How to Save and Read Array in UserDefaults in Swift

⋅ 4 min read ⋅ Swift UserDefaults Array

Table of Contents

UserDefaults provide an interface to read and write many data types, including an array.

But you can only store an array of Property-List objects, e.g., string, number, boolean, date, array, dictionary, and data.

So, how you read and write an array to UserDefaults varies based on the element type.

  1. Property List object, e.g., string, number, date, and data.
  2. Other types of object.

Property List Object

We can easily read and write an array for supported data types via the setter and getter methods.

Int Array

Save an array of Int.

let numbers = [1, 2, 3]

let userDefaults = UserDefaults.standard
userDefaults.set(numbers, forKey: "numbers")

Read an array of Int.

let savedNumbers = userDefaults.array(forKey: "numbers") as? [Int]

Bool Array

Save an array of Bool.

let booleans = [true, false, false]

let userDefaults = UserDefaults.standard
userDefaults.set(booleans, forKey: "booleans")

Read array of Bool.

let savedBooleans = userDefaults.array(forKey: "booleans") as? [Bool]

Date Array

Save an array of Date.

let dates: [Date] = [.distantPast, .distantFuture, .now]

let userDefaults = UserDefaults.standard
userDefaults.set(dates, forKey: "dates")

Read an array of Date.

let savedDates = userDefaults.array(forKey: "dates") as? [Date]

String Array

Save an array of String.

let names = ["John", "Alice", "Bob"]

let userDefaults = UserDefaults.standard
userDefaults.set(names, forKey: "names")

Read an array of String.

let savedNames = userDefaults.array(forKey: "names") as? [String]

Array of Arrays

We can also save an array of Array if the inner one is an array of a supported type.

Save an array of arrays.

let name1 = ["John", "Alice", "Bob"]
let name2 = ["John 2", "Alice 2", "Bob 2"]
// 1
let array = [name1, name2]

let userDefaults = UserDefaults.standard
userDefaults.set(array, forKey: "array")

1 array has [[String]] type.

Read an array of arrays.

let savedArray = userDefaults.array(forKey: "array") as? [[String]]

Array of Dictionaries

We can also save an array of Dictionary if the key and value of the dictionary are supported types.

Save an array of dictionaries.

// 1
let nameAndAge = ["John": 18, "Alice": 24, "Bob": 36]
// 2
let dict = [nameAndAge]

let userDefaults = UserDefaults.standard
userDefaults.set(dict, forKey: "dict")

1 nameAndAge has [String : Int] type.
2 dict has [[String : Int]] type.

Read an array of dictionaries.

let savedDict = userDefaults.array(forKey: "dict") as? [[String : Int]]

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Other Objects

For non-property-list objects, we have to convert them to Data before saving them to UserDefaults.

We can convert an object to Data in three steps.

  1. Make an object conforms to the Codable protocol.
  2. Encode it to Data using JSONEncoder.
  3. Decode Data back to Contact using JSONDecoder.

Let's see an example.

I create a new custom object, Contact.

struct Contact: Codable {
let name: String

Save an array of custom objects.

let contacts: [Contact] = [
Contact(name: "John"),
Contact(name: "Alice"),
Contact(name: "Bob")

do {
// 1
let encodedData = try JSONEncoder().encode(contacts)

let userDefaults = UserDefaults.standard
// 2
userDefaults.set(encodedData, forKey: "contacts")
} catch {
// Failed to encode Contact to Data

1 We encode our Contact to Data using JSONEncoder.
2 We can directly set the Data type to UserDefaults since Data is a supported type.

Read an array of custom objects.

let userDefaults = UserDefaults.standard
// 1
if let savedData = userDefaults.object(forKey: "contacts") as? Data {
// 2
let savedContacts = try JSONDecoder().decode([Contact].self, from: savedData)
} catch {
// Failed to convert Data to Contact

1 We retrieve the encoded data back from UserDefaults.
2 Then, we use JSONDecoder to decode data back to Contact.

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