by John Sundell’s post here. Go check it out, he’s an amazing writer and developer.