[ios] Creating a left-arrow button (like UINavigationBar's “back” style) on a UIToolbar


The Unicode Method

I think it is much easier to just use a unicode character to get the job done. You can look through arrows by googling either Unicode Triangles or Unicode Arrows. Starting with iOS6 Apple changed the character to be an emoji character with a border. To disable the border I add the 0xFE0E Unicode Variation Selector.


UIBarButtonItem *backBarButtonItem = [[UIBarButtonItem alloc] initWithTitle:backArrowString style:UIBarButtonItemStylePlain target:nil action:nil];
self.navigationItem.leftButtonItem = backBarButtonItem;

The code block is just for the demo. It would work in any button that accepts an NSString.

For a full list of characters search Google for Unicode character and what you want. Here is the entry for Black Left-Pointing Triangle.



I'd love to create a "back" left-arrow-bezel button in a UIToolbar.

As far as I can tell, the only way to get one of these is to leave UINavigationController at default settings and it uses one for the left bar item. But there's no way I can find to create one as a UIBarButtonItem, so I can't make one in a standard UIToolbar, even though they're very similar to UINavigationBars.

I could manually create it with button images, but I can't find the source images anywhere. They have alpha-channel edges, so screenshotting and cutting won't get very versatile results.

Any ideas beyond screenshotting for every size and color scheme I intend to use?

Update: PLEASE STOP dodging the question and suggesting that I shouldn't be asking this and should be using UINavigationBar. My app is Instapaper Pro. It shows only a bottom toolbar (to save space and maximize readable content area), and I wish to put a left-arrow-shaped Back button in the bottom.

Telling me that I shouldn't need to do this is not an answer and certainly doesn't deserve a bounty.

The Three20 library has a way to do this:

  UIBarButtonItem *backButton = [[UIBarButtonItem alloc] initWithTitle: @"Title" style:UIBarButtonItemStylePlain 
                                                                target:self action:@selector(foo)];

  UIColor* darkBlue = RGBCOLOR(109, 132, 162);

  TTShapeStyle* style = [TTShapeStyle styleWithShape:[TTRoundedLeftArrowShape shapeWithRadius:4.5] next:
    [TTShadowStyle styleWithColor:RGBCOLOR(255,255,255) blur:1 offset:CGSizeMake(0, 1) next:
    [TTReflectiveFillStyle styleWithColor:darkBlue next:
    [TTBevelBorderStyle styleWithHighlight:[darkBlue shadow]
                                     shadow:[darkBlue multiplyHue:1 saturation:0.5 value:0.5]
                                      width:1 lightSource:270 next:
    [TTInsetStyle styleWithInset:UIEdgeInsetsMake(0, -1, 0, -1) next:
    [TTBevelBorderStyle styleWithHighlight:nil shadow:RGBACOLOR(0,0,0,0.15)
                                        width:1 lightSource:270 next:nil]]]]]];

  TTView* view = [[[TTView alloc] initWithFrame:CGRectMake(0, 0, 80, 35)] autorelease];
  view.backgroundColor = [UIColor clearColor];
  view.style = style;
  backButton.customView = view;

  self.navigationItem.leftBarButtonItem = backButton;

Well, you don't have to have a different button for every size, you can use [UIImage stretchableImageWithLeftCapWidth:topCapHeight:], but the only thing I've found is custom images.

To make a UIButton with an arrow pretty close (I'm not a designer ;) to the iOS 7 system back arrow:


Apple SD Gothic Neo

In Xcode:

  • Focus on the title value field of the button (or any other view/control with text content)
  • Open Edit -> Special Characters
  • Select the Parentheses group and double click the '<' character
  • Change font to: Apple SD Gothic Neo, Regular with desired size (e.g. 20)
  • Change colour as you like

Ref @staticVoidMan's answer to Back-like arrow on iOS 7

I was trying to do the same thing, but I wanted the back button to be in the navigation bar. (I actually needed a back button, that would do more than only going back, so I had to use the leftBarButtonItem property). I tried what AndrewS suggested, but in the navigation bar it wouldn't look the way it should, as the UIButton was kind of casted to a UIBarButtonItem.

But I found a way to work around this. I actually just put a UIView under the UIButton and set the customView for the UIBarButtonItem. Here is the code, if somebody needs it:

// initialize button and button view
UIButton *backButton = [UIButton buttonWithType:101];
UIView *backButtonView = [[UIView alloc] initWithFrame:CGRectMake(0, 0, backButton.frame.size.width, backButton.frame.size.height)];

[backButton addTarget:self action:@selector(backButtonTouched:) forControlEvents:UIControlEventTouchUpInside];
[backButton setTitle:@"Back" forState:UIControlStateNormal];
[backButtonView addSubview:backButton];

// set buttonview as custom view for bar button item
UIBarButtonItem *backButtonItem = [[UIBarButtonItem alloc] initWithCustomView:backButtonView];
self.navigationItem.leftBarButtonItem = backButtonItem;

// push item to navigationbar items
[self.navigationController.navigationBar setItems:[NSArray arrayWithObject:backButtonItem]];

    self.navigationItem.leftBarButtonItem = self.navigationItem.backBarButtonItem;

Works for me. I used this when I had more tabs then could fit on the tab bar, and a view controller pushed from the "More" overrode the leftBarButtonItem in its viewDidLoad.

Example in Swift 3, with a previous and a next button in the top right.

let prevButtonItem = UIBarButtonItem(title: "\u{25C0}", style: .plain, target: self, action: #selector(prevButtonTapped))
let nextButtonItem = UIBarButtonItem(title: "\u{25B6}", style: .plain, target: self, action: #selector(nextButtonTapped))
self.navigationItem.rightBarButtonItems = [nextButtonItem, prevButtonItem]

Here's what I ended up doing after searching through all these solutions and others. It uses a stretchable png's extracted from the UIKit stock images. This way you can set the text to whatever you liek

// Generate the background images
UIImage *stretchableBackButton = [[UIImage imageNamed:@"UINavigationBarDefaultBack.png"] stretchableImageWithLeftCapWidth:14 topCapHeight:0];
UIImage *stretchableBackButtonPressed = [[UIImage imageNamed:@"UINavigationBarDefaultBackPressed.png"] stretchableImageWithLeftCapWidth:13 topCapHeight:0];
// Setup the UIButton
UIButton *backButton = [UIButton buttonWithType:UIButtonTypeCustom];
[backButton setBackgroundImage:stretchableBackButton forState:UIControlStateNormal];
[backButton setBackgroundImage:stretchableBackButtonPressed forState:UIControlStateSelected];
NSString *buttonTitle = NSLocalizedString(@"Back", @"Back");
[backButton setTitle:buttonTitle forState:UIControlStateNormal];
[backButton setTitle:buttonTitle forState:UIControlStateSelected];
backButton.titleEdgeInsets = UIEdgeInsetsMake(0, 5, 2, 1); // Tweak the text position
NSInteger width = ([backButton.titleLabel.text sizeWithFont:backButton.titleLabel.font].width + backButton.titleEdgeInsets.right +backButton.titleEdgeInsets.left);
[backButton setFrame:CGRectMake(0, 0, width, 29)];
backButton.titleLabel.font = [UIFont boldSystemFontOfSize:13.0f];
[backButton addTarget:self action:@selector(yourSelector:) forControlEvents:UIControlEventTouchDown];
// Now add the button as a custom UIBarButtonItem
UIBarButtonItem *backButtonItem = [[[UIBarButtonItem alloc] initWithCustomView:backButton] autorelease];
self.navigationItem.leftBarButtonItem = backButtonItem;

Solution WITHOUT using a png. Based on this SO answer: Adding the little arrow to the right side of a cell in an iPhone TableView Cell

Just flipping the UITableViewCell horizontally!

UIButton *btnBack = [[UIButton alloc] initWithFrame:CGRectMake(0, 5, 70, 20)];

// Add the disclosure
CGRect frm;
UITableViewCell *disclosure = [[UITableViewCell alloc] init];
disclosure.transform = CGAffineTransformScale(CGAffineTransformIdentity, -1, 1);
frm = self.btnBack.bounds;
disclosure.frame = CGRectMake(frm.origin.x, frm.origin.y, frm.size.width-25, frm.size.height);
disclosure.accessoryType = UITableViewCellAccessoryDisclosureIndicator;
disclosure.userInteractionEnabled = NO;
[self.btnBack addSubview:disclosure];

// Add the label
UILabel *lbl = [[UILabel alloc] init];
frm = CGRectOffset(self.btnBack.bounds, 15, 0);
lbl.frame = frm;
lbl.textAlignment = NSTextAlignmentCenter;
lbl.text = @"BACK";
[self addSubview:lbl];

First of all you have to find an image of the back button. I used a nice app called Extractor that extracts all the graphics from iPhone. In iOS7 I managed to retrieve the image called UINavigationBarBackIndicatorDefault and it was in black colour, since I needed a red tint I change the colour to red using Gimp.


As was mentioned by btate in his comment, there is no need to change the color with the image editor. The following code should do the trick:

imageView.tint = [UIColor redColor];
imageView.image = [[UIImage imageNamed:@"UINavigationBarBackIndicatorDefault"] imageWithRenderingMode:UIImageRenderingModeAlwaysTemplate];

Then I created a view that contains an imageView with that arrow, a label with the custom text and on top of the view I have a button with an action. Then I added a simple animation (fading and translation).

The following code simulates the behaviour of the back button including animation.

        UIImageView *imageView=[[UIImageView alloc] initWithImage:[UIImage imageNamed:@"UINavigationBarBackIndicatorDefault"]];
        [imageView setTintColor:[UIColor redColor]];
        UILabel *label=[[UILabel alloc] init];
        [label setTextColor:[UIColor redColor]];
        [label setText:@"Blog"];
        [label sizeToFit];

        int space=6;
        label.frame=CGRectMake(imageView.frame.origin.x+imageView.frame.size.width+space, label.frame.origin.y, label.frame.size.width, label.frame.size.height);
        UIView *view=[[UIView alloc] initWithFrame:CGRectMake(0, 0, label.frame.size.width+imageView.frame.size.width+space, imageView.frame.size.height)];

        view.bounds=CGRectMake(view.bounds.origin.x+8, view.bounds.origin.y-1, view.bounds.size.width, view.bounds.size.height);
        [view addSubview:imageView];
        [view addSubview:label];

        UIButton *button=[[UIButton alloc] initWithFrame:view.frame];
        [button addTarget:self action:@selector(handleBack:) forControlEvents:UIControlEventTouchUpInside];
        [view addSubview:button];

        [UIView animateWithDuration:0.33 delay:0 options:UIViewAnimationOptionCurveLinear animations:^{
            label.alpha = 0.0;
            CGRect orig=label.frame;
            label.frame=CGRectMake(label.frame.origin.x+25, label.frame.origin.y, label.frame.size.width, label.frame.size.height);
            label.alpha = 1.0;
        } completion:nil];

        UIBarButtonItem *backButton =[[UIBarButtonItem alloc] initWithCustomView:view];

- (void) handleBack:(id)sender{


Instead of adding the button, in my opinion the better approach is to use a gesture recognizer.

UITapGestureRecognizer* tap = [[UITapGestureRecognizer alloc] initWithTarget:self action:@selector(handleBack:)];
[view addGestureRecognizer:tap];
[view setUserInteractionEnabled:YES];

Try this. I am sure you do not need a back button image to create one such.

UIBarButtonItem *backButton = [[UIBarButtonItem alloc] initWithTitle:@"Back"
self.navigationItem.backBarButtonItem = backButton;

That's all you have to do :)