SwiftUI Views are Lists

The View Protocol Has A Misleading Name

When you write SwiftUI, all your views conform to the View protocol. The name of this protocol is a bit misleading: I it could be called Views or ViewList, or something else that suggests plurals 1 .

For example, consider the following view:

struct MyView: View {
     var body: some View {

The type of body is some View (an opaque type), and MyView itself conforms to the View protocol. So how does the above view render? It depends . When you create an HStack containing MyView, the text will be on a single line, but when you create a VStack the two texts will be below each other. Try this!

This is not a gimmick: it is essential to how SwiftUI works. When we write views, we’re always constructing lists of views . For example, we could even do something like this:

struct MyOtherView: View {
    var body: some View {
        Text("Another Text")

You can create a VStack with MyOtherView, and will see the three views below each other, and when you create an HStack they’re laid out on a single line.

In general, we can say that anything that conforms to the View protocol really represents a list of Views. In the case of MyOtherView, we could say the list has a single Text view and another list (MyView). These lists get flattened. In the case of MyOtherView, the body flattens down to a list containing three views.

Container views such as HStack and VStack take these lists, iterate over them and lay them out. Using the Layout protocol, you can also see these flattened lists. For example, you could construct your own Layout implementation to print the number of subviews:

struct MyLayout: Layout {
    func sizeThatFits(proposal: ProposedViewSize, subviews: Subviews, cache: inout ()) -> CGSize {

    func placeSubviews(in bounds: CGRect, proposal: ProposedViewSize, subviews: Subviews, cache: inout ()) {

When you have a MyLayout { MyOtherView() } you’ll see that it will always print 3.

To create lists with a dynamic size, you can use conditionals such as if. Note that constructs like ForEach produce a list as well. These can even be combined with other lists. For example, the code below creates a vertical stack with eight children:

 VStack {
     ForEach(0..<5) {
         Text("Label \($0)")

As mentioned, the Layout protocol lets you work with these view lists directly as of iOS 16 and macOS 13. You can also use variadic views — a non-public, but stable API — to loop over view lists. The variadic view API is really powerful (for example, you can write things like filter, map and reduce on view lists) but also quite low-level. I have a gist here with some examples, and plan to also write this up soon 2 .

This article was inspired by the section that Florian wrote for our book Thinking in SwiftUI. We’re currently rewriting the book and hope to get it out soon.

  1. Not everyone agrees with this, the discussion on Mastodon was quite interesting.

  2. I did write this up, and the post is here.