Build your own Transparent Page from scratch for Xamarin.Forms…

There was this one time I wanted to build my own Transparent Page in Xamarin Forms, from scratch, all by myself, due to my ego and to challenge myself.

Usually when it comes to Transparent page related situations I would always recommend the awesome Rg.Plugins.Popup  library, which I had praised one of my previous blog posts as well, So I created a Popup with Transparent background in Xamarin Forms… 😉

Backstory…

But for real there was one instance I couldn’t use any 3rd party library for the project and all the code bits should be from scratch. So I had no option but to resort myself to creating my own Transparent Page in that Xamarin.Forms project.

And I did…

Sneak Peak…

So this how it would look like.

And limit of the expansion is all up to your imagination and developer skills.

If not work on it! 😛

Recipe time!

So to create a transparent page in Xamarin.Forms out of the box is impossible, which I’m not going to explain in detail. Obviously in short, for reasons such as Xamarin.Forms abstracts the most common subset of properties of the native platforms, we don’t have much power of customization of the UI.

There is no way to use Xamarin.Forms ContentPage with transparency. (Yes I have tried!) So we need something beyond Xamarin.Forms stuff, Aha! Natively Rendered View, that could overlay on top of a give ContentPage.

But that doesn’t mean Xamarin.Forms would block you from implementing something platform specific, it only empowers you 😉

Also since we’re drilling down in the native levels, we have absolute control over Xamarin.Forms Pages, including the power to push any View on top of Xamarin.Forms ContentPage Navigation stack.

Recipe in-depth!

So to do this we need to have some Native platform level access, so if you’re using a Xamarin.Forms shared project, this should be pretty easy, but for PCL projects, you may have to create a dependency service implementation to invoke this implementation.

So in Android, we’re going to use Dialog View to implement the transparent Page and with the access of the Activity instance, we’ll push it to over any give ContentPage of Xamarin.Forms.

Then in iOS, we’ll be using UIApplication instance’s KeyWindow property to push the transparent Page over any given ContentPage of Xamarin.Forms.

Sounds pretty straight forward eh! 😀

Xamarin.Forms bits…

Alright since this a Xamarin.Forms Transparent Page, let’s first create our usual ContentPage, with usual stuff.

var xamFormsPage = new ContentPage() 
{
  BackgroundColor = new Color(0, 0, 0, 0.5),
  Content =
  new StackLayout() 
  {
    Padding = 30,
    Spacing = 20,
    WidthRequest = 250,
    BackgroundColor = Color.Black,
    Children = 
	{
	 new Xamarin.Forms.Label() {
	  Text =
	   "Welcome to my own Transparent Page!",
	   FontAttributes = FontAttributes.Bold,
	   TextColor = Color.White,
	   FontSize = 20,
	 },
	 new Xamarin.Forms.Label() {
	  Text =
	   "This is from Xamarin.Forms with a " +
	   "bit mix of simple native magic!",
	   TextColor = Color.White,
	   FontSize = 17,
	 },
	 new Xamarin.Forms.Button() {
	  Text = "Close me!",
	   BackgroundColor = Color.Gray,
	   TextColor = Color.White,
	 }
    },
    VerticalOptions = LayoutOptions.Center,
    HorizontalOptions = LayoutOptions.Center,
  }
};

 

So here we have an instance of a simple Xamarin.Forms.Content page, with a bunch of labels and a button. This is the page we’re going to render into a transparent page. 😉

Android Implementation…

So like we discussed before, on Android we’re going to make use of the Android Dialog View to populate our transparent page. In order to do this we need to get access to the current Activity of our Xamarin.Forms Android run time.

In order to do that we’re going to use CrossCurrentActivity plugin by James Montemagno. So before we begin, go ahead and add that plug in to your Xamarin.Forms solution using Nuget.

Now the basic idea here is all about actually rendering our Xamarin.Forms ContentPage instance, and converting it to a native Android View at run time. Then we take that native View instance and attach into a Android Dialog View, making it visible along with the transparent effect. Oh yes the CrossCurrentActivity plugin comes handy when we instantiate our Android Dialog View. 😉

// Assign the Parent hook for our page instance 
xamFormsPage.Parent = Xamarin.Forms.Application.Current.MainPage;

// Run the Layout Rendering Cycle for the page
xamFormsPage.Layout(new Rectangle(0, 0,
 Xamarin.Forms.Application.Current.MainPage.Width,
 Xamarin.Forms.Application.Current.MainPage.Height));

// Get the native renderered instance for our page
var nativePageRendererInstance = xamFormsPage.GetOrCreateRenderer();

// Get the native page for our page
Android.Views.View nativePageView = nativePageRendererInstance.View;

// Create the native transparent Dialog instance to embed our page
Dialog dialog = new Dialog(CrossCurrentActivity.Current.Activity);
dialog.RequestWindowFeature((int) WindowFeatures.NoTitle);
dialog.SetCancelable(false);
dialog.SetContentView(nativePageView);
Window window = dialog.Window;
window.SetLayout(ViewGroup.LayoutParams.MatchParent, ViewGroup.LayoutParams.MatchParent);
window.ClearFlags(WindowManagerFlags.DimBehind);
window.SetBackgroundDrawable(new ColorDrawable(Android.Graphics.Color.Transparent));

// Show the page
dialog.Show();

 

There you have the magical code 😉 lol.

You can see how we’re setting the Parent hook to our Xamarin.Forms page instance, then running the Layout() rendering circle allowing the Views to be actually measured and rendered in the memory. Then we convert our Xamarin.Forms page instance into a native Android View using the GetOrCreateRenderer() extension method which I will describe next.

Then as I discussed before we’re attaching the native View into a Dialog View and setting it visible resulting in total awesome transparency of a page, along with the exact Xamarin.Forms content we wanted to display.

Oh before I forget here is the precious Xamarin.Forms.View -> Android.Views.View Converter extension implementation. Special thanks to rotorgames for the below magical code block. 😉

internal static class PlatformExtension
{
	public static IVisualElementRenderer GetOrCreateRenderer(this VisualElement bindable)
	{
		var renderer = XFPlatform.GetRenderer(bindable);
		if (renderer == null)
		{
			renderer = XFPlatform.CreateRendererWithContext(bindable, CrossCurrentActivity.Current.Activity);
			XFPlatform.SetRenderer(bindable, renderer);
		}
		return renderer;
	}
}

Source Credit: Rg.Plugins.Popup.Droid/PlatformExtension.cs

As you can see it’s a simple implementation that takes in the Xamarin.Forms View instance and retrieve the native renderer for that View.

Now when you need to hide the above Transparent page, you simply call Hide() on the Android Dialog instance.

// Hide the page
dialog.Hide();

 

Then we go to the iOS stuff..

iOS Implementation….

Here we’ve come to the iOS implementation, so just like we discussed in the beginning, we’re going to access the global UIApplication singleton to push our transparent page the application view through the KeyWindow property.

So in a nutshell iOS renders every native View with the transparency give the proper background spacing, so we don’t really have to worry about using any placeholder view. The idea here is to get our Xamarin.Forms Page instance, run its Layout rendering cycle, convert that instance to an iOS native View. Then finally push it to the KeyWindow property by adding as a SubView.

Pretty straightforward, almost similar as to what we did in Android but simpler! 😉

// Assign the Parent hook for our page instance 
xamFormsPage.Parent = Xamarin.Forms.Application.Current.MainPage;

// Run the Layout Rendering Cycle for the page
xamFormsPage.Layout(new Rectangle(0, 0,
 Xamarin.Forms.Application.Current.MainPage.Width,
 Xamarin.Forms.Application.Current.MainPage.Height));

// Get the native renderered instance for our page
var nativePageRendererInstance = xamFormsPage.GetOrCreateRenderer();

// Get the native page for our page
UIView nativePageView = nativePageRendererInstance.NativeView;

// Show the page by pushing to the stack
UIApplication.SharedApplication.KeyWindow.AddSubview(nativePageView);

 

I’m not going repeat myself here because I’m too lazy and the explanation is almost same as I did in Android implementation. 😀

But in the context of iOS, you can see we’re getting the iOS native UIView of our Xamarin.Forms ContentPage instance and pushing it directly to the Application UI, by calling AddSubView() on KeyWindow property.

Oh before I forget here is the precious Xamarin.Forms.View -> UIKit.UIView Converter extension implementation. Special thanks to rotorgames for the below magical code block. 😉

internal static class PlatformExtension
{
	public static IVisualElementRenderer GetOrCreateRenderer(this VisualElement bindable)
	{
		var renderer = XFPlatform.GetRenderer(bindable);
		if (renderer == null)
		{
			renderer = XFPlatform.CreateRenderer(bindable);
			XFPlatform.SetRenderer(bindable, renderer);
		}
		return renderer;
	}
}

Source Credit: Rg.Plugins.Popup.IOS/PlatformExtension.cs

Now when you want to hide the above created Transparent Page, then you simple call the RemoveFromSuperview() on our iOS UIView instance, which will result in it removing itself from UIWindow.

// Hide the page
nativePageView.RemoveFromSuperview();

 

bloopity blah! 😀

Alright, so let me address something you might be wondering…

How about Xamarin.Forms to Xamarin Native bridge?

Now you might ask how am I going to bridge the above explained Xamarin.Forms and Xamarin Native implementation counterparts together? Now that’s some easy peasy nibbles I’m gonna leave up to your creativity or requirement.

There’s many ways to call back and forth between Xamarin.Forms or Xamarin Native project levels, or in other words, between the PCL project and the Platform Specific projects. For starters, you could use Xamarin Dependency Service to register a service interface and concrete implementation to communicate between these two layers back and forth. 😉 And many other possibilities, so your creativity is the limit.

However I will probably be writing another blog post regarding this with a full implementation of this with some cool application of it! 😉

Well frankly, that’s it fellas.

Cheers! 😀

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