Use the iOS system colors in Xamarin.Forms (Updated)

Use the iOS system colors in Xamarin.Forms (Updated)


After publishing this post, Gerald Versluis from Microsoft responded on Twitter with an interesting information on how to get the system colors into our ResourceDictionary without using the DependencyService:

I had a quick look at the NamedPlatformColor class, but noticed that the implementation in Xamarin.Forms is incomplete. Gerald will try to update them. Once that is done, I will update the library on Github and this post again.

Original version below:


Let me give you a short overview first. To achieve our goal to use the iOS system colors, we need just a few easy steps:

  1. Xamarin.Forms interface that defines the colors
  2. Xamarin.iOS implementation of that interface
  3. ResourceDictionary to make the colors available in XAML
  4. Merging this dictionary with the application’s resource
  5. Handling of the OnRequestedThemeChanged event

Now that the plan is clear, let’s go into details.

ISystemColors interface

We will use the Xamarin.Forms DependencyService to get the colors from iOS to Xamarin.Forms. Let’s create our common interface:

using Xamarin.Forms;

    public interface ISystemColors
        Color SystemRed { get; }
        Color SystemOrange { get; }
        Color SystemYellow { get; }
        Color SystemGreen { get; }
        Color SystemMint { get; }
        Color SystemTeal { get; }
        Color SystemCyan { get; }
        Color SystemBlue { get; }
        Color SystemIndigo { get; }
        Color SystemPurple { get; }
        Color SystemPink { get; }
        Color SystemBrown { get; }
        Color SystemGray { get; }
        Color SystemGray2 { get; }
        Color SystemGray3 { get; }
        Color SystemGray4 { get; }
        Color SystemGray5 { get; }
        Color SystemGray6 { get; }
        Color SystemLabel { get; }
        Color SecondaryLabel { get; }
        Color TertiaryLabel { get; }
        Color QuaternaryLabel { get; }
        Color Placeholder { get; }
        Color Separator { get; }
        Color OpaqueSeparator { get; }
        Color LinkColor { get; }
        Color FillColor { get; }
        Color SecondaryFillColor { get; }
        Color TertiaryFillColor { get; }
        Color QuaternaryFillColor { get; }
        Color SystemBackgroundColor { get; }
        Color SecondarySystemBackgroundColor { get; }
        Color TertiarySystemBackgroundColor { get; }
        Color SystemGroupedBackgroundColor { get; }
        Color SecondarySystemGroupedBackgroundColor { get; }
        Color TertiarySystemGroupedBackgroundColor { get; }
        Color DarkTextColor { get; }
        Color LightTextColor { get; }

As we are not able to change any of the system colors, we are just defining getters in the interface.

The Xamarin.iOS platform implementation

The implementation is straight forward. We are implementing the interface and just get the values for each system color. The list is based on Apple’s documentation for human interface and UI element colors.


using UIKit;

using Xamarin.Forms;
using Xamarin.Forms.Platform.iOS;

[assembly: Dependency(typeof(SystemColors))]

    public class SystemColors : ISystemColors
        #region System Colors
        public Color SystemRed => UIColor.SystemRedColor.ToColor();
        public Color SystemOrange => UIColor.SystemOrangeColor.ToColor();
        public Color SystemYellow => UIColor.SystemYellowColor.ToColor();
        public Color SystemGreen => UIColor.SystemGreenColor.ToColor();
        public Color SystemMint => UIColor.SystemMintColor.ToColor();
        public Color SystemTeal => UIColor.SystemTealColor.ToColor();
        public Color SystemCyan => UIColor.SystemCyanColor.ToColor();
        public Color SystemBlue => UIColor.SystemBlueColor.ToColor();
        public Color SystemIndigo => UIColor.SystemIndigoColor.ToColor();
        public Color SystemPurple => UIColor.SystemPurpleColor.ToColor();
        public Color SystemPink => UIColor.SystemPinkColor.ToColor();
        public Color SystemBrown => UIColor.SystemBrownColor.ToColor();

        public Color SystemGray => UIColor.SystemGrayColor.ToColor();
        public Color SystemGray2 => UIColor.SystemGray2Color.ToColor();
        public Color SystemGray3 => UIColor.SystemGray3Color.ToColor();
        public Color SystemGray4 => UIColor.SystemGray4Color.ToColor();
        public Color SystemGray5 => UIColor.SystemGray5Color.ToColor();
        public Color SystemGray6 => UIColor.SystemGray6Color.ToColor();

        #region UI Element Colors
        public Color SystemLabel => UIColor.LabelColor.ToColor();
        public Color SecondaryLabel => UIColor.SecondaryLabelColor.ToColor();
        public Color TertiaryLabel => UIColor.TertiaryLabelColor.ToColor();
        public Color QuaternaryLabel => UIColor.QuaternaryLabelColor.ToColor();
        public Color Placeholder => UIColor.PlaceholderTextColor.ToColor();
        public Color Separator => UIColor.SeparatorColor.ToColor();
        public Color OpaqueSeparator => UIColor.SeparatorColor.ToColor();
        public Color LinkColor => UIColor.SeparatorColor.ToColor();

        public Color FillColor => UIColor.SystemFillColor.ToColor();
        public Color SecondaryFillColor => UIColor.SecondarySystemFillColor.ToColor();
        public Color TertiaryFillColor => UIColor.TertiarySystemFillColor.ToColor();
        public Color QuaternaryFillColor => UIColor.QuaternarySystemFillColor.ToColor();

        public Color SystemBackgroundColor => UIColor.SystemBackgroundColor.ToColor();
        public Color SecondarySystemBackgroundColor => UIColor.SecondarySystemBackgroundColor.ToColor();
        public Color TertiarySystemBackgroundColor => UIColor.TertiarySystemBackgroundColor.ToColor();

        public Color SystemGroupedBackgroundColor => UIColor.SystemGroupedBackgroundColor.ToColor();
        public Color SecondarySystemGroupedBackgroundColor => UIColor.SecondarySystemGroupedBackgroundColor.ToColor();
        public Color TertiarySystemGroupedBackgroundColor => UIColor.TertiarySystemGroupedBackgroundColor.ToColor();

        public Color DarkTextColor => UIColor.DarkTextColor.ToColor();
        public Color LightTextColor => UIColor.LightTextColor.ToColor();


Do not forget to add the Dependency attribute on top of the implementation, otherwise it won’t work.

The ResourceDictionary

As I prefer defining my UI in XAML in Xamarin.Forms, I naturally want those colors to be available there as well. This can be done by loading the colors into a ResourceDictionary. As you might remember, I prefer codeless ResourceDictionary implementations. This time, however, we need the code-behind file to make the ResourceDictionary work for us.

First, add a new ResourceDictionary:


Then, in the code-behind file, we are using the DependencyService of Xamarin.Forms to add the colors to the ResourceDictionary:

using Xamarin.Forms;
using Xamarin.Forms.Xaml;

[assembly: XamlCompilation(XamlCompilationOptions.Compile)]
    public partial class SystemColorsIosResourceDictionary
        public SystemColorsIosResourceDictionary()

            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemRed), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemRed);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemOrange), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemOrange);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemYellow), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemYellow);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemGreen), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemGreen);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemMint), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemMint);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemTeal), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemTeal);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemCyan), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemCyan);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemBlue), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemBlue);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemIndigo), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemIndigo);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemPurple), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemPurple);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemPink), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemPink);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemBrown), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemBrown);

            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemGray), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemGray);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemGray2), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemGray2);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemGray3), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemGray3);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemGray4), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemGray4);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemGray5), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemGray5);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemGray6), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemGray6);

            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemLabel), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemLabel);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SecondaryLabel), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SecondaryLabel);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.TertiaryLabel), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().TertiaryLabel);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.QuaternaryLabel), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().QuaternaryLabel);

            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.Placeholder), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().Placeholder);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.Separator), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().Separator);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.OpaqueSeparator), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().OpaqueSeparator);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.LinkColor), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().LinkColor);

            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.FillColor), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().FillColor);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SecondaryFillColor), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SecondaryFillColor);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.TertiaryFillColor), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().TertiaryFillColor);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.QuaternaryFillColor), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().QuaternaryFillColor);

            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemBackgroundColor), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemBackgroundColor);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SecondarySystemBackgroundColor), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SecondarySystemBackgroundColor);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.TertiarySystemBackgroundColor), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().TertiarySystemBackgroundColor);

            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SystemGroupedBackgroundColor), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SystemGroupedBackgroundColor);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.SecondarySystemGroupedBackgroundColor), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().SecondarySystemGroupedBackgroundColor);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.TertiarySystemGroupedBackgroundColor), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().TertiarySystemGroupedBackgroundColor);

            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.DarkTextColor), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().DarkTextColor);
            this.Add(nameof(ISystemColors.LightTextColor), DependencyService.Get<ISystemColors>().LightTextColor);


That’s all for the implementation. Now let’s start having a look at how to use the whole code we wrote until now.

Merging the ResourceDictionary

In Xamarin.Forms, we are able to merge ResourceDictionary classes to make them available for the whole app or on view/page level only. I consider our above created dictionary as an app-level dictionary. On top, to make it reusable, I put all these classes in a separate multi-platform library, which you can find here on Github.

Please note that the syntax will be a little different if you implement the ResourceDictionary directly in your app. Using the library approach, you will merge the dictionary in this way in App.xaml:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
                <systemcolors:SystemColorsIosResourceDictionary />
                <!--  more dictionaries here  -->

Responding to system theme changes

Even if I personally only change the system theme at runtime for testing themes in my apps, your users may do so frequently. Luckily, it is just a matter of handling an event to handle this scenario. In your App.xaml.cs file, register for the RequestedThemeChanged event within the constructor:

        public App()

            Application.Current.RequestedThemeChanged += OnRequestedThemeChanged;

            this.MainVm = new MainViewModel();
            MainPage mainPage = new MainPage()
                BindingContext = this.MainVm

            MainPage = mainPage;

As the system colors respond to the system theme change, we need to reload them to get these changes.

Within the OnRequestedThemeChanged method, we are first getting the actual merged ResourceDictionary instance. Then, we will remove this instance and register a new instance of the ResourceDictionary. This will lead to a full reload of the system colors from iOS into the app. Here is the code:

private void OnRequestedThemeChanged(object sender, AppThemeChangedEventArgs e)
    ResourceDictionary iosResourceDict = App.Current.Resources.MergedDictionaries.SingleOrDefault(dict => dict.GetType() == typeof(SystemColorsIosResourceDictionary));

    if (iosResourceDict != null)
        App.Current.Resources.MergedDictionaries.Add(new SystemColorsIosResourceDictionary());

That’s it, we are now ready to use the colors in XAML and our app adapts to system theme changes. Here is a sample XAML which I wrote to test the colors:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
    BackgroundColor="{DynamicResource SystemBackgroundColor}">

            BackgroundColor="{DynamicResource SystemGray3}"
                Text="iOS SystemColors in XF"
                TextColor="{AppThemeBinding Dark={DynamicResource LightTextColor},
                                            Light={DynamicResource DarkTextColor}}" />

            <StackLayout BindableLayout.ItemsSource="{Binding SystemColors}">
                            BackgroundColor="{Binding Value}">
                            <Label Text="{Binding Name}" />

Please note that I use DynamicResource instead of StaticResource, even if some colors are static. Using DynamicResource forces the app to reload the colors, and there are some that change (like the SystemGray color palette).


Using the iOS system colors in Xamarin.Forms isn’t that complicated with this implementation. If you have more platforms, you could implement the same technique for the other platforms. As I am focusing on iOS for the moment, I just wrote that part. But who knows, maybe this will be extended in the future.

As always, I hope this post will be helpful for some of you.

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, iOS, Xamarin, 5 comments

How to implement a simple notification system in MVVM Windows 8.1 Universal apps


If your app performs actions, you most probably want to add also some confirmation if an action has finished. There are some ways to do this, like using local toast notifications or MessageDialogs. While I was working on Voices Admin v2, which is a universal app, I came along with a helper to simplify using local toast notifications. However, there came the point, where I got annoyed by the sound of these, and I looked into possible ways to replace them. My solution is a simple notification system, that uses the MVVM Light Messenger.

The first thing I did was adding a new property that broadcasts its PropertyChangedMessage to my ExtendedViewModelBase (which inherits from the MVVM Light ViewModelBase). This simplifies setting the notification text across multiple ViewModels as I don’t need to create a property in every ViewModel of my app:

public class ExtendedViewModelBase : ViewModelBase
        public ExtendedViewModelBase()

        /// <summary>
        /// The <see cref="NotificationText" /> property's name.
        /// </summary>
        public const string NotificationTextPropertyName = "NotificationText";

        private string _notificationText = string.Empty;

        /// <summary>
        /// Sets and gets the NotificationText property.
        /// Changes to that property's value raise the PropertyChanged event. 
        /// This property's value is broadcasted by the MessengerInstance when it changes.
        /// </summary>
        public string NotificationText
                return  _notificationText = string.Empty;
                Set(() => NotificationText, ref _notificationText, value, true);

The second step is to create the possibility to bind this into my view. I am using a custom PageBase class to simplify this. For those binding purposes it is common to add a DependencyProperty, and this is exactly what I did:

/// <summary>
        /// global property to bind the notification text against
        /// </summary>
        public static readonly DependencyProperty AppNotificationTextProperty = DependencyProperty.Register(
            "AppNotificationText", typeof (string), typeof (PageBase), new PropertyMetadata(string.Empty, (s, e) =>
                var current = s as PageBase;

                if (current == null)


        /// <summary>
        /// gets or sets the AppNotificationText
        /// </summary>
        public string AppNotificationText
            get { return (string)GetValue(AppNotificationTextProperty); }
            set { SetValue(AppNotificationTextProperty, value); }}

You may have noticed that I hooked up into the PropertyChangedCallback of the DependecyProperty, which passes the execution to an separate method. Before we’ll have a look on that method, we need to add two private members to my PageBase: one for a StackPanel (mainly to set the Background color) and another one for Textblock. This is needed because this is the visible part of the notification. In the constructor of my PageBase class, I am filling them with live and connect them together:

            //instantiate and create StackPanel and TextBlock
            //you can put anything you want in the panel
            _panel = new StackPanel()
                Background = new SolidColorBrush(Colors.Blue),
                Visibility = Visibility.Collapsed,

            _textBlock = new TextBlock()
                FontSize = 20,
                Margin = new Thickness(39, 10, 10, 10),
                TextAlignment = TextAlignment.Center

The next thing we need to do is the FindChildren<T> helper method, which I took from the MSDN docs:

        /// <summary>
        /// Gets a list of DependencyObjects from the Visual Tree
        /// </summary>
        /// <typeparam name="T">the type of the desired object</typeparam>
        /// <param name="results">List of children</param>
        /// <param name="startNode">the DependencyObject to start the search with</param>
        public static void FindChildren<T>(List<T> results, DependencyObject startNode) where T : DependencyObject
            int count = VisualTreeHelper.GetChildrenCount(startNode);
            for (int i = 0; i < count; i++)
                var current = VisualTreeHelper.GetChild(startNode, i);
                if ((current.GetType()) == typeof(T) || (current.GetType().GetTypeInfo().IsSubclassOf(typeof(T))))
                    T asType = (T)current;
                FindChildren<T>(results, current);

This helper enables us to find the top level grid, where we will add the StackPanel and control its visibilty and the TextBlock’s text. Which we are doing with the CheckifNotificationMessageIsNeeded() method:

        /// <summary>
        /// handles the visibility of the notification
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="currentDependencyObject">the primary depenedency object to start with</param>
        private void CheckifNotificationMessageIsNeeded(DependencyObject currentDependencyObject)
            if (currentDependencyObject == null) return;

            var children = new List<DependencyObject>();
            FindChildren(children, currentDependencyObject);
            if (children.Count == 0) return;

            var rootGrid = (Grid)children.FirstOrDefault(i => i.GetType() == typeof(Grid));

            if (rootGrid != null)

                if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(AppNotificationText))
                    if (!rootGrid.Children.Contains(_panel))
                        rootGrid.RowDefinitions.Add(new RowDefinition() {Height = new GridLength(_panel.ActualHeight, GridUnitType.Auto)});
                        _panel.SetValue(Grid.RowProperty, rootGrid.RowDefinitions.Count);


                    _textBlock.Text = AppNotificationText;
                    _panel.Visibility = Visibility.Visible;
                else if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(AppNotificationText))
                    _textBlock.Text = string.Empty;
                    _panel.Visibility = Visibility.Collapsed;

Once we have the rootGrid on our Page, we are adding a new Row, set the StackPanel’s Grid.Row property to that and finally add the StackPanel to the Grid’s Children – but only if it does not exist already. No everytime the AppNotificationText property changes, the visibility of the StackPanel changes accordingly. Same counts for the TextBlock’s text. That’s all we need to do in the PageBase class.

The final bits of code we have to add are in the MainViewModel. I am using the MainViewModel as a kind of root ViewModel, which controls values and actions that are needed across multiple ViewModels. If you do not use it in the same way, you might need to write that code in all of your ViewModels where you want to use the notifications. The biggest advantage of my way is that the notification system (and other things) also works across pages.

The first thing we need is of course a property for the notification Text, which we will use to bind against on all pages where we want to use the notification system:

        /// <summary>
        /// The <see cref="GlobalNotificationText" /> property's name.
        /// </summary>
        public const string GlobalNotificationTextPropertyName = "GlobalNotificationText";

        private string _globalNotificationText = string.Empty;

        /// <summary>
        /// Sets and gets the GlobalNotificationText property.
        /// Changes to that property's value raise the PropertyChanged event. 
        /// </summary>
        public string GlobalNotificationText
                return _globalNotificationText;
                Set(() => GlobalNotificationText, ref _globalNotificationText, value);

Now we have this, we are hooking into the MVVM Messenger to catch the broadcasted NotificationText’s PropertyChangedMessage:

            Messenger.Default.Register<PropertyChangedMessage<string>>(this, message =>
                if (message.PropertyName == ExtendedViewModelBase.NotificationTextPropertyName)

If we would stop here, you would need to find a good point to set the NotificationText (and/or the GlobalNotificationText) property back to an empty string. This can be like the search a needle in the hay, believe me. That’s why I am giving every notification 5 seconds to be displayed, and the I am resetting the GlobalNotificationText  property in my MainViewModel automatically. To achieve this goal, I am using a simple DispatcherTimer with an Interval of 1 second:

            _notificationTimer = new DispatcherTimer() { Interval = new TimeSpan(0, 0, 1) };

DispatcherTimer has a Tick event, which fires every time a Tick happened. In our case, it fires every second. Hooking up into this event is essential, so add this line of code and let Visual Studio create the handler for you:

//in constructor:       
_notificationTimer.Tick += _notificationTimer_Tick;

//generated handler:
        private void _notificationTimer_Tick(object sender, object e)

Inside the Tick event handler, I am counting the ticks (using a private member in my MainViewModel). Once the timer passed 5 seconds, I am stopping the DispatcherTimer, reset the counter and finally set the GlobalNotificationText  property back to empty, which causes the notification to disappear:


            if (_notificationTimerElapsedSeconds > 5)
                _notificationTimerElapsedSeconds = 0;
                GlobalNotificationText = string.Empty;

Of course we also need to start the DispatcherTimer. The perfect time for this is within the handler of the received PropertyChangedMessage we added earlier:

            //register for the global NotificationText PropertyChangedMessage from all VMs that derive from ExtendenViewModelBase
            Messenger.Default.Register<PropertyChangedMessage<string>>(this, message =>
                if (message.PropertyName == ExtendedViewModelBase.NotificationTextPropertyName)
                    if (!_notificationTimer.IsEnabled)
                        _notificationTimerElapsedSeconds = 0;

                    GlobalNotificationText = message.NewValue;

I am just checking if the DispatcherTimer is not yet enabled (= running) and start the timer in this case. If it is already running, I am just resetting my counter property to make sure that the notification is visible for 5 seconds again.

That’s it. Your MVVM (Light) app has now a simple and not so annoying notification system. It also provides the same experience across both platforms. There are sure ways to improve this here and there, that’s why I put up a sample to play around and contribute to on my Github account.

As always, I hope this post is helpful for some of you.

Happy coding!

Posted by msicc in Archive, 0 comments