Saturday, April 18, 2009

Recent UI improvements

Over the last few months I've done a lot of work on Factor's UI toolkit, and the developer tools built on top. Here is an overview of what's changed.

Code cleanup

I've been working on the UI since 2005, and it has accumulated a lot of cruft since then. Language features have come and gone and not enough refactoring was done over time. Last year I rewrote the HTTP server and compiler using the latest language features and the result was very clean code. The UI is now written in the same style.

Improved font support

I've blogged about this:

All UI gadgets that render text now use the appropriate platform-specific mechanism for rendering text. The ui.text vocabulary provides the cross-platform abstraction layer. The fonts vocabulary defines data types for fonts and font metrics. This replaces ad-hoc loosely-typed "font specifiers" that the UI used formerly, where a font was just a triple; { "sans-serif" plain 12 } for instance. Font metrics are now supported in a cross-platform manner too. All relevant gadgets now do baseline alignment.

Image support

The UI now supports an easy API for displaying images. The ui.images vocabulary defines some words which can be called from your gadget's draw-gadget* method. The ui.gadgets.icons vocabulary defines a simple gadget that renders an image and nothing else. This is all built on top of the images vocabulary, which implements BMP and TIFF loaders in pure Factor. Hopefully we'll get PNG and JPEG at some point too.

Editor gadget improvements

The ui.gadgets.editors vocabulary supports some new features:
  • Undo and redo (Control-z, Control-Shift-z)
  • Join lines (Control-j)
  • Character and word navigation now uses unicode.breaks

Table gadget replaces list gadget

The ui.gadgets.tables vocabulary implements a new gadget which is a replacement for the old list gadget. It's functionality is a superset of what lists offered. Tables are used extensively by the new developer tools to display completion popups and such. Unlike lists, which would create a gadget for every row of data, tables do not have any children and render rows directly. This reduces memory consumption. Tables take the list of rows from an underlying model, and place the currently selected row in another model. The latter model can then be wrapped in an arrow model to compute a new list of rows, which can then be the model for another table. This way, multiple tables can be chained together for a 'drill down navigation'-style of interaction with very little code.

Scroller gadget improvements

Scroller gadgets, defined in the ui.gadgets.scrollers vocabulary, now provide a protocol that their children can implement. This protocol has two generic words:
  • viewport-pref-dim - this allows the child to specify the preferred dimensions of the scroller surrounding the gadget. Tables and editors implement this generic word, allowing you to set various slots, such as min-rows and max-rows, which control the size of the scroller surrounding the gadget in character units.
  • viewport-column-header - constructs a gadget which is displayed at the top of the scroller. This allows the table gadget to display column titles which are always visible, regardless of the vertical scroll position.

Frame layout improvements

The ui.gadgets.frames vocabulary is more flexible now. Instead of limiting frame layouts to a 3x3 grid with the center item stretched to fill available space, the grid can be of any size, and an arbitrary cell can be designated to take up available space.

Models API changes

The models vocabulary has undergone some cleanups. To avoid confusion with sequence functionality, filter models are now called arrow models. Compose models are now called product models, since really they represent a cartesian product of functions, not a composition of anything at all. The new vocabulary wrap an arrow around a product whose arity is the arity of the arrow's quotation.

Integration between event loop and I/O

Until Factor supports real native threads, any FFI call blocks all Factor threads until the call completes. I/O is done with non-blocking APIs on Unix (epoll, kqueue) and Windows (IO completion ports), so socket operations can proceed concurrently. However, until recently, the UI would have to poll for events because of this, because blocking calls to wait for events would prevent I/O and other Factor threads from running. This meant that even if you weren't doing anything in the Factor UI, it would use a little bit of CPU - 5% to 25%. This problem has been fixed. On Mac OS X, I use the CFFileDescriptor API to wait on a kqueue and GUI events at the same time; you can provide a callback which is invoked when file descriptors are ready for I/O, and call [NSApplication run] as usual. On X11, I use XConnectionNumber() to get a file descriptor out of a Display and call wait-for-fd to wait for events to arrive while also allowing other Factor threads to run. This solves the CPU usage problem and allows Factor threads to run concurrently with the event loop waiting for events.

Improvements to tooling

The main focus of my recent UI work, however, has been on improving UI developer tools. I plan on making a screencast to highlight the new improvements soon.

1 comment:

david said...

you good blog, interesting to read for me