CompositionExpressionToolkit

In this post, I will be introducing you to another project of mine which I started this month in GitHub – CompositionExpressionToolkit.

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Since Build 2016, I have started looking into Windows.UI.Composition APIs. These APIs are present in a layer between the XAML layer and the DirectX layer. They provide more powerful features than the XAML layer and also have a less steep learning curve than the DirectX layer. Composition APIs help to make your UI faster and more fluid. They definitely add a wow factor to your UI which might have not been possible with coding entirely in XAML.

If you are still unconvinced about Composition APIs, read the Why even use Composition Section in this blog. (TL;DR Composition APIs work outside your application process and will continue to render animations at 60 FPS even if your UI thread is blocked!)

So you might be wondering where CompositionExpressionToolkit fits in. Well, according to MSDN, ExpressionAnimation and KeyFrameAnimation use a mathematical expression to specify how the animated value should be calculated each frame. The expressions can reference properties from composition objects. Currently, the mathematical expression is provided in the form of a string. Expression animations work by parsing the mathematical expression string and internally converting it to a list of operations to produce an output value.

Well, using a string for creating an expression increases the chance of introducing errors (spelling, type-mismatch to name a few). These errors will not be picked up during compile time and can be difficult to debug during runtime too.

To mitigate this issue, we can use lambda expressions which are statically typed and allow the common errors to be caught during compile time. But how do you convert them to the appropriate string format to pass it as an input to the ExpressionAnimation / KeyFrameAnimation? This is where CompositionExpressionToolkit fits in. It provides several extension methods which take in a lambda expression as input and convert it to an appropriate string format which will be accepted by the ExpressionAnimation / KeyFrameAnimation.

CompositionExpressionToolkit also provides several other extension methods and helper classes which make it easier to work with Windows.UI.Composition.

Check out the CompositionExpressionToolkit GitHub page to know more details.

If you want to try out CompositionExpressionToolkit in your own project, it is available in NuGet too. To install CompositionExpressionToolkit, run the following command in the Package Manager Console in Visual Studio

Install-Package CompositionExpressionToolkit

Note: The current version of CompositionExpressionToolkit (v0.1.7.1) requires Windows SDK Preview 14332.

If you want to learn more about Windows.UI.Composition concepts then the following links will give you a good start –

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