Navigating Pitfalls - When to Use derivedStateOf with remember(key) in Jetpack Compose

Jetpack Compose has transformed Android UI development by providing a straightforward approach to building user interfaces. One of its core principles is minimising unnecessary updates, and one of the tools it offers is derivedStateOf. In this blog post, we will explore the effective utilisation of derivedStateOf through an example of hashtag validation, as well as highlighting some potential pitfalls we encountered.

First, let’s grasp the concept of derivedStateOf. This Composable function is useful when you have a state or a key that changes frequently, but you want to optimise the recomposition of your UI to occur only when specific conditions are met.

For a deeper dive into derivedStateOf, I recommend reading Ben Trengrove’s excellent blog post.

The Hashtag Validation Example

Imagine a scenario where you allow users to add hashtags to a post. You have a Composable PostHashtags that looks like this:

In this code, we allow users to input hashtags, and an error message is displayed when an invalid hashtag is entered. Additionally, we use hashtags as the remember key for inputHashTag. This ensures that the input field is cleared once a hashtag is successfully submitted.

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One could argue that onClick should be responsible for clearing the mutable state instead of relying on the side effect of recreating the hashtags list. While this is true, there are other considerations to take into account before clearing the state, such as ensuring that the server accepts the hashtags and validating that there are no duplicates, among other things.

Now, we also want to check whether the entered hashtag is valid and display an error if it’s not. The ideal scenario here is to recompose the error text only when the hashtag changes from valid to invalid or vice versa, not with every keystroke. This is the perfect use case for derivedStateOf.

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With this setup, unnecessary recompositions of the error text label is eliminated, and the error text appears only when the hashtag contains a space.

The Unexpected Behaviour

But there’s an issue. After adding the first hashtag, the error text and error state on the text field are no longer shown.

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To investigate, let’s add some log statements:

Surprisingly, the log statements show that the derivedStateOf calculation block is no longer called after adding the first hashtag.

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The Root Cause

The root cause of this issue stems from the behaviour of the remember function. When the hashtags list changes, it generates and remembers a new value for inputHashTag. However, this “new value” is not captured by the derivedStateOf function, and it continues to work with the “old” inputHashTag state object. In other words, when the “new” inputHashTag state object updates, the calculation block of derivedStateOf does not execute because it observing changes on the outdated inputHashTag state object.

The Solution

There are two possible options to resolve this issue:

1) We can ensure that derivedStateOf captures the new instance of inputHashTag whenever it changes. We can achieve this by adding hashtags as a key to the remember of isValidHashtag. This forces remember to produce a new derived state object whenever hashtags are updated (just like it does for inputHashTag). This guarantees that the updated inputHashTag is captured and utilised by the new derivedStateOf object.

2) Another approach would be to key the remember block with the inputHashTag state object. This change involves not relying on the by property delegate to directly access the value of inputHashTag. Instead, we’ve opted to work with the state object itself. By keying the remember block to the state object, we ensure that it recomposes every time a new state object is created. This guarantees that the updated inputHashTag is captured and utilised by the new derivedStateOf object.

Note: We should not key the remember block to the inputHashTag value. In such a scenario, as the user inputs hashtags, the inputHashTag value would change for each keystroke. This would result in the remember block running repeatedly, causing unnecessary recomposition.

With either of this approach, the bug is resolved, and the derivedStateOf functions as we hoped it would.

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derivedStateOf can be a bit tricky to use, but it’s an extremely effective tool in Jetpack Compose for reducing unnecessary recompositions. It enables you to control when and how your UI updates, ensuring a smooth and efficient user experience. When applied thoughtfully, it can lead to more performant and responsive applications.

So, the next time you’re dealing with dynamic UI components and want to optimize recompositions, consider incorporating derivedStateOf into your Jetpack Compose arsenal. Happy composing!

Big thanks to Ben Trengrove for the review

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.