Public Void @f2prateek

Rx Preferences

Android’s SharedPreferences offers a convenient mechanism to persist a collection of key-value pairs.

It’s simplistic API makes it limiting for a few reasons:

  • Callers must always know the preference key and type.
  • No support for storing custom types out of the box.
  • Callers cannot listen for changes to individual keys.

RxPreferences is a new(ish) library that builds on top of SharedPreferences to solve these problems, and takes it further by integrating with RxJava.

Typed Preferences

SharedPreferences requires callers to always know what key identifies a preference when they get or save a preference. Callers also need to keep track of what type was used for a preference (did the preference use a float or int), which can lead to subtle bugs.

SharedPreferences preferences = getDefaultSharedPreferences(this);
preferences.edit().putFloat("scale", 3.14f).commit();

// Circumvents the compiler and blows up at runtime.
preferences.getInt("scale", 0);

RxPreferences introduces a Preference class, that identifies key used to store it and the type of data it holds, making it easier to spot such bugs at compile time. RxSharedPreferences provides factory methods to promote preferences to objects.

SharedPreferences preferences = getDefaultSharedPreferences(this);
RxSharedPreferences rxPrefs = RxSharedPreferences.create(preferences);
Preference<Integer> foo = rxPrefs.getInt("foo");

foo.set(3.14f); // Will not compile!

The Preference class provides methods that replace their counterparts in SharedPreferences and SharedPreferences.Editor. This makes it convenient to use them as the source of truth, instead of sharing String constants throughout your app.

class Preference<T> {
    // Equivalent to SharedPreferences.Editor#get….
    T get();

    // Equivalent to SharedPreferences#contains.
    boolean isSet();

    // Equivalent to SharedPreferences.Editor#put….
    void set(T);

    // Equivalent to SharedPreferences.Editor#remove.
    void delete();
}

BYOA

SharedPreferences restricts you to a set of limited types — boolean, float, int, long, String and Set<String>. Trying to persist custom types is doable, but looks awkward.

@Inject SharedPreferences preferences;

// Gets unwieldy when repeated in 10 different places.
String serialized = preferences.getString("point", null);
if (serialized != null) {
  Point point = Point.parse(serialized);
  preferences.putString("point", point.toString());
}

RxPreferences introduces a pluggable Adapter abstraction. An Adapter can store and retrieve values of an arbitrary type, and consolidates your serialization logic into a single location.

public interface Adapter<T> {
  T get(String key, SharedPreferences preferences);

  void set(String key,  T value, Editor editor);
}

RxPreferences provides built in adapters for all the types suppored by SharedPreferences and enums. Writing a custom adapter is trivial. You can even use your own favorite serialization library!

class GsonPreferenceAdapter<T> implements Adapter<T> {
  final Gson gson;
  private Class<T> clazz;

  // Constructor and exception handling omitted for brevity.

  @Override
  public T get(String key, SharedPreferences preferences) {
    return gson.fromJson(preferences.getString(key), clazz);
  }

  @Override
  public void set(String key, T value, Editor editor) {
    editor.putString(key, gson.toJson(value));
  }
}

Then, simply let RxPreferences know which adapter you want to use.

GsonPreferenceAdapter<Point> adapter
    = new GsonPreferenceAdapter<>(gson, Point.class);
Preference<Point> pref = rxPrefs.getObject("point", null, adapter);

// Easy Peasy!
Point point = pref.get();
pref.set(point);

Reactive Bindings

OnSharedPreferenceChangeListener requires that listeners observe changes to all keys. Callers must filter values for the keys they’re interested in.

@Inject SharedPreferences prefs;

prefs.registerOnSharedPreferenceChangeListener((prefs, key) -> {
  // This is a firehose of information!
  // Ignore keys we aren't interested in.
  if !FOO_KEY.equals(key) return;

   boolean foo = prefs.getBoolean(key, false);
   System.out.println(foo);
});

The Preference class integrates with RxJava, and lets you observe changes to a single preference directly. Internally, RxPreferences shares a single listener amongst all Preference objects to avoid unnecessary work.

@Inject @FooPreference BooleanPreference fooPreference;

fooPreference.asObservable()
  .subscribe((enabled) -> System.out.println(enabled));

SharedPreferences+++

RxPreferences also lets you take actions on preferences to update or delete values. This makes it straightforward to set up complex pipelines by combining it with other libraries in the RxJava family.

For example, RxPreferences and RxBinding can be combined to hand roll your own simplified CheckBoxPreference.

@Inject @LocationPreference BooleanPreference locationPreference;
@BindView(R.id.check_box) CheckBox checkBox;

// Update the checkbox when the preference changes.
locationPreference.asObservable()
  .observeOn(AndroidSchedulers.mainThread())
  .subscribe(RxCompoundButton.checked(checkBox));

// Update preference when the checkbox state changes.
RxCompoundButton.checkedChanges(checkBox)
  .skip(1) // Skip the initial value.
  .subscribe(locationPreference.asAction());

RxPreferences v1

RxPreferences makes it convenient to interact with SharedPreferences, and integrating with RxJava makes it easy to express complex logic that would otherwise have been tedious and brittle. RxPreferences is available on Maven Central. Check the Github repo or u2020 to see more examples.

Happy persisting!

Thanks to Jake Wharton for polishing the API, and to Diana Smith for reading drafts of this post.

Cleaning up subscriptions

When you create a new Observable, you’ll often want to clean up whenever a Subscriber unsubscribes from the Observable. The Subscriber class exposes a handy add method that does exactly what we want.

For instance, here’s how you would create an Observable that emits the keys that were changed for some SharedPreferences. It registers a new OnSharedPreferenceChangeListener when a subscriber subscribes, and automatically unregisters the listener when the subscriber unsubscribes.

Observable.create((subscriber) -> {
        final OnSharedPreferenceChangeListener listener =
            (preferences, key) -> {
              subscriber.onNext(key);
            };

        preferences.registerOnSharedPreferenceChangeListener(listener);

        subscriber.add(Subscriptions.create(() -> {
            preferences.unregisterOnSharedPreferenceChangeListener(listener);
        }));
    });

On the Observer side of things, you can also enqueue actions to be executed each time a Subscriber unsubscribes from an Observable with the doOnUnSubscribe method.

Micro Gson

JSON is a popular format data exchange format between services. Naturally, we use JSON for our public HTTP API. Most of our client libraries are a wrapper around this with a bit of sugar mixed in.

If you’re an Android application developer, you should use Gson, Jackson or one of the numerous databinding libraries. They’re fast, (relatively) tiny, and provide simple, yet powerful APIs. Unfortunately library developers don’t have the luxury of bundling such large libraries. So we turned to APIs available in the core Android SDK.

Android ships two JSON APIs. org.json is a simple tree API, while JsonReader/JsonWriter is a lower level streaming API, available only on Android 3.0+. Our first versions of the SDK used org.json, since it was available on all versions Android, and was in use by a lot of our bundled integrations, such as Mixpanel. Although this was convenient, it resulted in a sub-optimal experience for clients. Since we let users pass in their metadata, I wanted to hide our implementation details for the next version and expose a simpler API. One of my prototypes essentially tried to replicate Gson. I liked the idea of databinding so clients didn’t have to learn any new APIs and could use their POJOs instead.

Trying to re-create Gson was not only a daunting task, but impractical (we were trying to keep the method count down after all) and wasteful. We didn’t need to support top level generic types, @SerializedName equivalent, field arrays, custom type adapters, and probably quite a few other use cases. By constraining the problem, I prototyped a implementation that does the job. It use the JsonReader/JsonWriter to read/write the JSON and combines it with the reflection API to do databinding. It’s also very similar (albeit much more complex) to how Gson approaches the issue. If you’ve wondered what Gson does under the hood, this might be a good place to start. Here’s a snippet from the class to show how serialization works.

 
  void toJson(Object object, JsonWriter writer) {
    if (object == null) {
      writer.nullValue();
    } else if (object instanceof String) {
      writer.value((String) object);
    } else if (object instanceof Number) {
      writer.value((Number) object);
    } else if (object instanceof Boolean) {
      writer.value((Boolean) object);
    } else if (object instanceof Enum) {
      writer.value(String.valueOf(object));
    } else if (object instanceof Collection) {
      writer.beginArray();
      Collection collection = (Collection) object;
      if (collection.size() == 0) {
        for (Object value : collection) {
          toJson(value, writer);
        }
      }
      writer.endArray();
    } else if (object instanceof Map) {
      writer.beginObject();
      Map<?, ?> map = (Map) object;
      for (Map.Entry<?, ?> entry : map.entrySet()) {
        writer.name(String.valueOf(entry));
        toJson(entry.getValue(), writer);
      }
      writer.endObject();
    } else {
      writer.beginObject();
      List<Field> fields = getFields(object);
      for (Field field : fields) {
        writer.name(field.getName());
        toJson(field.get(object), writer);
      }
      writer.endObject();
    }
  }

Pretty easy, eh? My favourite part is that it can be hidden behind a Converter interface!

 
public interface Converter {
  public <T> T fromJson(InputStream inputStream, Class<T> clazz);
  public <T> void toJson(T object, OutputStream outputStream);
}

This interface can be exposed to clients. It lets us provide an implementation ready to use out of the box, but clients can plug in their own implementations if they need more complex use cases. Here’s an implementation if they’re using Gson.

 
public class GsonConverter implements Converter {
  private final Gson gson;

  public GsonConverter(Gson gson) {
    this.gson = gson;
  }

  @Override
  public <T> T fromJson(InputStream inputStream, Class<T> clazz) {
    Reader reader = new InputStreamReader(inputStream);
    return gson.fromJson(reader, type);
  }

  @Override
  public <T> void toJson(OutputStream os, T object) {
    Writer writer = new OutputStreamWriter(outputStream);
    gson.toJson(object, writer);
    writer.close();
  }
}

Although it lost out to another approach, it was a fun little exercise to come up with this class.

Expect the unexpected

Be sure to protect clients from passing invalid inputs.

public void open(String path) {
  if(path == null) {
    throw new IllegalArgumentException("path may not be null");
  }
  if(path.trim().length() == 0) {
    throw new IllegalArgumentException("path may not be blank");
  }
}

Here’s a handy tip to test exceptions from the Google Java Style Guide.

try {
  open(null);
  fail();
} catch (IllegalArgumentException expected) {
}

If you need to verify the right kind of error is thrown, AssertJ has you covered.

try {
  open("  ");
  fail();
} catch (IllegalArgumentException expected) {
  assertThat(expected).hasMessage("path may not be blank");
}