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Building a range selector with ShinobiCharts: Part III

Posted on 9 Apr 2013 Written by Sam Davies

It’s been a while since we published this post, and both iOS and ShinobiCharts have moved on… but the good news is that we’ve got an updated version of the project on GitHub where you can browse, clone, or fork the project, or simply download the zip.

This is the third post in a series about creating a range selector using ShinobiCharts for iOS. If you haven’t already read the previous posts (part I, part II) I reckon that this one will make a lot more sense if you do.

The code is available as a zip to download or on github at github.com/sammyd/Shinobi-RangeSelector, and combined with a copy of Shinobi charts (or a 30-day demo) from here you can get the entire project up and running pretty quickly.

At this point in the project we’ve managed to create 2 charts, one of which allows the user to interact with the data in the way we’d expect with an iOS chart, and the other of which has a range selection annotation, which demonstrates which section of the entire dataset the user is currently viewing. The user is able to interact with the range selector to change the bounds of the main chart’s view, as well as the location.

We left off last time with a bug (not really the best practice, but the post was getting a bit on the long side), which would allow a user to drag the upper range boundary below the lower:

2013 01 19 Range Selector Broken

Let’s start off by fixing that, and then we’ll move on to looking at the altogether more sexy problem of adding momentum to the range selector’s motion. Let’s stop waffling and get coding…

Minimum allowable span

It wouldn’t be a difficult fix to just prevent a user from dragging the grippers over the top of each other, but a much more elegant solution would be to have a minimum span, below which the chart cannot be zoomed. This is useful for general usage in Shinobi charts – not just for a range selector. For example, if you have data which you know is spaced one-per-day, then it doesn’t make sense for a user to be able to zoom in to a range of 10 seconds – we’d like to set a minimum span of say 1 week.

We need to address this issue in 2 places – one when the user interacts with the main chart, and one with the range selector. We’ll start by looking at the main chart.

Main chart interaction

We’ll add an ivar to ShinobiRangeSelector which will contain the minimum allowed span value:

@interface ShinobiRangeSelector () <ShinobiRangeAnnotationDelegate> {
    ...
    CGFloat minimumSpan;
}
@end

For now, we just set this in the constructor. It might make more sense to pull this out as a property later on.

- (id)initWithFrame:(CGRect)frame datasource:(id<SChartDatasource>)datasource splitProportion:(CGFloat)proportion
{
    self = [super initWithFrame:frame];
    if (self) {
    	...
        // Set a minimum span of 4 days
        minimumSpan = 3600 * 24 * 4;
        ...
    }
    return self;
}

In order to prevent the main chart from zooming below this range we can update the sChartIsZooming:withChartMovementInformation: delegate method implementation to check the range and reset it if it is smaller than our allowed range:

- (void)sChartIsZooming:(ShinobiChart *)chart withChartMovementInformation:(const SChartMovementInformation *)information
{
    // We need to check that we haven't gone outside of our allowed span
    if ([chart.xAxis.axisRange.span floatValue] < minimumSpan) {
        // Re-zoom it
        CGFloat midValue = [chart.xAxis.axisRange.span floatValue] / 2 + [chart.xAxis.axisRange.minimum floatValue];
        CGFloat newMin = midValue - minimumSpan / 2;
        CGFloat newMax = midValue + minimumSpan / 2;
        [chart.xAxis setRangeWithMinimum:@(newMin) andMaximum:@(newMax)];
    }
    [rangeAnnotationManager moveRangeSelectorToRange:chart.xAxis.axisRange];
}

Here we check what the span is, and if it is smaller, then reset the span to the minimum allowed, whilst maintaining the centre value.

Range selector

We’ve now fixed it so that we can’t zoom in more than a specified amount by interacting with the main chart, but it’s still possible to use the handles on the range selector to bypass this.

We’ll start by adding a new constructor to the ShinobiRangeAnnotationManager to pass in the minimum range, and an ivar to store it:

@interface ShinobiRangeAnnotationManager : NSObject
...
- (id)initWithChart:(ShinobiChart *)chart minimumSpan:(CGFloat)minSpan;
@end
@interface ShinobiRangeAnnotationManager ()<UIGestureRecognizerDelegate> {
    ...
    CGFloat minimumSpan;
}
@end
@implementation ShinobiRangeAnnotationManager
- (id)initWithChart:(ShinobiChart *)_chart
{
    return [self initWithChart:_chart minimumSpan:3600*24];
}
- (id)initWithChart:(ShinobiChart *)_chart minimumSpan:(CGFloat)minSpan
{
    self = [super init];
    if(self) {
        chart = _chart;
        minimumSpan = minSpan;
        [self createAnnotations];
        [self prepareGestureRecognisers];
    }
    return self;
}
...

Notice that we keep our previous constructor, and chain them together, adding a default value.

Now the only time we actually need to check that we haven’t broken this minimum span restriction is when we’re dragging the handles on either side of the range selector. This is all handled within the handleGripperPan: method, and so we just need to update it to only allow the range to be updated if it doesn’t violate this restriction:

- (void)handleGripperPan:(UIPanGestureRecognizer*)recogniser
{
    CGPoint currentTouchPoint = [recogniser locationInView:chart.canvas];
    // What's the new location we've dragged the handle to?
    double newValue =[[self estimateDataValueForPixelValue:currentTouchPoint.x onAxis:chart.xAxis] doubleValue];
    SChartRange *newRange;
    // Update the range with the new value according to which handle we dragged
    if(recogniser.view == leftGripper) {
        // Left handle => change the range minimum
        // Check bounds
        if([rightGripper.xValue floatValue] - newValue < minimumSpan) {
            newValue = [rightGripper.xValue floatValue] - minimumSpan;
        }
        newRange = [[SChartRange alloc] initWithMinimum:@(newValue) andMaximum:rightGripper.xValue];
    } else {
        // Right handle => change the range maximum
        // Check bounds
        if(newValue - [leftGripper.xValue floatValue] < minimumSpan) {
            newValue = [leftGripper.xValue floatValue] + minimumSpan;
        }
        newRange = [[SChartRange alloc] initWithMinimum:leftGripper.xValue andMaximum:@(newValue)];
    }
    // Move the selector
    [self moveRangeSelectorToRange:newRange];
    // And fire the delegate method
    [self callRangeDidMoveDelegateWithRange:newRange];
}

You can see that we’ve just added 2 conditional sections to this method – one for each gripper. We check that we aren’t trying to make the range too small, and if we are then simply reset it to the minimum range. This has the effect that as the user drags the gripper it will appear to stop moving once the minimum span has been reached. As they then drag back in the opposite direction, the range will expand again, as expected.

In order to wire this up correctly, we just need to use the new constructor when we create the annotation manager in ShinobiRangeSelector:

- (void)createRangeChartWithFrame:(CGRect)frame
{
    ...
    // Add some annotations
    rangeAnnotationManager = [[ShinobiRangeAnnotationManager alloc] initWithChart:rangeChart minimumSpan:minimumSpan];
    rangeAnnotationManager.delegate = self;
    ...
}

Range selector momentum

The other task I want to address in this post is adding momentum to the range selector’s draggable motion. This means that when you let go of it, it shouldn’t just stop dead, but should decelerate gracefully like dragging the main chart does. Since we’re using anything which provides this, we’re going to roll our own momentum animation – but don’t worry – it’s not as difficult as it sounds!

The way in which we wish the momentum animation to work is at the moment which the user releases the range selector annotation from dragging, it should continue to move in the same direction, with an appropriate deceleration curve. It’s easy to find when a given gesture has been completed, so we simply need to write the animation code.

MomentumAnimation utility class

We’ll create a utility class which will allow linear momentum animations. We’ll aim to make this suitably generic, so create a simple class with one method:

@interface MomentumAnimation : NSObject
- (void)animateWithStartPosition:(CGFloat)startPosition
	               startVelocity:(CGFloat)velocity
	                    duration:(CGFloat)duration
	              animationCurve:(id<SChartAnimationCurve>)curve
	                 updateBlock:(void (^)(CGFloat))updateBlock;
@end

Let’s break this down into the different parameters:

  • startPosition: Since we’re creating a generic utility class, we’re going to use normalised distance – in the range of [0,1]. In our particular scenario, we will use 0 and 1 to represent the extrema on the range chart, and we’ll calculate the value using the touch location at the instant the pan gesture is completed.
  • startVelocity: In order to get the get great user experience, we need to take into account the speed with which the user is dragging when they let go of the selector. If they user is dragging really slowly then the range selector should travel less far than if they are dragging quickly – this is the conservation of momentum. A pan gesture recogniser provides a velocity vector, but since our animation is one dimensional, we only need a one dimensional velocity, with the sign representing the direction.
  • duration: How long the animation should last in seconds.
  • animationCurve: We’ll get to this in more detail later on, but this determines what shape the velocity-time curve should take. These are provided as utilities by ShinobiCharts, and include decay, acceleration, linear and ease in/out.
  • updateBlock: Since we’re making a generic animation class, it won’t know how to update the position in order to perform the animation. Therefore we provide a block to allow the user to specify how to update positions. This block takes one argument – a normalised position (i.e. in the same scale as the startPosition parameter). As an alternative, we could define a delegate protocol, but I think that a block is a bit cleaner for this use case.

Note that in the implementation in the repo, we also provide some other animation methods which provide default values for some of these parameters.

In the corresponding implementation for the animation method we save off some ivars and define some additional ivars:

  • animating: This boolean states whether or not the animation is currently active. We’ll need this later on so that we can cancel animations should we wish to.
  • startPos and endPos: The start and end positions for the animation. These are calculated from the provided startPosition, velocity and duration arguments. The equation for calculating the startPos is somewhat empirical – it all comes down to what ‘feels right’ when a user interacts with the app. Note that we fix the positions to the [0,1] range we defined as our domain.
@interface MomentumAnimation () {
    CGFloat animationStartTime, animationDuration;
    void (^positionUpdateBlock)(CGFloat);
    CGFloat startPos, endPos;
    BOOL animating;
    id<SChartAnimationCurve> animationCurve;
}
@end
@implementation MomentumAnimation
- (void)animateWithStartPosition:(CGFloat)startPosition
			       startVelocity:(CGFloat)velocity
			            duration:(CGFloat)duration
			      animationCurve:(id<SChartAnimationCurve>)curve
			         updateBlock:(void (^)(CGFloat))updateBlock
{
    /*
     Calculate the end position. The positions we are dealing with are proportions
     and as such are limited to the range [0,1]. The sign of the velocity is used
     to calculate the direction of the motion, and the magnitude represents how
     far we should expect to travel.
    */
    endPos = startPosition + (velocity * duration) / 5;
    // Fix to the limits
    if (endPos < 0) {
        endPos = 0;
    }
    if (endPos > 1) {
        endPos = 1;
    }
    // Save off the required variables as ivars
    positionUpdateBlock = updateBlock;
    startPos = startPosition;
    // Start an animation loop
    animationStartTime = CACurrentMediaTime();
    animationDuration = duration;
    animationCurve = curve;
    animating = YES;
    [self continueAnimation];
}

The only other thing the API animation method does is to set some animation values – the animation start time, and the animating boolean. It then calls the continueAnimation method, which will repeatedly dispatch calls to itself (with a delay) until the animation duration is completed.

- (void)continueAnimation
{
    if (CACurrentMediaTime() > animationStartTime + animationDuration) {
        // We've finished the alloted animation time. Stop animating
        animating = NO;
    }
    if (animating) {
        // Let's update the position
        CGFloat currentTemporalProportion = (CACurrentMediaTime() - animationStartTime) / animationDuration;
        CGFloat currentSpatialProportion =[animationCurve valueAtTime:currentTemporalProportion];
        CGFloat currentPosition = (endPos - startPos) * currentSpatialProportion + startPos;
        // Call the block which will perform the repositioning
        positionUpdateBlock(currentPosition);
        // Repeat. We aim here for 20 updates per second.
        [self performSelector:@selector(continueAnimation) withObject:nil afterDelay:0.05f];
    }
}

Let’s walk through what this method does:

  1. Firstly we check whether the animation should have been completed – i.e. has the specified time passed (duration) since the animation first began? If it has then we should update the animating ivar accordingly.
  2. If the animating ivar is NO then we drop out of the end of this method – animation completed. Otherwise we continue.
  3. We need to update the position – this is where the aforementioned animation curve comes into play. ShinobiControls provides a set of pre-defined animation curves, the protocol for which has a method to evaluate them. Evaluation of a curve accepts a normalised time value, and returns a normalised distance – i.e. we provide a curve type and the proportion of the curve completed (in the temporal domain) and we will get back a spatial proportion. We calculate the temporal completion proportion from the current time, the start time and the duration. From this we get a spatial proportion, which we need to map to the normalised space the momentum animation is using. We do this with a simple linear mapping.
  4. We now need to actually update the position of the object we are moving, which we do using the block. As specified, the block takes one variable – the normalised distance we’ve just calculated. When we use the class we will define this block ourselves.
  5. Finally we need to repeat  – i.e. call ourselves again after a given time, so that the position will be incrementally updated. Here we use a standard NSObject method to delay a message send a given amount of time. Here we’ve gone with a delay of 0.05s, which will represent a framerate of up to 20fps. We won’t get this in reality, but the animation looks smooth enough at this rate. This isn’t recursion since the callback is performed asynchronously.

Using the MomentumAnimation class

Now that we’ve gone to the effort of creating the MomentumAnimation class, we should integrate it into the range selector code itself. We’ll create one reusable instance of the animation class:

@interface ShinobiRangeAnnotationManager ()<UIGestureRecognizerDelegate> {
	...
    MomentumAnimation *momentumAnimation;
}
@end
@implementation ShinobiRangeAnnotationManager
- (id)initWithChart:(ShinobiChart *)_chart minimumSpan:(CGFloat)minSpan
{
    self = [super init];
    if(self) {
        ...
        // Let's make an animation instance here. We'll use this whenever we need momentum
        momentumAnimation = [MomentumAnimation new];
    }
    return self;
}
@end

The only place we want to use the animation is when the use stops dragging the range annotation, so we only need to update the handlePan: method:

- (void)handlePan:(UIPanGestureRecognizer*)recogniser
{
    // What's the pixel location of the touch?
    CGPoint currentTouchPoint = [recogniser locationInView:chart.canvas];
    if (recogniser.state == UIGestureRecognizerStateEnded) {
        // Work out some values required for the animation
        // startPosition is normalised so in range [0,1]
        CGFloat startPosition = currentTouchPoint.x / chart.canvas.bounds.size.width;
        // startVelocity should be normalised as well
        CGFloat startVelocity = [recogniser velocityInView:chart.canvas].x / chart.canvas.bounds.size.width;
        // Use the momentum animator instance we have to start animating the annotation
        [momentumAnimation animateWithStartPosition:startPosition
                                      startVelocity:startVelocity
                                           duration:1.f
                                     animationCurve:[[SChartEaseOutAnimationCurve alloc] init]
                                        updateBlock:^(CGFloat position) {
            // This is the code which will get called to update the position
            CGFloat centrePixelLocation = position * chart.canvas.bounds.size.width;
            // Create the range
            SChartRange *updatedRange = [self rangeCentredOnPixelValue:centrePixelLocation];
            // Move the annotation to the correct location
            [self moveRangeSelectorToRange:updatedRange];
            // And fire the delegate method
            [self callRangeDidMoveDelegateWithRange:updatedRange];
        }];
    } else {
        // Create the range
        SChartRange *updatedRange = [self rangeCentredOnPixelValue:currentTouchPoint.x];
        // Move the annotation to the correct location
        [self moveRangeSelectorToRange:updatedRange];
        // And fire the delegate method
        [self callRangeDidMoveDelegateWithRange:updatedRange];
    }
}

Although this looks complicated, we haven’t really changed all that much from the original implementation. We now check the state property of the gesture recogniser – if the gesture has completed (UIGestureRecognizerStateEnded) then we kick off the animation, otherwise, we do exactly as we did before.

In order to start the animation we need to normalise the position and the velocity, which we do by dividing their pixel values by the width of the range chart’s canvas. Then we invoke the animation method on the momentum animation object, passing the expected arguments. We’ve used SChartEaseOutAnimationCurve here as that represents a pleasant deceleration. The block we pass in to update the range selector position works as follows:

  1. We calculate the new pixel location of the centre – this is multiplying the normalised position by the width of the chart’s canvas.
  2. Then we use the utility method to calculate the new required range.
  3. This range is passed to the moveRangeSelectorToRange: method to update the position of the
  4. And then finally we call the delegate method to make sure that the main chart is updated as well.

We’ve done all of these things before, in response to the direct user interaction passed by the gesture recogniser. Here we are just replacing that with the animation – really quite simple!

If you fire up the app now and play with it you’ll see that the momentum works really rather well. Try dragging the range selector along at different speeds and letting go – you’ll see the scrolling with momentum as we wanted.

Interacting with an animating property

As ever, there’s a situation in which there is a problem. Once an animation starts it will continue to update the position until the duration time has been completed. If you attempt to interact with either the main chart, or the range selector whilst this animation is happening, then the result with be a strange flickering, as two different processes attempt to control the position of a single object simultaneously. In order to fix this problem, we will provide a way of stopping a currently running animation.

We add a simple method to the API of MomentumAnimation:

@interface MomentumAnimation : NSObject
...
- (void)stopAnimation;
@end

Since we have the conditional check in the animation recursion method, stopping the animation is really simple – we just have to set the animating ivar to NO. Then on the next recursive call, we’ll just drop out of the loop:

@implementation MomentumAnimation
- (void)stopAnimation
{
    animating = NO;
}
@end

So when do we need to stop the animation? Well, it should be stopped every time we change the range selector’s range, except those when we are animating. We’re going to change the moveRangeSelectorToRange: method to include this animation stopping functionality:

- (void)moveRangeSelectorToRange:(SChartRange *)range cancelAnimation:(BOOL)cancelAnimation
{
    if (cancelAnimation) {
        // In many cases we want to prevent the animation fighting with the UI
        [momentumAnimation stopAnimation];
    }
    // Update the positions of all the individual components which make up the
    // range annotation
    leftLine.xValue = range.minimum;
    rightLine.xValue = range.maximum;
    leftShading.xValue = chart.xAxis.axisRange.minimum;
    leftShading.xValueMax = range.minimum;
    rightShading.xValue = range.maximum;
    rightShading.xValueMax = chart.xAxis.axisRange.maximum;
    leftGripper.xValue = range.minimum;
    rightGripper.xValue = range.maximum;
    rangeSelection.xValue = range.minimum;
    rangeSelection.xValueMax = range.maximum;
    // And finally redraw the chart
    [chart redrawChart];
}
- (void)moveRangeSelectorToRange:(SChartRange *)range
{
    // By default we'll cancel animations
    [self moveRangeSelectorToRange:range cancelAnimation:YES];
}

We add the cancelAnimation: argument, which, if specified to be YES will send the momentum animation ivar a stopAnimation method. The rest of the method updates the annotation values as we were doing before.

We update the moveRangeSelectorToRange: method to call this new method with cancelAnimation set to YES. This means that all the places we have used this API method will now cancel animation before they try and update the position of the range selector. This is fine and dandy for all but one place – in the position update block for the animation itself. If we cancel the animation whilst animating then it will never actually animate. Therefore we update the updatePosition block as follows:

- (void)handlePan:(UIPanGestureRecognizer*)recogniser
{
	...
    // Use the momentum animator instance we have to start animating the annotation
    [momentumAnimation animateWithStartPosition:startPosition
                                  startVelocity:startVelocity
                                       duration:1.f
                                 animationCurve:[[SChartEaseOutAnimationCurve alloc] init]
                                    updateBlock:^(CGFloat position) {
        ...
        // Move the annotation to the correct location
        // We use the internal method so we don't kill the momentum animator
        [self moveRangeSelectorToRange:updatedRange cancelAnimation:NO];
        ...
    }];
    ...
}

Cool. Now if you run up the app again, then you will no longer get the jerky motion when you try and interact during the momentum animation.

Onwards

So we’ve now added a minimum span to the range selector and momentum animation for when the user is dragging it. We’ve pretty much got all the really cool features which are in the ‘impress’ chart on ShinobiPlay – but there are a couple of things to take a look at in the next post:

  • When we first start the app, we don’t have a nice default range. We’ll look at how to set this.
  • The other feature we’d like to add is the value annotation on the main chart. This takes the form of a horizontal line which tracks the y-value of the right- most visible point on the chart, along with a text label which specifies its value.
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