Girders for iOS, written in Swift.


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Girders for Swift

Framework for building iOS applications, developed at Netcetera.

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What is Girders?

If you ask Google, girder is a large iron or steel beam or compound structure used for building bridges and the framework of large buildings. Inspired by this, Girders is the standard name for most of the frameworks we develop at Netcetera.

GirdersSwift is a new framework, written in Swift, that has several modules that you might find useful in your apps:

  • networking
  • serialization
  • dependency injection
  • storage
  • configuration

We plan to add several new modules in the future, all build in the open. Feel free to get in touch with ideas extending the framework.

Core philosophy

"A good architect maximizes the number of decisions not made" — Robert Martin.

The idea of the framework is to be as small as possible, but at the same time, as independent as possible from other frameworks. On one hand, we don't want to re-invent the wheel, when there are a lot of good frameworks for certain common tasks in iOS development. On the other, we don't want to heavily depend on third-party frameworks. That's why we are relying on protocols a lot.

This framework doesn't intend to force you on an app architecture, or async programming abstraction. You are free to choose whether you will use completionHandlers, futures/promises or RX/Combine extensions. This decision is delegated to the project.

One of the goals of the framework is to provide enough extension points to extend its functionalities, without changing the underlying implementation. Some form of the decorator pattern is used throughout the framework.

Modules

Networking

When you think of what a networking framework should do, the job is pretty simple:

  1. create a request
  2. send the request
  3. handle the response

The first part, the creation of the request seems to be the most complicated part. There are a lot of different requests - with different request headers, with SSL credentials, with basic authorisation, different HTTP methods (GET, POST and 6 more), different parameters, body and so on. A good networking library should provide an easy and robust way of creating all these different kinds of requests.

The second part is probably the simplest part - making a wrapper to the system libraries that do the actual job of sending the request through the network and receiving the response. Here is the place where you will use the NSURLSession or NSURLConnection.

After the request finishes, its response should be properly handled - here you check whether the request is successful. If it's successful then based on the Content-Type properly handle it - maybe parse a json/xml response and based on it maybe provide some already created model object/struct back to the caller. Here's the place where you can attach the appropriate response serializers.

We have our own types for Request, Response and Error. At the core of our networking library is our HTTP protocol. We provide one implementation of it with Apple's NSURLSession.

Our core method here is:

func executeRequest<T>(request: Request,
                       completionHandler: @escaping (Result<Response<T>, Error?>) -> Void)

Customising the request

Our Request type is immutable - when the request is created and all of the properties are filled with data, those values should not change anymore. We are working in a multi threaded environment, so introducing mutability will bring more complexity and bugs.

There's a mutable version of the Request, used by our RequestGenerator protocol, which has the task to build and customise the request. The customisation of the request is done by providing set of pure functions, that take a request, add additional info (e.g. headers) and return a modified copy of the request.

The beauty of this approach is that you can easily combine the provided functions to create different types of requests, without modifying the implementation. Also, you can define your own functions to decorate the request. You can build the requests with the forward pipe operator, for better clarity.

Override the generateRequest(withMethod:) in your own RequestGenerator to customise requests. For example, if you want to add JSON support to a request, you can do the following:

public func generateRequest(withMethod method: HTTPMethod) -> MutableRequest {
    return request(withMethod: method) |> withJsonSupport
}

If you want to add SSL credentials and basic authentication, later on, the only change you need to do is:

public func generateRequest(withMethod method: HTTPMethod) -> MutableRequest {
    return request(withMethod: method) |> withJsonSupport |> withSSLCredentials |> withBasicAuth
}

You can create as many request generators as you need and use the functions to build the different types of requests in your app. All of the request generators can combine the same functions to create different types of requests, without duplicating anything.

There are several convenience initializer methods to create a request, depending on the level of customisation you want to have. Here's the most flexible option.

public init(URL: URL,
            method: HTTPMethod,
            parameters: [String: Any],
            queryParameters: [String: Any] = [:],
            requestGenerator: RequestGenerator)

Endpoints

Working directly with URLs can be a tedious and error prone job. That's why we provide another abstraction - ServiceEndpoint, inspired by the Moya framework (https://github.com/Moya/Moya). The goal of the service endpoints is to enable creation of REST service endpoint URLs in a type safe manner.

Endpoints are protocols as well. The implementation can be any type, such as enum, struct or class. Endpoints use request generators under the hood, so you can define your custom request generators per endpoint, or even per URL or type of method.

Here's an example of an endpoint:

enum PaymentEndpoint {
    case RechargeCredit
    case CheckCardStatus
}

struct SecureRequestGenerator : RequestGenerator {
    func generateRequest(method: HTTPMethod) -> MutableRequest {
        return request(withMethod: method) |> withBasicAuth
    }
}

extension PaymentEndpoint : ServiceEndpoint {
    var baseURL: NSURL {
        get {
            return NSURL(string: "paymentBaseUrl")!
        }
    }

    var method: HTTPMethod {
        get {
            return .POST
        }
    }
     
    var path: String {
        if self == RechargeCredit {
            return "/rechargeCredit/"
        } else {
            return "/checkCardStatus/"
        }
    }

    var requestGenerator: RequestGenerator {
        get {
            return SecureRequestGenerator()
        }
    }
     
    var parameters: [String : AnyObject] {
        get {
            return ["token" : "someToken"]
        }
    }
}

After this setup is done, the users of the networking code will only need to specify which endpoint they want to call when creating the request.

let rechargeCredit = PaymentEndpoint.RechargeCredit
let request = Request(endpoint: rechargeCredit)

When using enum, you can use associated values to provide parameters to the endpoint. For example:

enum AccountEndpoint {
    case Login(String, String)
    case CreateAccount(String, String, String)
}

let createAccount = AccountEndpoint.CreateAccount(name, email, password)
let request = Request(endpoint: createAccount)

Handling the response

In the completion handler of our executeRequest method, we are using the Result<T, Error> enumeration, which is used a lot nowadays in the iOS SDKs.

public enum Result<T, NSError> {
    case Success(T)
    case Failure(Error?)
}

If the request is successful, the result is of type Response. This is our custom struct containing all the neccessary things expected from a response, such as statusCode, body, bodyObject, responseHeaders and url. If the request is failing, we are returning error of the Error protocol. We also provide a ResponseError enum, implementing the common error status codes.

To handle the response, you can define your own response handlers, by implementing the ResponseHandler protocol. This allows you to attach additional logic to the response handling flow, without modifying the internal implementation.

There is already a JSON handler, that can return a dictionary with the parsed data. You can define your own parsing logic and custom objects, by implementing the ResponseHandler protocol. Use of Apple's Codable is still not used, but it's planned for the future.

Here's an example of the handlers in action.

typealias ResultHandler = ((Result<Response<[String : Any]>, Error?>) -> Void)
typealias ErrorHandler = ((Error?) -> Void)

func booleanHandler(result: @escaping (Bool) -> Void,
                    error: @escaping (Error?) -> Void) -> ResultHandler {
    let handler: ResultHandler = { requestResult in
        switch requestResult {
        case .Success(_):
            result(true)
        case .Failure(let requestError):
            error(requestError)
        }
    }
    return handler
}

func register(withRequest request: RegisterRequest,
                  result: @escaping (Bool) -> Void,
                  error: @escaping (Error?) -> Void) {
    let registerRequest = self.request(forApiKey: .Users,
                                       parameters: request.toParameters(),
                                       readOnly: false)
        httpClient.executeRequest(request: registerRequest,
                                  completionHandler: booleanHandler(result: result,
                                              error: error))
}

Combine extensions

The framework now supports Combine extensions. You can execute a network requests, which can return a Publisher or a Future. Using the Decodable protocol, the response is automatically parsed and returned as a model to the caller.

func loadSensors() -> AnyPublisher<[Sensor], Error> {
    let request = Request(endpoint: PulseEndpoint.sensors)
    let publisher: AnyPublisher<[SensorResponse], Error> = httpClient.executeRequest(request: request)
    return publisher.map { (response) -> [Sensor] in
        self.convert(sensorsResponse: response)
    }
    .eraseToAnyPublisher()
}

private func convert(sensorsResponse: [SensorResponse]) -> [Sensor] {
    let sensors = sensorsResponse.map { (sensorResponse) -> Sensor in
        return convert(sensorResponse: sensorResponse)
    }
    return sensors
}

Example usage of the Combine extensions can be found here: https://github.com/martinmitrevski/GirdersCombineSample.

Error handling

If you are not using Combine, you can create your own error handlers to abstract away common error handling logic. For example, let's say that your app acceses the REST API through a token that can expire. In this case, we want to try to refresh the token, by silently loging in the user. Here's how we can do this with our error handlers.

func standardErrorHandler(_ error: @escaping ErrorHandler) -> ErrorHandler {
    let handler: ErrorHandler = { anError in
        guard let responseError = anError as? ResponseError else {
            error(anError)
            return
        }
        
        if responseError == .Unauthorized {
            autoLogin()
        } else {
            error(anError)
        }
    }
    return handler
}

Third party extensions

PromiseKit

If you like working with promises, you can use our extension of the HTTP implementation for PromiseKit.

func executeRequestAsync<T>(request: Request) -> Promise<Response<T>> {
        return Promise { seal in
            executeRequest(request: request,
                           completionHandler: { (result: Result<Response<T>, Error?>) in
                switch result {
                case .Failure(let error):
                    seal.reject(error!)
                case .Success(let data):
                    seal.fulfill(data)
                }
            })
        }
}

You can create similar extensions for any async programming abstraction you need. RXSwift will be added soon.

Configuration

Usually, when developing apps that talk to a REST service, we need to support several environments, such as development, staging and production. With our Configuration class, you can support such environments by providing different plist files. For production, the file should be named Configuration.plist and for an environment, Configuration-env.plist.

When the app is running in production mode, only the Configuration file is used. Otherwise, the two configurations are merged, where the Configuration-env file has bigger priority.

The Configuration is available as a Singleton, and getting a value from it is pretty straightforward.

let apiURL = Configuration.sharedInstance[Constants.APIURLKey] as? String

Secure Storage

There's a SecureStorage protocol, that defines methods for saving and retrieving data to a secure storage. This protocol is implemented by the KeychainStorage class, that uses another open source framework, KeychainAccess (https://github.com/kishikawakatsumi/KeychainAccess).

Example usage:

KeychainStorage.shared.save(string: username, forKey: Constants.Username)
let username = KeychainStorage.shared.string(forKey: Constants.Username)

Utilities

Logging

There's a LogProtocol, which enables you to log at different levels, such as:

  • verbose
  • debug
  • info
  • warning
  • error
  • fatal

An implementation is provided with another open sourced logger, SwiftyBeaver (https://github.com/SwiftyBeaver/SwiftyBeaver). You can control the log level for different environments by setting the logLevel value in the Configuration.plist file.

Translation

If you need to support many languages, but you want to share the texts with the Android app, we have defined our own XML format, that we call trema. There's a trema.rb script in the repo, that converts a trema file to Apple's .strings format. Here's how our trema files look like:

<trema masterLang="de"
       noNamespaceSchemaLocation="http://software.group.nca/trema/schema/trema-1.0.xsd">
  <text key="app_name">
    <context/>
    <value lang="de" status="translated">Your DE App Name</value>
    <value lang="en" status="translated">Your EN App Name</value>
    <value lang="fr" status="translated">Your FR App Name</value>
    <value lang="it" status="translated">Your IT App Name</value>
  </text>
</trema>

The translations are referenced by key, using the translate function.

struct Texts {
    static let AppName = translate("app_name")
}

Typesafe and easy swift localizations using trema with textsCreator.rb

A new ruby script was added , textsCreator.rb , to GirdersSwift that creates a swift struct with constant properties that are being read from the trema file. The script goes through the .trm file and makes properties out of the keys.

Using it is very simple, the script takes 2 mandatory parameters and 1 optional parameter. The 1st parameter is the product name of your project that can be referenced by using the XCode build constant ${PRODUCT_NAME}, this parameter is neccesary since after we create the file in the needed directory, we also need to add it to the .xcodeproj. The second parameter is the path to your .trm file. The third parameter is the path where you would want the file to be created. It is a relative path to the root folder of your project. Ex. : src/main/swift/utils/Texts.swift will create a Texts.swift file in your utils directory and the struct name will be Texts. If you omit the third parameter the script will create your file at src/main/resources/trema/Texts.swift with the appropriate struct name.

If your project is organised differently and you omit the third parameter or you use an absolute path to your directory instead of the relative one, the script will fail. This is a limitation that the script is facing because of the usage of the xcodeproj tool in ruby, which is mandatory for adding a file to a project. An example is shown below :

"${SRCROOT}"/src/main/resources/trema/textsCreator.rb "${PRODUCT_NAME}" "${SRCROOT}/src/main/resources/trema/texts.trm" "src/main/swift/util/TextUtil.swift" 

After running the project once, you will be able to use all the trema key by just using StructName.property, anywhere in your project. This script also takes the context from every trema entry and adds it as a comment above all of the properties, to help with documentation.

Date String utils

There are utils for converting Date to String and vice versa. Converting to and parsing dates from RFC822 and RFC3339 are supported.

Dependency Injection

Girders Swift contains an Inversion of Control container that can facilitate the process of Dependency Injection. Using dependency injection improves testability, makes the components more loosly coupled and makes it easy to switch implementations.

In order to implement dependency injection, every "service" that needs to be injected, should be first defined as a protocol (a contract) that the other classes will consume. For example:

protocol SomeServiceProtocol {
    func someMethod() -> String
}

The implementation class would look something like this:

class SomeService: SomeServiceProtocol {
    func someMethod() -> String {
        return UUID().uuidString
    }
}

Instances of SomeService can be created every time they are needed, or they can be created only once (aka using the Singleton pattern).

In order to use the Singleton pattern the protocol and the factory method need to be registered in the Container like so:

Container.addSingleton { () -> SomeServiceProtocol in
    return SomeService()
}

If a new instance should be created every time, use:

Container.addPerRequest { () -> SomeServiceProtocol in
    return SomeService()
}

In order to resolve the an instance of some protocol use the resolve method.

let resolvedInstance: SomeServiceProtocol = Container.resolve()

In reality there can be "services" that are use methods from other services. To resolve the dependencies, lazy properties should be used:

class SomeOtherService {
    lazy var someService: SomeServiceProtocol = Container.resolve()

    func otherServiceMethod() {
        ...
        let someValue = someService.someMethod()
        ...
    }
}

Now the implementation of SomeServiceProtocol can be switched at any time. The developer can even register mock implementations when writing unit tests. With this approach you can create interconnected services, service cascades, etc. You can use this also to inject services in your Views or ViewControllers.

NOTE: Although this Container allows you to create circular references, that doesn't mean that you should. Be aware of creating circular references and introducing memory leaks to your applications.

The registrations of protocols and factory methods should be done in the application's AppDelegate.

Areas for improvement

  • Add more unit tests
  • Improve documentation
  • Add methods for downloading large files
  • Extend the Configuration class
  • Add RXSwift support
  • Add XML support
  • Add a persistence layer
  • And a lot more.