Category Archives: Xaml

Performance of loading Xaml dynamically in Xamarin.Forms

As I mentioned in a previous post, you can quite easily load Xaml dynamically in your Xamarin.Forms App. But how about performance? How long does it take in comparison to “regular” loading of pre-compiled Xaml.

It’s anything but easy to really measure this. We could eventually use LoadFromXaml and measure the differences. I decided to create DataTemplates and use the CreateContent() method to create the actual Control.

<DataTemplate x:Key="Test1">
<Grid>
    <Grid.RowDefinitions>
        <RowDefinition Height="auto" />
        <RowDefinition Height="*" />

    </Grid.RowDefinitions>
    <Label Text="Hello World!" />
    <Button Grid.Row="1" Text="Press me" />
</Grid>
</DataTemplate>
<DataTemplate x:Key="Test2">
    <dynamiccontrol:XamlView>
        <dynamiccontrol:XamlView.Xaml>
            <![CDATA[
            <Grid>
                <Grid.RowDefinitions>
                    <RowDefinition Height="auto" />
                    <RowDefinition Height="*" />

                </Grid.RowDefinitions>
                <Label Text="Hello World!" />
                <Button Grid.Row="1" Text="Press me" />
            </Grid>
            ]]>
        </dynamiccontrol:XamlView.Xaml>
    </dynamiccontrol:XamlView>
           
</DataTemplate>

You can see that the Xaml is quite easy, but loading it dynamically takes over 20 times longer than compiled Xaml.

I tried to create 10,000 controls and measured the following values:
Compiled Xaml: 5.8s
Dynamic Xaml: 133.1s

I know the test is not very representative, but you should always keep in mind that there may be a performance problem when using this method. Especially when you want to create dynamic Layouts in ListViews.

You can slightly boost performance (5-10%), when you load the whole DataTemplate from Xaml, and then create the Control with it.

Dynamic DataTemplate: 124s

Dynamically create controls in Xamarin Forms

This is a very broad topic. You can actually always dynamically create controls in code behind, by just adding them to the UI during runtime. This is very easy, but it’s not generic at all, you need to code everything you would actually do in Xaml.

Another solution (which I actually prefer) is to use a ListLayout (maybe a Bindable StackLayout) and use a TemplateSelector to switch between pre defined DataTemplates based on the ViewModel, that is being used. But this will actually not give you more flexibility, but it’s definitely a better solution than the first shot.

We actually want something really flexible, we try to achieve instanciating an unknown Xaml from whatever source we have (Text, Internet, UserInput,.. ), and even provide binding to further use the UserInput in ViewModel. So there are 2 parts to this:
1. load xaml during runtime,
2. somehow achieve binding.

When you have a look in your obj-folder of a compiled Xamarin app, you will find a file called something like “MainPage.xaml.g.cs”

[global::Xamarin.Forms.Xaml.XamlFilePathAttribute("MainPage.xaml")]
    public partial class MainPage : global::Xamarin.Forms.ContentPage {
        
        [global::System.CodeDom.Compiler.GeneratedCodeAttribute("Xamarin.Forms.Build.Tasks.XamlG", "2.0.0.0")]
        private void InitializeComponent() {
            global::Xamarin.Forms.Xaml.Extensions.LoadFromXaml(this, typeof(MainPage));
        }
    }

There is another overload of the global extension function Xamarin.Forms.Xaml.Extensions.LoadFromXaml(..) which takes a string representation of your xaml to create a control.

We can use this, to create a ContentControl with a BindableProperty, which creates the given Xaml at runtime.

public class XamlView : ContentView
{
       
    public static readonly BindableProperty XamlProperty =
                            BindableProperty.Create(nameof(Xaml), typeof(string), typeof(XamlView), propertyChanged: OnXamlChanged);

    private static void OnXamlChanged(BindableObject bindable, object oldValue, object newValue)
    {
        try
        {
            var xamlView = (XamlView)bindable;
            ContentView view = new ContentView();
            // we add the default xaml namespace to our surrounding ContentView,
            // so it doesn't need to be defined in xaml
            view = view.LoadFromXaml("" +
                (xamlView.Xaml ?? string.Empty) +
                "");
            xamlView.Content = view;
        }
        catch (Exception ex)
        {
            // we should actually handle that exception, maybe put it on the screen as label
        }
    }

    public string Xaml
    {
        get => (string)GetValue(XamlProperty);
        set => SetValue(XamlProperty, value);
    }
}

usage:

<Grid BackgroundColor="Red">
    <Grid.RowDefinitions>
        <RowDefinition Height="*" />
        <RowDefinition Height="*" />
    </Grid.RowDefinitions>
    <Entry x:Name="XamlEditor" Text="{Binding ContentXaml}" />
    <dynamiccontrol:XamlView
        Grid.Row="1"
        Xaml="{Binding ContentXaml}" />
</Grid>

You could also bind the XamlView.Xaml directly to an Entry.Text using ReferenceBinding, but I prefer using a ViewModel instead.

And this is how it looks like:
XamlView

In my next post, I will talk about binding the Data from the XamlView to a ViewModel.

Move Controls in Xamarin.Forms App with your finger

…or Mouse.. or Pen.. or nose, whatever you like. In WPF this is very easy accomplished, because Drag&Drop is a main UI feature in Windows. Each OS implements this feature slightly different, that’s why there is no such generic solution for all platforms. Microsoft proposes a solution called TouchEffect, which implements a specific Effect for each platform. (https://docs.microsoft.com/de-de/xamarin/xamarin-forms/app-fundamentals/effects/touch-tracking)

But there is still another and quite simple solution, you can use gestures (esp. the PanGesture) for that, with slight limitations.

MoveViewXamarin

The PanGesture

The PanGesture is actually a touch based Drag&Drop. You put the finger down on the screen and moved it around until you raise your finger. The PanGesture will always fire it’s event while the finger is moving around and will be quitted with the coordinates (0,0)

The Implementation

The implementation is quite simple, actually there are only a few lines of code:
1. when panning starts: save current Translation of View
2. while panning: set translation to the starting value + panning value
3. when panning finished: reset variable for starting value

Developers are lazy people, we don’t want to copy that implementation on every View. So the trick is, to use an attached property, so we can use it on every View and even bind it to a ViewModel.

The Code

public static class MoveView
{
    #region attached properties: CanMove
    public static readonly BindableProperty CanMoveProperty =
            BindableProperty.CreateAttached("CanMove", typeof(bool), typeof(View), false,
                propertyChanged: OnCanMoveChanged);

    private static void OnCanMoveChanged(BindableObject bindable, object oldValue, object newValue)
    {
        if ((bool)newValue && bindable is View view)
        {
            PanGestureRecognizer pangest = new PanGestureRecognizer();
            pangest.PanUpdated += Pangest_PanUpdated;
            view.GestureRecognizers.Add(pangest);
        }
    }
    public static bool GetCanMove(BindableObject bindable)
    {
        return (bool)bindable.GetValue(CanMoveProperty);
    }

    public static void SetCanMove(BindableObject bindable, bool value)
    {

        bindable.SetValue(CanMoveProperty, value);
    }
    #endregion

    // saves the translation state on start, it's okay to have it static
    // because we can only move one item at a time
    static Point? _translationStart = null;
    private static void Pangest_PanUpdated(object sender, PanUpdatedEventArgs e)
    {
        if (sender is View view)
        {
            if (e.TotalX == 0 && e.TotalY == 0)
            {
                // movement has end, reset
                _translationStart = null;
            }
            else
            {
                if (_translationStart == null)
                {
                    (view.Parent as Layout)?.RaiseChild(view);
                    _translationStart = new Point(view.TranslationX, view.TranslationY);
                }
                view.TranslationX = e.TotalX + _translationStart.Value.X;
                view.TranslationY = e.TotalY + _translationStart.Value.Y;
            }

        }
    }
}

Usage

 <Frame BorderColor="Red" BackgroundColor="Bisque"
                   dashboard:MoveView.CanMove="True"
                   HeightRequest="100" VerticalOptions="Center"
                 />

Limitations

– only when the parent is a layout, it will raise the View that is moved to the topmost position (only in respect to the parent, not overall)
– you can simply move the View outside of its parent, but then you will not be able to move it back in

Please feel free to use the code and change it as you like. If you find bugs, you may fix them. I would also be happy if you leave me some notes.

Xamarin.Forms FlowLayout

Motivation

I recently faced the challenge to add Items of different sizes to a Page on a Xamarin.Forms App. The result should be some kind of a Dashboard with Diagrams and info boxes on it. Some diagrams are smaller, some bigger.

The first thing, that came in mind, was a FlexLayout, but this looks a little bit odd to me, because the controls on the main axis share the same size in the secondary axis. That is okay if all controls have the same height or width, but this is not the case.

FlexLayout Xamarin.Forms App

But what I actually want is something like this:

FlowLayout - Xamarin.Forms App

It’s very tough to arrange the children of a Layout, when every control has a free size defined. To solve this problem, we need to divide the available area in uniform sections. Using this approach, each control can define it’s size in units, and will be placed on the next available free spot.

Simulator Screen Shot - iPhone 11 - 2020-02-20 at 22.30.18

The Algorithm

  1. The FlowLayout needs a UnitSizeRequested in pixels, we need to calculate how many items can fit vertically and horizontally based on a size of a unit. Afterwards we need to find the actual UnitWidth and UnitHeight so that the whole area of the control is used.
  2. There need to be two attached properties for the child elements, so each element can specify its HorizontalUnits and VerticalUnits.
  3. Finally we create an array as a representation of the FlowLayout so we can arrange the Controls on it.

The Code

using System;

using Xamarin.Forms;

namespace Dashboard
{
    public class FlowLayout : AbsoluteLayout
    {
        #region attached properties: HorizontalUnitsProperty
        public static readonly BindableProperty HorizontalUnitsProperty =
                BindableProperty.CreateAttached("HorizontalUnits", typeof(int), typeof(FlowLayout), 1);
        public static int GetHorizontalUnits(BindableObject view)
        {
            return (int)view.GetValue(HorizontalUnitsProperty);
        }

        public static void SetHorizontalUnits(BindableObject view, int value)
        {
            view.SetValue(HorizontalUnitsProperty, value);
        }
        #endregion
        #region attached properties: VerticalUnitsProperty
        public static readonly BindableProperty VerticalUnitsProperty =
                BindableProperty.CreateAttached("VerticalUnits", typeof(int), typeof(FlowLayout), 1);

        public static int GetVerticalUnits(BindableObject view)
        {
            return (int)view.GetValue(VerticalUnitsProperty);
        }

        public static void SetVerticalUnits(BindableObject view, int value)
        {
            view.SetValue(VerticalUnitsProperty, value);
        }
        #endregion

        #region properties
        public double UnitSizeRequested { get; set; } = 100;
        public double UnitWidth { get; private set; }
        public double UnitHeight { get; private set; }
        #endregion
       

        protected override void OnSizeAllocated(double width, double height)
        {
            // when the control allocates the size, we will arrange the children
            base.OnSizeAllocated(width, height);
            if (width>0 && height>0)
            {
                ArrangeChildren();
            }
        }

        

        public void ArrangeChildren()
        {
            // do the calculation (step 1)
            int horizontalUnitCount = (int)(Width / UnitSizeRequested);
            int verticalUnitCount = (int)(Height / UnitSizeRequested);
            bool[,] dashArray = new bool[horizontalUnitCount, verticalUnitCount];
            UnitWidth = UnitSizeRequested + (Width % UnitSizeRequested) / horizontalUnitCount;
            UnitHeight = UnitSizeRequested + (Height % UnitSizeRequested) / verticalUnitCount;
            foreach (var child in Children)
            {
                // for each child - find the 
                var rect = FindFreeRectangle(dashArray, GetHorizontalUnits(child), GetVerticalUnits(child));
                if (rect != null)
                {
                    AbsoluteLayout.SetLayoutBounds(child, rect.Value);
                }
                else
                {
                    // this control can not be placed ... so just skip it
                    AbsoluteLayout.SetLayoutBounds(child, new Rectangle(0, 0, 0, 0));
                }

            }
        }

        private Rectangle? FindFreeRectangle(bool[,] dashArray, int xCount, int yCount)
        {
            Rectangle res;
            for (int y = 0; y  dashArray.GetLength(1)
                )
                return false;

            for (int xx = x; xx < x + xCount; xx++)
            {
                for (int yy = y; yy < y + yCount; yy++)
                {
                    if (dashArray[xx, yy] == true)
                        return false;
                }
            }
            // now reserve fields
            for (var xx = x; xx < x + xCount; xx++)
            {
                for (var yy = y; yy < y + yCount; yy++)
                {
                    dashArray[xx, yy] = true;
                }
            }
            return true;
        }

      
    }
}

Caution: This code is not complete, perhaps you can not use it with the BindableLayout-Extension. Feel free to copy the code and change it as needed. Be careful in choosing the right UnitSizeRequested, a small unit will probably result in a rather bad performance.

Usage

<FlowLayout BackgroundColor="Black" >
        <Frame BorderColor="Yellow" BackgroundColor="Gray" CornerRadius="0" 
                FlowLayout.HorizontalUnits="1"
                FlowLayout.VerticalUnits="1"
                 />
        <Frame BorderColor="Gray" BackgroundColor="HotPink" CornerRadius="0" 
                FlowLayout.HorizontalUnits="1"
                FlowLayout.VerticalUnits="1"
                 />
        <Frame BorderColor="Blue" BackgroundColor="Honeydew" CornerRadius="0" 
                FlowLayout.HorizontalUnits="1"
                FlowLayout.VerticalUnits="1"
                 />
        <Frame BorderColor="Red" BackgroundColor="Bisque" CornerRadius="0" 
                FlowLayout.HorizontalUnits="4"
                FlowLayout.VerticalUnits="1"
                 />
        <Frame BorderColor="Green" BackgroundColor="CadetBlue" CornerRadius="0" 
                FlowLayout.HorizontalUnits="3"
                FlowLayout.VerticalUnits="3"
                 />
</FlowLayout>

Adding Themes to Xamarin.Forms App

I just want to make some short notes about themes in Xamarin.Forms Apps, since there are already a lot of tutorials available online, that go way deeper.

Themes
Themes are actually ResourceDictionaries. Each atomic type you use in your XAMLs and Styles, will be defined here. Types are f.e. Color, Double (for font sizes), etc.

<ResourceDictionary xmlns="http://xamarin.com/schemas/2014/forms"
                    xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2009/xaml"
                    x:Class="ShoppingList.Themes.DarkTheme">
    <Color x:Key="BackgroundColor">#333333</Color>
    <Color x:Key="TextColor">#eeeeee</Color>
    <Color x:Key="PlaceholderTextColor">#55ffffff</Color>
    <Color x:Key="ControlBackground">#111111</Color>
    <Color x:Key="ButtonBackgroundColor">#11ffffff</Color>
</ResourceDictionary>

Be sure to have a code behind file for your ResourceDictionary, that calls InitializeComponent(). Otherwise this will only work on UWP (without .NET Toolchain) and no other platforms.

Styles
In most cases the styles are not part of your themes, because using themes just makes you change the look of your pages and controls, not the styling of specific controls. Perhaps styles are using the resources, that you define in your theme. Be sure to use DynamicResource for linking to the key of the resource, otherwise you can not change themes during runtime. (Restart will be needed)

<ResourceDictionary xmlns="http://xamarin.com/schemas/2014/forms"
                    xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2009/xaml"
                    x:Class="ShoppingList.Resources.Styles">
    <Style TargetType="NavigationPage">
            <Setter Property="BackgroundColor" Value="{DynamicResource BackgroundColor}"/>
            <Setter Property="BarBackgroundColor" Value="{DynamicResource BackgroundColor}"/>
            <Setter Property="BarTextColor" Value="{DynamicResource TextColor}"/>
            
        </Style>
        <Style TargetType="Label">
            <Setter Property="TextColor" Value="{DynamicResource TextColor}" />
        </Style>
        <Style TargetType="Entry">
            <Setter Property="BackgroundColor" Value="{DynamicResource ControlBackground}" />
            <Setter Property="TextColor" Value="{DynamicResource TextColor}" />
            <Setter Property="PlaceholderColor" Value="{DynamicResource PlaceholderTextColor}" />
        </Style>
        <Style TargetType="Button">
            <Setter Property="TextColor" Value="{DynamicResource TextColor}" />
            <Setter Property="BackgroundColor" Value="{DynamicResource ButtonBackgroundColor}" />
            
        </Style>
</ResourceDictionary>

Changing the theme
Now you just need to add the following code to your App.xam.cs, then you can just call App.SetTheme(typeof(DarkTheme)) to change the theme during runtime.

Be sure to add all your style-ResourceDictionaries and a standard theme to your App.xaml in the Application.Resources-Section

internal static void SetTheme(Type themeType)
{
   Preferences.Set("Theme", themeType.FullName);
   var resDict = (ResourceDictionary)Activator.CreateInstance(themeType);
   App.Current.Resources.MergedDictionaries.Add(resDict); // this line replaces all keys of the current dictionary with the value of the selected dictionary, only the keys that are present in the selected dictionary will be replaced
}

In your “OnInitialize” method of your App.xaml.cs you can put the following code, to load the saved theme on startup:

if (Preferences.ContainsKey("Theme"))
{
   var themeTypeName = Preferences.Get("Theme",null);
   var themeType = Type.GetType(themeTypeName);
   if (themeType != null)
   {
      SetTheme(themeType);
   }
}

Problem with ResourceDictionary in Xamarin Forms .Net Native

Last week a colleague had the idea, to split the Resources, that we have defined in App.xaml in several ResourceDictionaries. Since our App.xaml has grown to over 400 lines, we thought this would be a very good idea, and did it as always:

 <Application.Resources>
        <ResourceDictionary xmlns:local="clr-namespace:TestResources">
            <ResourceDictionary.MergedDictionaries>
                <ResourceDictionary Source="/Resources/Buttons.xaml" />
                <ResourceDictionary Source="/Resources/Labels.xaml" />
            </ResourceDictionary.MergedDictionaries>
        </ResourceDictionary>
    </Application.Resources>

Looks good, and when we were testing the App, it worked well. But as soon, as we wanted to ship the App to our customer, it totally crashed during start up. What was the difference? We always test Debug builds, but without .Net Native
Toolchain active, but for shipping, we made a Release build with .Net Native builds activated.

The following error occured:

Unhandled exception at 0x05B6B264 (Windows.UI.Xaml.dll) in TestResources.UWP.exe: 0xC000027B: Anwendungsinterne Ausnahme (parameters: 0x0B477CF8, 0x00000003).

In the output window we see a lot of error messages:

Unhandled exception at 0x05B4B264 (Windows.UI.Xaml.dll) in TestResources.UWP.exe: 0xC000027B: internal error(parameters: 0x0B44D9B0, 0x00000003).

Unhandled exception at 0x777AF989 (combase.dll) in TestResources.UWP.exe: 0xC0000602: Ein sofortiger Ausnahmefehler ist aufgetreten. Die Ausnahmehandler werden nicht aufgerufen, und der Prozess wird sofort beendet.

Unhandled exception at 0x77627ED3 (combase.dll) in TestResources.UWP.exe: 0xC0000005: Access violation reading location 0x00000008.

I am not quite sure, why this happens but the solution is quite simple:

  • Add a code behind file (in our case Buttons.cs).
  • In the constructor, call “InitializeComponent()”.
  • Now we can include the ResourceDictionary directly in the App.xaml
  • In our case the Buttons.xaml.cs looks like this:

       public partial class Buttons : ResourceDictionary
        {
            public Buttons()
            {
                InitializeComponent();
            }
        }
    

    ..and the App.xaml

    <Application.Resources>
            <ResourceDictionary xmlns:local="clr-namespace:TestResources">
                <ResourceDictionary.MergedDictionaries>
                    <local:Buttons />
                    <!--<ResourceDictionary Source="/Resources/Buttons.xaml" />-->
                    <!--<ResourceDictionary Source="/Resources/Labels.xaml" />-->
                </ResourceDictionary.MergedDictionaries>
            </ResourceDictionary>
        </Application.Resources>
    

    If you have a clue, why we need to go this way, just leave me a comment.