I came across a CocoaControl ZFPlot and wanted to extend here. I ended up writing a base class (ZFPlot shown below) as well as several extensions (ZFLine, ZFScatter, ZFBar, none shown here for brevity). I'd really love feedback on everything in the code below but especially on readability, performance, and structure. I know it's a lot of code, so I welcome feedback even on small bits.


#import <UIKit/UIKit.h>
#import <QuartzCore/QuartzCore.h>
#import "ZFDrawingUtility.h"
#import "ZFData.h"
#import "ZFConstants.h"

@interface ZFPlotChart : UIView

// Overall plot properties
@property CGFloat xAxisLabelType; // are x-axis labels are 0 = data array indices, 1 = NSDates, 2 = actual numerical values
@property BOOL convertX;    // when true, x values are scaled rather than equally spaced, set TRUE for scatter plot only
@property BOOL gridLinesOn; // draw gridlines?
@property (nonatomic, strong) UIColor *baseColorProperty;
@property CGFloat xUnitWidth;

// Data to display and units to apply to the plotted y-axis values
@property CGFloat stringOffsetHorizontal; // move x-axis strings to the left to recenter
@property (nonatomic, retain) NSString *units; // y value units
@property (nonatomic, retain) NSString *xUnits; // x value units, only used if xAxisLabelType == 2

// Data controller
@property ZFData* dictDispPoint; // an ordered set of key-value pairs with fields corresponding to constants fzValue and fzXValue

// Drawing controller
@property ZFDrawingUtility *draw;

// Animation
@property float timeBetweenPoints;
@property BOOL animatePlotDraw;
@property int countDown;
@property NSMutableArray *alreadyIncluded;

// Layout properties for plotting the view
@property (nonatomic, readwrite) float chartWidth, chartHeight;
@property (nonatomic, readwrite) float leftMargin;

// Tracking all points in data as they are iterated over
@property (nonatomic, readwrite) CGPoint prevPoint, curPoint, currentLoc;
@property BOOL isMovement;

// Show when data is loading or missing
@property (strong) UIActivityIndicatorView *loadingSpinner;

- (void)createChartWith:(NSOrderedSet *)data; //set up plot with data after initialization
- (void)drawSpecial;
- (int)getPointSlot;
- (BOOL) goodPointSlot : (int) pointSlot;



#import "ZFPlotChart.h"
#import "ZFString.h"
@implementation ZFPlotChart

#pragma mark - Initialization/LifeCycle Method

- (id)initWithFrame:(CGRect)frame
    self = [super initWithFrame:frame];
    if (self) {

        // get display constraints
        self.chartHeight = frame.size.height - vMargin;
        self.chartWidth = frame.size.width - hMargin;

        // set defaults for appearance parameters
        self.baseColorProperty = baseColor;

        self.stringOffsetHorizontal = stringOffset;
        self.gridLinesOn = YES;
        self.animatePlotDraw = YES;
        self.timeBetweenPoints = .3;
        self.convertX = FALSE;
        self.backgroundColor = whiteColor;
        self.isMovement = NO;
        self.draw = [[ZFDrawingUtility alloc] init];

        [self setAutoresizingMask: UIViewAutoresizingFlexibleWidth];
        [self setAutoresizesSubviews:YES];

        // get ready to receive data
        self.dictDispPoint = [[ZFData alloc] init];
        self.dictDispPoint.chart = self;
    return self;

- (void) setupLimits: (NSMutableOrderedSet *)orderSet{
    // Find Min & Max of Chart
    self.dictDispPoint.max = [[[orderSet valueForKey:fzValue] valueForKeyPath:@"@max.floatValue"] floatValue];
    self.dictDispPoint.min = [[[orderSet valueForKey:fzValue] valueForKeyPath:@"@min.floatValue"] floatValue];

    // Enhance Upper & Lower Limit for Flexible Display, based on average of min and max
    self.dictDispPoint.max = ceilf((self.dictDispPoint.max+maxMinOffsetBuffer*self.dictDispPoint.max )/ 1)*1;
    self.dictDispPoint.min = floor((self.dictDispPoint.min-maxMinOffsetBuffer*self.dictDispPoint.max)/1)*1;
    self.dictDispPoint.max = MIN(maxY, self.dictDispPoint.max);
    self.dictDispPoint.min = MAX(minY, self.dictDispPoint.min);

    // Calculate left space given by the lenght of the string on the axis
    self.leftMargin = [self sizeOfString:[NSString yNumberWithUnits:self.dictDispPoint.max/valueDivider withFractionDigits:1 withUnits:self.units] withFont:systemFont].width + leftSpace;
    self.chartWidth -= self.leftMargin;

- (NSMutableOrderedSet *) clearDispDictAndReturnNewOrderedSet: (NSOrderedSet *)data {
    [self.dictDispPoint removeAllObjects];
    NSMutableOrderedSet *orderSet = [[NSMutableOrderedSet alloc] initWithCapacity:0];
    // Add data to the orderSet
    [data enumerateObjectsUsingBlock:^(id obj, NSUInteger ind, BOOL *stop){
        [orderSet addObject:obj];
    return orderSet;

#pragma mark - Chart Creation Method

- (void)drawRect:(CGRect)rect{
        if([self.dictDispPoint count] > 0)
            [self stopLoading];           // remove loading animation
            [self drawHorizontalLines];   // draw horizontal grid lines where desired

            [self drawPoints];            // draw actual data points in particula way for particular graph type (ALWAYS OVERRIDE BY SUBCLASS)
            // note that drawPoints is also responsible for drawing vertical grid lines and/or x-axis labels as appropriate
            // this is to avoid looping through data elements twice

            [self drawSpecial];           // draw whatever other features are unique to a particular kind of graph
            // currently only used by line graph to fill in gradient below line graph

            [self setupAxesAndClosures];  // draw axes and lines to complete square around graph

            // if user has touched the chart, show an informational point reflecting nearest data point
                int pointSlot = [self getPointSlot];  // this depends on graph type
                if([self goodPointSlot:pointSlot]) {  // this also depends on graph type
                    [self movementSetup : pointSlot withPoint:[self getPointForPointSlot:pointSlot]]; // this is a universal
            // draw a loding spinner while loading the data
            [self drawLoading]; // this is a universal
    @catch (NSException *exception) {}

- (void)createChartWith:(NSOrderedSet *)data

    NSMutableOrderedSet *orderSet = [self clearDispDictAndReturnNewOrderedSet:data];

        orderSet = [self orderIndicesSetLimits:orderSet];


    [self setupLimits:orderSet];

    // Calculate x-axis point locations accordig to line chart type
    float xGapBetweenTwoPoints = [self gapBetweenPoints:orderSet];
    float x = [self returnX:xGapBetweenTwoPoints];

    self.xUnitWidth = xGapBetweenTwoPoints;

    // Parameters to calculate y-axis positions
    float y = topMarginInterior;
    self.dictDispPoint.yMax = self.dictDispPoint.yMin;

    float xRange;
    xRange = self.dictDispPoint.xMax - self.dictDispPoint.xMin;

    // Adding points to values
    for(NSDictionary *dictionary in orderSet)
        if(self.convertX) {
            // for graph types that scale x values, retrieve x from array of converted values, rejecting arithmetic computation at end of loop
            x =  [self.dictDispPoint convertXToGraphNumber:[[dictionary valueForKey:fzXValue] floatValue]];
            [self.dictDispPoint.xIndices addObject:[NSNumber numberWithFloat:x]];

        y = [self.dictDispPoint convertYToGraphNumber:[[dictionary valueForKey:fzValue] floatValue]];

        // Get max y value
        if(y > self.dictDispPoint.yMax) self.dictDispPoint.yMax = y;

        CGPoint point = CGPointMake(x,y);

        NSDictionary *dictPoint = [NSDictionary dictionaryWithObjectsAndKeys:[NSValue valueWithCGPoint:point], fzPoint,
                                   [dictionary valueForKey:fzValue], fzValue,
                                   [dictionary valueForKey:fzXValue], fzXValue, nil];

        [self.dictDispPoint addObject:dictPoint];

        x+= xGapBetweenTwoPoints;

    // More scatter plot book-keeping
    if(self.convertX)[self.dictDispPoint convertXMakeBins];

        [self startDrawingPaths];
        [self resetInclusionArray];
        [self allTrueInclusionArray];
        self.countDown = (int)self.dictDispPoint.count + 1;
        [self setNeedsDisplay];

#pragma mark - Animated Drawing

- (void)startDrawingPaths
    //draw the first path
    self.countDown = 0;
    [self setNeedsDisplay];

    //schedule redraws once per second
    [NSTimer scheduledTimerWithTimeInterval:self.timeBetweenPoints target:self selector:@selector(updateView:) userInfo:nil repeats:YES];

- (void)updateView:(NSTimer*)timer
    //increment the path counter

    //tell the view to update
    [self setNeedsDisplay];

    //if we've drawn all our paths, stop the timer
    if(self.countDown >= self.dictDispPoint.count)
        [timer invalidate];

#pragma mark - Activity Indicators

-(void)drawLoading {
    self.loadingSpinner = [[UIActivityIndicatorView alloc] initWithActivityIndicatorStyle:UIActivityIndicatorViewStyleGray];
    [self.loadingSpinner startAnimating];

    CGRect screenRect = [[UIScreen mainScreen] bounds];
    CGFloat screenWidth = screenRect.size.width;

    self.loadingSpinner.center = CGPointMake(screenWidth/2, self.frame.size.height/2);
    self.loadingSpinner.hidesWhenStopped = YES;
    [self addSubview:self.loadingSpinner];

-(void)stopLoading {
    [self.loadingSpinner stopAnimating];

#pragma mark - String utilities

// size of a string given a specific font
-(CGSize) sizeOfString:(NSString *)string withFont:(UIFont *)font {
    NSDictionary *attributes = @{ NSFontAttributeName: font};
    return [string sizeWithAttributes:attributes];

#pragma mark - Handle Touch Events

- (int)getPointSlot{
    // determine which data point to use based on user touch location
    // some subclasses override this
    float xGapBetweenTwoPoints = self.chartWidth/[self.dictDispPoint count];
    return self.currentLoc.x/(signed)xGapBetweenTwoPoints;

- (CGPoint)getPointForPointSlot:(int)pointSlot{
    // get appropriate data point given point slot determine by user touch
    // some subclasses override this
    NSDictionary *dict = [self.dictDispPoint objectAtIndex:pointSlot];
    return CGPointMake([[dict valueForKey:fzPoint] CGPointValue].x,[[dict valueForKey:fzPoint] CGPointValue].y);

-(void)touchesBegan:(NSSet *)touches withEvent:(UIEvent *)event
    [[NSNotificationCenter defaultCenter] postNotificationName:@"disableScrolling" object:nil];

    UITouch *touch = [touches anyObject];
    self.currentLoc = [touch locationInView:self];
    self.currentLoc = CGPointMake(self.currentLoc.x - self.leftMargin, self.currentLoc.y);
    //self.currentLoc.x -= self.leftMargin;
    self.isMovement = YES;

    [self setNeedsDisplay];

-(void)touchesMoved:(NSSet *)touches withEvent:(UIEvent *)event
    UITouch *touch = [touches anyObject];
    self.currentLoc = [touch locationInView:self];
    self.currentLoc = CGPointMake(self.currentLoc.x - self.leftMargin, self.currentLoc.y);
    //self.currentLoc.x -= self.leftMargin;
    [self setNeedsDisplay];

-(void)touchesEnded:(NSSet *)touches withEvent:(UIEvent *)event
    [[NSNotificationCenter defaultCenter] postNotificationName:@"enableScrolling" object:nil];

    UITouch *touch = [touches anyObject];
    self.currentLoc = [touch locationInView:self];
   // self.currentLoc.x -= self.leftMargin;
    self.currentLoc = CGPointMake(self.currentLoc.x - self.leftMargin, self.currentLoc.y);
    self.isMovement = NO;
    [self setNeedsDisplay];

#pragma mark  (Effectively) Abstract Methods that Can Be Overridden

- (void) drawPoints {
    // this method should draw data in preferred representation as well as all x-axis information (labels, vertical lines)
    // x-axis information is coupled with drawing data to avoid double repetition through data

- (void)drawSpecial{
    // anything that needs to be added after data is drawn
    // line chart draws its gradient here; bar and scatter charts do not currently make use of drawSpecial

#pragma mark  Drawing Setup Functions Not Overridden

- (void) drawHorizontalLines {
    float range = self.dictDispPoint.max-self.dictDispPoint.min;

    float intervalHlines = (self.chartHeight)/MIN(intervalLinesHorizontal, self.dictDispPoint.count - 1);    //5.0f;
    float intervalValues = range/MIN(intervalLinesHorizontal, self.dictDispPoint.count - 1);     //5.0f;

    // horizontal lines
    for(int i=intervalLinesHorizontal;i>0;i--)
        [self.draw setContextWidth:0.5f andColor:linesColor];

        CGPoint start = CGPointMake(self.leftMargin, self.chartHeight+topMarginInterior-i*intervalHlines);
        CGPoint end = CGPointMake(self.chartWidth+self.leftMargin, self.chartHeight+topMarginInterior-i*intervalHlines);

        // draw the line
        if(self.gridLinesOn)[self.draw drawLineFrom:start to:end];

        // draw yVals on the axis
        NSString *yVal = [NSString yNumberWithUnits:(self.dictDispPoint.min+i*intervalValues)/valueDivider withFractionDigits:1 withUnits:self.units];
        CGPoint yValPoint = CGPointMake(self.leftMargin - [self sizeOfString:yVal withFont:systemFont].width - 5,(self.chartHeight+topMarginInterior-i*intervalHlines-6));
        [self.draw drawString:yVal at:yValPoint withFont:systemFont andColor:linesColor];
        [self.draw endContext];

- (void) setupAxesAndClosures{
    //  X and Y axis
    [self.draw setContextWidth:1.0f andColor:linesColor];

    //  y
    [self.draw drawLineFrom:CGPointMake(self.leftMargin, topMarginInterior) to:CGPointMake(self.leftMargin, self.chartHeight+topMarginInterior)];
    //  x
    [self.draw drawLineFrom:CGPointMake(self.leftMargin, topMarginInterior+self.chartHeight) to:CGPointMake(self.leftMargin+self.chartWidth, self.chartHeight+topMarginInterior)];

    // vertical closure
    CGPoint startLine = CGPointMake(self.leftMargin+self.chartWidth, topMarginInterior);
    CGPoint endLine = CGPointMake(self.leftMargin+self.chartWidth, topMarginInterior+self.chartHeight);
    [self.draw drawLineFrom:startLine to:endLine];

    // horizontal closure
    [self.draw drawLineFrom:CGPointMake(self.leftMargin, topMarginInterior) to:CGPointMake(self.chartWidth+self.leftMargin, topMarginInterior)];

    [self.draw endContext];


- (void) movementSetup : (int)pointSlot withPoint:(CGPoint)point{

    CGContextRef context = UIGraphicsGetCurrentContext();
    NSDictionary *dict = [self.dictDispPoint objectAtIndex:pointSlot];

    // Line at current Point
    [self.draw setContextWidth:1.0f andColor:self.baseColorProperty];
    [self.draw drawLineFrom:CGPointMake(point.x, topMarginInterior-10) to:CGPointMake(point.x, self.chartHeight+topMarginInterior)];
    [self.draw endContext];

    // Circle at point
    [self.draw setContextWidth:1.0f andColor:self.baseColorProperty];
    [self.draw drawCircleAt:point ofRadius:8];
    [self.draw endContext];

    NSString *yVal = [self getStringForLabel:dict];

    CGSize yValSize = [self sizeOfString:yVal withFont:boldFont];

    CGRect yValRect = {point.x-yValSize.width/2, 2, yValSize.width + 10, yValSize.height +3};

    // if goes out on right
    if(point.x+-yValSize.width/2+yValSize.width+12 > self.chartWidth+self.leftMargin)
        yValRect.origin.x = self.chartWidth+self.leftMargin-yValSize.width-2;
    // if goes out on left
    if(yValRect.origin.x < self.leftMargin)
        yValRect.origin.x = self.leftMargin-(self.leftMargin/2);

    // rectangle for the label
    [self.draw drawRoundedRect:context rect:yValRect radius:5 color:self.baseColorProperty];
    // value string
    [self.draw drawString:yVal at:CGPointMake(yValRect.origin.x+(yValRect.size.width-yValSize.width)/2,yValRect.origin.y+1.0f) withFont:boldFont andColor:whiteColor];

# pragma mark Functions Varying by Chart Type

- (float) gapBetweenPoints: (NSMutableOrderedSet *)orderSet{
    // determine what distance between points, overridden by bar graph and ignored by  scatter graph
    return self.chartWidth/MAX(([orderSet count] - 1), 1);

- (float) returnX : (float) toAdd  {
    // set beginning x point with chart (to control whatever buffer you want between points and y-axis)
    return self.leftMargin;

- (NSString *) getStringForLabel : (NSDictionary *)dict {
    float value = [[dict objectForKey:fzValue] floatValue]/valueDivider;
    return [NSString yNumberWithUnits:value withFractionDigits:2 withUnits:self.units];

# pragma mark Functions Specialized by Scatter Plot

- (NSMutableOrderedSet *) orderIndicesSetLimits: (NSMutableOrderedSet *) orderSet{
    // overridden by scatter plot
    return orderSet;

- (BOOL) goodPointSlot : (int) pointSlot {
    // this works for bar chart and line chart; scatter chart implements its own
    return (pointSlot < [self.dictDispPoint count] && pointSlot < self.countDown);

- (void)resetInclusionArray {
    // overridden by scatter chart to manage animation by keeping track of which randomly selected points have already been drawn

- (void) allTrueInclusionArray {
    // overridden by scatter chart to manage animation by keeping track of which randomly selected points have already been drawn

  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't add much input into the performance of the code. Structure wise it looks good. One thing I would change is the documentation in the header file. I prefer to use Apple's HeaderDoc when documenting a new class - it adds the functionality of quick view and showing up, just like Apple's documentation does without having to go into the class itself. (By control + clicking the method / property for the class) Reference: developer.apple.com/library/mac/documentation/DeveloperTools/… and developer.appl \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10, 2015 at 11:58

1 Answer 1


There's a lot to comment on in the header alone... so I will...

We can worry about the innards later. What's most important when writing a class like this is that the public-facing aspect make as most sense as possible to users who are unfamiliar with exactly how to use your code.

1. Removed anything unused.

Your header exposes 19 properties and 4 methods. I didn't check all of them, but starting with xAxisLabelType, there are some properties that aren't even used in your code. I wasn't explicitly checking for this. I was checking because the variables seemed poorly named, and the hope was that looking in the code would help me better discern their exact purposes.

But you should carry around properties like this which aren't used, so get rid of them.

2. Empty methods are empty methods--not abstract methods.

If you want to give subclasses a chance do special things, you don't need to do anything special. All I have to do in my subclass is throw a few extra calls into my override of drawRect: or whatever else I want to modify.

Importantly, in Objective-C, there is no concept of "protected", which some other languages like Java have. A protected method can be overridden by, and seen by, a child class, but it can not be seen by the outside world. There's not a good way of accomplishing this task in Objective-C.

By putting drawSpecial in the header, all you've done is publicly expose a method that probably didn't need to be public at all. If it ever makes sense to mark a method as something that shouldn't be called by external classes (which would make sense here), then the right thing to do is simply not put it as a publicly available method.

3. Consistency is King.

  • strong is the default memory-management attribute for object properties. So how come on some of your properties you explicitly marked them as strong, while others you omitted any memory-management attribute?
  • retain is the same as strong these days, and it does the same thing... but let's just use strong, for consistency.
  • readwrite is the default accessibility attribute for properties. Why do some of your properties explicitly state readwrite while the rest omit this attribute and accept readwrite as default? The only time you should specify readwrite is when you want a property exposed in the header as readonly to be overridden as readwrite within the .m file, or when you're simply marking every property with a readonly/readwrite attribute (for the consistency of explicitly marking all attributes).
  • nonatomic is not the default attribute. It's also the less-safe (between atomic and nonatomic). But there doesn't seem to be a good explanation for you having marked some of your properties as nonatomic. Why have you done this? Nothing in your code appears to have required you to do this. You did not write custom setters/getters.
  • float/CGFloat: There doesn't seem any logic dictating which you're going to use. I'd opt for using CGFloat consistently here, although in the case of timeBetweenPoints, we're going to want NSTimeInterval as our type.
  • Pick an asterisk style and stick to it. I personally prefer ClassName *instanceVariableName;, but you've used a combination of that and ClassName* instanceVariableName;

4. Don't expose publicly things which are private.

I'm not convinced everything in your .h file even needs to be in your .h file. We can move some of it into a separate private interface in the .m file, affording us the closest thing to what Objective-C would call private properties.

5. Good naming goes a long way.

Don't abbreviate things. Especially things you're publicly exposing in the header file. What is dictDispPoint? No one has any clue. This isn't even remotely a good descriptive name for a variable. And keep in mind that argument names are just that, argument names... and they don't count as part of the method name. So, createChartWith: is a bad method name, while createChartWithData: is better. It still needs work though, because that method's argument should be an NSData *, but it's actually an NSOrderedSet. So maybe we should call it createChartWithDataSet:?

In the end, I think that this class could benefit greatly by taking a look at UITableView and use a protocol/delegate approach. There's no indication what sort of objects should be in the ordered set I pass in the createChartWith: method. But if we had a protocol that exposed methods like:

@protocol ZFChartDataSource

- (ZFChartStyle)styleForChartView:(ZFChartView *)chartView;
- (NSInteger)numberOfDataSetsInChartView:(ZFChartView *)chartView;
- (NSInteger)chartView:(ZFChartView *)chartView numberOfPointsInDataSetAtIndex:(NSInteger)dataSetIndex;
- (UIColor *)chartView:(ZFChartView *)chartView colorForDataSetAtIndex:(NSInteger)dataSetIndex;
- (ZFChartDataPoint *)chartView:(ZFChartView *)chartView dataPointForDataPath:(ZFDataPath)dataPath;


I think you can make the chart feel a lot more comfortable for iOS users who are familiar and comfortable with this sort of pattern. And it allows a lot more flexibility and complexity but it somehow simpler and more straight-foward for the end user.

And of course, we can then, similar to a table view or collection view, add some cool delegation to our view as well:

@protocol ZFChartDelegate

- (void)chartView:(ZFChartView *)chartView didSelectDataPointAtDataPath:(ZFDataPath)dataPath;


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