View state

This page is just a brief comparison of sealed class and data class based view states. For some more tips about using single view states, have a look at Designing and Working with Single View States on Android.

Sealed class view states

The recommended style of view state to be used is based on sealed classes. These are handy because they only have a known number of subclasses, and can therefore be checked exhaustively with when statements (see the docs linked above).

This style is to be used when a screen has multiple, completely distinct states which would be hard to describe with a single data class. For example, given a screen that can show a user’s profile information, a loading progressbar, or a network error, you’d come up with a data class like this:

data class ProfileViewState(
        val errored: Boolean = false,
        val loading: Boolean = false,
        val name: String? = null

This would be problematic because it’s possible to create completely nonsensical instances of this state. For example, you could do the following, which doesn’t really make any sense - which of its three states would the screen even show?

viewState = ProfileViewState(errored = true, loading = true, name = "Sally")

The same screen approached with sealed classes looks like this:

sealed class ProfileViewState

object Errored : ProfileViewState()

object Loading : ProfileViewState()

data class ProfileLoaded(val name: String) : ProfileViewState()

This clearly divides these states so that there’s only a single, valid one stored in the ViewModel, and the Fragment’s rendering logic is straightforward from here:

override fun render(viewState: ProfileViewState) {
    errorLayout.isVisible = false
    profileLayout.isVisible = false
    loadingLayout.isVisible = false
    when (viewState) {
        is Loading -> {
            loadingLayout.isVisible = true
        is Errored -> {
            errorLayout.isVisible = true
        is ProfileLoaded -> {
            profileLayout.isVisible = true
            tvName.text =

Note how the name property in the last branch is available on the viewState parameter, because it’s already known to be of type ProfileLoaded after passing the type check of the when statement.

Data class view state implementations

The simpler style of view state is a single data class. The power within this approach comes from the data class' generated copy method, which allows us to make partial, incremental updates to the current state of a view.

Let’s take the following example:

data class CartViewState(
        val cartItems: List<CartItem> = emptyList(),
        val canProceedToOrder: Boolean = false

Our screen that has this ViewState displays the list of cart items, and has a button that lets the user complete their current order. The canProceedToOrder variable can have arbitrary business logic behind it, let’s say it will be true when the user has accepted the terms and conditions of the application, with a checkbox on the screen.

Initially, when declaring the ViewModel, you can create a CartViewState with all default parameters:

class CartViewModel @Inject constructor(
        private val cartPresenter: CartPresenter
) : RainbowCakeViewModel<CartViewState>(CartViewState()) { /* ... */ }

Later, you can load the cart items so that they are displayed on the screen. On the first load, the canProceedToOrder property won’t have a set value anyway, so you can create an entirely new ViewState to replace the old one. Here, the default false value of the property is being used again.

viewState = CartViewState(cartPresenter.getCartItems())

When the user clicks the checkbox to accept the terms, however, you definitely don’t need to load the cart items again, so a partial update of the current ViewState is enough.

The obvious solution would be this one:

viewState = CartViewState(cartItems = viewState.cartItems, canProceedToOrder = true)

This is quite verbose even with just one unchanged property though. If you had 5 unchanged properties in the ViewState, you’d have to read all of their values and pass them into the new ViewState instance.

The same can be achieved using the aforementioned copy method in a much cleaner way. This operation keeps any existing property values of the previous ViewState, and only modifies the ones you pass into it (named parameters are highly recommended here for legibility).

viewState = viewState.copy(canProceedToOrder = true)

Distinct states only (#equalsmatters)

RainbowCakeViewModel contains logic that dispatches only “new” states to the Fragment attached to it. Setting the same state twice in a ViewModel won’t trigger two render calls in the Fragment, just one - since this should make no difference in the result on the view anyway.

How are states compared? By their equals implementations, which is what’s accessed in Kotlin with the == operator. This makes it important that all classes that act as states should be:

  • data classes, which get automatic equals implementations that compare all of their primary constructor parameters, or
  • objects, which only have one instance and hold state, therefore equals comparisons work on them by default.

Having a ViewState class with an improper equals implementation shouldn’t cause any major issues, but it will hurt performance by making their Fragment occasionally render the same state multiple times.