The UIViewController lifecycle is pretty simple. viewDidLoad is called when the view is loaded (usually from a XIB) and when the view controller’s view is about to be displayed viewWillAppear: gets called (and viewWillDisappear: when it goes away).

The problem is, when you have a non-standard view hierarchy (like mycurrent app) these methods don’t get called. The Apple docs have this to say about the problem:

Warning: If the view belonging to a view controller is added to a view hierarchy directly, the view controller will not receive this message. If you insert or add a view to the view hierarchy, and it has a view controller, you should send the associated view controller this message directly. Failing to send the view controller this message will prevent any associated animation from being displayed.

In my application I have a persistent bar at the bottom of the screen, so my UINavigationController only owns a portion of the screen. Thus, my RootViewController (which owns these 2 portions) is always active.


I recently came upon a requirement that needed to leverage viewWillAppear: and viewWillDisappear: in order to decorate the bottom bar with some additional information. Since this is a view controller a few layers deep in the hierarchy, the methods weren’t being called.

Luckly, there is a fix to this. The navigation controller can notify its delegate when it changes view controllers.

Start off in the view controller that is the root of the navigation controller hierarchy. Make it conform to the UINavigationControllerDelegate protocol. We’ll also need an ivar to store the last view controller that appeared so that we can notify when it disappears.

    @interface MyRootViewController : UIViewController
        <UINavigationControllerDelegate> {
          UIViewController *_lastViewController;
    // methods


In the implementation, in do the following:

    @implementation MyRootViewController

    // other stuff

    - (void)viewDidLoad {
        [super viewDidLoad];

        self.navigationController.delegate = self;
        // ...

    - (void)navigationController:(UINavigationController *)navigationController 
          willShowViewController:(UIViewController *)viewController animated:(BOOL)animated {
        if (_lastViewController) {
            [_lastViewController viewWillDisappear:animated];

        [viewController viewWillAppear:animated];
        _lastViewController = viewController;

If you need support for viewDidAppear and viewDidDisappear then you’d have to implement this method as well:

    - (void)navigationController:(UINavigationController *)navigationController 
           didShowViewController:(UIViewController *)viewController 

After doing this, your view controllers should start receiving the viewWillAppear: and viewWillDisappear: methods successfully.