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With additions like UIStackView, Auto Layout has matured into quite a powerful system for managing how our views are arranged on screen. When things go wrong though, it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose the specific cause of the issue. Today we'll look at a few techniques for making sense of the madness caused by... Auto Layout Bugs! 🐞πŸ”ͺπŸ”ͺπŸ”ͺ

Most issues arise from "Unsatisfiable Layouts". That's fancy-talk for "two or more constraints you gave Auto Layout conflict with each other." The solution will of course be different in every case, but here's some sensible things to ask ourselves when an error first occurs:

  • Is translatesAutoresizingMaskIntoConstraints set to false on the views we're adding constraints to?

  • Are the priorities of each of constraint, as well as content hugging and compression resistance priorities (Bite #69) what we expect them to be?

  • "Can this required constraint work at a 999 priority?" Remember, Auto Layout will try to get as close to our desired result as possible, while still satisfying all other constraints.


constraint.identifier = "image-fixed-width"

Identifiers help us more easily spot the important bits in those giant log outputs Auto Layout loves to show us. They can be added in code or in Interface Builder.

Log Specific Constraints


When debugging complex layouts, it can sometimes be helpful to look at only the constraints involving a specific problem view or area. We can use this function to grab an array of the constraints affecting a particular axis. Neat.

Brain Surgery

When all else fails, don't be afraid to go in and start temporarily commenting-out or disabling constraints then observe the results. This can often lead to unexpected insights into how constraints are behaving.


A great way to fight Auto Layout issues is to try to catch them before they happen. That means becoming more familiar with Auto Layout, which means practice. For example: When a question or issue comes up, create a new 'dummy' Xcode project. Throw some views and constraints in there and try it out. Tweak some priorities, observe their effects in the isolated environment. When in doubt, try it out!