Create an AutocompleteTextView dropdown for the email input in the Open Event Orga Android App

In the first version of the Open Event Organizer App, the event organizer was required to enter his full email each time he logged out of his account and therefore it was hindering the user experience. AutoCompleteTextView with shared preferences is a solution to this problem. This feature provides an editable text view that shows completion suggestions automatically while the user is typing. The list of suggestions is displayed in a drop down menu. The user can choose an item to replace the content of the edit box with. It is extremely useful in enhancing user experience.

The solution we implemented was to create an autocomplete textview for the email input, store the email address of the user on a successful login in the shared preference in a set of strings to prevent duplicacy and display it in the dropdown on subsequent login attempts.

Implementation

Change your TextInputLayout structure to accommodate the autocompletetextview. Remember to create a separate autocompletetextview object with the specific id of the view.

<android.support.v7.widget.AppCompatAutoCompleteTextView
       android:id="@+id/email_dropdown"
       android:layout_width="match_parent"
       android:layout_height="wrap_content"
       android:hint="@string/email"
       android:inputType="textEmailAddress" />

 

Create Utility methods to get/store the emails in the shared preferences. The set data structure has been used here so that there is no duplicacy while storing the emails in the shared preferences.

public Set<String> getStringSet(String key, Set<String> defaultValue) {
   return sharedPreferences.getStringSet(key, defaultValue);
}

public void saveStringSet(String key, Set<String> value) {
   SharedPreferences.Editor editor = sharedPreferences.edit();
   editor.putStringSet(key, value);
   editor.apply();
}

public void addStringSetElement(String key, String value) {
   Set<String> set = getStringSet(key, new HashSet<>());
   set.add(value);
   saveStringSet(key, set);
}

 

Create helper methods to add an email and retrieve the list of emails from the shared preferences to provide it to the views.

private void saveEmail(String email) {
   utilModel.addStringSetElement(Constants.SHARED_PREFS_SAVED_EMAIL, email);
}

private Set<String> getEmailList() {
   return utilModel.getStringSet(Constants.SHARED_PREFS_SAVED_EMAIL, null);
}

 

Create an autocompleteTextView object in your activity with the help of the R id from the layout and set the adapter with the set of strings retrieved from the shared preferences. You could create a custom adapter for this case too, but as far as the Open Event Orga App was concerned, using the array adapter made sense.

autoCompleteEmail.setAdapter(new ArrayAdapter<>(this, android.R.layout.simple_list_item_1,
   new ArrayList<String>(emails)));

 

Conclusion

It is important that the user is served with the best possible experience of the application and the autocomplete text view for the email serves just that.

Resources

Using Semantic UI Modals in Open Event Frontend

Modals in semantic UI are used to display the content on the current view while temporarily blocking the interaction with the main view. In Open Event Frontend application, we’ve a ‘delete’ button which deletes the published event as soon as the button is pressed making all the data clean. Once the event is deleted by the user, it is not possible to restore it again. We encountered that this can create a whole lot of problem if the button is pressed unintentionally. So we thought of solving this by popping up a dialog box on button click with a warning and asking for user’s confirmation to delete the event. To implement the dialog box, we used semantic UI modals which helped in ensuring that the user correctly enters the name of the event in the given space to ensure that s/he wants to delete the event.

Since we want our modal to be customizable yet reusable so that it can be used anywhere in the project so we made it as the component called ‘event-delete-modal’. To do that we first need to start with the template.

The markup for the event-delete-modal looks like this:

<div class="content">
  <form class="ui form" autocomplete="off" {{action (optional formSubmit) on='submit' preventDefault=true}}>
    <div class="field">
      <div class="label">
        {{t 'Please enter the full name of the event to continue'}}
      </div>
      {{input type='text' name='confirm_name' value=confirmName required=true}}
    </div>
  </form>
</div>
<div class="actions">
  <button type="button" class="ui black button" {{action 'close'}}>
    {{t 'Cancel'}}
  </button>
  <button type="submit" class="ui red button" disabled={{isNameDifferent}} {{action deleteEvent}}>
    {{t 'Delete Event'}}
  </button>
</div>

The complete code for the template can be seen here.

The above code for the modal window is very similar to the codes which we write for creating the main window. We can see that the semantic UI collection “form” has also been used here for creating the form where the user can input the name of the event along with delete and cancel buttons. The delete button remains disabled until the time correct name of the event been written by the user to ensure that user really wants to delete the event. To cancel the modal we have used close callback method of semantic UI modal which itself closes it. Since the ‘isNameDifferent’ action is uniquely associated to this particular modal hence it’s been declared in the ‘event-delete-modal.js’ file.

The code for the  ‘isNameDifferent’ in ‘event-delete-modal.js’ file looks like this.

export default ModalBase.extend({
  isSmall         : true,
  confirmName     : '',
  isNameDifferent : computed('confirmName', function() {
    return this.get('confirmName').toLowerCase() !== this.get('eventName').toLowerCase();
  })
});

The complete code for the.js file can be seen here.

In the above piece of code, we have isSmall variable to ensure that our modal size is small so it can fit for all screen sizes and we have the implementation isNameDifferent() function. We can also notice that our modal is extending the ‘ModelBase’ class which has all the semantic UI modal settings and the callback methods to perform show, hide, close and open actions along with settings which will help modal to look the way we want it to be.  

The modal-base.js class looks like this.

  openObserver: observer('isOpen', function() {
   close() {
     this.set('isOpen', false);
   },
   actions: {
    close() {
      this.close();
    }
  },
  willInitSemantic(settings) {
    const defaultOptions = {
      detachable     : false,
      duration       : testing ? 0 : 200,
      dimmerSettings : {
        dimmerName : `${this.get('elementId')}-modal-dimmer`,
        variation  : 'inverted'
      },
      onHide: () => {
        this.set('isOpen', false);
        if (this.get('onHide')) {
          this.onHide();
        }
      },
      onVisible: () => {
        this.set('isOpen', true);
        this.$('[data-content]').popup({
          inline: true
        });
     }

The complete code for the .js file can be seen here.

In the above code, we can see that at the top we’ve an ‘openObserver’ function where we’re observing the behaviour of the modal and setting the variables according to the behavioural changes. Now, later we’re checking the status of those variables and performing the actions based on their value. For example, to close the modal we have a boolean variable ‘isOpen’ which is set to false now close() action will be called which closes the modal.  Similarly, in ‘willInitSemantic(settings)’ function we’re setting the modal’s setting like the effects, length, the details modal will display on popping out etc.
We’re here overriding the semantic UI moda settings like detachable, dimmerSettings, duration etc along with the callback methods like onHide(), onVisible() etc. to get the required results.

Finally, our event-delete-modal will look something like this.

Fig: Modal to delete the event

So to conclude this post, we can easily say that the modals are of great use. They can solve the purpose of displaying some alert or to input some values without interrupting the flow of the main page depending upon the requirements.

Additional Resources:

Blog post about Awesome Ember.js Form Components of Alex Speller: http://alexspeller.com/simple-forms-with-ember/

JSON Deserialization Using Jackson in Open Event Android App

The Open Event project uses JSON format for transferring event information like tracks, sessions, microlocations and other. The event exported in the zip format from the Open Event server also contains the data in JSON format. The Open Event Android application uses this JSON data. Before we use this data in the app, we have to parse the data to get Java objects that can be used for populating views. Deserialization is the process of converting JSON data to Java objects. In this post I explain how to deserialize JSON data using Jackson.

1. Add dependency

In order to use Jackson in your app add following dependencies in your app module’s build.gradle file.

dependencies {
	compile 'com.fasterxml.jackson.core:jackson-core:2.8.9'
	compile 'com.fasterxml.jackson.core:jackson-annotations:2.8.9'
	compile 'com.fasterxml.jackson.core:jackson-databind:2.8.9'
}

2.  Define entity model of data

In the Open Event Android we have so many models like event, session, track, microlocation, speaker etc. Here i am only defining track model because of it’s simplicity and less complexity.

public class Track {

	private int id;
	private String name;
	private String description;
	private String color;
	@JsonProperty("font-color")       
	private String fontColor;
    
	//getters and setters
}

Here if the property name is same as json attribute key then no need to add JsonProperty annotation like we have done for id, name color property. But if property name is different from json attribute key then it is necessary to add JsonProperty annotation.

3.  Create sample JSON data

Let’s create sample JSON format data we want to deserialize.

{
        "id": 273,
        "name": "Android",
        "description": "Sample track",
        "color": "#94868c",
        "font-color": "#000000"
}

4.  Deserialize using ObjectMapper

ObjectMapper is Jackson serializer/deserializer. ObjectMapper’s readValue() method is used for simple deserialization. It takes two parameters one is JSON data we want to deserialize and second is Model entity class. Create an ObjectMapper object and initialize it.

ObjectMapper objectMapper = new ObjectMapper();

Now create a Model entity object and initialize it with deserialized data from ObjectMapper’s readValue() method.

Track track = objectMapper.readValue(json, Track.class);

So we have converted JSON data into the Java object.

Jackson is very powerful library for JSON serialization and deserialization. To learn more about Jackson features follow the links given below.

Data Scraping using Python with BeautifulSoup4 for Open Event samples

was creating samples for Open Event Android and Open Event Webapp when the idea of web scraping through scripts stuck me.

I chose Python for web scraping. But what’s more to using Python other than it’s user-friendliness, easy syntax and speed? It’s the wide variety of open-source libraries that come along with it!

One of them is the BeautifulSoup library for extracting data from XML and HTML tags and files. It provides with ways to search and sort through webpages, find specific elements that you need and extract them in objects of your preference.

Apart from BeautifulSoup, another module that can be easily neglected but is of great use is:- urllib2. This module is to open URLs that are fed to it.

Hence, with a combination of the above 2 Python modules, I was able to scrape off the main sample data like speakers, sessions, tracks, sponsors and so on for PyCon 2017 (sample that I created recently) in a quicker and more efficient way.

I will now talk about these modules in greater detail and their use in my web scraping scripts.

Web Scraping with BeautifulSoup

Start by installing Beautifulsoup module in your Python environment. I believe that it will be best to install it using  pip.  Run the following command to install Beautifulsoup:-

pip install beautifulsoup4

Next up, you need to import the module to your script by adding the following line:-

from bs4 import BeautifulSoup

Now you need to open a webpage using the module in the following way. For that we first have to open the URL of the page that is being scraped. We use urllib2 to do that.

import urllib2
site=urllib2.urlopen("https://us.pycon.org/2017/sponsors/")

Next we use BeautifulSoup to get the contents of the webpage in the following way:-

website=BeautifulSoup(site)

Suppose that, next I want to obtain the data inside all the <div> tags in the webpage that have their class=”sponsor-level”.

I will use BeautifulSoup in the following way along with the ‘find_all’ method to do so :-

divs=website.find_all("div",{'class':'sponsor-level'})

Here, divs will now be a special <list> type element containing all the HTML in the div tags of class=’sponsor-level’. Now I can do whatever with I want with this list. Parse it in any way, store it any kind of data type without any difficulty.

BeautifulSoup also helps in accessing the children tags or elements of different HTML or XML tags using the ‘dot’ (.) operator. Following example will make it more clear:-

tag = soup.b

Here, ‘tag’ will contain all the  <b> elements of the parent element that is stored in ‘soup’ variable.

To access attributes of HTML or XML tags, there is a special way as demonstrated below:-

To access the ‘href’ attribute of the first <a> tag in the webpage:-

soup.find_all(“a”)[0][‘href’]

A sample script…

Following is a script that I used to obtain sponsors from the PyCon 2017 site in json format.

import urllib2

site=urllib2.urlopen("https://us.pycon.org/2017/sponsors/")

from bs4 import BeautifulSoup

s=BeautifulSoup(site)

divs=s.find_all("div",{'class':'sponsor-level'})

spons=[]

for level in divs:

levelname=level.find_all("h2")[0].string

level_sponsors=level.find_all("div",{'class':'sponsor'})

for level_sponsor in level_sponsors:

anchor=level_sponsor.find_all("a")

dictionary={}

dictionary['id']=""

dictionary['name']=anchor[1].string

dictionary['level']=""

dictionary['sponsor_Type']=levelname

dictionary['url']=anchor[0]['href']

dictionary['description']=level_sponsor.find_all("p")[1].string

spons.append(dictionary)

print spons

There are still a lot of other functionalities of BeautifulSoup that are available and can make your life easier. These can be found here in the official BeautifulSoup documentation.

Integration Testing of an Ember Component in Open Event Frontend

Open Event Frontend uses ember components which are reused several times throughout the project, making these components is one thing but we should also ensure they work as expected. To ensure this we need integration tests.How to write an integration test for event-map component? Three files are generated when we generate our event-map component from the command shell. They are namely:

event-map.js

event-map.hbs

event-map-test.js

We are familiar with the above three files as:

  1. event-map.js helps us to provide properties to our event-map.hbs
  2. event-map.hbs is where we define the structure of our component.
  3. event-map-test.js is where we define integration test for our component. Also, which is the current topic for discussion.

Testing

In order to test the rendering of the component, we define an integration test for that component. In integration tests we don’t have to launch our whole application and navigate to the location where our component is present. This makes it ideal for testing components. Have a look at the following sample integration test file.

import { test } from 'ember-qunit';
import moduleForComponent from 'open-event-frontend/tests/helpers/component-helper';
import hbs from 'htmlbars-inline-precompile';

moduleForComponent('public/event-map', 'Integration | Component | public/event map');

let event = Object.create({ latitude: 37.7833, longitude: -122.4167, locationName: 'Sample event location address' });

test('it renders', function(assert) {
  this.set('event', event);
  this.render(hbs `{{public/event-map event=event}}`);
  assert.equal(this.$('.address p').text(), 'Sample event location address');
});

So let’s break down this code line by line-

In the first line we have imported test from ‘ember-qunit’ (default unit testing helper suite     for Ember) which contains all the required test functions. For example, here we are using test function to check to check the rendering of our component. We can use test function multiple times to check multiple components.

Next, we are importing moduleForComponent from ‘open-event-frontend/tests/helpers/component-helper’ helper which helps in finding the component by its name.

Next,  we are importing hbs from ‘htmlbars-inline-precompile’ which basically imports precompile HTMLBars template strings within the tests via ES6 tagged template strings.

The moduleForComponent helper will find the component by name (event-map) and its template. The component we are testing here is a map-related. Therefore, to test this, we need to pass a dummy object consisting of latitude, longitude and locationName. The object data must render correctly in our app.

Inside our test function, this.set(‘event’, event) assigns a variable ( here event ) to our test context.

this.render (hbs `{{public/event-map event=event}}`) lets us create a new instance of the component by declaring the component in template syntax, as we would in our application.

assert.equal(this.$(‘.address p’).text(), ‘Sample event location address’) is basically a check between actual and expected arguments.

For a simple component like a table or a basic UI only component, it is not necessary to pass any object to the component. Only the rendered component can be tested as well. Apart from checking the component rendering we can perform tests on it by using test functions as described above. After writing the integration tests for components, simply run ember test –server on the terminal to see if all the tests have passed or not.      

Find out more about Integration testing in ember –

Ember guides, EmberIgniter

Using Dynamic segments to Reduce Code Redundancy of Recurring HTML in Open Event ember Frontend

While developing web apps, at times we require the same HTML for different pages in our app. This leads to redundancy and low code-reusability. This can be well managed in ember.js by using dynamic segments in our routes.

In Open Event Front-end we have a route named /sessions where we want to show the details of the event’s sessions and we want to categorize the sessions in all, pending, accepted, confirmed and rejected sessions hence want to create the following subroutes under it.

events/<event-id>/sessions
events/<event-id>/sessions/pending
events/<event-id>/sessions/accepted
events/<event-id>/sessions/confirmed
events/<event-id>/sessions/rejected

All of these subroutes show different data based on the routes in a table with exactly same fields. So if we use dynamic segments, we can decrease code redundancy and increase code reusability. So let us see how to add these subroutes as dynamic segments.

Firstly, we have to add a dynamic part (pending, accepted, confirmed, rejected) under our URL /sessions . For this, edit the following code snippet to the router.js file. In place of list write the name of route handler which handles our subroutes and in place of session_status write any identifier you want as session_status is the dynamic part which changes according to subroutes. In our case it will be pending, accepted, confirmed or rejected.

     this.route('sessions', function() {
        this.route('list', { path: '/:session_status' });
      });

To display all the sessions in our /sessions route, we have to edit index route handler and return data from model hook. Now when we hit  /sessions end point, the template which we are using redundantly, i.e. list.hbs, gets data from a model hook of this route handler.

Next we need to define a model hook in our list.js file which returns data for the dynamic routes. In list.js, we would want to change the title of our page according to the dynamic segments. These dynamic segments are available under model hook in this route under param parameter. We are using this.set which sets the provided key or path to the value. Make this available in titleToken function and by applying simple switch case, we can change the title dynamically.

Till now, we could access our dynamic segments by manually changing the URL. Let’s add a link to do this transition automatically for us. For this, we edit our session.hbs file and provide links using a linkto helper. One thing to take care here is that we should pass the dynamic segments along with the link-to helper.

{{#link-to 'events.view.sessions.list' 'pending' class='item'}}

Here, pending is the dynamic segment which we are passing to our route handler. Similarly, we can make the links for all our dynamic segments. Also in this template, we should provide outlets for the common template i.e list.hbs which will be reused by other dynamic subroutes. And finally, we define our reusable template in list.hbs file.

Now when we hit on different links we are redirected to different routes which are using different data but same templates. Also, we can see this transition in our URL and title.

To know more about dynamic segments refer to Ember guide.

Step by step guide for Beginners in Web Development for Open Event Frontend

Originally the frontend and backend of the Open Event Server project were handled by FLASK with jinja2 being used for rendering templates. As the size of the project grew, it became difficult to keep track of all the modifications made on the frontend side. It also increased the complexity of the code. As a result of this, a new project Open Event Frontend was developed by decoupling the backend and frontend of the Open Event Orga Server. Now the server is being converted fully into functional API and database and the open event frontend project is primarily the frontend for the Open event server API where organisers, speakers and attendees can sign-up and perform various functions.     

The Open Event Frontend project is built on JavaScript web application framework, “Ember.js”. To communicate with the server API Ember.js user Ember data which is a data persistence module via the exposed endpoints. Suppose if you’re coming from the Android background, soon after diving into the web development you can relate that the web ecosystem is much larger than the mobile one and for the first timers it can be difficult to adopt with it because of the reason that in web there are multiple ways to perform a task which can be restricted to very few in the case of Android. For web applications, one can find that much more components are involved in setting up the project while in android one can easily start contributing to project soon after compiling it in Android Studio. One thing which is relatable for both the android and web development is that in the case of android one has to deal with the varying screen sizes and compatibility issue while in the web one has to deal with adding support for different browsers and versions which can be really annoying.

Now let’s see how one can start contributing to the Open event frontend project while having no or a little knowledge of web development. In case if you’ve previous knowledge of JavaScript then you can skip the step 1 and move directly to another step which is learning the framework.

(Here all the steps have been explained in reference if you’re switching from Android  to Web development.)

Step 1. Learning the Language – JavaScript

Now that when you’ve already put your feet into the web development it’s high time to get acquainted with the JavaScript. Essentially in the case of Ember which is easy to comprehend, you can though start with learning the framework itself but the executables file are written in JavaScript so to write them you must have basic knowledge of the concepts in the language. Understanding of JavaScript will help in letting know where the language ends and where the framework starts. It will also help in better understanding of the framework. In my opinion, the basic knowledge of JavaScript like the scope of variables, functions, looping, conditional statements, modifying array and dictionaries, ‘this’ keyword etc. helps in writing and understanding the .js files easily. Also, sometimes in JavaScript, an error might not be thrown as an exception while compiling but it may evaluate the program to undefined, knowledge of the language will help in debugging the code.

Step 2. Learning the Framework – Ember

Ember is a JavaScript Framework which works on Model-View-Controller(MVC) approach. The Ember is a battery included framework which generates all the boilerplate code including components, routes. Templates etc.  required for building an application’s frontend. It is very easy to understand and comprehend. In Ember, we can easily define the data models and relationships and ember will automatically guess the correct API endpoints. Apart from this, the documentation of the ember on its website is very much sufficient to start with. One can easily start developing applications after going through the tutorial mentioned on the ember’s website.  

Step 3. Testing

In the case of Android application development to write test we use android libraries like Mockito and Robolectric. Also, testing is a bit more difficult in Android app development because we have to explicitly write the test but it is a lot easier in the case of web development. In the case of Ember, it provides an ease of testing which no other framework and libraries provide. While generating a component or template ember itself generates the test files for them and all we have to do is to change them according to our requirement. Ember generates unit, acceptance and integration tests by making testing easier. So we don’t have to write the test explicitly we only have to modify the test files generated by ember.    

Step 4. Styling

In Android we have colors.xml, styles.xml, drawables, gradients, shapes etc. for styling our application but in the case of Web, we have Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for styling our application. Simply using pure CSS make design complicated and difficult to understand, so to make it easier we combine a bunch of design elements with a style file and use Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets (Saas) with mixins to do that which makes creating styles a lot easier and more straightforward. So for styling, our web application one should have the knowledge of HTML as well as CSS.

In conclusion, I can say that learning web development requires learning a few things in parallel which includes learning a language, learning a framework, how to perform testing and different styling skills to make an application beautiful. Due to dynamic nature of the JavaScript and the sheer number of packages and components involved, as opposed to the safe environment that Android Studio provides, it can be sometimes really frustrating.  However, once learned the basics, the knowledge and skills can be easily transferred and applied over and over again.    

Testing User Interactions with Espresso

Espresso is a testing framework which provides the facility to write the tests for user interactions and unitary tests. Since the release of its version 2 it is now a part of Android Testing Support Library.

The android apps we build at FOSSASIA follow rigorous testing methods. See this simple UI test  in the Phimp.me app using espresso to check if button and bottom navigation are displayed in an activity. You can also find our other tests related to API and databases in the Open Event Android App.

In this blog we learn how to add this facility to your app and write a test for a simple app that takes the name of from the user and prints it on the other screen on button click.

Adding espresso support

  • Install android support repository if not already present. You do it by following Tools -> Android -> SDK Manager
Tools you need to download for testing
  • Add the following dependencies to your app’s build.gradle file
dependencies {
    androidTestCompile 'com.android.support.test:runner:0.5'
    androidTestCompile 'com.android.support.test:rules:0.5'
    androidTestCompile 'com.android.support.test.espresso:espresso-core:2.2.2'

}
  • Specify the test instrumentation runner in default config
android {

    defaultConfig {

        // ....

        testInstrumentationRunner "android.support.test.runner.AndroidJUnitRunner"

    }

}

Before we begin with writing our tests knowing some basic components will help in understanding the code better. Writing tests with espresso is easy as its construction is similar to English language.

The three major components are 

  • ViewActions        : Allows you to interact with views
  • ViewAssertions   : Allows you to assert the state of a view.
  • ViewMatchers     : Allows you to locate a view in the current view hierarchy.

Suppose we want to test if text is displayed in the view, we can do it by

onView(withId(R.id.textView))                              //ViewMatcher

 .perform(click())                                         //ViewAction

 .check(matches(isDisplayed()));                           //ViewAssertion

Example

Consider an app which takes a name from the user and displays it on the next screen on clicking the button.

To perform this kind of test we will write

//Locate the view with id "name" and type the text "Natalie"

onView(withId(R.id.name)).perform(typeText("Natalie"));

//Locate the view with id "next" and click on it

onView(withId(R.id.next)).perform(click());

//Locate the view with id "new_name" and check its text is equal with "Natalie"

onView(withId(R.id.new_name)).check(matches(withText("Natalie")));

You can run tests by right clicking on the class and selecting the “run test” option. If the interaction is not as expected then the message will be displayed.

Up until now unit test were in main focus but as we move towards the more complex apps where user interaction plays an essential role, UI testing becomes equally necessary.

References:

ButterKnife for Open Event Android

Open Event Android, by FOSSASIA has been coded in a very clean and systematic manner. One of the great things used in it is the ButterKnife library. It has made increased the readability and understand ability of the app’s code.

ButterKnife, developed and maintained by Jake Wharton(Square Inc.) is an Android library designed to make Java code less complex and efficient. The library operates with the use of annotations and hence, binds classes to the relevant annotations in Java and do the job.

First off, here’s the very first thing that you want to do before starting to use ButterKnife — Adding it’s dependency in the build.gradle file of your project.

compile 'com.jakewharton:butterknife:8.6.0
annotationProcessor 'com.jakewharton:butterknife-compiler:8.6.0'

At FOSSASIA, we have extensively used this amazing library to simplify the code for our Open Event Android application. I hope this blog will help newcomers in understanding our code base in a better way.

We have the famous @Bindview annotation by ButterKnife to bind views to Android components without having to call R.FindViewById() method for every view. The following is a code sample from Open Event Android about the same.

@BindView(R.id.toolbar) Toolbar toolbar;

@BindView(R.id.nav_view) NavigationView navigationView;

@BindView(R.id.progress) ProgressBar downloadProgress;

@BindView(R.id.layout_main) CoordinatorLayout mainFrame;

@BindView(R.id.drawer) DrawerLayout drawerLayout;

@BindView(R.id.appbar) AppBarLayout appBarLayout;

Similarly, the ButterKnife library also handles events in an Android application and has annotations like @onClick, @onLongClick among others. So while using ButterKnife for an event, choose the appropriate event and the corresponding annotation followed by the Java method that is to be executed. Here is an example for the same.

@OnClick(R.id.submit)

public void submit(View view) {

// TODO submit data to server...

}

The ButterKnife library also helps to bind resources in your project.

It simplifies the View holder pattern inside a list adapter as illustrated in the following example.

public class MyAdapter extends BaseAdapter {

@Override public View getView(int position, View view, ViewGroup parent) {

   ViewHolder holder;

   if (view != null) {

     holder = (ViewHolder) view.getTag();

   } else {

     view = inflater.inflate(R.layout.whatever, parent, false);

     holder = new ViewHolder(view);

     view.setTag(holder);

   }

   holder.name.setText("John Doe");

   // etc...

   return view;

 }

static class ViewHolder {

   @BindView(R.id.title) TextView name;

   @BindView(R.id.job_title) TextView jobTitle;

   public ViewHolder(View view) {

     ButterKnife.bind(this, view);

   }

 }

}

The above code sample has been taken from http://jakewharton.github.io/butterknife/ and you can visit the site for further in-depth knowledge on ButterKnife.

How ButterKnife works?

I will be talking a bit about the working of the ButterKnife library. Firstly, I would like to introduce annotations concept in Java briefly before proceeding.

“In the Java, computer programming language, an annotation is a form of syntactic metadata that can be added to Javasource code. Classes, methods, variables, parameters and packages may be annotated.” As it is rightly said, Annotations can be of various uses like Getting information for the compiler, Compile-time and deployment-time processing, Runtime processing. However, please note that annotations can NOT modify and edit the existing classes. They can simply make more classes.

With this, I’m gonna continue on the working of ButterKnife. From the above discussion it must be clear now that ButterKnife is not changing any of our classes. It makes new classes to handle the code.

ButterKnife goes through all the files in your project and identifies the ButterKnife annotations used, if any. It then creates new classes for every annotation encountered, based on the annotations used. These new classes contain the general methods that would have been used in a project without ButterKnife. When we finally call ButterKnife.inject(this) , the inject()of all the new classes made by ButterKnife are called which then perform the desired function during execution.

Finally, try to go through the complete documentation for Butterknife and Java annotations for more information. 

Intro to concurrency and Refactoring Open Event Android using RxJava

Functional reactive programming seems to have taken the whole development world by storm. It’s one of the hottest thing even after 2 years of constant traction in the communities of several programming languages, where different implementations of the specifications defined by Rx or Reactive Extensions have changed the paradigm of programming for many professional and enthusiast developers.

RxJava is no exception, not only has it been widely adopted by Android and Java developers unanimously, but also received attention of well known and top developers of both communities. The reason of its success is the fluent API with heavy toolset it provides from the Functional Programming paradigm and its ease and natural ability to handle concurrency on different levels based on the type of operation being performed, i.e., computations, I/O, etc. It basically takes away the several constraints and concurrency related checklists developers had to maintain while working with thread management. So, now, developers can’t make an excuse for using database operations on the Main Thread because offloading it on another thread is hard.

So, in this blog post, I will be detailing the process of converting the existing synchronous code of your app into a performant reactive code without breaking the structure of your project, like we did in Open Event Android (Github Repo). Before starting, I have assumed that you know how to add RxJava dependency to your project as it is covered in many other blog posts and the documentation is also very clear. Secondly, you should also add RxAndroid dependency as it contains the Scheduler needed to work on Android’s Main Thread. So, Let’s start.

Current State

Currently, our code loads the queries from database synchronously on Main Thread using the SQLiteDatabase for an Android application. This is how it looks like –

As we can see, we are directly returning the loaded results to the caller. This is called synchronous call, meaning the caller will block till the function is returned, and can’t move further to do anything else. It basically waits for the function to return, which may take hundreds of milliseconds to seconds based on the function it performs.

New Android version crash the applications that perform Network interactions on the main thread but no such restriction for disk based operations is there, making it hard to enforce best performance practices. Before RxJava, there were interfaces made for different kinds of objects, passed in as parameters of the db request function, which created a new thread and performed operations and when completed, returned back the results to the main thread using the postOnUiThread method, so that the views could update themselves. The interface implementations passed are called callbacks because they call a particular function that you provide back when the asynchronous operation is completed. Even the calling of callback function is delegated on the implementor and may result in undesired effects. The query done in this fashion is called an asynchronous query because the execution of this takes place in parallel with main thread and is not synchronised with the main thread. It may take up forever to complete, complete even before the main thread moved on to next operation or even return when the main thread was completed and done waiting for it and destroyed. This will result in a weird crash even when the application was closed, because the returned function will try to update the views which are not even there.

Problems like these made Android Devs lazy and compromise with the performance of their application. Not anymore! RxJava is here to solve half of our problems. You see, RxJava does provide a solution to achieve effortless concurrency but does not ensure thread safety, memory contention, race conditions, deadlocks and other concurrency related issues for you. These you must code up for yourself.

So, after the introduction of Rx and its dire need in Android projects, we will move on to a basic procedure to convert any synchronous code to asynchronous call using RxJava Observable.

Let’s subscribe

The Observable class in RxJava is the most used and standard stream class you will use. Observable handles a stream of object and passes them as they arrive to the Subscriber attached to it. As you may guess, for a stream of data that arrives in a non deterministic fashion ( we don’t know when it will arrive ), we require an asynchronous query, and this is where RxJava excels at. You can configure an Observable to wait for result in one thread so that main thread doesn’t block and deliver result on another thread. You can either create a new thread or use certain pre configured schedulers for basic type of operations :

  1. Schedulers.newThread() : Creates a new thread for each request
  2. Schedulers.io() : For I/O bound work like a network call, database access
  3. Schedulers.computation() : For heavy computations
  4. AndroidSchedulers.mainThread() : For returning to UI thread of Android ( Present in RxAndroid )

There are other types of Schedulers like Schedulers.trampoline(), etc that are used for other purposes like testing, but the above ones are most commonly used ones and we’ll be using Schedulers.computation() for loading the SQLite query on the thread from Computation Thread Pool and AndroidSchedulers.mainThread() for delivering the result on UI thread.

Using Computation instead of I/O because I/O uses unbounded executor, meaning it continues adding threads to the thread pool, which isn’t good. So, we use computation instead. You can create your own bounded executor and pass it as a scheduler

The basic operation of passing an object to a subscriber is :

Observable.just(getEventDetails())
        .subscribe(new Consumer<Event>() {
          @Override
          public void accept(@NonNull Event event) throws Exception {
              Log.d("EVENT", event.toString());
          }
      });

 

Using lambda notation, we get a terse form of the same :

Observable.just(getEventDetails())
 	.subscribe(event -> Log.d("EVENT", event.toString()));

We’ll be using lambda notations from now on.

In the above example, we are just loading and passing the Event object to the subscriber below who logs it. But this is not asynchronous, everything gets executed on main thread. The above code is equivalent to :

Event event = getEventDetails();
Log.d("EVENT", event.toString());

 

So why use it, you say? Well, we can still get a lot of goodies from functional programming this way. For example,

String track = "Android";

Observable.fromIterable(getSessionList())
    .filter(session -> session.getTrack().getName().equals(track))
    .map(Session::getTitle)
    .toList()
    .subscribe(titles -> Log.d("Titles", titles.toString()));

 

What this code does is, take a list of sessions and emit each session at a time, filter out the ones which don’t have Android as their track name, take out their titles and puts them in a list and gives it to subscriber.

Now imagine doing it in plain Java. Create a list of string, loop through each session, check track, push title to that list and this much when this example is the most basic of use cases of RxJava.

But how to achieve concurrency. If the there are 10000 sessions, this code will take huge time even if sessions are in memory and not loaded from database. So we will listen to these list events on computation thread.

Observable.fromIterable(getSessionList())
    .filter(session -> session.getTrack().getName().equals(track))
    .map(Session::getTitle)
    .subscribeOn(Schedulers.computation())
    .subscribe(titles -> adapter.setItems(titles));

 

That’s it. Now each filtering and mapping and converging to a list is done on another thread.

If you want to listen to each session one at a time, and not all at once when it is completed, you can remove toList() operator

But now, our app will crash! Because when we deliver the result to subscriber, we are still on computation thread, so we need to come back to Main Thread because Android Views are not thread safe, meaning they cannot be accessed from any thread other than UI thread. So in order to do that, we just use observeOn() operator :

Observable.fromIterable(getSessionList())
    .filter(session -> session.getTrack().getName().equals(track))
    .map(Session::getTitle)
    .toList()
    .subscribeOn(Schedulers.computation())
    .observeOn(AndroidSchedulers.mainThread())
    .subscribe(titles -> adapter.setItems(titles));

 

Still, our code has a critical problem, the mapping and filtering takes place on background thread, but the loading of session list still takes place on UI thread because it is loaded first and then passed to Observable

Observable methods like just, from, fromIterable, etc all take object from the current thread, meaning passing the object to these functions will not occur on the Scheduler you have supplied. This is very basic programming concept that language parses rightmost parameter first but usually is misunderstood in terms of Rx programming.

So, what do we do? We use fromCallable which waits till the containing function returns and then operates on it

Observable.fromCallable(this::getSessionList)
    .flatMapIterable(sessions -> sessions)
    .filter(session -> session.getTrack().getName().equals(track))
    .map(Session::getTitle)
    .toList()
    .subscribeOn(Schedulers.computation())
    .observeOn(AndroidSchedulers.mainThread())
    .subscribe(titles -> adapter.setItems(titles));

 

We’re done! We have changed our synchronous database call to an asynchronous call.

Another use case is when you just have to do an operation asynchronously and not return anything, then fromCallable won’t work as it expects some return value to operate on, instead use Completable

Completable.fromAction(this::clearDatabase)
    .subscribeOn(Schedulers.computation())
    .observeOn(AndroidSchedulers.mainThread())
    .subscribe(() -> {
        // Completed
        showToast("Success");
    });

 

Note that here we use method reference to call a function, you can just pass in a lambda or Action implementation to do some in place work like this

Completable.fromAction(() -> {
    doSomeStuff();
    // ...
    doOtherStuff(); 
}).subscribeOn(Schedulers.computation())
  .observeOn(AndroidSchedulers.mainThread())
  .subscribe(() -> {
      // Completed
      showToast("Success");
  });

 

Now, you can wrap all your slow methods into observable or completable without changing any code structure and your code will look like this :

On parting note, a trick to avoid repeated subscribeOn observeOn :

private <T> ObservableTransformer<T, T> applySchedulers() {
    return upstream -> upstream.subscribeOn(Schedulers.computation())
                               .observeOn(AndroidSchedulers.mainThread());
}

 

Create this function and just call compose on each Observable and call the function inside that, passing the transformer., like it is shown in the picture above

That’s it for now. Have a happy and lag free day!