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You can install Xcode on your Mac through the App Store. It's free to download, so just click through the links to download and install the application. All the code for this guide is also accessible here

The guide below will show you how to make a "Morning Briefing" app that displays a bunch of things you may want to see every day, including a daily DJ Khaled GIF, an interesting quote, and a countdown to a special day. Throughout the process, you’ll learn about the basic process behind making iPhone apps, making HTTP requests, and Swift (Apple’s new programming language).

These tutorials can teach you a little bit about Swift before you begin.

Getting Started

Click "Create a new Xcode project" and under iOS → Application, select "Single View Application", and fill in the following fields. After clicking "next", pick somewhere to save the project and then press "Create".

Adding a GIF

The first thing we’re going to do is add the necessary elements to display a GIF. Apple doesn’t natively support displaying GIFs in image views, so we’re going to add SwiftGif, an open source framework, to help. On the SwiftGif page, click the "Clone or download" button and download the ZIP file.

Unzip the file, then add the file UIImage+Gif.swift from the "SwiftGifCommon" folder to your project directory by dragging the file to the left panel as so:

Make sure the following options are selected, then press finish.

Next, open Main.storyboard. Think of Main.storyboard as a rough mockup of what your app will look like. You can position different UI elements, preview colors and fonts, and connect screens together. Go to the top of the screen and click Editor → Embed In → Navigation Controller. This will put the main view controller into a navigation controller, which will then give us the ability to title our screen.

After that, click on the circle icon on the bottom right hand side, scroll until you find "Image View", then drag an image view onto View Controller.

Position it however you want somewhere at the top. Click on it again to change the width/height, then click on the attributes panel on the right hand side and change the Mode to "Scale to Fill."

After that, click on the venn diagram-ish icons on the top right.

This will bring up a panel to view two different files side-by-side. We want to have ViewController.swift on one side and Main.storyboard on the other. The different files can be accessed from the top of each pane.

Once you have that set up:

  1. Hold the control key on your keyboard
  2. Click on image view, and drag the resulting line to underneath class ViewController: UIViewController {.
  3. When the small dialog pop ups to connect, name the image view "imageView" and press "connect" to finish.
  4. Congratulations! You just connected the image view you dragged and a variable called "imageView" that you can now use to change certain properties of it in code.

Before getting to the actual code, switch back to the original view from the top right.

In viewDidLoad(), add the following code after super.viewDidLoad() and change the placeholder text:

// This sets up the navigation controller (the bar at the top) to be a certain style, color, and tint.
let name = "ENTER NAME HERE"
self.title = "Good morning, \(name)"
self.navigationController!.navigationBar.barTintColor = UIColor(red: 42/255, green: 62/255, blue: 80/255, alpha: 1)
self.navigationController!.navigationBar.barStyle = .blackTranslucent
self.navigationController!.navigationBar.tintColor = UIColor.white 

// Calling the setupGIF function

Underneath that add the following code:

func setupGIF() {
    /* gifString is the query we're going to be searching with using the API.
    Before we do that, we escape the string properly. Then, we put everything together
    in a completed searchURL and get the contents from the link */

    let gifString = "dj khaled"
    let encodedString = gifString.addingPercentEncoding(withAllowedCharacters: CharacterSet.urlQueryAllowed)!
    let searchURL = URL(string:"\(encodedString)&api_key=dc6zaTOxFJmzC")
    let searchData = try? Data(contentsOf: searchURL!)

    /* The next thing we have to do is parse the JSON that is returned from the URL.
    This involves accessing multiple dictionaries until we reach the gif link we're after. */

do {
    if let jsonResult = try JSONSerialization.jsonObject(with: searchData!, options: []) as? NSDictionary {
        if let items = jsonResult["data"] as? NSDictionary {
            if let images = items["images"] as? NSDictionary {
                if let gType = images["downsized"] as? NSDictionary {
                    if let link = gType["url"] as? String {
                        /* After we have the link, the only that's left to do is display it with the help of
                        the UIImage+Gif.swift framework we added */
                        let imageData = try? Data(contentsOf: URL(string: link)!)
                        let gif = UIImage.gifWithData(imageData!)
                        self.imageView.image = gif;
} catch let error as NSError {

Now, we're ready to test that everything works.

Make sure in your project page (accessible from the left hand panel) the following options are selected:

After that, choose to run the application on an iPhone 7 (since that's how we setup the storyboard) and then press the run button (looks like a play button):

If everything worked, you should see a random DJ Khaled related GIF show up in the simulator as so:

Congratulations! You just completed your first checkpoint. Next, we'll add a random quote and weather.

Quote and Weather

The process for adding a quote of the day and weather condition is pretty much the same. To do this, we're not going to be adding any files, but rather just using the and APIs.

To start off, go to Main.storyboard and drag in two UITextViews from the bottom right hand side. Double click to add some placeholder text. It should look like this:

Place one in middle and the other towards the bottom. Again, we're going to have to connect these text views in code. Click again and bring up Main.storyboard and ViewController.swift side-by-side. Hold control, click, and drag the connector over to underneath the image view we added before. When the prompt comes up, name one text view quoteTextView, the other weatherTextView and click connect.

Next, add setupQuote() and setupWeather() in viewDidLoad() and add the following code block underneath setupGIF():

func setupQuote() {
    /* This is a slightly different way to make HTTP requests but the fundamentals are the same.
    We're using Apple's NSURLSession framework to get the data returned from */

    let url = URL(string: "")
    let session = URLSession.shared
    let task = session.dataTask(with: url!, completionHandler: {(data, reponse, error) in
        do {
            /* Again, this is where we start parsing the JSON until we reach the data we're after */
            if let jsonResult = try JSONSerialization.jsonObject(with: data!, options: []) as? NSDictionary {
                if let items = jsonResult["contents"] as? NSDictionary {
                    if let quoteData = items["quotes"] as? NSArray {
                        if let firstQuote = quoteData[0] as? NSDictionary {
                            /* Once we reach the quote, all we have to do is display the text */
                            let quoteText = firstQuote["quote"] as! String
                            let quoteAuthor = firstQuote["author"] as! String
                            DispatchQueue.main.async(execute: {
                                self.quoteTextView.text = "💭 Quote of the Day 💭\n\n\(quoteText)\n\n- \(quoteAuthor)"
        } catch let error as NSError {


Again, the code is pretty self-explanatory now that you've completed the GIF section. We're parsing the JSON returned from and and setting the self.quoteTextView.text and self.weatherTextView.text (respectively) to be the text we get.

Once that's completed press run (play) button on the top left and a random quote and some weather details for Stanford will show up!

Feel free to mess around with the location variable in the setupWeather() method.

Button and New Screen

Next, we're going to be creating a button that brings us to another screen.

In Main.storyboard, drag in a Button from the bottom right and place it somewhere near the bottom of the screen. Double click to change the title to "More Briefings". At this point, your view controller should be similar to this:

Next, drag in a ViewController and place it next our original one like so:

Next, hold control, click on your button, and drag the connector to your new view controller. When a gray prompt comes up, select "push." You should see a connection between your two screens now.

This connects the button and the next screen together. When the button is tapped, it with "push" the next view controller onto your screen.

Press the run button to check it out! You may notice the blank screen, but that's because we haven't added anything there yet.

Countdown, NYTimes, XKCD

Finally, we're going to be adding a countdown (to a special date), NYTimes top story button, and XKCD comic to our app.

Setup Main.storyboard so that it looks like this:

"Countdown label, Top NYTimes Story, and XKCD" are UI elements of type Label. “Loading button link...” should be a Button. And the image view is an Image View (duh). However, you may have noticed that we don't have another ViewController.swift. So, we're going to add another file:

Make sure it's a Cocoa Touch Class and then fill in these fields:

Finally, we have AdditionalViewController.swift to connect our UI elements to. Before we do that though, go back to Main.storyboard, click on the new view controller we added and fill this out in the right hand panel:

This makes sure that the storyboard view controller and the file is matched. After that, click on again and connect the respective UI elements with variable names (bolded) as so:

@IBOutlet weak var **countdownLabel**: UILabel!
@IBOutlet weak var **newsButton**: UIButton!
@IBOutlet weak var **xkcdImageView**: UIImageView!
@IBOutlet weak var **xkcdTitleLable**: UILabel!

Underneath that, declare a string:

var articleUrl = String()

Add helper methods in viewDidLoad()


And finally add the following code blocks to make everything work:

func setupCountdown() {
    /* This sets up the format the date should be in */

    let dateFormatter = DateFormatter()
    dateFormatter.dateFormat = "yyyy-MM-dd"

    /* This initializes the two dates we want to find the time difference between */

    let targetDate: Date? = "2017-06-20")
    let todayDate: Date? = Date()

    /* After we have the difference between the two dates, we can display it with our label */

    let calendar = Calendar.init(identifier: Calendar.Identifier.gregorian);
    let components = (calendar as NSCalendar?)?.components(.day, from:todayDate!, to:targetDate!, options: [])
    let dateString = DateFormatter.localizedString(from: targetDate!, dateStyle: .short, timeStyle: .short); //format date correctly
    let days = (components?.day!)!
    self.countdownLabel.text = "📅 Days until \(dateString):\n\(days)"

func setupNews() {
    /* This is the URL for getting the top NYTimes stories */

    let url = URL(string: "")
    let session = URLSession.shared
    let task = session.dataTask(with: url!, completionHandler: {(data, reponse, error) in
        do {
            if let jsonResult = try JSONSerialization.jsonObject(with: data!, options: []) as? NSDictionary {
                if let items = jsonResult["results"] as? NSArray {
                    /* Because we just want 1 story, we get the first item in the dictionary */
                    if let topArticle = items[0] as? NSDictionary {
                        let articleTitle = topArticle["title"] as! String
                        self.articleUrl = topArticle["url"] as! String
                        /* We set the title of the button to be the article title */
                        DispatchQueue.main.async(execute: {
                            self.newsButton.setTitle(articleTitle, for: UIControlState())
        } catch let error as NSError {


/* This function will get "triggered" everytime the button is tapped.
In our case, we want it to open the article URL (in mobile Safari). */

@IBAction func buttonTapped(_ sender: UIButton) {
    if let url = URL(string: self.articleUrl) {

func setupXKCD() {
    /* This gets the most current xkcd comic */

    let url = URL(string: "")
    let session = URLSession.shared
    let task = session.dataTask(with: url!, completionHandler: {(data, reponse, error) in
        do {
            if let jsonResult = try JSONSerialization.jsonObject(with: data!, options: []) as? NSDictionary {
                let imageLink = jsonResult["img"] as! String
                let title = jsonResult["title"] as! String
                let url = URL(string: imageLink)
                let data = try? Data(contentsOf: url!)
                /* Once we have the imageLink and title, we can display it. */
                DispatchQueue.main.async(execute: {
                    self.xkcdTitleLable.text = title;
                    self.xkcdImageView.image = UIImage(data: data!)
        } catch let error as NSError {


Last but not least, switch over to Main.storyboard, control, click, and drag from the Button to the top middle button of the view controller:

Choose "buttonTapped:" to finish and then press play to test. The countdown, NYTimes button, and XKCD comic should show up.


You’ve finished the iOS tutorial. Hopefully, you learned a little about making iPhone apps, HTTP requests, and Swift.

If you want to work on the app a little more, here are some ideas on how to extend it:

  • Integrate the ESPN API
  • Get info about popular stocks using Yahoo or Google Finance API
  • Show an interesting fact of the day
  • Random joke?




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