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Well I have been asked this a few times and I can see how it would be a very helpful addition to the UIWebView’s feature set. What I am talking about is adding the ability to intercept the event generated when a user selects a link in a webpage being displayed with a UIWebView, this will then allow you to perform any action that you want.

When would you use this I hear you say? Well one person asked me if I knew how to append the users current location onto all HTTP requests? and another just wanted to know how to perform custom actions from an embedded UIWebView.

Once again I will be extending the “Build your very own Web Browser!”, if you haven’t already completed it then I suggest that you head over there now and spend 5 minutes reading it and then downloading the project files at the end.

Start by opening up the WebBrowserTutorialAppDelegate.h file and editing the @interface line to read:

@interface WebBrowserTutorialAppDelegate : NSObject <UIWebViewDelegate> {

What we have done is to make the main AppDelegate a delegate for the UIWebView as well.

Now we need to set our webView to have the main AppDelegate as its delegate, you can do this by opening up WebBrowserTutorialAppDelegate.m and putting the following line just inside the applicationDidFinishLaunching function:

webView.delegate = self;

That is all pretty self explanatory, it just sets the delegate of our webView to self, which in this case is our main application delegate.

Now we are pretty much done, we just need to add the function to catch the link clicks. To do this we need to add a new function, copy the content below to the WebBrowserTutorialAppDelegate.m file:

- (BOOL)webView:(UIWebView*)webView shouldStartLoadWithRequest:(NSURLRequest*)request navigationType:(UIWebViewNavigationType)navigationType {
	NSURL *url = request.URL;
	NSString *urlString = url.absoluteString;
	return YES;

This function will catch all requests and allow you to either manipulate them and pass them on or to perform your own custom action and stop the event from bubbling.

The first line gets the URL of the request, this is the contents inside the href attribute in the anchor tag.
The next line converts the URL to a string so we can log it out. You can access many parts of the NSURL, here are some of them and brief description of what they do.

* absoluteString – An absolute string for the URL. Creating by resolving the receiver’s string against its base.
* absoluteURL – An absolute URL that refers to the same resource as the receiver. If the receiver is already absolute, returns self.
* baseURL – The base URL of the receiver. If the receiver is an absolute URL, returns nil.
* host – The host of the URL.
* parameterString – The parameter string of the URL.
* password – The password of the URL (i.e. would return pass)
* path – Returns the path of a URL.
* port – The port number of the URL.
* query – The query string of the URL.
* relativePath – The relative path of the URL without resolving against the base URL. If the receiver is an absolute URL, this method returns the same value as path.
* relativeString – string representation of the relative portion of the URL. If the receiver is an absolute URL this method returns the same value as absoluteString.
* scheme – The resource specifier of the URL (i.e. http, https, file, ftp, etc).
* user – The user portion of the URL.

Then the third line simply logs the URL to the console, so you will new to open up the console while you run this in the simulator to see the results.

Finally the forth line returns YES, this will allow the UIWebView to follow the link, if you would just like to catch a link and stop the UIWebView from following it then simply return NO.

I hope this will help someone to make a browser with some nice user interaction features.


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There are 18 comments for this post.

  1. Rog on October 2, 2008 9:24 pm


    This is nice but it would be more complete if you explained how people could retrun NO from shouldStartLoadWithRequest then modify the request and reinject it to the UIWebView via Load request.

    without having tried it, I’d be interested to know if that code goes recursive. My gut feel is YES.


  2. derek on October 13, 2008 5:21 pm

    Note that the Request is actually (based on one quick test :-) an instance of NSMutableURLRequest, so should allow you to manipulate the URL etc once cast.

  3. Ror on October 14, 2008 9:38 pm

    Doesn’t works.

  4. Easyldur on October 23, 2008 10:20 am

    Hey, thanks for your code, it’s helping a lot with a little project I have on my mind…

    My problem is that, while I’m not new to coding (I’m not an expert, tho) I’m totally new to obj-c.

    I read everything you wrote, but I can’t understand WHEN the function is actually called. Everything works as stated, but I can’t understand why.

    Is it a kind of override of some pre-existing “webView” function? The fact that it has the same name of the webView variable makes me wonder if it exists before.

    Thanks for your tutorial! They’re helping a lot!

  5. Dean on October 27, 2008 1:58 am

    @EasyIdur: No problems, glad to help! In response to your question, it is overriding a pre-existing function, the function we are overriding is called “shouldStartLoadWithRequest” and is part of the UIWebView Class. There are many documented classes that you can override for every class.


  6. yah13oaaa on November 11, 2008 5:42 pm

    Nice site, thanks for information!

  7. James Ming on January 6, 2009 5:00 pm

    When I

    When returned a NO, the intiial, “”, did not launch. Makes sense since NO stops it from browsing that initial page. I want to make it stop following links after that initial page. Here is what I did to solve that problem:

    - (BOOL)webView:(UIWebView*)webView shouldStartLoadWithRequest:(NSURLRequest*)request navigationType:(UIWebViewNavigationType)navigationType {
    NSURL *url = request.URL;
    NSString *urlString = url.absoluteString;
    NSLog(@”this is a test %@”,urlString);

    if([urlString isEqualToString: @""]){
    return YES;
    return NO;


  8. Sam on January 16, 2009 10:41 pm

    Dean, i am new to iphone/obj-c. Have been a flash programmer for long. Thanks for this post, its amazing.

    As practice, I tried to create the whole thing from scratch, and when I run it on simulator, i just see a blank screen with status bar and soon after that an error in dealloc method.

    I used interface builder, but don’t know which xib to edit (there are two). Is it always necessary to use xib? I prefer coding; not designing. I placed web view ui to WebViewController and I just cant get beyond the blank screen. I am getting petrified my the interface builder and it is horribly discouraging to use xcode along with interface builder.

    Please suggest me how to understand IB and how I finally run my app just the way your sample runs.



  9. Kieran on January 25, 2009 8:02 pm

    I tried following what james said but it isn’t working for me. I need to get the url but after it gets the first url stop getting more and continue loading the page. So I basically want urlStirng to = the first url found then load that url.

    How can I achieve this?

  10. Gene on February 2, 2009 2:25 am

    Is there a way this can be made to call a second local html file? When I click the link the debugger never reaches: – (BOOL)webView

  11. James on February 28, 2009 3:40 am

    Gene: My guess is you didn’t set your delegate to self. I had that problem, trying to use this example in different code.

  12. Peter on March 12, 2009 10:35 pm

    Opening the webpage (or another one) in safari works great. I am unable to open it in the webView (or a new one). With/without modifying the request. Any suggestions?

    Thanks for the tutorial

  13. aniruddha on March 26, 2009 9:39 am

    can anybody explain how to catch button click events which is present on html page

  14. aniruddha on April 1, 2009 9:37 am

    i would like to know how to get input of textfield present in HTML in backend app

  15. jgraham on May 7, 2009 7:31 pm

    I’m trying to access links that point to the iTunes store from within a Web View but they do not work. They work fine from within Safari. I even tried putting target=”_blank” in the link to open a new window when the link is clicked but that did not work either. Here’s an example of a link:

    I need a way access the iTunes music store from within the web view but I’d rather do it in HTML is possible.


  16. Sam on July 20, 2009 5:29 pm

    Just wanted to thank you SO MUCH. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this for quite some time.


  17. Ronald on September 16, 2009 11:05 am

    I am facing same issue, opening itunes URL from within webview does not work.
    Any solutions already? Would be much appreciated.
    Thanks, Ronald


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