Newsletter Issue #29

Published: 2020-09-01

The alpha has arrived!

Last week saw the long-anticipated release of 1.0.0-alpha01, marking the start of the next phase of Jetpack Compose development. In this extra-long issue, we will look at a lot of official and semi-official announcement materials from Google, plus state management and a showcase for your composables. Plus: when might the beta show up! 😁

Note that 1.0.0-alpha01 is almost identical to the dev17 release that preceded it. As a result, we have no significant code changes to deal with, other than updating our dependencies. It also means that there is very little in the release notes worth mentioning. Unfortunately, as this issue will illustrate, we have some tooling troubles to spoil the fun for some.

Alpha Announcements

A special newsletter section, highlighting official posts and videos for the Compose alpha release!

Announcing Jetpack Compose Alpha!

This was Google’s official blog post, bringing the alpha to light!

Video: Thinking in Compose

This YouTube presentation by Google’s Leland Richardson explores Compose syntax, with a particular emphasis on why we use certain patterns, to go along with the how.

Video: Compose by Example

Google’s Nick Butcher continued the alpha series of YouTube videos, working through a Compose UI sample. However, this goes beyond just how to call and nest composables, getting into design themes and animations, among other topics.

Video: Compose for Existing Apps

Google’s Manuel Vivo and Chris Banes wrap up the YouTube video series, showing how you can migrate an app progressively to use Compose UI, rather than starting over from scratch. This includes blending Compose UI into your existing architecture, leveraging your existing resources, and more!

Understanding Jetpack Compose

This blog post, along with Part 2, are extensions of Leland Richardson’s YouTube video mentioned above. They dive into what makes Compose work and how that influences our decisions on how to craft composables.

Jetpack Team Reddit AMA

Android’s Jetpack team answered a bunch of questions posed by Redditors, including several related to Compose and Compose UI.

Android Developers Backstage #147: Jetpack Compose Alpha

If you prefer your Compose knowledge in podcast form, Google’s own Android Developers Backstage podcast offers up an episode focused on the Compose alpha release, featuring several members of the Compose team.

Twitter: Architecture in Compose

Google’s Sean McQuillan wrote an extended Twitter thread on some challenges that Google themselves ran into when applying Compose UI to their JetNews sample app.

One Off the Stack, One Off the Slack

You’ve got questions. That’s understandable!

“Space characters in SimpleName” Error

There is a bug, either in the Compose compiler plugin or the Android Gradle Plugin, where we cannot use anonymous classes. We get a “Space characters in SimpleName” error.

Designer-Resistant Composables

Designers sometimes change the style of the app. With the classic View system, common look-and-feel aspects were often managed by style resources, so we could change the style to match the designers’ needs. In Compose UI, we will need to explore alternatives, as we see in this week’s highlighted Slack thread.

Composable Commentary

Posts, videos, and other new information related to Jetpack Compose!

Android Studio Canary 8 Startup Issues

We were counting on Canary 8 to give us back support for @Preview. Unfortunately, for some developers (including me!), Canary 8 refuses to run on Linux, macOS, and Chrome OS.

Jetpack Compose: How to handle states inside a Composable?

Here, Gérard Paligot walks us through Compose state management. Note, though, that the post includes coverage of state(), which has been deprecated — one of the challenges of writing about a fast-moving technology.

Jetpack Compose — State Management

Our material on state management continues, with Ali Azaz Alam reviewing the use of mutableStateOf() and remember() for holding onto local state within a composable tree.

Build and run Jetpack Compose for Desktop

Finally, Arne Stockmans shows us how to download and run the demo of the ui-desktop module from the Compose AOSP repository. On macOS, this will show a Compose UI-based app running on the desktop. On other operating systems, it will fail to build… but that is a limitation of WIP code.

Resource Roundup

100% pure code!

GitHub: android / compose-samples

This is Google’s official repository for their recently-released set of Compose UI samples, including the Jet* series: JetNews, Jetcaster, Jetchat, Jetsnack, and Jetsurvey.

GitHub: airbnb / Showkase

This library, from Vinay Gaba and the team at AirBnb, builds a gallery of your @ShowkaseComposable-annotated composables. If you launch the supplied activity, it will let you explore your composables, rendered for different scenarios (text scale, dark mode, RTL, etc.). Since the composables are discovered via an annotation processor, simply adding the @ShowkaseComposable is enough to get a composable to appear in the showcase.

…And One More Thing

So, we’re finally out of developer preview mode and have an alpha release!

As I expected, though, while it is clearly a step forward, we should largely expect “more of the same” as what we have been seeing.

As Leland Richardson put it:

The general idea that we’ve been following is that alpha is an indication of “there is enough here to build something real”. But there is still no guarantee of API stability. Things will continue to change in alpha (though likely at a slower pace)

We will still get updates every two weeks or thereabouts, so expect a steady stream of updating your dependencies in Gradle if you want to stay on the current alpha. Those changes may break our code — while there may be fewer breaking changes, there will still be some.

That is particularly true when you consider how long the alpha period might last. We know that Google wants to ship a stable release in 2021, but that’s it. Typically, Jetpack alpha release series are a lot longer than the betas, which in turn are a lot longer than the RCs. So, we might see something like:

  • Betas beginning in May 2021
  • RCs beginning in September 2021
  • Stable in November 2021

That’s just a guess, and the actual timing could wind up being quite a bit different. This timeframe is about as slow as it could go and still ship the stable release in 2021. But it illustrates that we may have 9 months of alpha releases… similar to the length of time that we had the developer previews.

So, even with a slow pace of changes, we may still wind up with quite a few API changes before a beta01 release and a temporarily stable API. “Patience is the watchword”.

Still, clearly, an alpha release is a major achievement, and the Compose team deserves all of the acclaim that has been coming their way since the alpha announcements. Many thanks to all who have contributed!

And now, let the composing commence!