Welcome to the Shell Era: Xamarin.Forms 4.0 Released
For the past year, Xamarin has been on a focused journey to improve your productivity by reducing your complexity when building cross-platform mobile applications. Notice the reference to “your” complexity, and not some abstract notion of complexity. That is because the Xamarin team spends countless hours obsessing over feedback, using that information to conduct studies and have honest one-on-one conversations to learn how we can best serve you.
From Xamarin.Forms 3.0.0 through 3.6.0 we have shipped 55 key features you told us “should just work”. Many of those features were contributed by the community. We also learned from you that getting started with Xamarin.Forms should be easier and quicker, and that navigation is a constant area of frustration.
Today, we are publishing Xamarin.Forms 4.0.0 with Shell, a simplified, navigation-aware container for making building mobile applications more efficient. We first shipped a preview of Shell at Microsoft Connect() in December 2018 with the Tailwind Traders reference project, and we have listened closely to you about what you liked, what you didn’t, and what adjustments we could make to deliver on this promise of simplicity.
For additional background, check out the MSDN article “Introducing the Xamarin.Forms Shell”.
Let’s highlight the top features of this release including Shell, Android fast renderers, image source unification, and accessibility.
As this is a major release, you would be right to expect some pretty big changes. Still, it should be a pretty smooth upgrade for you as we’ve tried hard to only introduce things that will make your development life better: Shell (of course), Android fast renderers which are now enabled by default, unified image source types, and tab ordering for increased accessibility.
On the surface, Shell provides an extremely simple syntax to establish your app’s flyout and tab menus. It also introduces a powerful route based URI navigation service in addition to the existing navigation service. The real power of Shell, however, is underneath. All renderers implement the “fast renderer” pattern, and everything is easily extensible by data templates and renderers. This new architecture introduces the foundation for future Xamarin.Forms development that will enable more expressive animations, transitions, and interactions.
To quickly get started using Shell, use the new Shell template in Visual Studio 2019 shipping today. It’s equally easy to migrate an existing application to use Shell. For more details on using Shell, check out our updated documentation:
Android Fast Renderers
You may recall version 2.4.0 when we introduced fast renderers for Button, Image, and Label to drastically reduce the number of view groups needed to render those controls. This pattern has proven to work as well as expected, and is now the new performance standard for the renderers that Shell implements. As a result, now is the time to remove the “preview” label, unseal them for you to extend, and use them by default. Be sure to review any custom controls or third party controls that depend upon these renderers to make sure everything works as expected, if not better. Should you find that you need to continue using the old-style renderers, we have introduced a flag for that purpose. In your MainActivity.cs add this flag to opt-in to legacy renderers.
Image Source Unification
You may have noticed that icons and image sources throughout different controls didn’t all implement the same types. In 3.5.0 we introduced the amazing FontImageSource which makes it extremely easy and fun to use font glyphs to decorate your app, however you couldn’t use it everywhere that icons and images were needed because of this….until now! From this point forward everything implements ImageSource. You can now use FontImageSource, embedded resources, files, and URIs everywhere without impedance.
Button.Image // from FileImageSource
MenuItem.Icon // from FileImageSource
NavigationPage.TitleIcon // from FileImageSource
Page.BackgroundImage // from string
Page.Icon // from FileImageSource
Slider.ThumbImage // from FileImageSource
Xamarin.Forms is a native cross-platform framework, and this means you have the inherent advantage of always having native accessibility features at your fingertips. We continue working towards improving the ease with which you can make your apps more accessible by now controlling the focus order directly in Xamarin.Forms. When you have a modal that goes away, or when you navigate from page to page, it’s important to tell the device’s screen reader which element has focus. Something should have focus. In order to now do this, you can set the TabIndex on any VisualElement and the native OS will take care of the rest.
Text="Turn on your screen reader and swipe between elements. The elements should be read in ascending order. It should *not* read Skip. It should *not* read this text." />
<Label TabIndex="0" Text="This will be read first and have focus"/>
<Button TabIndex="1" Text="Next Focus"/>
Thank You Contributors!
As always, we want to acknowledge all the amazing contributors and our community who go above and beyond to collaborate with us in making Xamarin.Forms better and better with each release. Xamarin.Forms 4.0.0 is a wonderful release of which we hope you’re all as proud as we are. Thank you!
Update to Xamarin.Forms 4.0.0 Today
To update your existing projects, open your Visual Studio NuGet package manager, check the pre-release box, and install Xamarin.Forms 4.0.0 along with any related packages such as Material Components with Visual or Maps.
Migrating pre-release Shell code to 4.0.0? There are a few things you’ll want to quickly update:
- Route, RouteHost, and RouteScheme are not needed. Remove them.
- Styles that began with “Shell” have been renamed to eliminate redundancy. For example, “Shell.ShellBackgroundColor” is now “Shell.BackgroundColor”.
Feedback is always welcome! If you encounter any problems or have suggestions, please open up an issue on GitHub.
Reference apps on GitHub:
Live Release Party
Join the Xamarin.Forms team, myself and special guests this Wednesday (May 22, 2019) for a live stream on YouTube where we talk about the features, tell some stories, show demos, and upgrade an open source app to Xamarin.Forms 4.0 with Shell.