Dispelling the UIImage imageNamed: FUD

tldr: ImagedNamed is fine. It handles memory well. Use it and stop worrying.

Edit Nov 2012: Note that this question dates from iOS 2.0! Image requirements and handling have moved on a lot since then. Retina makes images bigger and loading them slightly more complex. With the built in support for iPad and retina images, you should certainly use ImageNamed in your code. Now, for posterity’s sake:

The sister thread on the Apple Dev Forums received some better traffic. Specifically Rincewind added some authority.

There are issues in iPhone OS 2.x where the imageNamed: cache would not be cleared, even after a memory warning. At the same time +imageNamed: has gotten a lot of use not for the cache, but for the convenience, which has probably magnified the problem more than it should have been.

whilst warning that

On the speed front, there is a general misunderstanding of what is going on. The biggest thing that +imageNamed: does is decode the image data from the source file, which almost always significantly inflates the data size (for example, a screen sized PNG file might consume a few dozen KBs when compressed, but consumes over half a MB decompressed – width * height * 4). By contrast +imageWithContentsOfFile: will decompress that image everytime the image data is needed. As you can imagine, if you only need the image data once, you’ve won nothing here, except to have a cached version of the image hanging around, and likely for longer than you need it. However, if you do have a large image that you need to redraw often, then there are alternatives, although the one I would recommend primarily is to avoid redrawing that large image :).

With respect to the general behavior of the cache, it does cache based on filename (so two instances of +imageNamed: with the same name should result in references to the same cached data) and the cache will grow dynamically as you request more images via +imageNamed:. On iPhone OS 2.x a bug prevents the cache from being shrunk when a memory warning is received.


My understanding is that the +imageNamed: cache should respect memory warnings on iPhone OS 3.0. Test it when you get a chance and report bugs if you find that this is not the case.

So, there you have it. imageNamed: will not smash your windows or murder your children. It’s pretty simple but it is an optimisation tool. Sadly it is badly named and there is no equivaluent that is as easy to use – hence people overuse it and get upset when it simply does its job

I added a category to UIImage to fix that:

// header omitted
// Before you waste time editing this, please remember that a semi colon at the end of a method definition is valid and a matter of style.
+ (UIImage*)imageFromMainBundleFile:(NSString*)aFileName; {
    NSString* bundlePath = [[NSBundle mainBundle] bundlePath];
    return [UIImage imageWithContentsOfFile:[NSString stringWithFormat:@"%@/%@", bundlePath,aFileName]];

Rincewind also included some example code to build your own optimised version. I can’t see it is worth the maintentace but here it is for completeness.

CGImageRef originalImage = uiImage.CGImage;
CFDataRef imageData = CGDataProviderCopyData(
CGDataProviderRef imageDataProvider = CGDataProviderCreateWithCFData(imageData);
CGImageRef image = CGImageCreate(
UIImage *decompressedImage = [UIImage imageWithCGImage:image];

The trade off with this code is that the decoded image uses more memory but rendering is faster.

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