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Needle API

This document will explain the Needle API and what classes one uses to interact with Needle in your code.

  1. Introduction and Terminology
  2. Components
  3. Dependencies
  4. Using the Component
  5. Tree-structure


Using Carthage

Please follow the standard Carthage installation process to integrate the NeedleFoundation framework with your Swift project.

github "" ~> VERSION_OF_NEEDLE

Please specify Needle as a dependency via the standard Swift Package Manager package definition process to integrate the NeedleFoundation framework with your Swift project.

dependencies: [
    .package(url: "", .upToNextMajor(from: "VERSION_NUMBER")),
targets: [
        name: "YOUR_MODULE",
        dependencies: [

Introduction and Terminology


The primary reasons to use Dependency Injection (DI, from this point forward) is explained in a separate doc. Please read that before proceeding if you're unsure whether your application can benefit from DI.

Key pieces

At the very core, there's really just one class to master -- the Component. Needle can be used for any application which has a hierarchical structure. For the purposes of this tutorial, we'll assume we're talking about a classic MVC app (We use UIViewController in the text, but everything should easily apply to an NSViewController or equivalent concept from an architecture different from MVC).

So, for every UIViewController in your app, you would typically have a Component subclass to go with it. For a class called WelcomeViewController the component is typically named WelcomeComponent.


Each Component is considered to be a Scope. The body of the component is relatively simple. It's typically a few computed properties whose bodies are constructing new objects. Here's an example Component:

import NeedleFoundation

class LoggedInComponent: Component<LoggedInDependency> {
    var scoreStream: ScoreStream {
        return mutableScoreStream

    var mutableScoreStream: MutableScoreStream {
        return shared { ScoreStreamImpl() }

    var loggedInViewController: UIViewController {
        return LoggedInViewController(gameBuilder: gameComponent, scoreStream: scoreStream, scoreSheetBuilder: scoreSheetComponent)

Note: It's up to you to decide what items make sense on the DI Graph and which items can be just local properties in your ViewController subclass. Anything that you'd like to mock during a test needs to be passed in (as a protocol) as Swift lacks an OCMock like tool.

The shared construct in the example is a utility function we provide (in the Component base class) that simply returns the same instance every time this var is accessed (as opposed to the one below it, which returns a new instance each time). This ties the lifecycle of this property to the lifecycle of the Component.

You could also use the component to construct the ViewController that is paired with this component. As you can see in the example above, this allows us to pass in all the dependencies that the ViewController needs without the ViewController even being aware that you're using a DI system in your project. As noted in the "Benefits of DI" document, it's best to pass in protocols instead of concrete classes or structs.


If components ended here, they would simply be a container to hold all the "dependencies" of each ViewController. This, in itself, is useful as it allows for better unit-tests for your ViewController class. Of course, UIViewController subclasses are often not easily unit-testable, which is why our RIB architecture (and many others) splits out the "business logic" into a separate class which is easily unit testable.

The real power comes from being able to fetch items from ancestor Components within the same tree as well.

In order to do this, we specify the dependencies we'd like to fetch from ancestor components in a protocol referred to as a Dependency Protocol. At Uber, the dependency protocol associated with a NameEntryComponent would be called NameEntryDependency. Here is an example (Note: We've already used this protocol above in the generic parameter of Component class) :

protocol LoggedInDependency: Dependency {
    var imageCache: ImageCache { get }
    var networkService: NetworkService { get }

Dynamic dependencies

Dynamic dependencies refer to dependencies that are obtained at runtime. A good example is an authenticated user object. The user object does not exist always. It only exists after the user has logged in. Assuming our app has a logged-out and a logged-in scope, this user object should only be available within the logged-in scope and its child scopes. One way to provide the authenticated user object to logged in scope via constructor injection:

class LoggedInComponent: Component {
  let user: AuthenticatedUser

  init(parent: Scope, user: AuthenticatedUser) {
    self.user = user
    super.init(parent: Parent)

Then in the parent scope of the logged-in scope, we can instantiate the LoggedInComponent via a function instead of the usual computed var:

class RootComponent: Component {
  func loggedInComponent(user: AuthenticatedUser) {
    return LoggedInComponent(parent: self, user: user)

Using the Component

The nice thing is that you're now ready to write and compile code even though you may not be ready to run the needle command-line code-generator tool. We've also not told the system which ancestor Component the imageCache and networkService are supposed to come from.

The example only uses items that are created at the current Scope. If we also wanted to pass items into our ViewController which we expect to fetch from other Scopes, then the loginViewController would look like:

    var loginViewController: UIViewController {
        return LoggedInViewController(gameBuilder: gameComponent, scoreStream: scoreStream, scoreSheetBuilder: scoreSheetComponent, imageCache: dependency.imageCache)


The final piece of the puzzle is the question of how we let the system know where the items we listed in the dependency protocol actually come from. All of the Component subclasses that we've created need to be connected together as a tree. This is done by letting the system know about parent-child relationships between all your Components. You specify these relationships by simply writing a constructor for a child component in the parent. This looks something like this:

class LoggedInComponent: Component {


    var loginViewController: UIViewController {
        return LoggedInViewController(gameBuilder: gameComponent, scoreStream: scoreStream, scoreSheetBuilder: scoreSheetComponent, imageCache: dependency.imageCache)

    // MARK: - Children

    var gameComponent: GameComponent {
    	return GameComponent(parent: self)

Once this tree structure has been declared in code, the needle command-line tool uses it to decide where the dependencies for a particular Scope come from. The algorithm is simple, for each item that this scope requires, we walk up the chain of parents. The nearest parent that is able to provide an item (we match both the name and the type of the variable declared in the dependency protocol), is the one we fetch that property from.

Bootstrap Root

Since the root of a DI tree does not have a parent component, we bootstrap the root scope using the special BootstrapComponent class

let rootComponent = RootComponent()

class RootComponent: NeedleFoundation.BootstrapComponent {
    /// Root component code...

Notice the RootComponent does not need to specify any dependency protocol by inheriting from NeedleFoundation.BootstrapComponent. Root of a DI graph has no parent to acquire dependencies from anyways.

Since we know root does not have any parents, in application code, we can simply invoke RootComponent() to instantiate the root scope.


Only after you have your project working and you feel like you have a good understanding of the Needle API and DI in general, would we suggest you try to break away from the recommendations/conventions above. For instance, we recommend each ViewController has a corresponding Component, but nothing in the API prevents you from sharing one Component subclass between multiple ViewControllers.