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README.md

Tokamak

React-like framework for native UI written in pure Swift πŸ› βš›οΈπŸ“²

Build Status Coverage Version License Platform Join the community on Spectrum

Tokamak provides a declarative, testable and scalable API for building UI components backed by fully native views. You can use it for your new iOS apps or add to existing apps with little effort and without rewriting the rest of the code or changing the app's overall architecture.

Tokamak recreates React Hooks API improving it with Swift's strong type system, high performance and efficient memory management thanks to being compiled to a native binary.

Why yet another React-like library?

One of the strong points of React is that in general it makes app architecture more declarative, but still preserves a smooth learning curve when compared to more complex FRP patterns. In addition, its cross-platform reconciler core can be reused across many different platforms: on the web, for mobile apps, and even desktop. The downside is that it requires you to use JavaScript, which causes all sorts of different problems. It's also not very easy to integrate React Native with existing iOS apps written in Swift. On the other hand, none of the available libraries similar to React written in Swift provided a concise API for building component hierarchies, or allowed building stateful function-based components similar to what's possible with React Hooks. Some only port Redux, which requires a lot of boilerplate, some bake in assumptions about the usage of UIKit, which makes them restricted to a single platform.

In short, both plain UIKit MVC and React have advantages and disadvantages. The goal of Tokamak is to provide the best of both worlds for Swift: declarative architecture, cross-platform core, easy to learn and to integrate into existing apps.

When compared to standard UIKit MVC or other patterns built on top of it (MVVM, MVP, VIPER etc), Tokamak provides:

  • Declarative DSL for native UI: no more conflicts caused by Storyboards, no template languages or XML. Describe UI of your app concisely in Swift and get views native to iOS with full support for accessibility, auto layout and native navigation gestures.

  • Easy to use one-way data binding: tired of didSet, delegates, notifications or KVO? UI components automatically update in response to state changes.

  • Clean composable architecture: components can be passed to other components as children with an established API focused on code reuse. You can easily embed Tokamak components within your existing UIKit code or vice versa: expose that code as Tokamak components. No need to decide whether you should subclass UIView or UIViewController to make your UI composable.

  • Off-screen rendering for unit-tests: no need to maintain slow and flaky UI tests that render everything on a simulator screen and simulate actual touch events to just test UI logic. Components written with Tokamak can be tested off-screen with tests completing in a fraction of a second. If your UI doesn't require any code specific to UIKit (and Tokamak provides helpers to achieve that) you can even run your UI-related unit-tests on Linux!

  • Platform-independent core: our main goal is to eventually support as many platforms as possible. Starting with iOS/UIKit and basic support for macOS/AppKit, we plan to add renderers for WebAssembly/DOM and native Android in future versions. As the core API is cross-platform, UI components written with Tokamak won't need to change to become available on newly added platforms unless you need UI logic specific to a device or OS. And if they do, you can still cleanly separate platform-specific components thanks to easy composition.

  • Architecture proven to work: React has been available for years and gained a lot of traction and is still growing. We've seen so many apps successfully rebuilt with it and heard positive feedback on React itself, but we also see a lot of complaints about its overreliance on JavaScript. Tokamak makes architecture of React with its established patterns available to you in Swift.

Important: Tokamak is relatively stable at this point, as in not having any blocking or critical bugs that the maintainers are aware of. The core API of Component and Hooks types is frozen, and there's a plenty of standard components to start building useful apps on iOS. The macOS/AppKit renderer has support for only the most basic components and improving its feature parity with the iOS renderer is the top priority. If in the future there's a breaking change that's absolutely needed, we aim to deprecate old APIs in a source-compatible way and will introduce any replacements gradually. It's important to note that source breaking changes can't always be avoided, but they would be reflected with appropriate version number change and migration guides.

Don't forget to check out Tokamak community on Spectrum and leave your feedback, comments and questions!

Table of contents

Example code

Counter

An example of a Tokamak component that binds a button to a label looks like this:

import Tokamak

struct Counter: LeafComponent {
  struct Props: Equatable {
    let countFrom: Int
  }

  static func render(props: Props, hooks: Hooks) -> AnyNode {
    let count = hooks.state(props.countFrom)

    return StackView.node(.init(
      Edges.equal(to: .parent),
      axis: .vertical,
      distribution: .fillEqually), [
        Button.node(Button.Props(
          onPress: Handler { count.set { $0 + 1 } },
          text: "Increment"
        )),
        Label.node(.init(alignment: .center, text: "\(count.value)"))
    ])
  }
}

Then you can add this component to any iOS app as a view controller this way:

import Tokamak
import TokamakUIKit

final class ViewController: TokamakViewController {
  override var node: AnyNode {
    return Counter.node(.init(countFrom: 1))
  }
}

Counter component

Or similarly it can be added to a macOS app:

import Tokamak
import TokamakAppKit

final class ViewController: TokamakViewController {
  override var node: AnyNode {
    return View.node(
      .init(Style([
        Edges.equal(to: .parent),
        Width.equal(to: 200),
        Height.equal(to: 100),
      ])),
      Counter.node(.init(countFrom: 1))
    )
  }
}

Note that we added explicit constraints to use this as a window's root view controller, and windows don't have a fixed predefined size by default.

Counter component

Networking

Tokamak allows you to easily express asynchronous state changes. Here's an example of loading content from https://httpbin.org/drip URL:

Networking demo

Code that implements this component looks like this:

import Alamofire
import Tokamak

struct NetworkDemo: LeafComponent {
  typealias Props = Null

  enum State {
    case initial
    case loading
    case finished(Result<String>)
  }

  static func render(props: Null, hooks: Hooks) -> AnyNode {
    let state = hooks.state(State.initial)
    let style = Style(Edges.equal(to: .safeArea, inset: 10))

    switch state.value {
    case .initial:
      return Button.node(.init(
        style,
        onPress: Handler {
          state.set(.loading)
          Alamofire.request("https://httpbin.org/drip").responseString {
            state.set(.finished($0.result))
          }
        },
        text: "Load"
      ))
    case .loading:
      return View.node(
        .init(Style(
          [Size.equal(to: 100), Center.equal(to: .parent)],
          backgroundColor: .black,
          cornerRadius: 10
        )),
        Throbber.node(
          .init(
            style,
            isAnimating: true,
            variety: .whiteLarge
          )
        )
      )
    case let .finished(.success(value)):
      return Label.node(.init(
        style,
        alignment: .center,
        text: value
      ))
    case let .finished(.failure(error)):
      return Label.node(.init(
        style,
        alignment: .center,
        text: error.localizedDescription
      ))
    }
  }
}

Example project

The best way to try Tokamak in action is to run the example project:

  1. Verify that you have CocoaPods and Xcode 10.1 or later installed:
pod --version
xcode-select -p
  1. Clone the repository
git clone https://github.com/MaxDesiatov/Tokamak
  1. Install the dependencies in the example project:
cd Tokamak/Example
pod install
  1. Open the Example workspace from Finder or from Terminal:
open -a Xcode *.xcworkspace
  1. Build executable target TokamakDemo-iOS for iOS and TokamakDemo-macOS for macOS.

Standard components

Tokamak provides a few basic components that you can reuse in your apps. On iOS these components are rendered to corresponding UIView subclasses that you're already used to, e.g. Button component is rendered as UIButton, Label as UILabel etc. Check out the complete up to date list for more info.

Quick introduction

We try to keep Tokamak's API as simple as possible and the core algorithm with supporting protocols/structures currently fit in only ~600 lines of code. It's all built upon a few basic concepts:

Props

Props describe a "configuration" of what you'd like to see on user's screen. An example could be a struct describing background color, layout, initial value etc. Props are immutable and Equatable, which allows us to observe when they change. You always use struct or enum and never use class for props so that immutability is guaranteed. You wouldn't ever need to provide your own Equatable implementation for Props as Swift compiler is able to generate one for you automatically behind the scenes. Here's a simple Props struct you could use for your own component like Counter from the example above:

struct Props: Equatable {
  let countFrom: Int
}

Children

Sometimes "configuration" is described in a tree-like fashion. For example, a list of views contains an array of subviews, which themselves can contain other subviews. In Tokamak this is called Children, which behave similar to Props but are important enough to be treated separately. Children are also immutable and Equatable, which allows us to observe those for changes too.

Components

Component is a protocol, which couples given Props and Children on screen and provides some declaration how these are rendered on screen:

protocol Component {
  associatedtype Props: Equatable
  associatedtype Children: Equatable
}

(Don't worry if you don't know what associatedtype means, it's only a simple requirement for components to provide these types and make them Equatable. If you do know what a PAT is, you also shouldn't worry. πŸ˜„ Tokamak's API is built specifically to hide "sharp edges" of PATs from the public API and to make it easy to use without requiring advanced knowledge of Swift. This is similar to what Swift standard library has done, which is built on top of PATs but stays flexible and ergonomic).

Nodes

A node is a container for Props, Children and a type conforming to Component rendering this "configuration". If you're familiar with React, nodes in Tokamak correspond to elements in React. When Children is an array of nodes, we can indirectly form a tree describing the app's UI. Corollary, nodes are immutable and Equatable. You'd only need to use the standard AnyNode type provided by Tokamak:

struct AnyNode: Equatable {
  // ... `Props` and `Children` stored here by Tokamak as private properties 
}

Here's an example of an array of nodes used as Children in the standard StackView component provided by Tokamak, which describe subviews of the stack view.

struct StackView: Component {
  struct Props: Equatable {
    // ...
  }
  typealias Children = [AnyNode]
}

For every component Tokamak provides an easy way to create a node for it coupled with given props and children:

// this extension and its `node` function are defined for you by Tokamak
extension Component {
  static func node(_ props: Props, _ children: Children) -> AnyNode {
    // ...
  }
}

For example, an empty vertical stack view is created like this:

StackView.node(.init(axis: .vertical), [])

Render function

The most simple component is a pure function taking Props and Children as arguments and returning a node tree as a result:

protocol PureComponent: Component {
  // this is the function you define for your own components, 
  // Tokamak takes care of the rest
  static func render(props: Props, children: Children) -> AnyNode
}

Tokamak calls render on your components when their Props or Children passed from parent components change. You don't ever need to call render yourself, pass different values as props or children to nodes returned from parent render and Tokamak will update only those views on screen that need to be updated.

Note that render function does not return other components, it returns nodes that describe other components. It's a very important distiction, which allows Tokamak to stay efficient and to avoid updating deep trees of components.

Here's an example of a simple component that renders its child in a vertical stack as many times as were passed via its Props:

struct StackRepeater: PureComponent {
  typealias Props = UInt
  typealias Children = AnyNode

  static func render(props x: UInt, children: AnyNode) -> AnyNode {
    return StackView.node(
      .init(axis: .vertical),
      (0..<x).map { _ in children }
    )
  }
}

You can then use StackRepeater in any other component by creating its node and passing any other node as a child this way:

StackRepeater.node(5, Label.node("repeated"))

which will present a label on screen with text "repeated" 5 times.

Leaf components

Some of your components wouldn't need Children at all, for those Tokamak provides a PureLeafComponent helper protocol that allows you to implement only a single function with a simpler signature:

// Helpers provided by Tokamak:

struct Null: Equatable {}

protocol PureLeafComponent: PureComponent where Children == Null {
  static func render(props: Props) -> AnyNode
}

extension PureLeafComponent {
  static func render(props: Props, children: Children) -> AnyNode {
    return render(props: props)
  }
}

Thus your components can conform to PureLeafComponent instead of PureComponent, which allows you to avoid children argument in a render function when you don't need it.

Hooks

Quite frequently you need components that are stateful or cause some other side effects. Hooks provide a clear separation between declarative components and other imperative code, such as state management, file I/O, networking etc.

The standard protocol CompositeComponent allows Hooks to be injected into the render function as an argument.

protocol CompositeComponent: Component {
  static func render(
    props: Props,
    children: Children,
    hooks: Hooks
  ) -> AnyNode
}

In fact, the standard PureComponent is a special case of a CompositeComponent that doesn't use Hooks during rendering:

// Helpers provided by Tokamak:

protocol PureComponent: CompositeComponent {
  static func render(props: Props, children: Children) -> AnyNode
}

extension PureComponent {
  static func render(
    props: Props,
    children: Children,
    hooks: Hooks
  ) -> AnyNode {
    return render(props: props, children: children)
  }
}

One of the simplest hooks is state. It allows a component to have its own state and to be updated when the state changes. We've seen it used in the Counter example:

struct Counter: LeafComponent {
  // ...
  static func render(props: Props, hooks: Hooks) -> AnyNode {
    // type signature for this constant is inferred automatically
    // and is only added here for documentation purposes
    let count: State<Int> = hooks.state(1)
    // ...
  }
}

It returns a very simple state container, which on initial call of render contains 1 as a value and values passed to count.set(_: Int) on subsequent updates:

// values of this type are returned by `hooks.state`
struct State<T> {
  let value: T

  // set the state to a value you already have
  func set(_ value: T)

  // or update the state with a pure function
  func set(_ transformer: @escaping (T) -> T)

  // or efficiently update the state in place with a mutating function
  // (helps avoiding expensive memory allocations when state contains 
  // large arrays/dictionaries or other copy-on-write value)
  func set(_ updater: @escaping (inout T) -> ())
}

Note that set functions are not mutating, they never update the component's state in-place synchronously, but only schedule an update with Tokamak at a later time. A call to render is only scheduled on the component that obtained this state with hooks.state.

When you need state changes to update any of the descendant components, you can pass the state value within props or children of nodes returned from render. In Counter component the label's content is "bound" to count this way:

struct Counter: LeafComponent {
  static func render(props: Null, hooks: Hooks) -> AnyNode {
    let count = hooks.state(1)

    return StackView.node([
        Button.node(.init(
          onPress: Handler { count.set { $0 + 1 } }, 
          text: "Increment"
        )),
        Label.node("\(count.value)"),
    ])
  }
}

Hooks provide a great way to compose side effects and also to keep them separate from your component code. You can always create your own hook reusing existing ones: just add it to your extension Hooks wherever works best for you.

Renderers

When mapping Tokamak's architecture to what's previosly been established in iOS, Component corresponds to a "view-model" layer, while Hooks provide a reusable "controller" layer. A Renderer is a "view" layer in these terms, but it's fully managed by Tokamak. Not only this greatly simplifies the code of your components and allows you to make it declarative, it also completely decouples platform-specific code.

Note that Counter component above doesn't contain a single type from UIKit module, although the component itself is passed to a specific UIKitRenderer (via its TokamakViewController public API) to make it available in an app that uses UIKit. On other platforms you could use a different renderer, while the component code could stay the same if its behavior doesn't need to change for that environment. Otherwise you can adjust component's behavior via Props and pass different "initializing" props depending on the renderer's platform.

Providing renderers for other platforms in the future is one of our top priorities. Tokamak already provides basic support for macOS apps in TokamakAppKit module that allows you to render same standard components on iOS and macOS without any changes applied to the component code and without requiring Marzipan!

Requirements

  • iOS 11.0 or later for TokamakUIKit
  • macOS 10.14 for TokamakAppKit
  • Xcode 10.1 or later
  • Swift 4.2 or later

Installation

CocoaPods

CocoaPods is a dependency manager for Swift and Objective-C Cocoa projects. You can install it with the following command:

$ gem install cocoapods

Navigate to the project directory and create Podfile with the following command:

$ pod install

Inside of your Podfile, specify the Tokamak pod:

# Uncomment the next line to define a global platform for your project
# platform :ios, '11.0'

target 'YourApp' do
  # Comment the next line if you don't want to use dynamic frameworks
  use_frameworks!

  # Pods for YourApp
  pod 'TokamakUIKit', '~> 0.1'
end

Then, run the following command:

$ pod install

Open the the YourApp.xcworkspace file that was created. This should be the file you use everyday to create your app, instead of the YourApp.xcodeproj file.

FAQ

What are "Rules of Hooks"?

Hooks are a great way to inject state and other side effects into pure functions. In some sense, you could consider Hooks an emulation of indexed monads or algebraic effects, which served as inspiration for Hooks in React. Unfortunately, due to Swift's current limitations, we can't express monads or algebraic effects natively, so Hooks need a few restrictions applied to make it work. Similar restrictions are also applied to Hooks in React:

  1. You can call Hooks from render function of any component. πŸ‘
  2. You can call Hooks from your custom Hooks (defined by you in an extension of Hooks). πŸ™Œ
  3. Don't call Hooks from a loop, condition or nested function/closure. 🚨
  4. Don't call Hooks from any function that's not a static func render on a component, or not a custom Hook. ⚠️

In a future version Tokamak will provide a linter able to catch violations of Rules of Hooks at compile time.

Why do Rules of Hooks exist?

Same as React, Tokamak maintains an array of "memory cells" for every stateful component to hold the actual state. It needs to distinguish one Hooks call from another to map those to corresponding cells during execution of a render function of your component. Consider this:

struct ConditionalCounter: LeafComponent {
  typealias Props = Null

  static func render(props: Props, hooks: Hooks) -> AnyNode {
    // this code won't work as expected as it violates Rule 3:
    // > Don't call Hooks from a condition
    
    // state stored in "memory cell" 1
    let condition = hooks.state(false) 
    if condition {
      // state stored in "memory cell" 2
      count = hooks.state(0) 
    } else {
      // state, which should be stored in "memory cell" 3, 
      // but will be actually queried from "memory cell" 2
      count = hooks.state(42) 
    }
    
    return StackView.node([
      Switch.node(.init(value: condition.value,
                        valueHandler: Handler(condition.set)))
      Button.node(.init(
        onPress: Handler { count.set { $0 + 1 } },
        text: "Increment"
      )),
      Label.node("\(count.value)"),
    ])
  }
}

How does Tokamak renderer know on subsequent calls to ConditionalCounter.render which state you're actually addressing? It relies on the order of those calls, so if the order dynamically changes from one rendering to another, you could unexpectedly get a value of the one state cell, when you expected a value of a different state cell.

We encourage you to keep any hooks logic at the top level of a render definition, which makes all side effects of a component clear upfront and is a good practice anyway. If you do need conditions or loops applied, you can always create a separate component and return a node conditionally or an array of nodes for this new child component from render of a parent component. The fixed version of ConditionalCounter would look like this:

struct ConditionalCounter: LeafComponent {
  typealias Props = Null

  static func render(props: Props, hooks: Hooks) -> AnyNode {
    // this works as expected
    let condition = hooks.state(false)
    let count1 = hooks.state(0)
    let count2 = hooks.state(42)

    let actualState = condition ? count1 : count2

    return StackView.node([
      Switch.node(.init(value: condition.value,
                        valueHandler: Handler(condition.set)))
      Button.node(.init(
        onPress: Handler { actualState.set { $0 + 1 } },
        text: "Increment"
      )),
      Label.node("\(actualState.value)"),
    ])
  }
}

Why does Tokamak use value types and protocols instead of classes?

Swift developers focused on GUI might be used to classes thanks to abundance of class hierarchies in UIKit and AppKit (although benefits of composition over inheritance were previously highlighted by Apple). Unfortunately, while UIKit is a relatively fresh development, it still closely follows many patterns used in AppKit, which was itself built in late 80s. Both of these were developed with Objective-C in mind, years before Swift became public and protocol-oriented patterns were established.

One of the main goals of Tokamak is to build a UI framework that feels native to Swift. Tokamak's API brings these benefits when compared to class-based APIs:

  • no need to subclass NSObject to conform to commonly used protocols;
  • no need to use override and to remember to call super;
  • no need for required init, convenience init or to be concerned with strict class initialization rules;
  • you can't create a reference cycle with immutable values, no need for weakSelf/strongSelf dance when using callbacks;
  • you don't need to worry about modifying an object in a different scope accidentaly captured by reference: immutable values are implicitly copied and most of the copies are removed by the compiler during optimization;
  • focus on composition over inheritance: no need to subclass UIViewController or UIView and to worry about all of the above when you only need simple customization;
  • focus on functional and declarative programming, while still allowing to use imperative code when needed: value types guarantee lack of unexpected side effects in pure functions.

Is there anything like JSX available for Tokamak?

At the moment the answer is no, but we find that Tokamak's API allows you to create nodes much more concisely when compared to React.createElement syntax. In fact, with Tokamak's .node API you don't need closing element tags you'd have to write with JSX. E.g. compare this:

Label.node("label!")

to this:

<Label>label!</Label>

We do agree that there's an overhead of .init for props and a requirement of props initializer arguments to be ordered. For the latter, we have a helpful convention in Tokamak that all named arguments to props initializers should be ordered alphabetically.

The main problem is that currently there's no easily extensible Swift parser or a macro system available that would allow something like JSX to be used for Tokamak. As soon is it becomes easy to implement, we'd definitely consider it as an option.

Why is render function static on Component protocol?

With an alternative approach to API design of a framework like this we could define components as plain functions, which wouldn't need to be static:

func counter(hooks: Hooks) -> AnyNode {
  // ...
}

The problem here is that we need equality comparison on components to be able to define Equatable on AnyNode. This isn't available for plain functions:

let x = counter
let y = counter

// won't compile
x == y

// won't compile: reference equality is also not defined on functions,
// even though functions are reference types Β―\_(ツ)_/Β― 
x === y

Protocols and structs with static functions allow us to work around this and to formalise an hierarchy of different kinds of components with protocols and Equatable constraints:

// equality comparison is available for types
struct Counter {
  static func render(hooks: Hooks) -> AnyNode { 
    // ...
  }
}


// Tokamak does something like this internally for your components,
// consider following a pseudocode:
let xComponent = Counter.self
let yComponent = OtherComponent.self

var rendered: AnyNode?
if xComponent != yComponent {
  rendered = xComponent.render()
}

We could remove static from render on Component protocol, but this makes possible adding and referencing instance properties from a non-static version of render. Components could become inadvertently stateful that way, hiding the fact that components are actually functions, not instances. Consider this hypothetical API:

struct Counter {
  // this makes `Counter` component stateful,
  // but prevents observing state changes
  var count = 0

  // no `static` here, which makes `var` above accessible
  func render() -> AnyNode {
    return Label.node("\(count)")
  }
}

Now there's direct access to component's state, but we aren't able to easily schedule updates of the component tree when this state changes. We could require authors of components to implement didSet on every instance property, but this is cumbersome and hard to enforce. Marking render as static makes it harder to introduce unobservable local state, while intended local state is managed with Hooks.

Acknowledgments

  • Thanks to the Swift community for building one of the best programming languages available!
  • Thanks to React people for building a UI framework that is practical and elegant, while keeping it usable with JavaScript at the same time. πŸ˜„
  • Thanks to Render, ReSwift, Katana UI and Komponents for inspiration!

Contributing

This project adheres to the Contributor Covenant Code of Conduct. By participating, you are expected to uphold this code. Please report unacceptable behavior to conduct@tokamak.dev.

Maintainers

Max Desiatov, Matvii Hodovaniuk

License

Tokamak is available under the Apache 2.0 license. See the LICENSE file for more info.

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