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Implementing Support for Continuity Camera

Thursday 18. October 2018 12:39:43 UTC+01:00 - Thomas Zoechling

One of macOS Mojave's user-facing features is Continuity Camera. It allows you to capture images or documents from your iOS devices.
While Apple prominently showcases the feature on the Mojave product page, documentation for developers is very thin. There's only a short mention of the related APIs in the "What's new in Cocoa" WWDC 2018 session.
Some of AppKit's default view classes support the feature out of the box (e.g. NSTextView ), but it's also possible to add capturing to your own controls.


Small sample app with automatically inserted Continuity Camera menu.

Apple implemented Continuity Camera on top of the Services infrastructure of macOS and NSResponder . Captured image data is passed in via NSPasteboard .
To make the "Import from iPhone or iPad" menu item appear in a menu, we have to implement validRequestor(forSendType:returnType:) in a NSResponder subclass (e.g. in a view controller). From there, we need to return an instance that implements the NSServicesMenuRequestor protocol.

I created a small sample project that provides a simple implementation of the above methods. It consists of a view controller that hosts an NSImageView and a button. The button has an empty menu connected, which gets popped-up when the button's action is performed. The view controller is a subclass of NSResponder and it also implements NSServicesMenuRequestor . So when the macOS Services architecture traverses the responder chain, it asks if we accept images from the pasteboard via validRequestor(forSendType:returnType:) . As we indicate true by returning self , the menu gets populated with the Continuity Camera menu items. Those items dispatch their actions via the Responder Chain, so it is important that the view controller that handles the passed in image is firstResponder . Otherwise, menu validation fails and the Continuity Camera items are disabled. To ensure that, we call self.view.window?.makeFirstResponder(self) before showing the menu.

After the user captured an image on the selected iOS device, we need to handle the returned image in readSelection(from pasteboard: NSPasteboard) (which is part of NSServicesMenuRequestor ). The sample app reads the captured image from the pasteboard and displays it in an image view. You can download the Xcode project here .


The call flow for Continuity Camera integration. Left: APIs to implement. Right: calls performed by AppKit.

Special thanks go out to Michael Schwarz . He implemented Continuity Camera support for MindNode for Mac and shared his insights with me.

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