November 12, 2015

Adding Custom Class Properties with Swift Extensions

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:59 pm by tetontech

The previous posting, Functionally Dreaming with Swift, was an exploration of what is possible when coding for iOS and OS X. As part of the code example I ran across the need to uniquely identify any given user interface element in Interface Builder (IB). One commonly explored way to do this is to use the restoration ID of a UIView as a unique identifier. But this has nothing to do with restoration id’s regular use. Using it for uniqueness but not restoration behavior doesn’t pass ‘the smell test.’ It abuses an existing property and can cause restoration behavior when it is not wanted.

What, then, is a poor Swift programmer to do? Swift extensions can’t add stored properties.

There is a solution. IB has the ability to apply Key-Value coding to any User Interface (UI) element but only for existing properties. Somehow stored properties have to be mocked-up so we can take advantage of IB’s Key-Value coding application. This is actually easier than one would think.

Let’s start by dropping IB from the picture so we can keep things simple. Imagine for some reason you wanted to extend all UIViews (this would include UIButtons, UILabels, UIImageViews, etc.) to have a stored property called sillyName. If all went well then you would be able to set the sillyName attribute in the ViewController’s viewDidLoad method.

Image 1: Setting a property added by an extension.

Image 1: Setting a property added by an extension.

Image 1 shows how this would look. Since sillyName would be like any other property it would be set in Swift’s normal way. You would also get the value by putting

let aSillyName = self.view.sillyName

in your code. The way to make this possible it to mock up a custom property.

In Swift, private declarations of structs is allowed in many places. Extensions is one of those places. Let’s draw on that and Swift’s ability to create calculated extension properties. Image 2 shows how to mock up a sillyName stored property as part of an extension.

Image 2: The source code for mocking up a stored property.

Image 2: The source code for mocking up a stored property.

Lines 27 – 29 embed a private struct into an extension. It is important to understand that this is different than attempting to add a named value (let) or a variable (var) to UIView as a part of the extension. In this case there is no instance of SillyCustomProperties created.

Instead of using an instance, we will use it ‘statically.’ This allows us to write code like line 32. In that line of code, the static struct property is accessed and returned from the get method of the extension’s calculated sillyName property. The sillyName calculated property is defined on line 30 as a String Optional and the setter is defined on lines 34 – 36.

This is a lot of fun, but there is a significant problem with the code in Image 2. The struct and its static values are shared among all UIView instances. That means that there could only be one sillyName and it would be applied to ALL UIViews. Each time it was set it would be updated for all UIViews. This means that we don’t yet have the ability to use this approach to apply unique identifiers to UIViews. If we tried they would all share the same ID. That is NOT good. To solve this problem we need to apply a little Objective-C ‘magic’.

Since UIView’s are instances of Classes and custom key-value pairs CAN be added to any class instance, we can ‘calculate’ a Swift property by storing and retrieving a value using Objective-C Key-Value coding. This can look a little nasty since we will need to call C functions and pass pointers.

Image 3: Mocking stored properties with unique values.

Image 3: Mocking stored properties with unique values.

Image 3 contains the ‘magic.’ Let’s replace the bodies of the get and set methods. In the new get method body, the objc_getAssociatedObject function retrieves the value associated with a custom key using Objective-C Key-Value coding. The function has two parameters. The first is the class instance that has the custom key and value. In this example it will be a UIView since we passed self and UIView is what we have extended.

The second parameter is the key for which we want the value. Line 40 shows the NSString pointer to the memory location of sillyName being passed. The & is what forces the parameter to be a pointer. NSString is inferred by the compiler since objc_getAssociatedObject requires an void*, C’s version of Swift’s AnyObject type, as its second parameter. If you would like more information on how to interact with C functions there is an earlier post about that.

The objc_setAssociatedObject is similar to objc_getAssociedObject but has one additional parameter, an indicator stating  the memory for the NSString created as a result of calling the function should be retained rather than released. This reserves the memory used for the NSString until we decide to get rid of it  (I.E. replace the value associated with sillyName with some other string). Now we can assign unique values to any type of UIView in interface builder.

Image 4: Setting Key-Value pairs using Interface Builder.

Image 4: Setting Key-Value pairs using Interface Builder.

Image 3 shows a UIImageView and the Identity Inspector’s (the blue icon in the Utilities list) description of the view. The section titled, “User Defined Runtime Attributes” is IB’s location where you can assign values to the properties of the UIView. In this case the value ‘squiggles’ is assigned to the sillyName property. Since sillyName was mocked up as a stored property of all UIViews by our extension, this definition does not cause a compile-time failure like it would if we hadn’t mocked up sillyName.

With all these pieces in place, we can modify this approach so we can meet the need for unique identifiers for any view. The code for this is almost exactly the same as what you have already seen. As seen in Image 5, the only differences are the name of the Struct and the name of the struct’s String property. Ignore the Bool properties. They are for something else entirely.

Image 5: Mocking up SwiftlyFunctional's uniqueID

Image 5: Mocking up SwiftlyFunctional’s uniqueID

So there you are. This pattern can be used to add ‘stored’ properties to classes. I you want to see how the Unique ID was set for this code look in the Functionally Dreaming with Swift posting.


November 10, 2015

Functionally Dreaming with Swift

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:16 pm by tetontech

Making iOS or OS X apps using a functional programming approach means dealing with a lot of application pieces designed using an Object Oriented (OO) approach if you use the default templates and libraries. The user interface (UI) and the data transmission and storage behaviors for both OS’s are heavily object oriented. This dramatically restricts the space where functional programming designs and techniques can be applied.

Having experienced this restriction I decided to explore what iOS development would be like if the UI behaviors were functional rather than OO in their design. Swift, much more than Objective-C, enables this kind of exploration so I created a Swift example of what could be done. I call it SwiftlyFunctional and an example Xcode project is in my gitHub repository.

Swift uses pass-by-reference for instances of classes and pass by value for structs. To have a ‘truly’ functional approach the UI Elements of iOS and OS X would have to be changed to be structs. That isn’t going to happen and I have no desire to write struct wrappers for the many different types of UI elements in iOS and OS X. It wouldn’t be impossible, but is outside of the scope of what I wanted to explore. I’m chose to ignore this problem as part of my dreaming.

When laying out what I hoped to accomplish, I decided I still wanted to be able to use Interface Builder (IB) to design and layout the UI, but not be restricted to using the Object Oriented (OO) design enforced by the current Xcode templates. Because of this, I decided to dump working with the ApplicationDelegate and ViewController classes generated in a new iOS and OS X projects.  Instead of using the ViewController class to add IBAction Selectors to UI elements and gesture recognizers as is traditionally done, I  wanted to use Swift functions and closures to handle UI events.

With these goals in mind, I began my dreaming. What I show here is what I came up with but it is only one of many ways this could be done. I’ll show you how to use the SwiftlyFunctional code in this posting. In subsequent postings I’ll describe how some of the more interesting portions of the code work.

Image 1: The structure of a SwiftlyFunctional app

Image 1: The structure of a SwiftlyFunctional app

Let’s start with the structure of a functional iOS app. Image 1 shows that the ApplicationDelegate.swift and ViewController.swift files are gone. Instead you can see the SwiftlyFunc.swift and Main.swift files. You can call Main.swift anything you would like except for main.swift. The capitalization is important. If you try to use main.swift you will get a compilation error. This is likely due to the hidden files in all Swift apps that allow for Objective-C interactions. The file main.h is part of the default Objective-C projects.

Main.swift is where you will begin writing the code for your application. It contains the main(application:userView:launchReasons) function. This function acts somewhat similar to the C main function and is the where the app will start running your code.

the main function, as you can see in the example code, is where you can attach Swift functions or closures to application events such as ‘did become active’ and UI elements like buttons, images and labels.

In the example source code, and in Image 2, you can see an example of adding a closure for the ‘did become active’ application event.

Image 2: Attaching a closure to an Application level event.

The addApplicationEventHandler(application:theEventType) function is part of the SwiftlyFunctional API. It can be used to add a closure to any app event except application(didFinishLaunchingWithOptions:launchOptions). That one happens much earlier than will be captured and made available for closures. The addApplicationEventHandler function has three parameters, the application running (this is the first parameter of the main function), an enum for the type of application event to map to, and a closure with no parameters and a void return. In image two the closure only prints a string to the console, but you would be able to perform any computation normally associated with a ‘did become active’ event in iOS.

Image 3: The types of events that can be linked to closures.

Image 3: The types of events that can be linked to closures.

image 3 contains the complete list of Application events to which SwifltyFunctional can add closures or function. If other events are added by Apple they can be easily added to the enum.

Assigning closures to events for UIControl elements such as Buttons is nearly the same. One major difference is the closure must be associated with an event triggered by a specific UI element. In the case of the example, this is a UIButton. To make this possible, a reference to the button is needed. The SwiftlyFunctional API has a method, getViewByUniqueID(containingView:anID).

The first parameter passed to getViewByUniqueID in Image 4 is ‘userView.’ This UIView is the same as the second parameter of the main function and represents the topmost view of the view controller in the view hierarchy created in IB.

Image 4: Attaching closures to UIButton events.

The second parameter is the type of event, TouchDown and TouchUpInside for this code snippet. These event types are part of of the standard iOS library UIControlEvents struct. Like the addApplicationEventHandler function, the last parameter is the closure to activate when the event of touchEventType occurs.

Closures can also be attached to gestureRecognizers. In the SwiftlyFunctional example project users Interface Builder to add a TapGestureRecognizer to chalk.png’s UIImageView. The TapGestureRecognizer and the UIImageView both have a uinqueID added to them using KeyPaths. You can see how this is done by examining the right-hand side of Image 5.

Image 5: UITapGestureRecognizer for a UIImageView.

Set up this way, the SwiftlyFunctional’s getViewByUniqueID, getGestureRecognizerByUniqueID, and addTouchEventHandler functions can be used to find the recognizer and attach a closure to it (See Image 6).

Image 6: Attaching a closure to a UIGestureRecognizer event.

Unlike closures for UIControls such as UIButtons, no UIEvent object is passed to the closure by SwiftlyFunctional. UIGestureRecognizers contain the information obtainable from UIEvents. Notice that the location of the tap in the UIImageView is directly available without getting or using a Set of UITouches like you saw in the UIButton code snippet.

So there it is. Now closures can be attached to Application, UIControl, and UIGestureRecognizer events using a functional rather than an OO approach. Take a look at the example project, specifically the SwiftlyFunc.swift file, to see how this was done. I’ll follow up this posting with a couple of explanations of the SwiftlyFunctional code.

November 3, 2015

SwiftlyHybrid and AndyHybrid

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:28 pm by tetontech

In several of my previous posts over the last seven years I’ve described how to use web views with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript to develop installable apps for both iOS and Android. The earliest examples lead to the creation of QuickConnect (QC) and influenced the development of its first competitor, PhoneGap/Cordova. Those tools and others like them included extensive ‘bridging code’ to enable calls to Objective-C or Java and then back to JavaScript so the weaknesses of the older versions of the web views could be overcome.

As the iOS and Android web views’ capabilities have grown, the need to augment them with additional native iOS and Android code has decreased. Now audio and video can be recorded and played within the web views. Pictures can be taken and voices can be used to read text. Data can be easily stored and retrieved from local and remote stores. Nearly all of the functionality developers now need is encapsulated in the web views. Because of the continual growth of HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, and web view support for them, heavy and complicated tools like QC and PhoneGap/Cordova are no longer needed. Instead much lighter and more standardized tools can be used. I’ve created SwiftlyHybrid and AndyHybrid to show what can be done. You’ll find each of them in their gitHub repositories. They are MIT licensed so feel free to do anything you like with them. SwiftlyHybrid has iOS and OS X example projects and AndyHybrid includes an Android Studio example project.

SwiftlyHybrid uses Apple’s WKWebView and the Swift programming language. AndyHybrid uses Google’s WebView that ships with Lollipop and Marshmallow. (Google claims this version of WebView will degrade gracefully when running on older Android OS versions.) Over time, the API’s for these two web views and their HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript support have been converging. This means it is easier to write hybrid apps than ever before.

For both SwiftlyHybrid and AndyHybrid nearly all applications will only need to replace the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files with custom ones and be done. For those few apps that still need to do something not possible in the web views’ sandbox I’ve created a standardized way to call from JavaScript to Swift or Android and get results back. HTML5 support and this bridge help SwiftlyHybrid and AndyHybrid use less RAM and CPU than the older QC and PhoneGap/Cordova tools, yet they are less complicated, and just as capable.

If you want to make calls down to Swift for iOS or Java for Android using one or both of these tools, the JavaScript code is the same. Here is a silly example that works for Both SwiftlyHybrid and AndyHybrid. In the example a message is put together and then past to the native code using the postMessage method.

var clicks = 0
function sendCount(){
    var message = {"cmd":"increment","count":clicks,
        var response = JSON.parse(responseAsJSON)
        clicks = response['count']
        document.querySelector("#messages_from_java").innerText = 
                                                  "Count is "+clicks

The message is a JavaScript associative array. it contains the command “increment” and some data, the current value of the “clicks” variable, and a callback function. Calling the postMessage function provided by both SwiftlyHybrid and AndyHybrid will convert the message associative array into JSON and send it to the native code portion of your app. In order for the callback function to be passed, it must be converted to a string otherwise the JSON library will strip it out. Since this message isn’t going across the internet or an internal network we don’t have to worry about XSS attacks so executing the string in the native code as JavaScript isn’t a security issue.

The Swift code for handling the message is in the SwiftlyMessageHandler.swift file in the SwiftlyHybrid example. It looks like this:

let command = sentData["cmd"] as! String
        var response = Dictionary<String,AnyObject>()
        if command == "increment"{
            guard var count = sentData["count"] as? Int else{
            response["count"] = count
        let callbackString = sentData["callbackFunc"] as? String
        sendResponse(response, callback: callbackString)

The current count is first pulled from the data sent from JavaScript. It is incremented and then SwiftlyHybrid’s sendResponse method is used to execute the callback JavaScript function using the response dictionary as a parameter to the JavaScript callback function.

The Java code for AndyHybrid is very similar. It is in the file.

HashMap<String, Object> message = (HashMap) JSONUtilities.parse(aMessageAsJSON);
String command = (String)message.get("cmd");
Serializable response = null;
       long count = (long)message.get("count");
       HashMap<String,Object> dataMap = new HashMap<>();
       response = dataMap;
String asyncCallback = (String) message.get("callbackFunc");
sendResponse(response, asyncCallback);

In both languages the command is retrieved from the associative array generated from the JSON message string, the count is also retrieved and incremented, a response is created containing the updated count, and the response is passed to the callback JavaScript function. The callback, in both cases, is executed within the web view and in the web view’s thread.

Having shown you the JavaScript, Swift, and Android Java to do communication between the two ‘layers’ of hybrid apps, I must say again, seldom is this type of inter-thread communication needed. Most of what you will want to do can be done directly in JavaScript, HTML, and CSS.

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