Aggregating Annotation Processors Across Repos

Note - A plethora of excellent articles and talks describing how to write an annotation processor exist - consequently, this blog post will not talk about the details on how to build an annotation processor. Instead, it addresses a specific case that I had a much more difficult time finding answers for online and a strategy for solving it.


Suppose we are shipping an app with multiple libraries pulled from a company Maven repository. Let’s say we want to write an annotation processor that outputs a list of all classes annotated with a certain annotation. In other words, given:

// in repo1, artifact com.company.app:module1
class Foo : CommonModule

// in repo2, artifact com.company.app:module2
class Baz : CommonModule

// in the app repo
class Bin : CommonModule

// we want an implementation of this generated
interface CompanyRepository {
  val modules: List<CommonModule>

we want a class in our app module generated that looks like:

class CompanyRepositoryImpl : CompanyRepository {
   override val modules: List<CommonModule> = listOf(Foo(), Baz(), Bin())

Note - Uber has open sourced an annotation processor, Crumb, that handles this case painlessly.

Initial Attempts at a Picasso

Given this problem, let’s write an annotation processor to do this. Let’s take the obvious approach first, one in which we get all classes annotated with @CompanyModuleRepository and all the classes annotated with @CompanyModule. Using this information, we’ll write code to generate the CompanyRepositoryImpl class.

If we do this, we’ll find that the only modules we’ll be able to pick up are the ones in app - so in the above case, the Bin module is the only one that will be added.

Roadblocks and Imperfect Frescos

If we debug our annotation processor code, we’ll find that a line that looks for all the CompanyModules -

val modules = roundEnv.getElementsAnnotatedWith(CompanyModule::class.java)

Only finds the single module, Bin, within our app module. If we add another module in app, it will also be found, but all our modules from our artifacts won’t be found.

Why? When the annotation processor runs, it will run against a particular module. In this case, we’re running the annotation processor against our app module. It will find any annotated classes in app with no problem.

On the other hand, our dependencies, module1 and module2, are coming from a Maven repository as binary dependencies - i.e. they’re precompiled. Consequently, the annotation processor will not run on them at this point, since it’s too late for that. This is true even if the RETENTION on the annotations is properly set to AnnotationRetention.BINARY as it should be in this case. To solve this, we’ll need something to run while module1 and module2 are compiling, and take this result into consideration while compiling app at the end.

Gliding to Completion

After a lot of digging, I found people pointing to Glide as one of the canonical reference annotation processors that people look at while writing their own annotation processors. Reading their code and stepping through it with a sample project, here’s a summary of what Glide does:

For each LibraryGlideModule or GlideExtension (CompanyModule in our example), an Indexer class is generated in a consistent package (irrespective of the aforementioned annotated class’s package) with an @Index annotation and the fully qualified path of the original annotated class. In Glide’s case, all of these generated indices are written to com.bumptech.glide.annotation.compiler. This output generated Indexer class looks something like this:

@Index(modules = "com.bumptech.glide.LibraryGlideModule")
public class Indexer_GlideModule_com_bumptech_glide_LibraryGlideModule

For each AppGlideModule (Glide restricts these to only 1 - this is our CompanyModuleRepository), the processor looks for all files in the aforementioned directory (com.bumptech.glide.annotation.compiler), filters out only the ones with an @Index annotation, and uses those to generate the list of modules.

val glideGenPackage =     processingEnv.elementUtils.getPackageElement(COMPILER_PACKAGE_NAME);

The full code for this can be seen here.

Putting the Coils in Place

Knowing how Glide does this, we can apply the same strategy to our problem. In our case, we’ll generate an @Index annotated class for each @CompanyModule and we’ll write that to a common directory - com.company.generated.module for example.

Using the beginning example, our modules that will be pushed to Maven will look something like this:

- com/company/app/module1/foo/Foo.class
- com/company/generated/module/Indexer_Foo.class

- classes.jar

When the annotation processor is run against App, it can then find all files present in com.company.generated.module, check which ones properly have the @Index annotation (and read the full path from them), and use that information to build the list.

One Last Potential Pitfall

Glide’s annotation processor is outputting Java code using JavaPoet. If, instead, we decide to generate Kotlin code using KotlinPoet, there’s one more gotcha we need to look out for.

Consider the case where we have a single module with 1 class - running our code, we might find nothing generated, and re-running it, something might be generated. Huh? Why? The point to remember here is that kapt does not process newly generated Kotlin sources across multiple rounds (see bug here). The workaround for this is to generate our Indexer classes using JavaPoet instead of KotlinPoet (see this KotlinPoet issue for some useful extension functions for making this easier).

Special thanks to Efeturi for reviewing this post.

Building a SuperApp

One of the interesting projects I worked on this year was building Careem’s SuperApp. To do this, we combined Careem’s main two applications, the RideHailing application and the Food deliveries application, into a single app. This may sound simple at first, but it is actually an interesting problem with many layers to unravel.

I gave a talk about this at 360|AnDev this year. You can find the slides here.

Multithreading in Kotlin Multiplatform Apps

update - i did a small presentation about this as part of TouchlabShare - you can watch the video here.

In the past few days, I began looking at multithreading in Kotlin Multiplatform more carefully when I started a new iOS/Android project that I wanted to share business logic for. I realized that, despite understanding the rules of multithreading in Kotlin Native, I didn’t fully grasp the implications thereof. I thought to write this blog post to share what I learned (and as a reference for my future self).

Note - the excellent Practical Kotlin Native Concurrency series from Kevin goes through a lot of these concepts in a lot more detail - I highly recommend reading the series. I hope that this post adds some value to that series by presenting some additional examples, especially viewed from the perspective of someone trying to use shared Kotlin multiplatform code in an iOS app.

The Rules and Concepts

As a review, the rules are that an object is either:

  • immutable (and therefore can be shared across multiple threads), or
  • mutable (and is confined to a single thread)

One important concept that applies heavily here:

  • freeze - freezes an object to be shared between threads - a frozen object is immutable (for the most part) - more on this later.

So let’s take some examples and see how things play out.

The Immutable Case

Singleton Objects

Let’s say that we have written the following multiplatform code:

object MathUtil {
   fun square(input: Int) = input * input

From Swift’s main thread, we can do:

// note - MathUtil() doesn't make a new instance, it's just
// Swift syntax for getting the instance of the object.
print(NSString(format: "number^2 is: %d", MathUtil().square(4)))

We can also do:

DispatchQueue.global(qos: .background).async {
   print(NSString(format: "number^2 from bg is: %d", MathUtil().square(4)))

This second example, while obvious in retrospect, is one I never realized before - you can actually call Kotlin multiplatform code from multiple threads on iOS if the code is immutable. This is a super useful building block that can be used for more complicated examples.

Note that this also works if MathUtil has some immutable val properties in there, because Kotlin Native will freeze those properties by default. This is an important point that will come into play later.

Class Instances

Let’s change things around a bit and consider a normal class (not an object/singleton).

// common/src/commonMain/kotlin/net/cafesalam/test/NumericOperations.kt

class NumericOperations(private val amount: Int) {
  fun square() = amount * amount

In iOS, we can use a fresh instance from this class in any thread:

let ops = NumericOperations(amount: 42)
print(NSString(format: "42^2 from main: %d", ops.square()))

DispatchQueue.global(qos: .background).async {
  let bgOps = NumericOperations(amount: 10)
  print(NSString(format: "10^2 from background: %d", bgOps.square()))

Now what if we replaced bgOps.square() in the body of the async lambda in the snippet above with ops.square()? We’d get a crash:

Uncaught Kotlin exception: kotlin.native.IncorrectDereferenceException: illegal attempt to access non-shared net.cafesalam.test.common.NumericOperations@337f9a8 from other thread
        at 0   SharedCode                          0x0000000105ca0777 kfun:kotlin.Throwable.<init>(kotlin.String?)kotlin.Throwable + 87 (/Users/teamcity1/teamcity_work/4d622a065c544371/runtime/src/main/kotlin/kotlin/Throwable.kt:22:37)
        at 1   SharedCode                          0x0000000105c93545

This is saying that we cannot use the instance of NumericOperations that we made on one thread on another, because it’s a non-shared instance.

But why? Doesn’t the first rule say that immutable objects (which our class instance clearly is), can be shared across multiple threads? To quote the Stranger Threads post:

As far as the KN runtime is concerned, all non-frozen state is possibly mutable, and restricted to one thread.

So let’s suppose (for whatever reason) that we actually wanted to share the same instance across multiple threads - we can do this by freezing the instance. To do this, we can do something like this:

// common/src/iosMain/kotlin/net/cafesalam/test/Freezer.kt

object Freezer {
  fun frozenNumericOperations(amount: Int) = NumericOperations(amount).freeze()

Using this class, we can now share the instance across two threads:

// main thread
let frozenOps = Freezer().frozenNumericOperations(amount: 42)

DispatchQueue.global(qos: .background).async {

The Mutable Case

So far, all the examples have only dealt with immutable data and data that could easily be frozen - let’s try adding some mutable state into the mix.

Singleton Objects

Let’s consider this example -

object Counter {
  var count: Int = 0

If we try to use this from Swift from the main thread:

let counter = Counter()
counter.count = 42

When we try to modify count, we get a crash -

Uncaught Kotlin exception: kotlin.native.concurrent.InvalidMutabilityException: mutation attempt of frozen net.cafesalam.test.common.SecondTestClass@a6abe8
        at 0   SharedCode                          0x000000010f42a777 kfun:kotlin.Throwable.<init>(kotlin.String?)kotlin.Throwable + 87 (/Users/teamcity1/teamcity_work/4d622a065c544371/runtime/src/main/kotlin/kotlin/Throwable.kt:22:37)

This is because the properties of an object are all frozen by default. We can override this behavior by using the @ThreadLocal annotation on the object. @ThreadLocal says that each thread gets its own copy of this object.

Changing the code to instead look like this fixes the issue:

object Counter {
  var count: Int = 0

Now on iOS, we can do something like:

let counter = Counter()
counter.count = 42

DispatchQueue.global(qos: .background).async {
   let secondCounter = Counter()
   secondCounter.count = 43
   // original counter is still at 42 because of ThreadLocal

Note that if we were to try to share an instance between the ui thread and a background thread, we’d get an exception (due to the rules - if it’s not immutable, it must be confined to a single thread).

Class Instances

For normal classes with mutable variables, things are pretty straightforward - these instances are confined to the thread they were made on per the rules.

What if we want to have something be mutable but also be usable from multiple threads? How can we make that work?

Remember back to the point about freeze, when I mentioned that “a frozen object is immutable (for the most part).” The for the most part piece is because Kotlin Native has several interesting types - the atomic types. To quote the documentation:

Atomic values and freezing: atomics AtomicInt, AtomicLong, AtomicNativePtr and AtomicReference are unique types with regard to freezing. Namely, they provide mutating operations, while can participate in frozen subgraphs. So shared frozen objects can have fields of atomic types.

These types can exist within a frozen type (therefore being frozen) and can still be modified. So for example, we can have some shared code that looks like this:

// common/src/iosMain/kotlin/net/cafesalam/test/AtomicCounter.kt

object AtomicCounter {
  private val count = AtomicInt(0)

  fun get(): Int = count.value
  fun increase(): Int = count.addAndGet(1)

We can then use this on iOS from multiple threads:

// main thread
let atomic = AtomicCounter()

// first increment

DispatchQueue.global(qos: .background).async {
  // object is singleton, so this is the same instance as if we were
  // to just use atomic here directly.
  let counter = AtomicCounter()
  print(counter.get()) // prints 1
  print(counter.get()) // prints 2

Using these, especially AtomicReference, makes life a lot easier. Note that, like freeze, these types are only available in native code (i.e. not on jvm).

Global State

Top level values are (by default) declared on the main thread, preventing them from being used on other threads. Consider:

// common/src/commonMain/kotlin/net/cafesalam/test/Sample.kt

private val EMPTY_DATA = emptyArray<Any?>()

class TestClass() {
  private var data = EMPTY_DATA

  fun isEmpty() = data.isEmpty()

We can make an instance of TestClass on the main thread and use it, but we cannot make a fresh instance on a background thread. If we try to, we’d get an exception:

Uncaught Kotlin exception: kotlin.native.IncorrectDereferenceException: Trying to access top level value not marked as @ThreadLocal or @SharedImmutable from non-main thread
        at 0   SharedCode                          0x00000001045f15d7 kfun:kotlin.Throwable.<init>(kotlin.String?)kotlin.Throwable + 87 (/Users/teamcity1/teamcity_work/4d622a065c544371/runtime/src/main/kotlin/kotlin/Throwable.kt:22:37)

We can use the @ThreadLocal or @SharedImmutable annotations on the top level variable to fix this issue (depending on the behavior we want). @SharedImmutable says that this variable is immutable and therefore can be shared across threads (essentially making it frozen).

Other Points

Note that, up until now, there has been no mention of the Worker class, nor of coroutines - this is pretty neat because, even without these, the existing building blocks allow us to run code in multiple threads on the target system itself.

It would be great to write shared code that does multithreading for us as well directly in commonMain. Both the Worker class and coroutines can be used to do this.

Here’s a small example using coroutines:

object BackgroundCalculator {
  fun doSomeWork(param: Param, callback: ((Result) -> Unit)) {
     GlobalScope.launch {
       val result = withContext(Dispatchers.Default) {
          // heavy operation here that returns a Result

       withContext(Dispatchers.Main) {

Using the org.jetbrains.kotlinx:kotlinx-coroutines-core-common:1.3.5-native-mt artifact (or something newer), Dispatchers.Default is now backed by a single background thread, whereas Dispatchers.Main will point to the correct main thread on iOS / Android.

In this example, calling BackgroundCalculator.doSomeWork will return right away. Some time later, once the heavy calculation is done, it will call the callback that is passed in from the main thread. A sample usage could look like this:

BackgroundCalculator().doSomeWork(param: parameter) { (result: [Result]) in
  // this will be called on the main thread 

Note that objects will be frozen when they are transferred between threads using withContext. This also shows how the basic rules that we mentioned at the very start of the article apply, even with context of coroutines and workers.


Q: Why couldn’t the cows moo at the same time? A: Because they had a mootex.

isFrozen / ensureNeverFrozen

isFrozen and ensureNeverFrozen are your friends for debugging things. These are available in native code only, but using Stately’s common artifact, you can use them in common code only. (Note - Stately exposes these in common by implementing them as expect, where the actual implementation on native calls to the actual isFrozen / ensureNeverFrozen, and otherwise just returns false or does nothing).

i expect-ed this to be fun, but I didn’t realize that it would actually be fun.

Unit tests

Unit tests can help find many issues - for example:

class SampleTests {
  object MutableObject { var count = 0 }

  fun testMutableObject() {
    MutableObject.count = 42
    assertEquals(MutableObject.count, 42)

This innocent looking test will fail with InvalidMutabilityException if you run it on iOS (i.e. ./gradlew :common:iosTest). We fix this by adding @ThreadLocal above the object declaration as mentioned above.

I learned this (and some other tricks - like how to test and catch the issue of global state without annotations not being accessible off the ui thread) - from this post from Jake Wharton. I really recommend reading it.

Special thanks to Kevin Galligan for reviewing this post.

Kotlin Default Interface Methods and Binary Compatibility

TL;DR - adding default interface functions in Kotlin constitutes a source-compatible (but not necessarily a binary-compatible) change.

Whenever I used to run across issues mentioning binary compatibility, I used to always think, “this is super interesting, but that’s for library developers, I don’t have to worry about this while working on apps.” Little did I know how wrong I was.

This is a short story of my first encounter with an AbstractMethodError. But first, allow me to give a brief explanation of the landscape that made this possible.

Libraries and Modularization

As companies have to build and support multiple apps, it starts to make sense to share code or features across the apps. Larger companies sometimes achieve this sharing by referencing code via monorepos.

For smaller companies, pushing internal libraries and features to a private maven repository is a good way to achieve this. This is where my story begins.

Setting the Stage

Let’s say I have a common styles library that I share between my apps. Imagine that version 1.0 of this library, net.helw.common.ui:style:1.0, has one interface that looks like this:

interface ColorProvider {
  fun colorPrimary(): Int
  fun colorSecondary(): Int

Let’s also say that I share a common login feature between my apps - and suppose that version 1.0 of my login feature, net.helw.app.feature:login:1.0, has this implementation:

class LoginColorProvider: ColorProvider {
  override fun colorPrimary() = 42
  override fun colorSecondary() = 42

My Android app (which depends on net.helw.app.feature:login:1.0 and on net.helw.common.ui:style:1.0) has a class that looks like this:

object ColorUtil {
  fun getContrastingColor(colorProvider: ColorProvider): Int {
    // logic here

So far everything is great!

A Well-Intentioned Change

The designer asks me to add a new colorPrimaryVariant, and says that “in some cases it can be the same as colorPrimary, but generally it will be different.”

Ok, so I’ll just update ColorProvider to support colorPrimaryVariant and publish a new version. I don’t want to break compatibility, so I will use a default method, thinking I’ll be safe:

interface ColorProvider {
  fun colorPrimary(): Int
  fun colorSecondary(): Int
  fun colorPrimaryVariant(): Int = colorPrimary()

I update the net.helw.common:ui:style library to 1.1 and push it to maven.

I also update my app to use this 1.1 version of the library and update getContrastingColor call to use this colorPrimaryVariant method and use it in my computation somehow. My app still depends on versions 1.0 of login.

I compile my app and run it. I expected everything to work, but instead, I was greeted with an error that looked like this:

Exception in thread "main" java.lang.AbstractMethodError: ColorUtil.colorPrimaryVariant()

Digging Deeper

If we look at the decompiled Java bytecode for ColorProvider after adding the method, it looks something like this:

public interface ColorProvider {
  int colorPrimary();
  int colorSecondary();
  int colorPrimaryVariant();

  public static final class DefaultImpls {
    public static int colorPrimaryVariant(ColorProvider $this) {
      return $this.colorPrimary();

The decompiled Java bytecode for my LoginColorProvider implementation looks something like this:

public final class LoginColorProvider implements ColorProvider {
  public int colorPrimary() {
   return 42;

  public int colorSecondary() {
    return 42;

  public int colorPrimaryVariant() {
    return DefaultImpls.colorPrimaryVariant(this);

So we can see that at compile-time, Kotlin added an implementation of colorPrimaryVariant to my interface, asking it to call the static method it added.

But if this is the case, why did it break?

Classes in the AAR

An aar typically contains (among resources and other things) a file named classes.zip. This file contains .class files of all the code in the library (not source files). This means that my login aar file contains class files as they were compiled against the 1.0 version of my styles library.

In other words, the decompiled Java code of my LoginColorProvider really looks like this:

public final class LoginColorProvider implements ColorProvider {
  public int colorPrimary() {
    return 42;

  public int colorSecondary() {
    return 42;

  // ← No colorPrimaryVariant()!

If I were to recompile the login module against the 1.1 version of styles, the new method implementation would be there (calling the static method), but since I didn’t, it is nowhere to be seen.

Putting it all Together

My login feature was compiled against styles 1.0 (without the new method). But because my actual app used styles 1.1 to call the new method, it requested Gradle to use styles 1.1. Gradle saw the conflict and upgraded everything to use 1.1. Everything compiles fine - but at runtime, we get an AbstractMethodError because the new method can’t be found.

This is an example of binary compatibility breaking.


The easiest solution here is to publish an updated versions of login that depends on the 1.1 version of the style library.

Alternatively, instead of adding a default implementation, we can have sub-interfaces and the code can check against them as is appropriate. For example:

interface VariantColorProvider : ColorProvider {
  fun colorPrimaryVariant(): Int = colorPrimary()

This way, getContrastingColor could look like this:

object ColorUtil {
  fun getContrastingColor(colorProvider: ColorProvider): Int {
    return when (colorProvider) {
      is VariantColorProvider -> colorProvider.colorPrimaryVariant()
      else -> colorProvider.colorPrimary()

There doesn’t seem to be any static analysis solutions for catching this type of issue, but the japicmp tool can be used to detect when a binary incompatible change is made between two library versions.

There is, however, one more solution.

What about Java 8 / @JvmDefault?

I was curious, “are the default interface methods in Java 8 binary compatible?” - turns out that the answer to this is “mostly.” The JLS says:

Adding a default method, or changing a method from abstract to default, does not break compatibility with pre-existing binaries, but may cause an IncompatibleClassChangeError if a pre-existing binary attempts to invoke the method.

(Note that the JLS link also shows an interesting case where you’d get an IncompatibleClassChangeError that’s worth looking at. Because of this, japicmp, the open source API comparison tool, intentionally marks new methods in interfaces as errors).

In our case, if we were asking Kotlin to output Java 8 code with the -Xjvm-default=enable flag (and with the @JvmDefault annotation), everything would actually work. (Note: Zac Sweers has an in-depth article about @JvmDefault that’s worth reading).

On Android, if we annotate the default method as @JvmDefault and set the -Xjvm-default=enable flag, D8 will actually add a synthetic method to call through to the static method, even if the class was compiled against the old version of the library!

Surprisingly, @JvmDefault is currently experimental.


Special thanks to Zac Sweers for reviewing this post.

Your Multiplatform Captain Has Arrived

I gave a talk at KotlinConf 2019 about what we learned sharing code between iOS and Android using Kotlin Multiplatform at Careem. Here are the slides.

ViewPager2 under the Hood

Today, Google released the first alpha of ViewPager2. I had been looking at the code as it was developed in the Android X repository for a while now, and wanted to write a bit about how it works.


ViewPager2 builds on top of the versatile RecyclerView to make ViewPager2 a worthy successor to ViewPager.

Per the release notes, there are 3 major features that ViewPager2 adds:

  1. RTL support - ViewPager’s never natively supported RTL. In order to support it, you’d either have to manually reverse the pages yourself, or use a library that does it for you.
  2. Vertical orientation - while you could always use a RecyclerView or the like to achieve this, you don’t get the snapping behavior out of the box without implementing it yourself.
  3. notifyDataSetChanged now works - the old ViewPager’s notifyDataSetChanged didn’t recreate the page (a common workaround was to override getItemPosition to return POSITION_NONE).

I’d argue that a 4th major feature is the ability to inter-op adapters with RecyclerViews. The replacement for PagerAdapter is now RecyclerView.Adapter, which means that any RecyclerView adapter can just be used as is within ViewPager2. It also opens the door to using the more granular notifyDataSetChanged type functions (notifyItemInserted, notifyItemChanged, etc) directly or via DiffUtil.

A Quick Sample

Before diving in to how ViewPager2 is implemented, below is a really quick example of how to use it with views. For more detailed samples, please see the the official ViewPager2 Demos.

import android.graphics.Color
import android.os.Bundle
import android.view.View
import android.view.ViewGroup
import androidx.appcompat.app.AppCompatActivity
import androidx.recyclerview.widget.RecyclerView
import androidx.viewpager2.widget.ViewPager2

class MainActivity : AppCompatActivity() {
  private val data = intArrayOf(Color.BLUE, Color.RED, Color.GRAY, Color.GREEN, Color.YELLOW)

  override fun onCreate(savedInstanceState: Bundle?) {
    val viewPager = findViewById<ViewPager2>(R.id.viewpager)
    // optionally, for vertical orientation
    // viewPager.orientation = ViewPager2.ORIENTATION_VERTICAL
    viewPager.adapter = object : RecyclerView.Adapter<ItemHolder>() {
      override fun onCreateViewHolder(parent: ViewGroup, viewType: Int): ItemHolder {
        val view = View(parent.context)
        // limitation: ViewPager2 pages need to fill the page for now
        view.layoutParams = ViewGroup.LayoutParams(
        return ItemHolder(view)

      override fun getItemCount(): Int = data.size

      override fun onBindViewHolder(holder: ItemHolder, position: Int) {

  class ItemHolder(view: View) : RecyclerView.ViewHolder(view)


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

ViewPager2 can also be used with fragments, using the FragmentStateAdapter. It has 2 required methods - one for the number of items, and one for getting the item.

For more examples, see the official ViewPager2 Demos that are part of AndroidX.

Under the Hood

In order to get an overview of how ViewPager2 is built, let’s start by going back in history to the very first commit for it in AndroidX. The initial version of ViewPager2 was only 175 lines long and serves to give us a good idea of how it is built and how it works.

ViewPager2’s Initial Commit

View Construction

ViewPager2 is a ViewGroup. All of its constructors call an initialize method, which creates a RecyclerView, sets its layout manager to a LinearLayoutManager, and attaches the RecyclerView to itself. It also creates and attaches a PageSnapHelper (this is what supports page snapping).

Measure and Layout

As we’d imagine, there’s an implementation of onMeasure to measure the view. This first asks its internal RecyclerView to measure itself. It adjusts the width and height to add any padding set on the ViewPager2, and uses the maximum between the calculated width/height and the suggested minimum width and height (these suggestions come either from the background (if one is set, and in this case, one isn’t set), or from android:minWidth and android:minHeight if they are defined).

There’s also an onLayout, which lays out the internal RecyclerView while respecting padding (though a note in the source says that this may potentially be delegated to the RecyclerView itself one day to avoid page transition bugs) and setting a gravity of start and top.


There are 2 remaining functions in the initial ViewPager2 implementation that remain in the current master version - onViewAdded, which is called when a view is added to the ViewGroup - this currently throws an exception (with a TODO to add support for decor views).

Finally, there is a setAdapter - this just sets the adapter on the RecyclerView. (In the old initial commit, this wrapped the Adapter with one that ensured that the width and height of the child are MATCH_PARENT. Today, this enforcement is in an enforceChildFillListener method, which it does via a RecyclerView.OnChildAttachStateChangeListener).

(Note - for completion’s sake, the initial commit also had a method to addOnScrollListener, which was just handed down to the RecyclerView).

ViewPager2 Today

Today, ViewPager2 supports many of ViewPager’s APIs that weren’t supported in the initial commit. The vast majority of the new code in today’s ViewPager2 is for adding support for:

  • saving and restoring state
  • setting orientation (this just passes the parameter to the LinearLayoutManager).
  • support for getCurrentItem and setCurrentItem
  • ability to add an OnPageChangeCallback (similar to ViewPager.OnPageChangeListener from the legacy ViewPager).
  • setPageTransformer, which lets transformations be applied to each page while it is scrolling.

Saving and Restoring state

In onSaveInstanceState, the ViewPager2 saves:

  • the id of the RecyclerView - the RecyclerView’s id was set in the constructor to ViewCompat.generateViewId, which generates an id that won’t clash with existing R.id values.
  • the orientation
  • the current item position
  • whether or not a scroll was in progress - this is done by asking the LayoutManager for the first completely visible item on the screen and comparing it to the current item.
  • an optional Parcelable containing the adapter’s state if the adapter is a StatefulAdapter.

A method called onDispatchRestoreInstanceState is what ultimately calls restoreInstanceState during restoration. This method gets the state as a Parcelable from its parent and reads the old RecyclerView’s id. It then replaces the mapping for the RecyclerView’s data from its old id to its current id (since the id is generated by the constructor). This allows the new RecyclerView to restore using the old one’s state.

restoreInstanceState restores the saved values variables back. If the ViewPager2 died while it was scrolling, it temporarily nulls out the OnPageChangeCallback to avoid propagating events. It then posts a message to set the callback back, and calls a scrollToPosition on the RecyclerView to go back to the restored item position. The removing and re-adding of the callback is done to avoid sending out a scroll event when this happens.

Translating RecyclerView scrolls to ViewPager2 events

Like its predecessor, ViewPager2 provides support for getting and setting the current page. How does this work, especially when RecyclerView has no such method for getCurrentItem or setCurrentItem?

RecyclerView allows us to set an RecyclerView.OnScrollListener. This interface has 2 methods:

// newState is one of RecyclerView's constants for:
void onScrollStateChanged(RecyclerView recyclerView, int newState);
void onScrolled(RecyclerView recyclerView, int dx, int dy);

ViewPager2 has a helper class called ScrollEventAdapter, which maps calls from RecyclerView.OnScrollListener to calls to OnPageChangeCallback (the ViewPager2 equivalent of ViewPager.OnPageChangeListener). OnPageChangeCallback has 3 methods:

public void onPageScrolled(int position,
                           float positionOffset,
                           @Px int positionOffsetPixels);
public void onPageSelected(int position);
// state is one of ViewPager2's constants for:
public void onPageScrollStateChanged(@ScrollState int state)

The ScrollEventAdapter class maintains 3 values in an internal class called ScrollEventValues

  1. position (the adapter position of the first visible item in the RecyclerView - gotten using LayoutManager’s findFirstVisibleItemPosition)
  2. the offset in pixels (this is just “how much of this view is off the screen?”)
  3. the offset as a percentage (dividing the offset by the width for horizontal pagers and by the height for vertical ones).

With a method to calculate the ScrollEventValues, the class can then map the RecyclerView scrolled events into the corresponding ViewPager2 page events.

This serves 2 main purposes:

  1. to maintain the currentItem (for getCurrentItem and setCurrentItem) by means of listening to this class internally, and
  2. to dispatch these events to listeners who call registerOnPageChangeCallback. This also allows PageTransformer to work.

Scrolling (and smooth scrolling) are implemented by calling scrollToPosition or smoothScrollToPosition on the RecyclerView (for longer jumps, it first scrolls to a nearby position and then smooth scrolls to the actual desired position).

Page Transformations

The ViewPager2 allows for transforming pages when they scroll by passing in a PageTransformer through the setPageTransformer method. This method is fired on every onPageScrolled event. The PageTransformer gets called with 2 parameters - the View, and the position - the position is a value of where between -1 and 1 relative to the current page position. 0 means this is the current page. 1 means the page is one entire page to the right, and -1 means the page is one entire page to the left.

So if we scroll from page 1 to page 2 (in an LTR, horizontal ViewPager2), the PageTransformer for page 1 is fired for decreasing values between 0 and -1, and page 2 is fired for increasing values between 1 and 0. If we go the other way (from page 2 back to page 1), page 1 has its transformer fire for values between -1 and 0, and page 2 has its transformer fired for values between 0 and 1.

Here’s a simple example of fading the outgoing page out and the incoming view in:

    val transformer = ViewPager2.PageTransformer { page, position ->
      page.apply {
        page.alpha = 0.25f + (1 - Math.abs(position))


Here’s a demo of this in action (animated gif):

A quick note about RTL

The RTL support for ViewPager2 comes directly from the existing LinearLayoutManager used by a good portion of RecyclerViews. Like LinearLayout, LinearLayoutManager will draw the views backwards if the RTL flag is set.


ViewPager2 is a nice replacement for ViewPager built on top of RecyclerView. In addition to the support for RTL, the fact that the adapters are RecyclerView.Adapters is amazing - not just for the fact that it’s easy to inter-op with RecyclerViews, but for the ability to use specific methods like notifyItemChanged, notifyItemInserted, etc directly. DiffUtil can also be used with ViewPager2.

There are some limitations mentioned on the release page, but hopefully these will be resolved as time goes on (especially as this is just the first alpha).

As for features, I hope that one day, ViewPager2 will support more of RecyclerView’s functionality, like ItemDecorations (useful for drawing gaps between pages, for example).

Emulator Snapshots Save a lot of Time

One of the features of the Android emulator that I knew about but never used until recently is snapshots. The snapshot feature lets the emulator save its current state (including the state of the file system, installed apps, etc) and lets the developer reload it again at any time.

This feature is amazing for testing upgrades and fixing upgrade related issues. Install the old version of the app, and do any required setup (preferences that need to be set, data that needs to be added, etc). Take a snapshot. Install the new version and test or debug. Need to go back to the old version? Just load the snapshot again and you’re back to exactly where you left off when you took the snapshot.

This feature could be useful for other things - for example, one could have a snapshot logged into account A and another logged into account B. This makes it easy to test features on different account types without having to log out and log in again.

AppCompat View Inflation

Today, it’s likely that most newly written Activitys extend AppCompatActivity. The fact that it adds backwards compatibility has made life significantly easier for us as Android developers. Yet, how does it work? Specifically, how does it replace a TextView in a xml layout with an AppCompatTextView? This post aims to do a deep dive into one aspect of AppCompatActivity - view inflation.


In Android, we often write our layouts in xml files. These are bundled with our app (converted to binary xml for performance reasons by aapt/2), and are then inflated at runtime by using LayoutInflater.

There are two neat little methods present on a LayoutInflater called setFactory and setFactory2 - this method’s documentation says:

Attach a custom Factory interface for creating views while using this LayoutInflater. This must not be null, and can only be set once; after setting, you can not change the factory. This is called on each element name as the xml is parsed. If the factory returns a View, that is added to the hierarchy. If it returns null, the next factory default onCreateView(View, String, AttributeSet) method is called.

Note that Factory2 implements Factory, so for any api 11+ apps, setFactory2 is what should be used. This essentially gives us a way to intercept the creation of every tag (view element) in xml. Let’s see this in practice:

class FactoryActivity : Activity() {

  override fun onCreate(savedInstanceState: Bundle?) {
    val layoutInflater = LayoutInflater.from(this)
    layoutInflater.factory2 = object : LayoutInflater.Factory2 {
      override fun onCreateView(parent: View?,
                                name: String,
                                context: Context,
                                attrs: AttributeSet): View? {
        if (name == "TextView") {
          return RedTextView(context, attrs)
        return null

      override fun onCreateView(name: String,
                                context: Context,
                                attrs: AttributeSet): View? {
        return onCreateView(null, name, context, attrs)


Here, we’re just setting a Factory2 on the LayoutInflater for this Context. Whenever we find a TextView, we’re replacing it with our own subclass.

RedTextView is just a subclass of TextView with an extra setBackgroundColor call to set the background to red at the end of each constructor:

class RedTextView : AppCompatTextView {
  constructor(context: Context) : super(context) { initialize() }

  constructor(context: Context, attrs: AttributeSet?) :
    super(context, attrs) { initialize() }

  constructor(context: Context, attr: AttributeSet?, defStyleAttr: Int) :
    super(context, attr, defStyleAttr) { initialize() }

  private fun initialize() { setBackgroundColor(Color.RED) }

In this case, factory.xml looks like:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<LinearLayout xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"


		android:text="Hello" />

		android:text="World" />

	  android:text="Welcome" />

When we run this and use Android Studio’s Layout Inspector, we find that all our TextViews are now RedTextViews - awesome!

AppCompatActivity and Factory2

If we just change the FactoryActivity above to extend AppCompatActivity instead, we’ll see that our TextViews are, indeed, RedTextViews, but the Button we added remains a Button instead of becoming an AppCompatButton. Why?

The first two lines of AppCompatActivity’s onCreate are:

final AppCompatDelegate delegate = getDelegate();

getDelegate() returns the correct delegate depending on the api version (AppCompatDelegateImplV14, AppCompatDelegateImplV23, AppCompatDelegateImplN, etc). The next method installs the view factory - this code calls setFactory2 when layoutInflater.getFactory returns null - it does nothing otherwise.

The fact that our Button does not change now makes sense since AppCompatActivity doesn’t install its Factory when one is already installed.

Note that the setFactory2 in FactoryActivity is before super.onCreate - if it isn’t, setFactory2 will throw an exception when the parent is AppCompatActivity, since it sets its own Factory2, and as the documentation says, “This must not be null, and can only be set once; after setting, you can not change the factory.”

Playing nice with AppCompatActivity’s Factory2

So what if I want to have my own Factory2, but I also want to let AppCompatActivity run its Factory? Let’s look at some ways to do this.

Delegating to AppCompatDelegate

Inside of AppCompatDelegate, we can see a method called createView (not to be confused with onCreateView that is implementing Factory and Factory2):

 * This should be called from a
 * {@link android.view.LayoutInflater.Factory2 LayoutInflater.Factory2}
 * in order to return tint-aware widgets.
 * <p>
 * This is only needed if you are using your own
 * {@link android.view.LayoutInflater LayoutInflater} factory, and have
 * therefore not installed the default factory via {@link #installViewFactory()}.
public abstract View createView(@Nullable View parent,
                                String name,
                                @NonNull Context context,
                                @NonNull AttributeSet attrs);

With this information, we can just change our setFactory2 call to delegate to AppCompatDelegate’s when we don’t want to handle it:

  override fun onCreate(savedInstanceState: Bundle?) {
    val layoutInflater = LayoutInflater.from(this)
    layoutInflater.factory2 = object : LayoutInflater.Factory2 {
      override fun onCreateView(parent: View?,
                                name: String,
                                context: Context,
                                attrs: AttributeSet): View? {
        if (name == "TextView") {
          return RedTextView(context, attrs)

        // delegate to AppCompatActivity's getDelegate()
        return delegate.createView(parent, name, context, attrs)

      override fun onCreateView(name: String,
                                context: Context,
                                attrs: AttributeSet): View? {
        return onCreateView(null, name, context, attrs)


Running this, we indeed see that our TextViews have become RedTextViews, and that our Button has become an AppCompatButton - success!

Overriding the viewInflaterClass

If we look at createView from AppCompatDelegate, we’ll see code that it instantiates an AppCompatViewInflater using reflection if one is not already set. The specific class it instantiates comes from R.styleable.AppCompatTheme_viewInflaterClass, which is set to AppCompatViewInflater by default.

By setting the theme for FactoryActivity to something like:

<style name="FactoryTheme" parent="Theme.AppCompat.Light.DarkActionBar">
  <item name="viewInflaterClass">com.cafesalam.experiments.app.ui.CustomViewInflater</item>

We can have AppCompatDelegate use our subclass of AppCompatViewInflater:

class CustomViewInflater : AppCompatViewInflater() {
  override fun createTextView(context: Context, attrs: AttributeSet) =
    RedTextView(context, attrs)

Google’s Material Design Components project actually uses this approach to override the creation of each Button with a corresponding MaterialButton that subclasses AppCompatButton, as can be seen here.

This approach is very powerful, since it allows an app that uses a library like Material Design Components to get tinting and material design buttons by doing nothing except setting the proper theme.

Note that AppCompatViewInflater also provides a fallback createView method that can be overridden to override new components that aren’t handled by default (it is called if the base AppCompatViewInflater doesn’t handle the particular widget type).

Custom LayoutInflater

A third way to do this is by having your own LayoutInflater that is always returned when getSystemService is called via a ContextThemeWrapper (installed by overwriting attachBaseContext on the Activity). This custom LayoutInflater can then wrap setFactory2 method calls to call the underlying Factory2, and to call its own logic before or after. This method is used by the ViewPump library (which is where I learned about it).

Implementation Details

This section covers some of the nitty gritty implementation details of AppCompatDelegate’s way of view inflation (since I found it pretty interesting and learned a few things along the way here).


We’d expect the Factory2’s onCreateView method just to call directly to createView (mentioned in Delegating to AppCompatDelegate above). In fact, it does do that, but looking at the code, there’s an extra bit - a call to callActivityOnCreateView. In AppCompatDelegateImplV14 this looks like this:

  View callActivityOnCreateView(View parent,
                                String name,
                                Context context,
                                AttributeSet attrs) {
    // On Honeycomb+, Activity's private inflater factory will handle
    // calling its onCreateView(...)
    return null;

Looking at LayoutInflater’s source, we can see that part of createViewFromTag tries to get the view from the factory, and, upon not finding it, falls back to mPrivateFactory, and finally falling back to trying to create the class that the tag refers to. mPrivateFactory is set by Activity in its constructor. (Interestingly enough, it is this mPrivateFactory that is responsible for inflating fragments as seen here).

On Gingerbread through Honeycomb, LayoutInflater doesn’t have a notion of mPrivateFactory to allow the Activity to run its own fallback logic for creating views. Consequently, callActivityOnCreateView calls this method to allow that code to run on older APIs. This is mostly irrelevant now since AppCompat is now 14+ anyway, but an interesting thing I learned from this is about Window.Callback.

Window.Callback is an API from a Window back to its caller. This allows the client to intercept key dispatching, panels and menus, etc. It is wrapped by AppCompatActivity to allow it to handle certain events like a key being pressed (to handle menu and back button presses) among other things.


At a high level, createView in AppCompatDelegateImplV9 does 2 things - first, it creates the AppCompatViewInflater or respective subclass reflectively, reading from the theme as mentioned in Overriding the viewInflaterClass above. Second, it asks this inflater to create the view.

createView on AppCompatViewInflater figures out the correct context (taking into account app:theme and android:theme as necessary along with wrapping the context for tinting as necessary), and thereafter creates the proper AppCompat flavored widget, depending on the name passed in (i.e. if it’s a TextView, call createTextView which returns an AppCompatTextview, and so on).

Supporting app:theme

On Lollipop and above, app:theme can be applied to a view to override the theme for that specific view and its children. AppCompat replicates this behavior pre-api 21 by inheriting the context of the parent view (so long as that parent view is not the root view of the layout being inflated).

Before AppCompat tries to inflate the view, it gets the parent context (assuming it should inherit it as per above), and then tries to create a themed context containing android:theme if pre-Lollipop (since Lollipop handles android:theme automatically) and app:theme otherwise. This makes sure the widget is inflated with the correct context.

As an aside, AppCompat will also wrap the context with a TintContextWrapper pre-Lollipop (api 21) if the developer explicitly asked to allow for appcompat vectors to be used from resources (to allow vector drawable usage in things like android:src) via the disabled by default call to setCompatVectorFromResourcesEnabled on AppCompatDelegate.

Creating the View and Fallbacks

Given this information, the code is ready to figure out what view to create - it goes through a list of supported widgets in a switch statement, handling the common views like TextView, ImageView, etc by generating their AppCompat subclasses. If the view is of an unknown type, it calls createView with the correct Context (this method returns null by default, but may have been overwritten by a subclass of AppCompatViewInflater).

If the view is still null at this point, there is a check to see if the view’s original Context is different than its parent’s. This happens when android:theme on the child is different from that on its parent. In order to replicate the behavior of Lollipop and let children inherit the parent’s theme, AppCompat attempts to reflectively create the view with the correct Context in these cases.

After some code for fixing android:onClick behavior for ContextWrappers, the View is returned. If this View is still null, the LayoutInflater will try to inflate it by creating the underlying view.

Summary and use cases

In summary, AppCompatActivity sets a Factory2 on a LayoutInflater to intercept view creation to handle backwards compatibility (adding tinting support to the widgets, handling android:theme, etc). It also keeps this expandable so a developer can have custom handling here as well.

Outside of AppCompat, this trick has been used to accomplish many interesting things - among the first I saw were those done by the (now deprecated) Probe library. Using a combination of Factory2 and a Gradle plugin, a developer could easily enable an OvermeasureInterceptor to identify extra measure passes, or a LayoutBoundsInterceptor to highlight the bounds of a View.

The Calligraphy library uses this trick to make it easy to add fonts to TextViews. It uses the ViewPump library (mentioned earlier), which also lists some potential uses on its recipes wiki.

Finally, Google’s Material Components for Android project installs its own AppCompatViewInflater to replace Buttons with MaterialButtons.

I See Continuous Improvement

I gave my second talk at droidcon dubai this year with my coworker, Oubai Abbasi. We spoke about the importance of continuous integration on Android, along with some of the nice things that it can help catch and that you can do with it. Here is a link to the speakerdeck.

runtime generics in an erasure world

as we already know, generics in java are a compile time concept to help enforce type safety. during compilation, type erasure kicks in, resulting in the underlying bytecode being free of any generics information.

sometimes, however, we need generics information at runtime (such as when we need to convert a json string into its object form, for example). i was curious, how does this work given that types are erased at compile time? in other words, how does gson’s TypeToken class work?

in other words, why does doing this work when there are no generics at runtime (especially when, instead of String, the object type is a custom data object, for example?)

final Type typeToken = new TypeToken<List<String>>(){}.getType();
final String json = "[\"one\", \"two\"]";
final List<String> items = new Gson().fromJson(json, typeToken);

the tldr;

this great answer on StackOverflow answers the question nicely.

in summary, the java language spec specifies what the erased type of parameterized types, nested types, array types, and type variables is. it then says that “the erasure of every other type is the type itself.” TypeToken uses this fact to maintain generics information. as the TypeToken class’s javadoc says:

Forces clients to create a subclass of this class which enables retrieval the type information even at runtime.

stepping back

stepping back a bit, it’s pretty phenomenal seeing the effects of type erasure on bytecode directly. consider these two classes:

import java.util.List;

public class WithGenerics {
   List<String> data;


import java.util.List;

public class WithoutGenerics {
   List data;

if we compile these via javac and then look at the bytecode (using javap -v or using classyshark-bytecode-viewer), we’ll see:

notice that the bytecode is exactly the same for both classes. the only exception is that the type information is present in the signature of the WithGenerics class. if we are to run javap -v, we’ll see that this signature references the constant pool, where the type actually is.

  java.util.List<java.lang.String> data;
    descriptor: Ljava/util/List;
    Signature: #7    // Ljava/util/List<Ljava/lang/String;>;

in contrast, looking at WithoutGenerics, we’d see:

  java.util.List data;
    descriptor: Ljava/util/List;

“the erasure of every other type”

let’s take another example -

public class InnerType {
   public static class Internal<T> {}

   public static void main(String[] args) {

after running javac, we end up with two classes - InnerType.class and InnerType$Internal.class. looking at InnerType$Internal.class via javap -v, we see the class defined as:

public class InnerType$Internal<T extends java.lang.Object> extends java.lang.Object

if we try to display the class information like this:

public class InnerType {
   public static class Internal<T> {}

   public static void main(String[] args) {
      Internal<String> internal = new Internal<>();
      Class<?> classType = internal.getClass();

      System.out.println(classType + ", " + classType.getGenericSuperclass());

we get InnerType$Internal, with a superclass of java.lang.Object. now let’s try to modify the example slightly, and create an anonymous subclass of Internal, by doing this:

Internal<String> internal = new Internal<String>(){
   /* we could override methods here if we wanted to */

by just making that change, the app now writes that the class is InnerType$1, with a generic superclass of InnerType.InnerType$Internal<java.lang.String>. this generic superclass is actually a parameterized type, so we can cast it and extract extra information by doing something like this:

ParameterizedType t =
   (ParameterizedType) classType.getGenericSuperclass();
System.out.println(t.getOwnerType() + ", " + t.getRawType() + ", " +

if we run this, we now get an owner type of InnerType, a raw type of InnerType$Internal, and the actual type arguments of java.lang.String.

what about TypeToken?

if we look back at the first Gson example, we notice the use of a TypeToken class provided by Gson. what does this class do? we care about two classes here, TypeToken, and $Gson$Types. looking at the constructor for TypeToken, we can see it does 3 things:

  1. calls a canonicalize method on the type
  2. gets the raw type
  3. calculates a hashcode

most importantly, the canonicalize method exists in $Gson$Types and returns a specific Type depending on the actual Type passed in - if it’s an array, for example, a GenericArrayTypeImpl is made. in the example above, a ParameterizedTypeImpl would be made, using the owner type, the raw type, and the actual arguments.

in this case, as callers of Gson’s api, we make a new TypeToken with our generic type parameters. internally, this generates a ParameterizedTypeImpl that can then be used within Gson to do the right thing during deserialization.


in summary, whereas erasure erases generic types at compile time, libraries like gson take advantage of the fact that some types erase to themselves to have access to the generic type at runtime.