iOS

Extending Xamarin.Forms.Nuke on iOS to load a placeholder for images that fail to load

Extending Xamarin.Forms.Nuke on iOS to load a placeholder for images that fail to load

What is Xamarin.Forms.Nuke?

Xamarin.Forms.Nuke is a Xamarin.Forms implementation of Nuke, one of the most advanced image libraries on iOS today. The Xamarin.Forms implementation focuses heavily on caching only, while the original library has a bunch of more features. I learned about this library when I started to look for an alternative to cache images via Akavache which I used before (I never blogged about that part because it wasn’t ready for that, tbh).

Why do we need to extend the library?

The library currently does only one thing (pretty well) – handling the caching of web images. It uses the default settings of the native Nuke library. The Xamarin.Forms implementation overwrites the ImageSourceHandler for UriImageSource and FileImageSource (optionally), but the case of placeholder loading is not intended in the original version. As I have multiple scenarios where a placeholder comes in handy, I decided to extend the library – and maintain my own fork of it from now on. (Maybe there will be a pull request to the original source, too).

Show me some code, finally!

For our extension, we modify the FormsHandler class as well as the ImageSourceHandler class. Let’s have a look at the FormsHandler class first. We are adding a new property for the placeholder:

public static ImageSource PlaceholderImageSource { get; private set; }

With that property in place, let’s add two methods. One method is for loading a placeholder image from an embedded resource file, while the second one is for specifying a FontImageSource.

public static void PlaceholderFromResource(string resourceName, Assembly assembly) =>
    PlaceholderImageSource = ImageSource.FromResource(resourceName, assembly);

public static void PlaceholderFromFontImageSource(FontImageSource fontImageSource) =>
    PlaceholderImageSource = fontImageSource;

I have chosen the FormsHandler class because setting the placeholder is a global thing (in my scenarios, your mileage may vary). That’s already everything in takes in the FormsHandler class, so let’s have a look at the ImageSourceHandler class.

As we are using the default Xamarin.Forms ImageSourceHandler for the resource image (which is a StreamImageSource) and the FontImageSource, we need to add the static fields for them first:

private static readonly StreamImagesourceHandler DefaultStreamImageSourceHandler = new StreamImagesourceHandler();

private static readonly FontImageSourceHandler DefaultFontImageSourcehandler = new FontImageSourceHandler();

Now let’s implement the loading of the placeholder in a separate method:

private static Task<UIImage> LoadPlaceholderAsync()
{
    switch (FormsHandler.PlaceholderImageSource)
    {
        case StreamImageSource streamImageSource:
            FormsHandler.Warn($"loading placeholder from resource");
            return DefaultStreamImageSourceHandler.LoadImageAsync(streamImageSource);
                    
        case FontImageSource fontImageSource:
            FormsHandler.Warn($"loading placeholder from Font");
            return DefaultFontImageSourcehandler.LoadImageAsync(fontImageSource);
        default:
            FormsHandler.Warn($"no valid placeholder found");
            return null;
    }
}

As you can see, there is nothing overly complicated in this method. Based on the type of the placeholder set in the FormsHandler class, we are calling the default Xamarin.Forms implementation for the placeholder image. Let’s take this code into action by changing the LoadImageAsync method of the ImageSourceHandler:

public async Task<UIImage> LoadImageAsync(
    ImageSource imageSource,
    CancellationToken cancellationToken = new CancellationToken(),
    float scale = 1)
{
    var result = await NukeHelper.LoadViaNuke(imageSource, cancellationToken, scale);
    if (result == null)
        result = await LoadPlaceholderAsync();

    return result;
}

As we need to know if the Nukehelper class is able to load the image, we are already running the code by awaiting it at this level. If the result is null, we are loading the placeholder image via our prior implemented method. That’s all we need to do in our forked Xamarin.Forms.Nuke repository.

How to use it in your Xamarin.Forms – iOS project

First, clone my fork (or fork it if you want) of the Xamarin.Forms.Nuke repository and import it into your Xamarin.Forms solution and reference it in your iOS project. Once that is done, we need to initialize the Nuke library (like in the original source) in the AppDelegate‘s FinishedLaunching method:

Xamarin.Forms.Nuke.FormsHandler.Init(true, false);

The second step is to define the placeholder image source. The FontImageSource should be defined after the LoadApplication method. This way, you can the Xamarin.Forms way of loading the font as a resource.

//Resource image
Xamarin.Forms.Nuke.FormsHandler.PlaceholderFromResource("CachedImageTest.MSicc_Logo_Base_Blue_1024px_pad25.png", Assembly.GetAssembly(typeof(MainViewModel)));

//FontImageSource
Xamarin.Forms.Nuke.FormsHandler.PlaceholderFromFontImageSource(new FontImageSource
{
    Glyph = CachedImageTest.Resources.MaterialDesignIcons.ImageBroken,
    FontFamily = "MaterialDesignIcons",
    Color = Color.Red
});

Now use the Xamarin.Forms Image control like you always do. If the image from the web cannot be loaded, you will see the placeholder, like in these two examples:

cached image placeholder sample
Left: Single image failed loading, right image in CollectionView failed loading

With a few additions to the Xamarin.Forms.Nuke library, we have implemented a placeholder mechanism for images that can’t be loaded. As always, I hope this post will be useful for some of you. Now that I have the iOS implementation of a fast cached image with placeholder loading in place, I will turn to Android, where I will try to achieve the same using the Glidex.Forms library and extend it to load a placeholder. There will be a full sample once that is implemented as well. Stay tuned for that one!

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!
Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, iOS, Xamarin, 2 comments
Create scrollable tabs in Xamarin.Forms with CollectionView and CarouselView

Create scrollable tabs in Xamarin.Forms with CollectionView and CarouselView

When it comes to navigation patterns in mobile apps, the tabbed interface is one of the most popular options. While Xamarin.Forms has the TabbedPage (and Shell) to fulfill that need, it lacks one essential feature: scrollable tabs. After studying some of the samples floating around the web and some of the packages that provide such functionality, I tried find an easier solution.

The View

Let’s have a look at the View first. Like you may have guessed from the title, we are using a CollectionView for the tabs and a CarouselView for the Content. This combination makes it quite easy to implement tabs that cover a whole page size or smaller ones within a page.

Here’s the XAML:

<Grid x:DataType="{x:Null}" RowSpacing="0">
    <Grid.RowDefinitions>
        <RowDefinition Height="45" />
        <RowDefinition Height="45" />
        <RowDefinition Height="*" />
    </Grid.RowDefinitions>

    <CollectionView
        x:Name="CustomTabsView"
        Grid.Row="1"
        HorizontalScrollBarVisibility="Never"
        ItemSizingStrategy="MeasureAllItems"
        ItemsSource="{Binding TabVms}"
        ItemsUpdatingScrollMode="KeepItemsInView"
        SelectedItem="{Binding CurrentTabVm, Mode=TwoWay}"
        SelectionMode="Single"
        VerticalScrollBarVisibility="Never">
        <CollectionView.ItemsLayout>
            <LinearItemsLayout Orientation="Horizontal" />
        </CollectionView.ItemsLayout>
        <CollectionView.ItemTemplate>
            <DataTemplate x:DataType="local:TabViewModel">
                <Grid RowSpacing="0">
                    <Grid.RowDefinitions>
                        <RowDefinition Height="*" />
                        <RowDefinition Height="3" />
                    </Grid.RowDefinitions>
                    <Label
                        x:Name="TitleLabel"
                        Grid.Row="0"
                        Padding="15,0"
                        FontAttributes="Bold"
                        FontSize="Small"
                        HeightRequest="50"
                        HorizontalTextAlignment="Center"
                        Text="{Binding Title}"
                        TextColor="White"
                        VerticalTextAlignment="Center" />
                    <BoxView
                        x:Name="ActiveIndicator"
                        Grid.Row="1"
                        BackgroundColor="Red"
                        IsVisible="{Binding IsSelected, Mode=TwoWay}" />
                </Grid>
            </DataTemplate>
        </CollectionView.ItemTemplate>
    </CollectionView>

    <CarouselView
        Grid.Row="2"
        CurrentItem="{Binding CurrentTabVm, Mode=TwoWay}"
        CurrentItemChanged="CarouselView_CurrentItemChanged"
        HorizontalScrollBarVisibility="Never"
        IsScrollAnimated="True"
        IsSwipeEnabled="True"
        ItemsSource="{Binding TabVms}"
        VerticalScrollBarVisibility="Never">
        <CarouselView.ItemTemplate>
            <DataTemplate x:DataType="local:TabViewModel">
                <Grid Margin="10">
                    <Grid.RowDefinitions>
                        <RowDefinition Height="*" />
                    </Grid.RowDefinitions>
                    <Label
                        Grid.Row="0"
                        Margin="10"
                        LineBreakMode="WordWrap"
                        Text="{Binding Content}"
                        VerticalTextAlignment="Center" />
                </Grid>
            </DataTemplate>
        </CarouselView.ItemTemplate>
    </CarouselView>
</Grid>

Let me break that piece down. First, I wrapped everything in a Grid for this sample. The CollectionView of course should be horizontally scrolling but should not show any scroll bar. The tab item template is not a complex one – it is just a Label and a BoxView below it to help with indication of the selection. You are free to make the tab looking whatever you want because of the CollectionView, however.

Below that, we put a CarouselView. For this sample, I just made a simple one with a Lorem Ipsum Label in it on every item.

The ViewModels

Most of you know that I absolutely love the MVVM pattern. And this sample proves me right once again. We need just need two ViewModels to handle scrolling and synchronizing.

The first ViewModel is the TabViewModel:

Snippet

public class TabViewModel : ObservableObject
{
    private string _title;
    private string _content;
    private bool _isSelected;

    public TabViewModel(string title)
    {
        this.Title = title;
        this.Content = "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Tempor id eu nisl nunc mi ipsum faucibus vitae aliquet. Turpis egestas integer eget aliquet nibh praesent tristique magna. In fermentum posuere urna nec tincidunt. Vitae congue eu consequat ac felis donec et odio pellentesque. Augue lacus viverra vitae congue. Viverra vitae congue eu consequat. Orci nulla pellentesque dignissim enim sit amet venenatis urna. Et ultrices neque ornare aenean euismod elementum nisi. Id consectetur purus ut faucibus pulvinar. In cursus turpis massa tincidunt. Egestas pretium aenean pharetra magna. Et pharetra pharetra massa massa ultricies mi quis. Nunc sed blandit libero volutpat. Purus viverra accumsan in nisl nisi scelerisque eu ultrices vitae.";
    }

    public string Title { get => _title; set => Set(ref _title, value); }

    public string Content { get => _content; set => Set(ref _content, value); }

    public bool IsSelected { get => _isSelected; set =>Set(ref _isSelected, value); }
}

The TabViewModel in this sample just has the bare minimum, namely the Title, the Content and the IsSelectedFlag to control the Visibility of the Indicator-BoxView. Nothing dramatic so far.

The MainViewModel glues everything together, so let’s have a look:

Snippet

public class MainViewModel : ObservableObject
{
    private TabViewModel _currentTabVm;

    public MainViewModel()
    {

        this.TabVms = new ObservableCollection<TabViewModel>();
        this.TabVms.Add(new TabViewModel("Short Title"));
        this.TabVms.Add(new TabViewModel("A Little Longer Title"));
        this.TabVms.Add(new TabViewModel("An Even Longer Title Than Before"));
        this.TabVms.Add(new TabViewModel("Again Short Title"));
        this.TabVms.Add(new TabViewModel("Mini Title"));
        this.TabVms.Add(new TabViewModel("Different Title"));

        this.CurrentTabVm = this.TabVms.FirstOrDefault();
    }


    public ObservableCollection<TabViewModel> TabVms { get; set; } 

    public TabViewModel CurrentTabVm 
    { 
        get => _currentTabVm;
        set
        {
            Set(ref _currentTabVm, value);
            SetSelection();
        }
    }

    private void SetSelection()
    {
        this.TabVms.ForEach(vm => vm.IsSelected = false);
        this.CurrentTabVm.IsSelected = true;
    }
}

Once again, there is nothing complex in it. We are mocking a collection of TabViewModel and handle the tab selection via Binding. After the current item got selected, we are setting the IsSelected property on it to true to show the Indicator in the CollectionView.

For this sample, I didn’t use a fully blown MVVM framework, so I am setting the BindingContext in the MainPage‘s constructor. The Binding engine in Xamarin.Forms already does almost everything to make this work.

The only thing left is to handle the positioning of the tabs if we are swiping the CarouselView. As this is purely View related, I am using the CurrentItemChanged event in code behind to center the CollectionView‘s selected item:

Snippet

private void CarouselView_CurrentItemChanged(object sender, CurrentItemChangedEventArgs e)
{
    this.CustomTabsView.ScrollTo(e.CurrentItem, null, ScrollToPosition.Center, true);
}

The result of this setup looks like this:

Conclusion

Xamarin.Forms provides a lot of solutions out of the box. Sometimes, however, these are not enough. Luckily, we can combine some of the solutions the framework provides to create fresh solutions within our apps. This post showed one of these. The additional bonus you get with this implementation is the ability to style the tabs in whatever way you want. As always, I hope this post will be helpful for some of you.

Of course, there is also sample for this post on Github.

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!
Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, Xamarin, 2 comments
MSicc’s Blog version 1.6.0 out now for Android and iOS

MSicc’s Blog version 1.6.0 out now for Android and iOS

Here are the new features:

Push Notifications

With version 1.6.0 of the app, you can opt-in to receive push notifications once I publish a new blog post. I use an Azure Function (v1, for the ease of bindings – at least for now), and of course, an Azure NotificationHub. The Function gets called from a WebHook (via a plugin on WordPress), which triggers it to run (the next blog posts I write will be about how I achieved this, btw.)

New Design using Xamarin.Forms Shell

I also overhauled the design of the application. Initially, it was a MasterDetail app, but I never felt happy with that. Using Xamarin.Forms.Shell, I optimized the app to only show the last 30 posts I wrote. If you need older articles, you’ll be able to search for them within the app. The new design is a “v1” and will be constantly improved along with new features.

Bugs fixed in this release
  • fixed a bug where code snippets were not correctly displayed
  • fixed a bug where the app did not refresh posts after cleaning the cache
  • other minor fixes and improvements

I hope some of you will use the application and give me some feedback.

You can download the app using these links:
iOS | Android

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Android, Azure, Dev Stories, iOS, Xamarin, 0 comments
#XfEffects: Forms Effect to automatically scale FontSize on Label

#XfEffects: Forms Effect to automatically scale FontSize on Label

Why do I need this?

When working with text, we often have to deal with some or all of the following:

  • dynamic text with different length on every instance
  • multiple devices with different screen resolutions
  • limited number of lines

As the amount of places where I need to automatically scale the FontSize is steadily increasing within my apps, I had to come up with a solution – the AutoFitFontSizeEffect.

The shared code

Of course, every Effect has a shared code part. Like in my first post, there are two classes for this – the Effect wrapper and the static parameter class on top of it. The wrapper is pretty straight forward:

    public class AutoFitFontSizeEffect : RoutingEffect
    {
        #region Protected Constructors

        public AutoFitFontSizeEffect() : base($"XfEffects.{nameof(AutoFitFontSizeEffect)}")
        {
        }

        #endregion Protected Constructors
    }

Like with all effects, we are deriving from RoutingEffect and initializing the class with the effect’s id. As I wanted the effect to be configurable with a minimum and a maximum size, I added a static class that takes these two parameters:

    public static class AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters
    {
        #region Public Fields

        public static BindableProperty MaxFontSizeProperty = BindableProperty.CreateAttached("MaxFontSize", typeof(NamedSize), typeof(AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters), NamedSize.Large, BindingMode.Default);
        public static BindableProperty MinFontSizeProperty = BindableProperty.CreateAttached("MinFontSize", typeof(NamedSize), typeof(AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters), NamedSize.Default, BindingMode.Default);

        #endregion Public Fields

        #region Public Methods

        public static NamedSize GetMaxFontSize(BindableObject bindable)
        {
            return (NamedSize)bindable.GetValue(MaxFontSizeProperty);
        }

        public static NamedSize GetMinFontSize(BindableObject bindable)
        {
            return (NamedSize)bindable.GetValue(MinFontSizeProperty);
        }

        public static double MaxFontSizeNumeric(BindableObject bindable)
        {
            return Device.GetNamedSize(GetMaxFontSize(bindable), typeof(Label));
        }

        public static double MinFontSizeNumeric(BindableObject bindable)
        {
            return Device.GetNamedSize(GetMinFontSize(bindable), typeof(Label));
        }

        public static void SetMaxFontSize(BindableObject bindable, NamedSize value)
        {
            bindable.SetValue(MaxFontSizeProperty, value);
        }

        public static void SetMinFontSize(BindableObject bindable, NamedSize value)
        {
            bindable.SetValue(MinFontSizeProperty, value);
        }

        #endregion Public Methods
    }

Let’s break that class down. First, I created two attached BindableProperty objects of type NamedSize. The NamedSize enumeration makes it easy for us to determine the minimum and maximum sizes. If you want to know the values behind the enum entries, check this table in the docs.

To get and set those values out of the BindableProperty, I implemented corresponding methods. As we will see later on, I implemented also two methods that get the numeric values, which will be used in our platform-specific implementations.

Android implementation

Android has a built-in method on TextView to achieve the auto-scaling functionality we desire (read more about it on the Android docs). This makes the implementation pretty straight forward:

    public class AutoFitFontSizeEffect : PlatformEffect
    {
        #region Protected Methods

        protected override void OnAttached()
        {
            if (this.Control is TextView textView)
            {
                if (AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.GetMinFontSize(this.Element) == NamedSize.Default &&
                    AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.GetMaxFontSize(this.Element) == NamedSize.Default)
                    return;

                var min = (int)AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.MinFontSizeNumeric(this.Element);
                var max = (int)AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.MaxFontSizeNumeric(this.Element);

                if (max <= min)
                    return;

                textView.SetAutoSizeTextTypeUniformWithConfiguration(min, max, 1, (int)ComplexUnitType.Sp);
            }
        }

        protected override void OnDetached()
        {
        }

        #endregion Protected Methods
    }

Before using the SetAutoSizeTextTypeUniformWithConfiguration method on the TextView, I am running two checks: one if both parameters are set to NamedSize.Default, and the other one if the minimum value is bigger than the maximum value. If we pass past these check, we are using the above mentioned method. That is already everything it needs to make the text scaling automatically within the bounds of the TextView on Android.

iOS implementation

Like Android, also iOS has a pretty easy way to automatically scale the FontSize:

    public class AutoFitFontSizeEffect : PlatformEffect
    {
        #region Protected Methods

        protected override void OnAttached()
        {
            if (this.Control is UILabel label)
            {
                if (AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.GetMinFontSize(this.Element) == NamedSize.Default &&
                    AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.GetMaxFontSize(this.Element) == NamedSize.Default)
                    return;

                var min = (int)AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.MinFontSizeNumeric(this.Element);
                var max = (int)AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.MaxFontSizeNumeric(this.Element);

                if (max <= min)
                    return;

                label.AdjustsFontSizeToFitWidth = true;
                label.MinimumFontSize = (float)min;
                label.Font = label.Font.WithSize((float)max);
            }
        }

        protected override void OnDetached()
        {
        }

        #endregion Protected Methods
    }

We are running the same checks as on Android before we are effectively changing the properties on the UILabel that will make the text scale automatically. With setting AdjustsFontSizeToFitWidth to true and setting the MinimumFontSize to our min value as well as the max value as FontSize, we have already done everything it needs on iOS.

Conclusion

The checks we run before using the codes are not random. It may happen that you only add the effect to your Xamarin.Forms.Label without setting the MinFontSize and MaxFontSize. In this case, I am just returning.

Besides mixing up the sizes, the main reason for the second check is that the platform-specific size values are different between platforms. Also in this case, I am just returning.

Besides that, we are able to use all other properties of the default Xamarin.Forms.Label implementation, with MaxLines and LineBreakMode being the two most important ones.

As always, I hope this post will be helpful for some of you. Of course, the sample project for this series is updated on GitHub.

Happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, iOS, Xamarin, 3 comments
My 2019 (a short review)

My 2019 (a short review)

Bitcoin, Crypto payments & Linux (moving out of my comfort zone)

At the beginning of 2019, I was working on the C#-SDK for AtomicPay, a crypto payment provider. I was also working on a mobile administration app for AtomicPay but during the year, the regulatory rules changed in Switzerland for KYC (know your customer). I had to stop my efforts in this area because, for an indie developer, they are just impossible to handle.

That didn’t stop me to discover other crypto/blockchain stuff, and so I did move out of my comfort zone to play around with a Linux Server and implementing a Bitcoin full node on it. You can read more on this in the Crypto&Blockchain section of my blog.

Even though my efforts have shifted back towards mobile applications, the blockchain area is still of interest to me.

Xamarin, Xamarin, Xamarin

All of my mobile side projects this year were deeply tied into the Xamarin universe. The biggest milestone I finally achieved this year was to finish the porting of my very first application ever from Windows Phone to Android and iOS. I wrote about some of the things I learned right here:

Barcode Scanning

The last few weeks I was busy to write a barcode scanning control for Xamarin Forms that uses native capabilities on iOS and Firebase ML on Android. It was only last week that I finally got both variants working.

Blogging

I attempted to write more regularly this year, but I clearly failed to keep up with it. One of my new year’s resolution is to keep a steady schedule of writing, as the list of what I want(ed) to write about is growing. I will go through this list during my upcoming vacation and try to find a better rhythm for my blogging efforts besides work and working on my side projects.

This year’s review is a bit different from the years before. I kept it short, focusing on the important parts (from my point of view). There is just one thing left to do in this post – to wish you all

A Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year!

Title-Image by Johan L from Pixabay

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, Editorials, 0 comments
What I’ve learned from porting my first app ever to Android and iOS with Xamarin

What I’ve learned from porting my first app ever to Android and iOS with Xamarin

What’s the app about?

The app is about fishing knots. It sounds boring for most people, but for me, this app made me becoming a developer. So I have a somewhat emotional connection to it. It was back in time when Windows Phone 7 was new and hot. A new shiny OS from Microsoft, but clearly lacking the loads of apps that were available on iOS and Android. At that time, I also managed to get my fishing license in Germany.

As I had a hard time to remember how to tie fishing knots, I searched the store and found… nothing. I got very angry over that fact, partly because it meant I had to use one of the static websites back then, but more about the fact that there was this damn app gap (WP7 users will remember). So I finally decided to learn how to write code for Windows Phone and wrote my first app ever after some heavy self-studying months.

Why porting it?

Writing code should soon become my favorite spare-time activity, effectively replacing fishing. And so the years went on, I made some more apps (most of them for Windows Phone) and also managed to become employed as a developer. After some time, S. Nadella became the CEO of Microsoft, and Windows for mobile phones was dead. So I had created all my “babies”, and they were now set to die as Windows Phone/Mobile did. Not accepting this, I started to create a plan to port my apps over to the remaining mobile platforms. After Facebook effectively killed my most successful app (UniShare – that’s another story, though), I stopped porting that one and started with Fishing Knots +.

Reading your own old code (may) hurt

When I was starting to analyze which parts of the code I could reuse, I was kind of shocked. Of course, I knew that there was this code that I wrote when I didn’t know it better, but I refused to have a look into it and refactor it (for obvious reasons from today’s perspective). I violated a lot of best practices back then, the most prominent ones

  • No MVVM
  • Repeating myself over and over again
  • Monster methods with more than 100 lines within

In the end, I did the only right thing and did not reuse any line of my old code.

Reusing the concept without reusing old code

After I took the right decision to not use my old codebase, I needed to abstract the concept from the old app and translate it into what I know now about best practices and MVVM. I did not immediately start with the implementation, however.

The first thing I did was drawing the concept on a piece of paper. I used a no-code language in that sketch and asked my family if they understand the idea behind the app (you could also ask your non-tech friends). This approach helped me to identify the top 3 features of the app:

  • Controllable animation of each knot
  • Easy-to-follow 3-step instructions for each knot
  • Read-Aloud function of the instructions

Having defined the so-called “Minimum Viable Product“, I was ready to think about the implementation(s).

The new implementation

Finding the right implementation isn’t always straight forward. The first thing I wrote was the custom control that powers the controllable animation behind the scenes. I wrote it out of the context in a separated solution as I packed it into a NuGet package after finishing. It turned out to be also the most complex part of the whole app. It uses a common API in Xamarin.Forms, and custom renderers for Android and iOS. I had to go that route because of performance reasons – which is one of the learnings I took away from the porting.

It was also clear that I will use the MVVM pattern in the new version. So I was setting up some basic things using my own Nuget packages that I wrote during working on other Xamarin based projects.

When it came to the overall structure of my app, I thought a Master/Detail implementation would be fine. However, somehow this never felt right, and so I turned to Shell (which was pretty new, so I tried to give it a shot). In the end, I went with a more custom approach. The app uses a TabbedPage with 3 tabs, one being for the animation, the second for the 3-Step tutorial, and last but not least the Settings/About page. The first two pages share a custom top-down menu implementation, bound to the same ViewModel for its items and selection.

More Xamarin.Forms features I learned (to love)

Xamarin and Xamarin.Forms itself are already powerful and have matured a lot since the time I used it to write my first Xamarin app for Telefonicá Germany. Here is a (high level) list of features I started to use:

  • Xamarin.Essentials – the one library that kickstarts your application – seriously!
  • Xamarin Forms Animations – polish the appearance of your app with some nice looking visual activity within the UI
  • Xamarin Forms Effects – easily modify/enhance existing controls without creating a full-blown custom renderer
  • Xamarin Forms VisualStateManager – makes it (sometimes) a whole lot easier to change the UI based on property changes
  • Xamarin.Forms Triggers – alternative approach to modify the UI based on property changes (but not limited to that)

The three musketeers

Because of Xamarin and Xamarin.Forms are such powerful tools, you may run into the situation of needing help/more information. My three musketeers to get missing information, implementation help or solution ideas:

  • Microsoft Xamarin Docs – the docs for Xamarin are pretty extensive and by reading them (even again), I often had one of these “gotcha!”- moments
  • Github – if the docs don’t help, Github may. Be it in the issues of Xamarin(.Forms) or studying the renderers, Github has been as helpful as the docs to me.
  • Web Search – chances are high that someone had similar problems/ideas solved and wrote a blog about it. I don’t blindly copy those solutions. First I read them, then I try to understand them and finally, I implement my own abstraction of them. This way, I am in a steady learning process.

Learn to understand native implementations

I guarantee you will run into a situation where the musketeers do not help when focusing solely on Xamarin. Accept the situation that Xamarin is sitting on top of the native code of others and does the heavy conversion for us. Learn to read Objective-C, Swift, Java and Kotlin code and translate it into C# code. Once you found possible solutions in one of the native samples, blog posts or docs, you will see that most of them are easy to translate into Xamarin code. Do not avoid this part of Xamarin development, it will help you in future, trust me.

Conclusion

Porting over my first app ever to Android and iOS has provided me not only a lot of fun but also huge learnings/practicing. Some of them are of behavioral nature, some of them are code implementations. This post is about the behavioral part – I will write about some of the implementations in my upcoming blog posts.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you have questions or have similar experiences and want to discuss, feel free to leave a comment on this post or connect to me via social media.

Until the next post, happy coding!

Helpful links:

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, Xamarin, 1 comment
[Updated] #XfEffects: Xamarin.Forms Effect to change the TintColor of ImageButton’s image – (new series)

[Updated] #XfEffects: Xamarin.Forms Effect to change the TintColor of ImageButton’s image – (new series)

The documentation recommends using Effects when we just want to change properties on the underlying native control. I have begun to love Effects as they make my code more readable. With Effects, I always know that there is a platform-specific implementation attached, while that is not obvious when using a custom renderer. Nowadays, I always try to implement an Effect before a Renderer.


Update: I updated the sample project to also respect changes in the ImageButton‘s source. I recently ran into the situation to change the Source (Play/Pause) via my ViewModel based on its state and realized that the effect needs to be reapplied in this case. Please be aware.


The basics

Effects work in a similar way to Renderers. You implement the definition in the Xamarin.Forms project, which attaches it to the control that needs the change. The PlatformEffect implementation needs to be exported to be compiled into the application. Like in a Renderer, the platform implementation also supports property changes. In this new series #XfEffects, I am going to show you some Effects that have been useful for me.

Effect declaration

Let’s turn over to this post’s Effect. We will change the TintColor of an ImageButton to our needs. Let’s start with creating the class for our Effect:

    public class ImageButtonTintEffect : RoutingEffect
    {
        public ImageButtonTintEffect() : base($"XfEffects.{nameof(ImageButtonTintEffect)}")
        {
        }
    }

All Xamarin.Forms Effect implementations need to derive from the RoutingEffect class and pass the Effect‘s name to the base class’ constructor. That’s pretty much everything we have to do for the Effect class itself.

Effect extension for passing parameters

The easiest way for us to get our desired TintColor to the platform implementation is an attached BindableProperty. To be able to attach the BindableProperty, we need a static class that provides the container for the attached property:

public static class ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions
{
    public static readonly BindableProperty TintColorProperty = BindableProperty.CreateAttached("TintColor", typeof(Color), typeof(ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions), default, propertyChanged: OnTintColorPropertyChanged);
    public static Color GetTintColor(BindableObject bindable)
    {
        return (Color)bindable.GetValue(TintColorProperty);
    }
    public static void SetTintColor(BindableObject bindable, Color value)
    {
        bindable.SetValue(TintColorProperty, value);
    }
    private static void OnTintColorPropertyChanged(BindableObject bindable, object oldValue, object newValue)
    {
    }
}

Of course, we want to set the TintColor property as Xamarin.Forms.Color as this will make it pretty easy to control the color from a Style or even a ViewModel.

We want our effect to only being invoked if we change the default TintColor value. This makes sure we are running only code that is necessary for our application:

private static void OnTintColorPropertyChanged(BindableObject bindable, object oldValue, object newValue)
{
    if (bindable is ImageButton current)
    {
        if ((Color)newValue != default)
        {
            if (!current.Effects.Any(e => e is ImageButtonTintEffect))
                current.Effects.Add(Effect.Resolve(nameof(ImageButtonTintEffect)));
        }
        else
        {
            if (current.Effects.Any(e => e is ImageButtonTintEffect))
            {
                var existingEffect = current.Effects.FirstOrDefault(e => e is ImageButtonTintEffect);
                current.Effects.Remove(existingEffect);
            }
        }
    }
}

Last but not least in our Xamarin.Forms application, we want to use the new Effect. This is pretty easy:

<!--import the namespace-->
xmlns:effects="clr-namespace:XfEffects.Effects"
<!--then use it like this-->
<ImageButton Margin="12,0,12,12"
    effects:ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions.TintColor="Red"
    BackgroundColor="Transparent"
    HeightRequest="48"
    HorizontalOptions="CenterAndExpand"
    Source="ic_refresh_white_24dp.png"
    WidthRequest="48">
    <ImageButton.Effects>
        <effects:ImageButtonTintEffect />
    </ImageButton.Effects>
</ImageButton>

We are using the attached property we created above to provide the TintColor to the ImageButtonTintEffect, which we need to add to the ImageButton‘s Effects List.

Android implementation

Let’s have a look at the Android-specific implementation. First, let’s add the platform class and decorate it with the proper attributes to export our effect:

using Android.Content.Res;
using Android.Graphics;
using System;
using System.ComponentModel;
using Xamarin.Forms;
using Xamarin.Forms.Platform.Android;
using AWImageButton = Android.Support.V7.Widget.AppCompatImageButton;
[assembly: ResolutionGroupName("XfEffects")]
[assembly: ExportEffect(typeof(XfEffects.Droid.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect), nameof(XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect))]
namespace XfEffects.Droid.Effects
{
    public class ImageButtonTintEffect : PlatformEffect
    {
        protected override void OnAttached()
        {
            
        }
        protected override void OnDetached()
        {
        }
        protected override void OnElementPropertyChanged(PropertyChangedEventArgs args)
        {
        }
    }
}

Remember: the ResolutionGroupName needs to be defined just once per app and should not change. Similar to a custom Renderer, we also need to export the definition of the platform implementation and the Forms implementation to make our Effect working.

Android controls like buttons have different states. Properties on Android controls like the color can be set based on their State attribute. Xamarin.Android implements these states in the Android.Resource.Attribute class. We define our ImageButton‘s states like this:

static readonly int[][] _colorStates =
{
    new[] { global::Android.Resource.Attribute.StateEnabled },
    new[] { -global::Android.Resource.Attribute.StateEnabled }, //disabled state
    new[] { global::Android.Resource.Attribute.StatePressed } //pressed state
};

Good to know: certain states like ‘disabled‘ are created by just adding a ‘-‘ in front of the matching state defined in the OS states list (negating it). We need this declaration to create our own ColorStateList, which will override the color of the ImageButton‘s image. Add this method to the class created above:

private void UpdateTintColor()
{
    try
    {
        if (this.Control is AWImageButton imageButton)
        {
            var androidColor = XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions.GetTintColor(this.Element).ToAndroid();
            var disabledColor = androidColor;
            disabledColor.A = 0x1C; //140
            var pressedColor = androidColor;
            pressedColor.A = 0x24; //180
            imageButton.ImageTintList = new ColorStateList(_colorStates, new[] { androidColor.ToArgb(), disabledColor.ToArgb(), pressedColor.ToArgb() });
            imageButton.ImageTintMode = PorterDuff.Mode.SrcIn;
        }
    }
    catch (Exception ex)
    {
        System.Diagnostics.Debug.WriteLine(
            $"An error occurred when setting the {typeof(XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect)} effect: {ex.Message}\n{ex.StackTrace}");
    }
}

This code works above the Android SDK 23, as only then the ability to modify the A-channel of the defined color was added. The Xamarin.Forms ImageButton translates into a AppCompatImageButton on Android. The AppCompatImageButton has the ImageTintList property. This property is of type ColorStatesList, which uses the states we defined earlier and the matching colors for those states.

Last but not least, we need to set the composition mode. If you want to get a deeper understanding of that, a great starting point is this StackOverflow question. To make things not too complicated, we are infusing the color into the image. The final step is to call the method in the OnAttached override as well as in the OnElementPropertyChanged override.

The result based on the sample I created looks like this:

iOS implementation

Of course, also on iOS, we have to attribute the class, similar to the Android version:

using System;
using System.ComponentModel;
using UIKit;
using Xamarin.Forms;
using Xamarin.Forms.Platform.iOS;
[assembly: ResolutionGroupName("XfEffects")]
[assembly: ExportEffect(typeof(XfEffects.iOS.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect), nameof(XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect))]
namespace XfEffects.iOS.Effects
{
    public class ImageButtonTintEffect : PlatformEffect
    {
        protected override void OnAttached()
        {
        }
        protected override void OnDetached()
        {
        }
        protected override void OnElementPropertyChanged(PropertyChangedEventArgs args)
        {
        }
    }
}

The underlying control of the Xamarin.Forms ImageButton is a default UIButton on iOS. The UIButton control has an UIImageView, which can be changed with the SetImage method. Based on that knowledge, we are going to implement the UpdateTintColor method:

private void UpdateTintColor()
{
    try
    {
        if (this.Control is UIButton imagebutton)
        {
            if (imagebutton.ImageView?.Image != null)
            {
                var templatedImg = imagebutton.CurrentImage.ImageWithRenderingMode(UIImageRenderingMode.AlwaysTemplate);
                //clear the image on the button
                imagebutton.SetImage(null, UIControlState.Normal);
                imagebutton.ImageView.TintColor = XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions.GetTintColor(this.Element).ToUIColor();
                imagebutton.TintColor = XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions.GetTintColor(this.Element).ToUIColor();
                imagebutton.SetImage(templatedImg, UIControlState.Normal);
            }
        }
    }
    catch (Exception ex)
    {
        System.Diagnostics.Debug.WriteLine($"An error occurred when setting the {typeof(ImageButtonTintEffect)} effect: {ex.Message}\n{ex.StackTrace}");
    }
}

Let’s review these code lines. The first step is to extract the already attached Image as a templated Image from the UIButton‘s UIImageView. The second step is to clear the Image from the Button, using the SetImage method and passing null as UIImage parameter. I tried to leave out this step, but it does not work if you do so.

The next step changes the TintColor for the UIButton‘s UIImageView as well as for the button itself. I was only able to get the TintColor changed once I changed both TintColor properties.

The final step is to re-attach the extracted image from step one to the UIImageButton‘s UIImageView, using once again the SetImage method – but this time, we are passing the extracted image as UIImage parameter.

Of course, also here we need to call this method in the OnAttached override as well as in OnElementPropertyChanged.

The result should look similar to this one:

Conclusion

It is pretty easy to implement extended functionality with a Xamarin.Forms Effect. The process is similar to the one of creating a custom renderer. By using attached properties you can fine-tune the usage of this code and also pass property values to the platform implementations.

Please make sure to follow along for the other Effects I will post as part of this new series. I also created a sample app to demonstrate the Effects (find it on Github). As always, I hope this post will be helpful for some of you.

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!
Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, iOS, Xamarin, 0 comments
Use NuGets for your common Xamarin (Forms) code (and automate the creation process)

Use NuGets for your common Xamarin (Forms) code (and automate the creation process)

Internal libraries

Writing (or copy and pasting) the same code over and over again is one of those things I try to avoid when writing code. For quite some time, I already organize such code in libraries. Until last year, this required quite some work managing all libraries for each Xamarin platform I used. Luckily, the MSBuild SDK Extras extensions showed up and made everything a whole lot easier, especially after James Montemagno did a detailed explanation on how to get the most out of it for Xamarin plugins/libraries.

Getting started

Even if I repeat some of the steps of James’ post, I’ll start from scratch on the setup part here. I hope to make the whole process straight forward for everyone – that’s why I think it makes sense to show each and every step. Please make sure you are using the new .csproj type. If you need a refresh on that, you can check my post about migrating to it (if needed).

MSBuild.Sdk.Extras

The first step is pulling in MSBuild.Sdk.Extras, which will enable us to target multiple platforms in one single library. For this, we need a global.json file in the solution folder. Right click on the solution name and select ‘Open Folder in File Explorer‘, then just add a new text file and name it appropriately.

The next step is to define the version of the MSBuild.SDK.Extras library we want to use. The current version is 1.6.65, so let’s define it in the file. Just click the ‘Solution and Folders‘ button to find the file in Visual Studio:

switch to folder view

Add these lines into the file and save it:

{
  "msbuild-sdks": {
    "MSBuild.Sdk.Extras": "1.6.65"
  }
}

Modifying the project file

Switch back to the Solution view and right click on the .csproj file. Select ‘Edit [ProjectName].csproj‘. Let’s modify and add the project definitions. We’ll start right in the first line. Replace the first line to pull in the MSBuild.Sdk.Extras:

<Project Sdk="MSBuild.Sdk.Extras">

Next, we’re separating the Version tag. This will ensure that we’ll find it very quickly in future within the file:

  <!--separated for accessibility-->
  <PropertyGroup>
    <Version>1.0.0.0</Version>
  </PropertyGroup>

Now we are enabling multiple targets, in this case our Xamarin platforms. Please note that there are two separated versions – one that includes UWP and one that does not. I thought I would be fine to remove the non-UWP one if I include UWP and was precent with some strange build errors that where resolved only by re-adding the deleted line. I do not remember the reason, but I made a comment in my template to not remove it – so let’s just keep it that way.

  <!--make it multi-platform library!-->
  <PropertyGroup>
    <UseFullSemVerForNuGet>false</UseFullSemVerForNuGet>
    <!--we are handling compile items ourselves below with a custom naming scheme-->
    <EnableDefaultCompileItems>false</EnableDefaultCompileItems>
    <KEEP ALL THREE IF YOU ADD UWP!-->
    <TargetFrameworks></TargetFrameworks>
    <TargetFrameworks Condition=" '$(OS)' == 'Windows_NT' ">netstandard2.0;MonoAndroid81;Xamarin.iOS10;uap10.0.16299;</TargetFrameworks>
    <TargetFrameworks Condition=" '$(OS)' != 'Windows_NT' ">netstandard2.0;MonoAndroid81;Xamarin.iOS10;</TargetFrameworks>
  </PropertyGroup>

Now we will add some default NuGet packages into the project and make sure our file get included only on the correct platform. We follow a simple file naming scheme (Xamarin.Essentials uses the same):

[Class].[platform].cs

This way, we are able to add all platform specific code together with the shared entry point in a single folder. Let’ start with shared items. These will be available on all platforms listed in the PropertyGroup above:

  <!--shared items-->
  <ItemGroup>
    <!--keeping this one ensures everything goes smooth-->
    <PackageReference Include="MSBuild.Sdk.Extras" Version="1.6.65" PrivateAssets="All" />

    <!--most commonly used (by me)-->
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Forms" Version="3.4.0.1029999" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Essentials" Version="1.0.1" />

    <!--include content, exclude obj and bin folders-->
    <None Include="**\*.cs;**\*.xml;**\*.axml;**\*.png;**\*.xaml" Exclude="obj\**\*.*;bin\**\*.*;bin;obj" />
    <Compile Include="**\*.shared.cs" />
  </ItemGroup>

The ‘**\‘ part in the Include property of the Compile tag ensures MSBuild includes also classes in subfolders. Now let’s add some platform specific rules to the project:

  <ItemGroup Condition=" $(TargetFramework.StartsWith('netstandard')) ">
    <Compile Include="**\*.netstandard.cs" />
  </ItemGroup>

  <ItemGroup Condition=" $(TargetFramework.StartsWith('uap10.0')) ">
    <PackageReference Include="Microsoft.NETCore.UniversalWindowsPlatform" Version="6.1.9" />
    <Compile Include="**\*.uwp.cs" />
  </ItemGroup>

  <ItemGroup Condition=" $(TargetFramework.StartsWith('MonoAndroid')) ">
    <!--need to reference all those libs to get latest minimum Android SDK version (requirement by Google)... #sigh-->
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Annotations" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Compat" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Core.Utils" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.CustomTabs" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.v4" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Design" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.AppCompat" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.CardView" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.Palette" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.MediaRouter" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Core.UI" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Fragment" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Media.Compat" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.v7.RecyclerView" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Transition" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Vector.Drawable" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Xamarin.Android.Support.Vector.Drawable" Version="28.0.0.1" />
    <Compile Include="**\*.android.cs" />
  </ItemGroup>

  <ItemGroup Condition=" $(TargetFramework.StartsWith('Xamarin.iOS')) ">
    <Compile Include="**\*.ios.cs" />
  </ItemGroup>

Two side notes:

  • Do not reference version 6.2.2 of the Microsoft.NETCore.UniversalWindowsPlatform NuGet. There seems to be bug in there that will lead to rejection of your app from the Microsoft Store. Just keep 6.1.9 (for the moment).
  • You may not need all of the Xamarin.Android packages, but there are a bunch of dependencies between them and others, so I decided to keep them all

If you have followed along, hit the save button and close the .csproj file. Verifying everything went well is pretty easy – your solution structure should look like this:

multi-targeting-project

Before we’ll have a look at the NuGet creation part of this post, let’s add some sample code. Just insert this into static partial classes with the appropriate naming scheme for every platform and edit the code to match the platform. The .shared version of this should be empty (for this sample).

     public static partial class Hello
    {
        public static string Name { get; set; }

        public static string Platform { get; set; }

        public static  void Print()
        {
            if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(Name) && !string.IsNullOrEmpty(Platform))
                System.Diagnostics.Debug.WriteLine($"Hello {Name} from {Platform}");
            else
                System.Diagnostics.Debug.WriteLine($"Hello unkown person from {Device.Android}");
        }
    }

Normally, this would be a Renderer or other platform specific code. You should get the idea.

Preparing NuGet package creation

We will now prepare our solution to automatically generate NuGet packages both for DEBUG and RELEASE configurations. Once the packages are created, we will push it to a local (or network) file folder, which serves as our local NuGet-Server. This will fit for most Indie-developers – which tend to not replicate a full blown enterprise infrastructure for their DevOps needs. I will also mention how you could push the packages to an internal NuGet server on a sideline (we are using a similar setup at work).

Adding NuGet Push configurations

One thing we want to make sure is that we are not going to push packages on every compilation of our library. That’s why we need to separate configurations. To add new configurations, open the Configuration Manager in Visual Studio:

In the Configuration Manager dialog, select the ‘<New…>‘ option from the ‘Active solution configuration‘ ComboBox:

Name the new config to fit your needs, I just use DebugNuget which will signal that we are pushing the NuGet package for distribution. I am copying the settings from the Debug configuration and let Visual Studio add the configurations to project files within the solution. Repeat the same for Release configuration.

The result should look like this:

Modifying the project file (again)

If you head over to your project file, you will see the Configurations tag has new entries:

  <PropertyGroup>
    <Configurations>Debug;Release;DebugNuget;ReleaseNuget</Configurations>
  </PropertyGroup>

Next, add the properties of your assembly and package:

    <!--assmebly properties-->
  <PropertyGroup>
    <AssemblyName>XamarinNugets</AssemblyName>
    <RootNamespace>XamarinNugets</RootNamespace>
    <Product>XamarinNugets</Product>
    <AssemblyVersion>$(Version)</AssemblyVersion>
    <AssemblyFileVersion>$(Version)</AssemblyFileVersion>
    <NeutralLanguage>en</NeutralLanguage>
    <LangVersion>7.1</LangVersion>
  </PropertyGroup>

  <!--nuget package properties-->
  <PropertyGroup>
    <PackageId>XamarinNugets</PackageId>
    <PackageLicenseUrl>https://github.com/MSiccDevXamarinNugets</PackageLicenseUrl>
    <PackageProjectUrl>https://github.com/MSiccDevXamarinNugets</PackageProjectUrl>
    <RepositoryUrl>https://github.com/MSiccDevXamarinNugets</RepositoryUrl>

    <PackageReleaseNotes>Xamarin Nugets sample package</PackageReleaseNotes>
    <PackageTags>xamarin, windows, ios, android, xamarin.forms, plugin</PackageTags>

    <Title>Xamarin Nugets</Title>
    <Summary>Xamarin Nugets sample package</Summary>
    <Description>Xamarin Nugets sample package</Description>

    <Owners>MSiccDev Software Development</Owners>
    <Authors>MSiccDev Software Development</Authors>
    <Copyright>MSiccDev Software Development</Copyright>
  </PropertyGroup>

Configuration specific properties

Now we will add some configuration specific PropertyGroups that control if a package will be created.

Debug and DebugNuget

  <PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)'=='Debug' ">
    <DefineConstants>DEBUG</DefineConstants>
    <!--making this pre-release-->
    <PackageVersion>$(Version)-pre</PackageVersion>
    <!--needed for debugging!-->
    <DebugType>full</DebugType>
    <DebugSymbols>true</DebugSymbols>
  </PropertyGroup>

  <PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)'=='DebugNuget' ">
    <DefineConstants>DEBUG</DefineConstants>
    <!--enable package creation-->
    <GeneratePackageOnBuild>true</GeneratePackageOnBuild>
    <!--making this pre-release-->
    <PackageVersion>$(Version)-pre</PackageVersion>
    <!--needed for debugging!-->
    <DebugType>full</DebugType>
    <DebugSymbols>true</DebugSymbols>
    <GenerateDocumentationFile>false</GenerateDocumentationFile>
    <!--this makes msbuild creating src folder inside the symbols package-->
    <IncludeSource>True</IncludeSource>
    <IncludeSymbols>True</IncludeSymbols>
  </PropertyGroup>

The Debug configuration enables us to step into the Debug code while we are referencing the project directly during development, while the DebugNuget configuration will also generate a NuGet package including Source and Symbols. This is helpful once you find a bug in the NuGet package and allows us to step into this code also if we reference the NuGet instead of the project. Both configurations will add ‘-pre‘ to the version, making these packages only appear if you tick the ‘Include prerelease‘ CheckBox in the NuGet Package Manager.

Release and ReleaseNuget

  <PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)'=='Release' ">
    <DefineConstants>RELEASE</DefineConstants>
    <PackageVersion>$(Version)</PackageVersion>
  </PropertyGroup>

  <PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)'=='ReleaseNuget' ">
    <DefineConstants>RELEASE</DefineConstants>
    <PackageVersion>$(Version)</PackageVersion>
    <!--enable package creation-->
    <GeneratePackageOnBuild>true</GeneratePackageOnBuild>
    <!--include pdb for analytic services-->
    <DebugType>pdbonly</DebugType>
    <GenerateDocumentationFile>true</GenerateDocumentationFile>
  </PropertyGroup>

The relase configuration goes well with less settings. We do not generate a separated symbols-package here, as the .pdb-file without the source will do well in most cases.

Adding Build Targets

We are close to finish our implementation already. Of course, we want to make sure we push only the latest packages. To ensure this, we are cleaning all generated NuGet packages before we build the project/solution:

  <!--cleaning older nugets-->
  <Target Name="CleanOldNupkg" BeforeTargets="Build">
    <ItemGroup>
      <FilesToDelete Include="$(ProjectDir)$(BaseOutputPath)$(Configuration)\$(AssemblyName).*.nupkg"></FilesToDelete>
    </ItemGroup>
    <Delete Files="@(FilesToDelete)" />
    <Message Text="Old nupkg in $(ProjectDir)$(BaseOutputPath)$(Configuration) deleted." Importance="High"></Message>
  </Target>

MSBuild provides a lot of options to configure. We are setting the BeforeTargets property of the target to Build, so once we Clean/Build/Rebuild, all old packages will be deleted by the Delete command. Finally, we are printing a message to confirm the deletion.

Pushing the packages

After completing all these steps above, we are ready to distribute our packages. In our case, we are copying the packages to a local folder with the Copy command.

  <!--pushing to local folder (or network path)-->
  <Target Name="PushDebug" AfterTargets="Pack" Condition="'$(Configuration)'=='DebugNuget'">
    <ItemGroup>
      <PackageToCopy Include="$(ProjectDir)$(BaseOutputPath)$(Configuration)\$(AssemblyName).*.symbols.nupkg"></PackageToCopy>
    </ItemGroup>
    <Copy SourceFiles="@(PackageToCopy)" DestinationFolder="C:\TempLocNuget" />
    <Message Text="Copied '@(PackageToCopy)' to local Nuget folder" Importance="High"></Message>
  </Target>

  <Target Name="PushRelease" AfterTargets="Pack" Condition="'$(Configuration)'=='ReleaseNuget'">
    <ItemGroup>
      <PackageToCopy Include="$(ProjectDir)$(BaseOutputPath)$(Configuration)\$(AssemblyName).*.nupkg"></PackageToCopy>
    </ItemGroup>
    <Copy SourceFiles="@(PackageToCopy)" DestinationFolder="C:\TempLocNuget" />
    <Message Text="Copied '@(PackageToCopy)' to local Nuget folder" Importance="High"></Message>
  </Target>

Please note that the local folder could be replaced by a network path. You have to ensure the availability of that path – which adds in some additional work if you choose this route.

If you’re running a full NuGet server (as often happens in Enterprise environments), you can push the packages with this command (instead of the Copy command):

<Exec Command="NuGet push "$(ProjectDir)$(BaseOutputPath)$(Configuration)\$(AssemblyName).*.symbols.nupkg" [YourPublishKey] -Source [YourNugetServerUrl]" />

The result

If we now select the DebugNuget/ReleaseNuget configuration, Visual Studio will create our NuGet package and push it to our Nuget folder/server:

Let’s have a look into the NuGet package as well. Open your file location defined above and search your package:

As you can see, the Copy command executed successfully. To inspect NuGet packages, you need the NuGet Package Explorer app. Once installed, just double click the package to view its contents. Your result should be similar to this for the DebugNuGet package:

As you can see, we have both the .pdb files as well as the source in our package as intended.

Conclusion

Even as an Indie developer, you can take advantage of the DevOps options provided with Visual Studio and MSBuild. The MSBuild.Sdk.Extras package enables us to maintain a multi-targeting package for our Xamarin(.Forms) code. The whole process needs some setup, but once you have performed the steps above, extending your libraries is just fast forward.

I planned to write this post for quite some time, and I am happy with doing it as my contribution to the #XamarinMonth (initiated by Luis Matos). As always, I hope this post is helpful for some of you. Feel free to clone and play with the full sample I uploaded on Github.

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!

Helpful links:

Title image credit

P.S. Feel free to download the official app for my blog (that uses a lot of what I am blogging about):
iOS | Android | Windows 10

Posted by msicc in Azure, Dev Stories, iOS, UWP, Xamarin, 3 comments
A faster way to add image assets to your Xamarin.iOS project in Visual Studio 2017

A faster way to add image assets to your Xamarin.iOS project in Visual Studio 2017

While Visual Studio has an editor that shall help to add new image assets to the project, it is pretty slow when adding a bunch of new images. If you have to add a lot of images to add, it even crashes once in while, which can be annoying. Because I was in the process of adding more than a hundred images for porting my first app ever from Windows Phone to iOS and Android, I searched for a faster way – and found it.

What’s going on under the hood?

When you add an imageset to your assets structure, Visual Studio does quite some work. These are the steps that are done:

  1. creation of a folder for the imageset in the Assets folder
  2. creation of a Contents.jsonfile
  3. modification of the Contents.json file
  4. modification of the .csproj file

This takes some time for every image, and Visual Studio seems to be quite busy with these steps. After analyzing the way imagesets get added, I immediately recognized that I am faster than Visual Studio if I do that work manually.

How to add the assets – step by step

  1. right click on the project in Solution Explorer and select ‘Open Folder in File Explorer‘ and find the ‘Assets‘ folder  open_folder_in_file_explorer
  2. create a new folder in this format: ‘[yourassetname].imageset
  3. add your image to the folder
  4. create a new file with the name Contents.json   add_image_and_contents_file
  5. open the file (I use Notepad++ for such operations) and add this minimum required jsonto it:
    {
      "images": [
        {
          "scale": "1x",
          "idiom": "universal",
          "filename": "[yourimage].png"
        },
        {
          "scale": "2x",
          "idiom": "universal",
          "filename": "[yourimage].png"
        },
        {
          "scale": "3x",
          "idiom": "universal",
          "filename": "[yourimage].png"
        },
        {
          "idiom": "universal"
        }
      ],
      "properties": {
        "template-rendering-intent": ""
      },
      "info": {
        "version": 1,
        "author": ""
      }
    }
  6. go back to Visual Studio, right click on the project again and select ‘Unload Projectunload_project
  7. right click again and select ‘Edit [yourprojectname].iOS.csproj‘ edit_ios_csproj
  8. find the ItemGroup with the Assets
  9. inside the ItemGroup, add your imageset with these two entries:
    <ImageAsset Include="Assets.xcassets\[yourassetname].imageset\[yourimage].png">
      <Visible>false</Visible>
    </ImageAsset>
    <ImageAsset Include="Assets.xcassets\[yourassetname].imageset\Contents.json">
      <Visible>false</Visible>
    </ImageAsset>   
    
  10. close the file and reload the project by selecting it from the context menu in Solution Explorer

If you followed this steps, your assets should be visible immediately:
assets_with_added_imagesets

I did not measure the time exactly, but I felt I was significantly faster by adding all those images that way. Your mileage may vary, depending on the power of your dev machine.

Conclusion

Features like the AssetManager for iOS in Visual Studio are nice to have, but some have some serious performance problems (most of them are already known). By taking over the process manually, one can be a lot faster than a built-in feature. That said, like always, I hope this post is helpful for some of you.

Happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, iOS, Xamarin, 1 comment
Xamarin.Forms, Akavache and I: ensuring protection of sensitive data

Xamarin.Forms, Akavache and I: ensuring protection of sensitive data

Recap

Some of you might remember my posts about encryption for Android, iOS and Windows 10. If not, take a look here:

Xamarin Android: asymmetric encryption without any user input or hardcoded values

How to perform asymmetric encryption without user input/hardcoded values with Xamarin iOS

Using the built-in UWP data protection for data encryption

It is no coincidence that I wrote these three posts before starting with this Akavache series, as we’ll use those techniques to protect sensitive data with Akavache. So you might have a look first before you read on.

Creating a secure blob cache in Akavache

Akavache has a special type for saving sensitive data  – based on the interface ISecureBlobCache. The first step is to extend the IBlobCacheInstanceHelperinterface we implemented in the first post of this series:

    public interface IBlobCacheInstanceHelper
    {
        void Init();

        IBlobCache LocalMachineCache { get; set; }

        ISecureBlobCache SecretLocalMachineCache { get; set; }
    }

Of course, all three platform implementations of the IBlobCacheInstanceHelperinterface need to be updated as well. The code to add for all three platform is the same:

public ISecureBlobCache SecretLocalMachineCache { get; set; }     

private void GetSecretLocalMachineCache()
{
    var secretCache = new Lazy<ISecureBlobCache>(() =>
                                                 {
                                                     _filesystemProvider.CreateRecursive(_filesystemProvider.GetDefaultSecretCacheDirectory()).SubscribeOn(BlobCache.TaskpoolScheduler).Wait();
                                                     return new SQLiteEncryptedBlobCache(Path.Combine(_filesystemProvider.GetDefaultSecretCacheDirectory(), "secret.db"), new PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider(), BlobCache.TaskpoolScheduler);
                                                 });

    this.SecretLocalMachineCache = secretCache.Value;
}

As we will use the same name for all platform implementations, that’s already all we have to do here.

Platform specific encryption provider

Implementing the platform specific code is nothing new. Way before I used Akavache, others have already implemented solutions. The main issue is that there is no platform implementation for Android and iOS (and maybe others). My solution is inspired by this blog post by Kent Boogart, which is (as far as I can see), also broadly accepted amongst the community. The only thing I disliked about it was the requirement for a password – which either would be something reversible or causing a (maybe) bad user experience.

Akavache provides the IEncryptionProviderinterface, which contains two methods. One for encryption, the other one for decryption. Those two methods are working with byte[]both for input and output. You should be aware and know how to convert your data to that.

Implementing the  IEncryptionProvider interface

The implementation of Akavache’s encryption interface is following the same principle on all three platforms.

  • provide a reference to the internal TaskpoolSchedulerin the constructor
  • get an instance of our platform specific encryption provider
  • get or create keys (Android and iOS)
  • provide helper methods that perform encryption/decryption

Let’s have a look at the platform implementations. I will show the full class implementation and remarking them afterwards.

Android

[assembly: Xamarin.Forms.Dependency(typeof(PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider))]
namespace XfAkavacheAndI.Android.PlatformImplementations
{
    public class PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider : IEncryptionProvider
    {
        private readonly IScheduler _scheduler;

        private static readonly string KeyStoreName = $"{BlobCache.ApplicationName.ToLower()}_secureStore";

        private readonly PlatformEncryptionKeyHelper _encryptionKeyHelper;

        private const string TRANSFORMATION = "RSA/ECB/PKCS1Padding";
        private IKey _privateKey = null;
        private IKey _publicKey = null;

        public PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider()
        {
            _scheduler = BlobCache.TaskpoolScheduler ?? throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(_scheduler), "Scheduler is null");

            _encryptionKeyHelper = new PlatformEncryptionKeyHelper(Application.Context, KeyStoreName);
            GetOrCreateKeys();
        }

        public IObservable<byte[]> DecryptBlock(byte[] block)
        {
            if (block == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(block), "block cannot be null");
            }

            return Observable.Start(() => Decrypt(block), _scheduler);
        }

        public IObservable<byte[]> EncryptBlock(byte[] block)
        {
            if (block == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(block), "block cannot be null");
            }

            return Observable.Start(() => Encrypt(block), _scheduler);
        }


        private void GetOrCreateKeys()
        {
            if (!_encryptionKeyHelper.KeysExist())
                _encryptionKeyHelper.CreateKeyPair();

            _privateKey = _encryptionKeyHelper.GetPrivateKey();
            _publicKey = _encryptionKeyHelper.GetPublicKey();
        }


        public byte[] Encrypt(byte[] rawBytes)
        {
            if (_publicKey == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(_publicKey), "Public key cannot be null");
            }

            var cipher = Cipher.GetInstance(TRANSFORMATION);
            cipher.Init(CipherMode.EncryptMode, _publicKey);

            return cipher.DoFinal(rawBytes);
        }

        public byte[] Decrypt(byte[] encyrptedBytes)
        {
            if (_privateKey == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(_privateKey), "Private key cannot be null");
            }

            var cipher = Cipher.GetInstance(TRANSFORMATION);
            cipher.Init(CipherMode.DecryptMode, _privateKey);

            return cipher.DoFinal(encyrptedBytes);
        }
    }

As you can see, I am getting Akavache’s  internal TaskpoolSchedulerin the constructor, like initial stated. Then, for this sample, I am using RSA encryption. The helper methods pretty much implement the same code like in the post about my KeyStore implementation. The only thing to do is to use these methods in the EncryptBlock and DecyrptBlock method implementations, which is done asynchronously via Observable.Start.

iOS

[assembly: Xamarin.Forms.Dependency(typeof(PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider))]
namespace XfAkavacheAndI.iOS.PlatformImplementations
{
    public class PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider : IEncryptionProvider
    {
        private readonly IScheduler _scheduler;

        private readonly PlatformEncryptionKeyHelper _encryptionKeyHelper;


        private SecKey _privateKey = null;
        private SecKey _publicKey  = null;

        public PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider()
        {
            _scheduler = BlobCache.TaskpoolScheduler ??
                         throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(_scheduler), "Scheduler is null");

            _encryptionKeyHelper = new PlatformEncryptionKeyHelper(BlobCache.ApplicationName.ToLower());
            GetOrCreateKeys();
        }

        public IObservable<byte[]> DecryptBlock(byte[] block)
        {
            if (block == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(block), "block can't be null");
            }

            return Observable.Start(() => Decrypt(block), _scheduler);
        }

        public IObservable<byte[]> EncryptBlock(byte[] block)
        {
            if (block == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(block), "block can't be null");
            }

            return Observable.Start(() => Encrypt(block), _scheduler);
        }


        private void GetOrCreateKeys()
        {
            if (!_encryptionKeyHelper.KeysExist())
                _encryptionKeyHelper.CreateKeyPair();

            _privateKey = _encryptionKeyHelper.GetPrivateKey();
            _publicKey = _encryptionKeyHelper.GetPublicKey();
        }

        private byte[] Encrypt(byte[] rawBytes)
        {
            if (_publicKey == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(_publicKey), "Public key cannot be null");
            }

            var code = _publicKey.Encrypt(SecPadding.PKCS1, rawBytes, out var encryptedBytes);

            return code == SecStatusCode.Success ? encryptedBytes : null;
        }

        private byte[] Decrypt(byte[] encyrptedBytes)
        {
            if (_privateKey == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(_privateKey), "Private key cannot be null");
            }

            var code = _privateKey.Decrypt(SecPadding.PKCS1, encyrptedBytes, out var decryptedBytes);

            return code == SecStatusCode.Success ? decryptedBytes : null;
        }

    }
}

The iOS implementation follows the same schema as the Android implementation. However, iOS uses the KeyChain, which makes the encryption helper methods itself different.

UWP

[assembly: Xamarin.Forms.Dependency(typeof(PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider))]
namespace XfAkavacheAndI.UWP.PlatformImplementations
{
    public class PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider : IEncryptionProvider
    {
        private readonly IScheduler _scheduler;

        private string _localUserDescriptor = "LOCAL=user";
        private string _localMachineDescriptor = "LOCAL=machine";

        public bool UseForAllUsers { get; set; } = false;

        public PlatformCustomAkavacheEncryptionProvider()
        {
            _scheduler = BlobCache.TaskpoolScheduler ??
                         throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(_scheduler), "Scheduler is null");
        }

        public IObservable<byte[]> EncryptBlock(byte[] block)
        {
            if (block == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(block), "block can't be null");
            }

            return Observable.Start(() => Encrypt(block).GetAwaiter().GetResult(), _scheduler);
        }

        public IObservable<byte[]> DecryptBlock(byte[] block)
        {
            if (block == null)
            {
                throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(block), "block can't be null");
            }

            return Observable.Start(() => Decrypt(block).GetAwaiter().GetResult(), _scheduler);
        }


        public async Task<byte[]> Encrypt(byte[] data)
        {
            var provider = new DataProtectionProvider(UseForAllUsers ? _localMachineDescriptor : _localUserDescriptor);

            var contentBuffer = CryptographicBuffer.CreateFromByteArray(data);
            var contentInputStream = new InMemoryRandomAccessStream();
            var protectedContentStream = new InMemoryRandomAccessStream();

            //storing data in the stream
            IOutputStream outputStream = contentInputStream.GetOutputStreamAt(0);
            var dataWriter = new DataWriter(outputStream);
            dataWriter.WriteBuffer(contentBuffer);
            await dataWriter.StoreAsync();
            await dataWriter.FlushAsync();

            //reopening in input mode
            IInputStream encodingInputStream = contentInputStream.GetInputStreamAt(0);

            IOutputStream protectedOutputStream = protectedContentStream.GetOutputStreamAt(0);
            await provider.ProtectStreamAsync(encodingInputStream, protectedOutputStream);
            await protectedOutputStream.FlushAsync();

            //verify that encryption happened
            var inputReader = new DataReader(contentInputStream.GetInputStreamAt(0));
            var protectedReader = new DataReader(protectedContentStream.GetInputStreamAt(0));

            await inputReader.LoadAsync((uint)contentInputStream.Size);
            await protectedReader.LoadAsync((uint)protectedContentStream.Size);

            var inputBuffer = inputReader.ReadBuffer((uint)contentInputStream.Size);
            var protectedBuffer = protectedReader.ReadBuffer((uint)protectedContentStream.Size);

            if (!CryptographicBuffer.Compare(inputBuffer, protectedBuffer))
            {
               return protectedBuffer.ToArray();
            }
            else
            {
                return null;
            }
        }

        public async Task<byte[]> Decrypt(byte[] encryptedBytes)
        {
            var provider = new DataProtectionProvider();

            var encryptedContentBuffer = CryptographicBuffer.CreateFromByteArray(encryptedBytes);
            var contentInputStream = new InMemoryRandomAccessStream();
            var unprotectedContentStream = new InMemoryRandomAccessStream();

            IOutputStream outputStream = contentInputStream.GetOutputStreamAt(0);
            var dataWriter = new DataWriter(outputStream);
            dataWriter.WriteBuffer(encryptedContentBuffer);
            await dataWriter.StoreAsync();
            await dataWriter.FlushAsync();

            IInputStream decodingInputStream = contentInputStream.GetInputStreamAt(0);

            IOutputStream protectedOutputStream = unprotectedContentStream.GetOutputStreamAt(0);
            await provider.UnprotectStreamAsync(decodingInputStream, protectedOutputStream);
            await protectedOutputStream.FlushAsync();

            DataReader reader2 = new DataReader(unprotectedContentStream.GetInputStreamAt(0));
            await reader2.LoadAsync((uint)unprotectedContentStream.Size);
            IBuffer unprotectedBuffer = reader2.ReadBuffer((uint)unprotectedContentStream.Size);

            return unprotectedBuffer.ToArray();
        }
    }   
}

Last but not least, we have also an implementation for Windows applications. It is using the DataProtection API, which does handle all that key stuff and let’s us focus on the encryption itself. As the API is asynchronously, I am using .GetAwaiter().GetResult()Task extensions to make it compatible with Observable.Start.

Conclusion

Using the implementations above paired with our instance helper makes it easy to protect data in our apps. With all those data breach scandals and law changes around, this is one possible way secure way to handle sensitive data, as we do not have hardcoded values or any user interaction involved.

For better understanding of all that code, I made a sample project available that has all the referenced and mentioned classes implemented. Feel free to fork it and play with it (or even give me some feedback). For using the implementations, please refer to my post about common usages I wrote a few days ago. The only difference is that you would use SecretLocalMachineCacheinstead of LocalMachineCache for sensitive data.

As always, I hope this post is helpful for some of you.

Until the next post, happy coding!


P.S. Feel free to download my official app for msicc.net, which – of course – uses the implementations above:
iOS Android Windows 10

Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, iOS, UWP, Xamarin, 3 comments