Full Source code: https://github.com/boctor/idev-recipes/tree/master/RaisedCenterTabBar

Problem:

Apps like Instagram, DailyBooth and Path™ have what looks like a standard UITabBarController, but the center tab bar is raised or colored. How do we recreate this look?


Solution:

These tab bars look pretty standard with the exception of the center item, so we’ll start out with a standard UITabBarController which contains a UITabBar.

Looking at the images inside each app, it is quickly apparent that the middle tab bar is simply a custom UIButton.

A UITabBar contains an array of UITabBarItems, which inherit from UIBarItem. But unlike UIBarButtonItem that also inherits from UIBarItem, there is no API to create a UITabBarItem with a customView.

So instead of trying to create a custom UITabBarItem, we’ll just create a regular one and then put the custom UIButton on top of the UITabBar.

Our basic recipe is then to create a subclass of UITabBarController and add a custom UIButton on top of the UITabBar.

If the button is the same height as the UITabBar, then we set the center of the button to the center of the UITabBar. If the button is slightly higher, then we do the the same thing except we adjust the center’s y value to account for the difference in height.

UIButton* button = [UIButton buttonWithType:UIButtonTypeCustom];
button.frame = CGRectMake(0.0, 0.0, buttonImage.size.width, buttonImage.size.height);
[button setBackgroundImage:buttonImage forState:UIControlStateNormal];
[button setBackgroundImage:highlightImage forState:UIControlStateHighlighted];

CGFloat heightDifference = buttonImage.size.height - self.tabBar.frame.size.height;
if (heightDifference < 0)
  button.center = self.tabBar.center;
else
{
  CGPoint center = self.tabBar.center;
  center.y = center.y - heightDifference/2.0;
  button.center = center;
}

[self.view addSubview:button];

You might notice that in the code we don’t add the button as a subview in viewDidLoad. This is because we have our UITabBarControllers within a UINavigationController. When viewDidLoad is called, our UITabBarController’s view is the entire height of the screen. If we add the button as a subview in viewDidLoad we’d have to manually account for the navigation bar or properly setup the button’s autoresizingMask both of which complicate the code. But after the UITabBarController is pushed onto the UINavigationController stack, the UITabBarController’s view is auto resized to account for the navigation bar. So we delay adding the button as a subview until the UITabBarController’s has been pushed onto the UINavigationController stack. We do this by registering for the navigationController’s willShowViewController callback.

Full Source code: https://github.com/boctor/idev-recipes/tree/master/RaisedCenterTabBar

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