KVO for Swift - Value Observing and Events
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README.md

Value Observing and Events for Swift

Swift lacks the powerful Key Value Observing (KVO) from Objective-C. But thanks to closures, generics and property observers, in some cases it allows for far more elegant observing. You have to be explicit about what can be observed, though.

Overview

Observable-Swift is a Swift library for value observing (via explicit usage of Observable<T>) and subscribable events (also explicit, using Event<T>). While it is not exactly "KVO for Swift" (it is explicit, there are no "Keys", ...) it is a catchy name so you can call it that if you want. The library is still under development, just as Swift is. Any contributions, both in terms of suggestions/ideas or actual code are welcome.

Observable-Swift is brought to you by Leszek Ślażyński (slazyk), you can follow me on twitter and github. Also check out SINQ my other Swift library that makes working with collections a breeze.

Observables

Using Observable<T> and related classes you can implement wide range of patterns using value observing. Some of the features:

  • observable variables and properties
  • chaining of observables (a.k.a. key path observing)
  • short readable syntax using +=, -=, <-/^=, ^
  • alternative syntax for those who dislike custom operators
  • handlers for before or after the change
  • handlers for { oldValue:, newValue: } (oldValue, newValue) or (newValue)
  • adding multiple handlers per observable
  • removing / invalidating handlers
  • handlers tied to observer lifetime
  • observable mutations of value types (structs, tuples, ...)
  • conversions from observables to underlying type (not available since Swift Beta 6)
  • observables combining other observables
  • observables as value types or reference types
  • ...

Events

Sometimes, you don’t want to observe for value change, but other significant events. Under the hood Observable<T> uses beforeChange and afterChange of EventReference<ValueChange<T>>. You can, however, use Event<T> or EventReference<T> directly and implement other events too.

Installation

You can use either CocoaPods or Carthage to install Observable-Swift.

Otherwise, the easiest option to use Observable-Swift in your project is to clone this repo and add Observable-Swift.xcodeproj to your project/workspace and then add Observable.framework to frameworks for your target.

After that you just import Observable.

Examples

Observable<T> is a simple struct allowing you to have observable variables.

// create a Observable<Int> variable
var x = Observable(0)

// add a handler
x.afterChange += { println("Changed x from \($0) to \($1)") }
// without operators: x.afterChange.add { ... }

// change the value, prints "Changed x from 0 to 42"
x <- 42
// alternativelyL x ^= 42, without operators: x.value = 42

You can, of course, have observable properties in a class or a struct:

struct Person {
    let first: String
    var last: Observable<String>
    
    init(first: String, last: String) {
        self.first = first
        self.last = Observable(last)
    }
}
    
var ramsay = Person(first: "Ramsay", last: "Snow")
ramsay.last.afterChange += { println("Ramsay \($0) is now Ramsay \($1)") }        
ramsay.last <- "Bolton"

Up to Swift Beta 5 you could implicitly convert Observable<T> to T, and use it in places where T is expected. Unfortunately Beta 6 forbids defining implicit conversions:

let x = Observable(20)
// You can use the value property ...
let y1 = x.value + 22
// ... or a postfix operator ...
let  y2 = x^ + 22
/// ... which has the advantage of easy chaining
let y3 = obj.property^.whatever^.sthElse^
/// ... you can also use ^= instead of <- for consistency with the postfix ^

For value types (such as structs or tuples) you can also observe their mutations:
Since Observable is a struct, ramsay in example above gets mutated too. This means, you could observe ramsay as well.

struct Person {
    let first: String
    var last: String
    var full: String { get { return "\(first) \(last)" } }
}

var ramsay = Observable(Person(first: "Ramsay", last: "Snow"))
// x += { ... } is the same as x.afterChange += { ... }
ramsay += { println("\($0.full) is now \($1.full)") }
ramsay.value.last = "Bolton"

You can remove observers by keeping the subscription object:

var x = Observable(0)    
let subscr = x.afterChange += { (_,_) in println("changed") }
// ...
x.afterChange -= subscr
// without operators: x.afterChange.remove(subscr)

Invalidating it:

var x = Observable(0)    
let subscr = x.afterChange += { (_,_) in println("changed") }
// ...
subscr.invalidate() // will be removed next time event fires

Or tie the subscription to object lifetime:

var x = Observable(0)        
for _ in 0..1 {
    let o = NSObject() // in real-world this would probably be self
    x.afterChange.add(owner: o) { (oV, nV) in println("\(oV) -> \(nV)") }
    x <- 42 // handler called
} // o deallocated, handler invalidated
x <- -1 // handler not called

You can also chain observables (observe "key paths"):

class Person {
    let firstName: String
    var lastName: Observable<String>
    var friend: Observable<Person?> = Observable(nil)
	// init(...) { ... }
}

let me = Person()
var myFriendsName : String? = nil

// we want to observe my current friend last name
// and get notified with name when the friend or the name changes
chain(me.friend).to{$0?.lastName}.afterChange += { (_, newName) in
	myFriendsName = newName
}

// alternatively, we can do the same with '/' operator
(me.friend / {$0?.lastName}).afterChange += { (_, newName) in
	myFriendsName = newName
}

Event<T> is a simple struct allowing you to define subscribable events. Observable<T> uses EventReference<ValueChange<T>> for afterChange and beforeChange.

class SomeClass {
 	// defining an event someone might be interested in
 	var somethingChanged = Event<String>()
 
 	// ...
 
 	func doSomething() {
 		// ...
 		// fire the event and notify all observers
 		somethingChanged.notify("Hello!")
 		// ...
 	}
}

var obj = SomeClass()

// subscribe to an event
obj.somethingChanged += { println($0) }

obj.doSomething()

More examples can be found in tests in ObservableTests.swift

Advanced

If you require observables as reference types, you can use either ObservableProxy which is a reference type in between your code and the real Observable value type. You can also use ObservableReference which is a ObservableProxy to an Observable that it holds on a property.

Same is true for Event, there is EventReference as well. Actually, Observable uses EventReference instead of Event, otherwise some use cases would be difficult to implement. This means, that if you want to unshare events and subscriptions you need to call observable.unshare(removeSubscriptions:).