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Imperative animation API for declarative UI renderers, like React, Preact, and Torus.
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README.md

Animated Value

npm animated-value gzip size install size

animated-value is an imperative animation API for declarative UI renderers, like React, Preact, and Torus. It allows you to build rich, fully interactive animations with the full benefits of a JavaScript-driven imperative animation system -- custom tweening and spring physics, reliable chaining and callbacks, and more -- within the robust declarative UI frameworks we use to build apps today.

Recently, I discovered that Animated Value inexplicably shares some API similarities with React Native's excellent Animated APIs. Many concepts run parallel, and some don't carry over.

Animations built with Animated Value can be ...

  • Fully customized with custom curves, tweening, and timing
  • Interactive, starting and stopping using imperative JavaScript APIs
  • Interruptible, meaning the UI can stop and move on from an animation at any point in time
  • Fully redirectable, where an animation can be re-defined to a different destination point or value, and the animation will transition smoothly from its current curve to the new curve, based on spring physics.
  • Synchronized with async and Promise-based timing APIs.

You can see a simple demo of animated-value here; the source is linked, and also found under demo/.

Imperative animation what?

It's 2019! We build a lot of our user interfaces with web technologies, and most of us use declarative rendering frameworks like React to define our user interfaces as a function of state. But this makes imperative animation -- being able to tell the UI "Here's where you start, and I'm going to tell you how to move through the animation" -- hairy.

In declarative UI frameworks, it's also tricky to implement animations that we can start, stop, pause, and rewind programmatically based on timers or events -- CSS transitions sometimes fall short.

Enter animated-value!

Using animated-value

You can import animated-value with a script tag...

<script src="https://unpkg.com/animated-value/dist/index.min.js"></script>

... and you'll find the AnimatedValue object in the global scope (as window.AnimatedValue).

Alternatively, you can install animated-value using npm...

npm install animated-value

... and import it into your code.

import { AnimatedValue } from 'animated-value';

const animatedOpacity = new AnimatedValue(/*...*/);
// ...

If you're not to keen on reading gobs of documentation, feel free to skip down to the Examples section below.

AnimatedValue

The AnimatedValue class represents a value (usually a CSS or text number value) that you can define an animation for. An animation is defined by three things:

  • start: The initial value of the AnimatedValue
  • end: The final value of the AnimatedValue
  • ease: An easing function that maps [0, 1) to itself, mapping time to progress.

The start and end values are numbers. For example, if we want to reveal a component by increasing the opacity from 0 to 1, we would have start: 0 and end: 1. We can also update the start and end positions of existing animated values by setting the .start and .end properties of the animated value instance. Note that if an animation is in progress, this will cause the animation to "jump" to the updated value in the next frame, unless we first pause the animation, update, and resume from the new position.

The ease argument can be a function that maps time to progress through the animation (both on a 0 to 1 scale), like t => Math.pow(t, 2), or an array of four numbers that define a cubic Bezier curve, like [0, 1, 1, 0].

An AnimatedValue object has a value at any given time, and you can ask for the value at the current time by calling AnimatedValue#value(). If the animation hasn't started yet, this will be initialized to the start value. You can manually set the current value of an animation using AnimatedValue#set(value), which may be useful when controlling animated values in response to user input like dragging.

When we render declaratively, we can use the #value() getter to get the value of an animated property at render time (see examples below for reference).

Easing curves

The library comes bundled with a short list of useful easing functions you can pass to the AnimatedValue constructor, under AnimatedValue.CURVES. This includes the full set of CSS default named easing curves (CURVES.EASE_IN, CURVES.EASE_OUT, CURVES.EASE_IN_OUT, CURVES.LINEAR, etc.) as well as a few extras:

  • EXPO_IN: a sharper ease-in, with a more dramatic acceleration and an elastic feel
  • EXPO_OUT: a sharper ease-out
  • EXPO_IN_OUT: a sharper ease-in-out
  • EASE_IN_BACK: an ease-in that retreats a bit before shooting to the end (reverse of EASE_OUT_BACK)
  • EASE_OUT_BACK: an ease-out that overshoots a bit before returning to the end

You can check out the exact definitions of all the pre-defined easing curves in src/index.js, defined using cubic Bezier coefficients.

Controlling animations

The power in animated-value comes in more than being able to define animations -- CSS can do that just fine. With AnimatedValue objects, we can finely control when animations start, stop, pause, and get reset, and we can group animations into larger groups of animated properties to control them together, as a single unit of animation.

Let's create an animated value for opacity, for a fade-in effect:

const animatedOpacity = new AnimatedValue({
    start: 0,
    end: 1,
});

animatedOpacity.value(); // 0, our start value, since we haven't started the animation yet

To play the animation, we call play() with a duration, in milliseconds.

animatedOpacity.play(2000); // play for two seconds

// one second later...
animatedOpacity.value();
// returns 1, since we're halfway through the (linear) animation from 0 to 1

But it's no good if the value is never rendered to the UI. In rendering, animated-value is framework-agnostic (as you can see in the examples down below). To render the animated property to the UI, we can simply slot the animated value's value() in our rendering code. Here's one way to do it.

class MyAnimatedComponent extends React.Component {

    constructor(props) {
        super(props);
        this.animatedOpacity = new AnimatedValue({
            start: 0,
            end: 1,
        });
    }

    // We'll call this method to start the animation
    startAnimation() {
        this.animatedOpacity.play(2000);
    }

    render() {
        return <div
            class="square"
            style={{opacity: this.animatedOpacity.value()}}
            >
            </div>;
    }

}

This way, when the component is rendered, the opacity style will be the current value of the animated opacity property.

To make this animation work, we also need to make sure we're re-rendering the component every frame. We can use requestAnimationFrame to achieve this, by forcing a re-render every frame using something like Component.forceUpdate(). But animated-value comes with a built-in way of invoking an update every frame while an animation is running.

AnimatedValue#play() takes a second argument, which is a callback that'll be called every single frame until the animation is finished. We can call play() with the callback as an update to the local state, and React will re-render the component with the right opacity every frame.

class MyAnimatedComponent extends React.Component {

    constructor(props) {
        super(props);
        this.animatedOpacity = new AnimatedValue({
            start: 0,
            end: 1,
        });
        this.state = {
            opacity: this.animatedOpacity.value(),
        }
    }

    // We'll call this method to start the animation
    startAnimation() {
        this.animatedOpacity.play(2000, () => {
            // This will be called every frame, with a new opacity value
            this.setState({
                opacity: this.animatedOpacity.value(),
            });
        });
    }

    render() {
        return <div
            class="square"
            style={{opacity: this.animatedOpacity.value()}}>
            </div>;
    }

}

And we've animated our React component with animated-value!

Of course, if this was all we could do, there wouldn't be use for such an elaborate solution. Since we have a handle on the animatedOpacity object, we can play, pause, and reset/re-play the animation at any time, in response to user events, timers, or anything else in your code.

We can pause the animation anytime through the play with pause(), and reset the animation to its original state with reset(). Both of these can be called at any time during or before/after animation plays.

animatedOpacity.play(2000);
animatedOpacity.pause(); // pause the animation where it is
animatedOpacity.resume(); // resume the animation from where it was left off

animatedOpacity.play(2000);
animatedOpacity.reset(); // stop the animation immediately where it is, and reset to the start

animatedOpacity.play(2000);
// calling play again in the middle of an animation will be ignored.
animatedOpacity.play(2000); // ignored
// to re-start an animation, call `reset()`, then `play()` again.

Chaining animations with the Promise API

AnimatedValue#play() returns a promise that resolves as soon as the animation is either complete, or reset.

If the animation runs to its full completion (even after pauses and resumes), the returned promise will resolve to true. If the animation is reset at some point and fails to run to completion, it'll resolve to false. The promise returned from play() never rejects.

If you can play() multiple times in a row without resetting in between, you'll receive the same promise multiple times.

This allows us to chain animations and other actions together.

const animatedOpacity = new AnimatedOpacity({
    start: 0,
    end: 1,
    ease: AnimatedValue.CURVES.EASE_OUT,
});

animatedOpacity.play(2000).then((finished) => {
    if (finished) {
        console.log('Animation ran successfully to the end');
    } else {
        console.log('Animation was reset in the middle!');
    }
});

Composite animations

Frequently, we have to animate multiple properties concurrently. If we're revealing a dialog box, for example, we may want to animate the opacity, vertical position, and scale of the box all together, in the same duration.

Rather than calling play() on each animated value, we can compose these related animations together into a Composite animated value. We can treat composite values exactly the same as normal, single animated values, with one difference -- we can't call value() to ask for the current value of a composite animated property, since it doesn't make sense for a set of properties to have a single value.

For example, let's create a composite animated value that combines travel in the x- and y-directions, so it looks like the animated component is "swinging" on its way to the diagonal end.

We can create a composite animated value by passing individual animated values into AnimatedValue.compose():

const animatedX = new AnimatedValue({
    start: 0,
    end: 100, // 100px end
    ease: AnimatedValue.CURVES.EASE_OUT,
});
const animatedY = new AnimatedValue({
    start: 0,
    end: 100, // 100px end
    ease: AnimatedValue.CURVES.EASE_IN,
});
const animatedSwing = AnimatedValue.compose(animatedX, animatedY);

// play both animation values together, for 2000ms
animatedSwing.play(2000);

Composite values like this have the same play/pause/resume/reset API as singular AnimatedValues. In fact, the animations API are polymorphic under the hood -- you can pass composite animated values as sub-animations to bigger composite animated values!

Spring physics and AnimatedValue.Kinetic

Going beyond simple easing-based animations, one way to add more liveliness and delight into UI animation is to use spring physics-based animation. This means that, rather than depending on Bezier curves for defining the progression of a value over time, we'll treat the value as if it had inertia and were pulled to new values by a string.

You can check out this excellent talk at WWDC 2017, titled "Designing Fluid Interfaces," for an overview of physics-based animation in UI.

animated-value provides a second kind of animation primitive, the kinetic animated value, from which we can build fluid, spring physics-based animations. Like AnimatedValues, kinetic values can be applied to any numerical value and animated over time. We can create new kinetic values like this

const springPosition = new AnimatedValue.Kinetic({
    start: 0,
    stiffness: 5,
    damping: .4,
});
...
springPosition.playTo(250, () => render());

There are two critical differences to remember when we're using kinetic values to build animated components.

First, kinetic values do not take end values. Instead, we define a current value and animate the value to a new destination value using .playTo(newValue).

Second, kinetic values are parameterized by stiffness and damping, not an easing curve. The stiffness and damping constants determine the behavior of the "spring" powering the animation.

  • The damping determines how "bouncy" the spring is and covers the range [0, 1). The higher the damping, the less bouncy the spring.
  • The stiffness determines how strong the spring's recoil force is. Feel free to experiment with these values to find a value that feels right! animated-value comes with sane defaults that should feel natural in most UIs.

Like normal AnimatedValues, AnimatedValue.Kinetic are also perfectly reentrant, interruptible, smooth, and redirectable. You can call .playTo(endValue) with new values repeatedly, even in the middle of other animations, and the value will transition smoothly and realistically to new values.

Kinetic values by nature cannot be reset nor played without destination values, but they can still be paused and resumed at any time. Because of some of these API differences, and because it would simply be jarring in UI, kinetic values cannot be composed with AnimatedValue.compose -- doing so will result in console warnings and unsupported behaviors.

Summary

Using singular AnimatedValues, we can define individual properties and how we want them to behave when we control our animations. And with composite animated values, we can define higher-level animations that correspond to a concept, like "reveal" or "bounce out". In either case, animated-value is great for animations that we want to be able to imperatively control tightly inside a component.

Examples

animated-value was made to fit right into declarative component frameworks on the web, so the best way to illustrate its API might be to show some use cases. Here, I've written one way to use the library for React and Torus.

React

Here's an example of AnimatedValue used in a React component to animate a reveal-in motion.

In just a few extra lines, we've defined fully controllable, 60fps-animated properties on our component that fits right into React's declarative rendering style while being fully controllable from our application logic.

class AnimatedSquare extends Component {

    constructor(props) {
        super(props);
        this.state = {
            opacity: 0,
            xOffset: 0,
        }

        this.animatedOpacity = new AnimatedValue({
            start: 0,
            end: 1,
            // linear easing by default
        });
        this.animatedXOffset = new AnimatedValue({
            start: 0,
            end: 200,
            ease: AnimatedValue.CURVES.EASE_OUT_BACK,
        });
        // we want to run both concurrently, as a "reveal" animation
        this.animatedReveal = AnimatedValue.compose(
            this.animatedOpacity,
            this.animatedXOffset,
        );
    }

    reveal() {
        // Play the animation for 800ms
        this.animatedReveal.play(800, () => {
            this.setState({
                opacity: this.animatedOpacity.value(),
                xOffset: this.animatedXOffset.value(),
            });
        });
    }

    componentDidMount() {
        // start the animation on mount
        this.reveal();
    }

    render() {
        const animatedProperties = {
            opacity: this.state.opacity,
            transform: `translateX(${this.state.xOffset})`,
        }
        return (
            <div class="square" style={animatedProperties}>
            </div>
        );
    }

}

Torus

Torus is a lightweight UI framework I wrote with a declarative UI rendering API, and it goes well with animated-value. Here's what the equivalent component and animation would look like in Torus.

class AnimatedSquare extends Component {

    init() {
        this.animatedOpacity = new AnimatedValue({
            start: 0,
            end: 1,
            // linear easing by default
        });
        this.animatedXOffset = new AnimatedValue({
            start: 0,
            end: 200,
            ease: AnimatedValue.CURVES.EASE_OUT_BACK,
        });
        // we want to run both concurrently, as a "reveal" animation
        this.animatedReveal = AnimatedValue.compose(
            this.animatedOpacity,
            this.animatedXOffset
        );

        // start the animation
        this.reveal();
    }

    reveal() {
        // Run the reveal animation for 800ms, and re-render each frame
        //  (that's what the call to `this.render()` does).
        this.animatedReveal.play(800, () => this.render());
    }

    compose() {
        return jdom`<div class="square" style="
            opacity: ${this.animatedOpacity.value()};
            transform: translateX(${this.animatedXOffset.value()}px)
        "></div>`;
    }

}
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