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README.md

ViewElements

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Build UITableView declaratively by composing elements.

NOTE1: This is a work in progress. Rewrite from the ground up to replace this repo. NOTE2: This README is copied from the old repo and is not up-to-date yet.

What's improved from the old ViewElements?

  • The size of the framework will be much smaller, as we will separate it into smaller modules:
    • ViewElementsCore (required)
    • ViewElementsComponent
    • ViewElementsTable
    • ViewElementsCollection
    • etc.
  • All the models are now value types. All models are implemented with struct and conform to Equatable
  • Use a subclass of UITableView instead of the previously TableModelViewController, so more control
  • Unit tests!

Features

  • Supported view types:
    • Row (UITableViewCell)
    • SectionHeader, SectionFooter (UITableHeaderFooterView)
    • TableHeaderView (TODO)
  • Also:
    • Hide trailing separator by default
    • Separator styles
    • AutoLayout by default (Note that you must setup self-sizing view correctly)
    • Automatically cache estimatedRowHeight after a cell is displayed for better performance
    • Center the tableview's content (TODO)

Why?

Ever make a UITableViewCell nib but then want to use it as UIView? There's no easy way to do that. You need to do everything all over again in UIView, then add it as a subview of UITableViewCell. But it's still such a hassle...

Using this framework, you can always focus on building UIViews, whether they're nibs or custom UIView classes. With some minor setups, you can reuse them easily. Wrapping it with Row, you get a table view cell. Wrapping it with SectionHeader, you get a section header, etc. No more bothering with UITableViewHeaderFooterView or UITableViewCell nibs. The idea is creating a view once and use it anywhere.

ViewElements provides a set of models that let you do that.

Table of Contents

Overview

All iOS apps use UITableView, but it's quite a hassle to set that up everytime. This framework does the heavy lifting for you. It abstracts views into view models like Row, SectionHeader, SectionFooter. You can compose the model to make a table. Want to change rows order? Just change the order in the array. Want 10 label rows?:

let rows = (0..<10).map { Row(ElementOfLabel("Label no. \($0)")) }

Manipulate them like a primitive data!

Usecases

Creating a basic table

  1. Make ElementOf<SomeViewClass>:
let el = ElementOf<Label>(props: "Yay!") // = a general view

Note1: Label is a subclass of UILabel that works with this framework. How to make your own.

Note2: You can use ElementOfLabel(props: "Yay!") instead which wrap the above code. See built-in elements.

  1. Wrap it with Row:
let labelRow = Row(el) // = a table view cell

You can also customize Row properties:

labelRow.backgroundColor = .gray
labelRow.separatorStyle = .none
labelRow.rowHeight = 60 // fixed height, instead of AutoLayout
labelRow.layoutMarginStyle = .all(inset: 8)
  1. Make a section from array of Row:
let s = Section(row: [labelRow, ...]) // = a section in table view
  1. Make a table from array of Section:
let table = Table(sections: [s, ...]) // = a table view

You already got a complete model to present a table, next you just have to put it to the view controller that knows how to interpret this model.

  1. Subclass TableModelViewController, this is the most important class in this framework. It knows how to parse a Table model into final result. You can override setupTable() and set a table there (you can also do it in viewDidLoad):
class MyViewController: TableModelViewController {

  /// Initial table
  override setupTable() {
    // Build a Table instance like above steps.
    let table = ...

    // Set a table model
    self.table = table
  }
}

And that's it! Creating a table view is never this easy 🎉

  1. (Optional) You can set the table model anytime, just make sure to call reload() or tableView.reloadData():
class MyViewController: TableModelViewController {
  ...

  func reloadTable() {
    self.table = getTableModel() // build some table model from state
    self.reload() // or self.tableView.reloadData()
  }
}

Please see the difference between them.

Section Header and Footer

  1. Wrap an element with SectionHeader or SectionFooter:
let sh = SectionHeader(ElementOfLabel(props: "Section header"))
let sf = SectionFooter(ElementOfLabel(props: "Section footer"))
  1. Set it to Section:
let s = Section(rows: rows)
s.header = sh
s.footer = sf

Table Header View

  1. Wrap an element with TableHeaderView:
let th = TableHeaderView(ElementOfLabel(props: "Table header view"))
  1. Set it to Table:
let table = Table(sections: sections)
table.tableHeaderView = th

Stretchy Header

  1. Wrap an element with StretchyHeader, two modes are supported:
// Mode 1: Scrolls up with content
let sh1 = StretchyHeader(behavior: .scrollsUpWithContent, element: ElementOfLabel(props: "stretchy header"))
sh1.restingHeight = nil // By default (nil) it uses AutoLayout to determine fitted size.
sh1.restingHeight = 200 // But you can give it fixed height here.

// Mode 2: Shrink and then stick at the top
let sh2 = StretchyHeader(behavior: .shrinksToMinimumHeight(60), element: ElementOfLabel(props: "stretchy header"))
sh.restingHeight = 200 // Initial height is 200, it then reduces as it scrolls up, and then stop at 60

IMPORTANT: StretchyHeader can't be used together with TableHeaderView. Setting one automatically sets another to nil

Fetching data from API

You can easily show a loading indicator for a section while waiting for remote data using ElementOfActivityIndicator(props: true). I suggest breaking parts of the table into functions that return element based on app states:

func listOfUsersSection() -> Section {
  guard let users = self.usersList else {
    return Section(rows: [Row(ElementOfActivityIndicator(props: true))]) // show loading if no data
  }
  let userRows = users.map { u in
    return Row(ElementOf<UserView>(props: user))
  }
  return Section(rows: userRows)
}

If you don't want to show anything, you can simply return nil:

func listOfUsersSection() -> Section? {
  guard let users = self.usersList else {
    return nil
  }
  let userRows = users.map { u in
    return Row(ElementOf<UserView>(props: user))
  }
  return Section(rows: userRows)
}

Then figure out whether to show or not:

let allPossibleSections: [Section?] = [
  someSection(),
  listOfUsesSection(),
  someOtherSection(),
  ...
]

let visibleSections: [Section] = allPossibleSections.compactMap { $0 } // filter out nil section

Tail Loading

  1. Add a loading section at the end:
override func setupTable() {
  let loadingSection = Section(rows: [{
    let row = Row(ElementOfActivityIndicator())
    row.rowHeight = 44
    row.tag = "loading" // give a tag, so it can be referenced easily later
    return row
   }()])
  let table = Table(sections: [
    someListOfThingsSection(),
    loadingSection // loading at the bottom
  ])
  self.table = table
}
  1. Override func tableModelViewControllerWillDisplay(row: Row, at indexPath: IndexPath), which is called whenever a row will be displayed:
// Keep track of isLoading, so that we don't call API everytime this row enters the screen!
var isLoading = false

// Pagination states
var fromId: Int = 0
let kPaginationSize = 100

override func tableModelViewControllerWillDisplay(row: Row, at indexPath: IndexPath) {
  if row.tag == "loading" && !isLoading {
    self.isLoading = true // start loading
    APIService.fetchPaginationData(from: self.fromId, size: self.kPaginationSize) { [weak self] data in
      guard let `self` = self else { return }

      // Dirty check if loading is there or not by counting lol
      if data.isEmpty {
        if self.table.sections.count == 2 {
          // Remove loading section as we run out of data
          self.table.sections.removeLast()
        }
      } else {
        // You can build an entirely new Table, but I will just mutate and reload here, dirty but work
        self.table.sections[0].rows.append(contentsOf: rowsFromData(data))
      }
      self.tableView.reloadData()
      self.isLoading = false // end loading
    }
  }
}

Difference between reload() and tableView.reloadData()

The only difference is that reload() will also reload TableHeaderView and StretchyHeader. One downside of this is that the contentOffset and contentInsets will be reset to zero.

Calling tableView.reloadData() will reload all rows and sections (but not TableHeaderView and StretchyHeader), which might be just what you want. For example, in tail loading, you should call tableView.reloadData() only so that the incoming data is reload correctly at the tail. If you call reload(), the tableView jumps to the top.

How to make a custom view

To be able to use ElementOf<ViewClass>, ViewClass must conform to BaseView (or BaseNibView if you use nib file), AND OptionalPropsTypeAccessible.

If you use BaseNibView, be sure to use the same class name as the nib file. The framework automatically figures out how to load corresponding types of views:

/// IMPORTANT: It will automatically loads `SomeView.xib`
public final class SomeView: BaseNibView, OptionalTypedPropsAccessible {

  public typealias PropsType = (title: String, image: UIImage)

  @IBOutlet weak var label: UILabel!
  @IBOutlet weak var imageView: UIImageView!

  public override func setup() {
    self.label.textAlignment = .center
  }

  /// Update view based on props
  public override func update() {
    self.label.text = self.props?.title
    self.imageView.image = self.props?.image
  }
}

Built-in Elements

These are basic elements that come with the framework. It is wrapped inside a function, e.g.:

public func ElementOfLabel(props: String) -> ElementOf<Label> {
    return ElementOf<Label>.init(props: props)
}

With them you can get started building UI quickly. These are the complete list of built-in elements:

  • ElementOfLabel(props: String)
  • ElementOfTextField(props: (text: String?, placeholder: String?))
  • ElementOfImageView(props: UIImage)
  • ElementOfButtonWithAction(props: (buttonTitle: String, handler: () -> Void))
  • ElementOfActivityIndicator(props: Bool) // Bool is animating or not
  • FlexibleSpace() // or ElementOf<EmptyView>(props: ()) <-- just an empty view made to control dummy spacing

There is only one built-in Row:

func RowOfEmptySpace(height: CGFloat) -> Row

This is convenience when you want to add a fixed-height empty space between Rows.

Customizing Built-in Elements

These built-in elements don't have any stylings on them, e.g., it's just a default UILabel(). You can add some styles:

let el = ElementOfLabel(props: "Yay!").styles { lb in
  lb.font = ...
  lb.textColor = .red
  lb.textAlignment = .center
  lb.numberOfLines = 1 // **by default it's 0**
}

Suggest for improvements? Open an issue!

These choice of built-in elements and props are far from perfect. You can create a issue if you want to improve, e.g., which kind of props we should support. As an example, I think ElementOfButtonWithAction(props: (buttonTitle: String, handler: () -> Void)) is quite ugly...

Terminologies

Element

ViewElement provides a universal abstraction for a UIView, Element. Element contains Props, a data structure used to configure that view. This framework already provides basic UIKit elements like UILabel, UIImageView, UIButton, UITextField, UIAcivityIndicator. (You'll be surprised of how much you could accomplish only by stacking these basic elements on top of each other.)

Then, an element can be used in a table view by wrapping it with ElementContainers:

  • Row(element)
  • SectionHeader(element)
  • SectionFooter(element)
  • TableHeaderView(element)
  • StretchyHeader(element)

Most containers use AutoLayout by default. But you can set rowHeight on these containers if you know the height beforehand.

Component

Note: This is still an experimental feature. Component allows you to make complex view by composing other elements. The framework do this by heavily relying on UIStackViews nesting together. This is very experimental feature. Beware that internally it creates UIStackView for each StackProps and nests them together.

Unlike ElementOf<SomeViewClass>, you make a Component by subclassing ComponentOf<SomeProps>.

For example, to make a component with image view and label aligned horizontally:

class ImageWithLabelComponent: ComponentOf<(img: UIImage, title: String)> {
  override func shouldElementUpdate(oldProps: (UIImage, String), newProps: (UIImage String)) -> Bool {
    return oldProps.title != newProps.title
  }

  override func render() -> StackProps {
    let imgElement= ElementOfImageView(props: props.img)
    let lbElement = ElementOfLabel(props: props.title)
    return HorizontalStack(
            distribute: .equalSpacing,
            align: .center,
            spacing: 20,
            [imgElement, lbElement]) // composing them with stack view
  }
}

IMPORTANT: In override func render() -> StackProps , it looks like you can do what React does, returning arbitrary elements based on props state. However, this framework actually clears the UIView and rebuild them. So it's not really performant!

Known Issues

These are issues I don't know how to fix yet:

  • Stretchy header view with first (sticky) section header
    • Because the (first) section header strickly respects tableView.contentInset to know where it should stick, when the stretchy header shrinks or moves up, it lefts the empty gap between them.
  • Table header view is kinda buggy. After many trials and errors, it doesn't seem to play well with AutoLayout. In practice, you should use the topmost table cell as a table header, as it provides exactly the same funtionality.

Limitations

This framework is (at the moment) suitable for creating static pages, e.g. not much animations/interactions on the content. At the end of the day it's just a UITableView. For highly interactive page with many gestures, consider other options.

Roadmap

  1. Make this framework contains only core classes (Row, ElementOf, etc.). Remove unrelated component like StretchyHeaderView. Make the core framework minimal as possible, and trimming down TableModelViewController.swift.
  2. Integration with RxSwift in another framework, which allows us to use ViewElements on creating data-driven pages (e.g., any kinds of input forms, with reactivity). One idea is to pass something like Variable<String> instead of a concrete type like String. This allows it to be reactive to changes from binding outside, without tableView.reloadData every time. Each cell maintains its own disposedBag. It could also expose an Rx setup block like (Reactive<SomeElementUsingRX>) -> [Disposable], to allow flexible event bindings.
  3. Support UICollectionView. Probably will support single column, vertical/horizontal scrolling out of the box, which is the most common use-case out there. In other cases, UICollectionViewLayout subclass can be set as needed.

Examples

See 'ViewElements/Examples'. It's not polished though, more like a playground for myself while developing this framework (sry lol).

Alternatives

You could look into these instead, probably more elegant that this framework lol:

  • Eureka, for form building
  • SwiftForms, for form building
  • Leego, general-purpose, very similar to this, not diving deep into this yet
  • BrickKit, super general-purpose, built with collection view, as it should be

Then Why ViewElements?

It's easy to use and understand. Not much magic. If you know how to use UITableView, then you can get started right away. In essence, this framework just handles table view's datasource/delegate for you, wrapping up table cell in a viewModel (Element) so that you don't have to do those yourself.