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Toward Better Documentation · React Native

Toward Better Documentation

· 4 min read

Part of having a great developer experience is having great documentation. A lot goes into creating good docs - the ideal documentation is concise, helpful, accurate, complete, and delightful. Recently we've been working hard to make the docs better based on your feedback, and we wanted to share some of the improvements we've made.

Inline Examples​

When you learn a new library, a new programming language, or a new framework, there's a beautiful moment when you first write a bit of code, try it out, see if it works... and it does work. You created something real. We wanted to put that visceral experience right into our docs. Like this:

import React, { Component } from 'react';
import { AppRegistry, Text, View } from 'react-native';

class ScratchPad extends Component {
render() {
return (
<View style={{flex: 1}}>
<Text style={{fontSize: 30, flex: 1, textAlign: 'center'}}>
Isn't this cool?
<Text style={{fontSize: 100, flex: 1, textAlign: 'center'}}>

AppRegistry.registerComponent('ScratchPad', () => ScratchPad);

We think these inline examples, using the react-native-web-player module with help from Devin Abbott, are a great way to learn the basics of React Native, and we have updated our tutorial for new React Native developers to use these wherever possible. Check it out - if you have ever been curious to see what would happen if you modified just one little bit of sample code, this is a really nice way to poke around. Also, if you're building developer tools and you want to show a live React Native sample on your own site, react-native-web-player can make that straightforward.

The core simulation engine is provided by Nicolas Gallagher's react-native-web project, which provides a way to display React Native components like Text and View on the web. Check out react-native-web if you're interested in building mobile and web experiences that share a large chunk of the codebase.

Better Guides​

In some parts of React Native, there are multiple ways to do things, and we've heard feedback that we could provide better guidance.

We have a new guide to Navigation that compares the different approaches and advises on what you should use - Navigator , NavigatorIOS , NavigationExperimental . In the medium term, we're working towards improving and consolidating those interfaces. In the short term, we hope that a better guide will make your life easier.

We also have a new guide to handling touches that explains some of the basics of making button-like interfaces, and a brief summary of the different ways to handle touch events.

Another area we worked on is Flexbox. This includes tutorials on how to handle layout with Flexbox and how to control the size of components. It also includes an unsexy but hopefully-useful list of all the props that control layout in React Native.

Getting Started​

When you start getting a React Native development environment set up on your machine, you do have to do a bunch of installing and configuring things. It's hard to make installation a really fun and exciting experience, but we can at least make it as quick and painless as possible.

We built a new Getting Started workflow that lets you select your development operating system and your mobile operating system up front, to provide one concise place with all the setup instructions. We also went through the installation process to make sure everything worked and to make sure that every decision point had a clear recommendation. After testing it out on our innocent coworkers, we're pretty sure this is an improvement.

We also worked on the guide to integrating React Native into an existing app. Many of the largest apps that use React Native, like the Facebook app itself, actually build part of the app in React Native, and part of it using regular development tools. We hope this guide makes it easier for more people to build apps this way.

We Need Your Help​

Your feedback lets us know what we should prioritize. I know some people will read this blog post and think "Better docs? Pffft. The documentation for X is still garbage!". That's great - we need that energy. The best way to give us feedback depends on the sort of feedback.

If you find a mistake in the documentation, like inaccurate descriptions or code that doesn't actually work, file an issue. Tag it with "Documentation", so that it's easier to route it to the right people.

If there isn't a specific mistake, but something in the documentation is fundamentally confusing, it's not a great fit for a GitHub issue. Instead, post on Canny about the area of the docs that could use help. This helps us prioritize when we are doing more general work like guide-writing.

Thanks for reading this far, and thanks for using React Native!

  • announcement
San Francisco Meetup Recap · React Native

San Francisco Meetup Recap

· 9 min read

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the React Native Meetup at Zynga’s San Francisco office. With around 200 people in attendance, it served as a great place to meet other developers near me that are also interested in React Native.

I was particularly interested in learning more about how React and React Native are used at companies like Zynga, Netflix, and Airbnb. The agenda for the night would be as follows:

  • Rapid Prototyping in React
  • Designing APIs for React Native
  • Bridging the Gap: Using React Native in Existing Codebases

But first, the event started off with a quick introduction and a brief recap of recent news:

  • Did you know that React Native is now the top Java repository on GitHub?
  • rnpm is now part of React Native core! You can now use react-native link in place of rnpm link to install libraries with native dependencies.
  • The React Native Meetup community is growing fast! There are now over 4,800 developers across a variety of React Native meetup groups all over the globe.

If one of these meetups is held near you, I highly recommend attending!

Rapid Prototyping in React at Zynga​

The first round of news was followed by a quick introduction by Zynga, our hosts for the evening. Abhishek Chadha talked about how they use React to quickly prototype new experiences on mobile, demoing a quick prototype of a Draw Something-like app. They use a similar approach as React Native, providing access to native APIs via a bridge. This was demonstrated when Abhishek used the device's camera to snap a photo of the audience and then drew a hat on someone's head.

Designing APIs for React Native at Netflix​

Up next, the first featured talk of the evening. Clarence Leung, Senior Software Engineer at Netflix, presented his talk on Designing APIs for React Native. First he noted the two main types of libraries one may work on: components such as tab bars and date pickers, and libraries that provide access to native services such as the camera roll or in-app payments. There are two ways one may approach when building a library for use in React Native:

  • Provide platform-specific components
  • A cross-platform library with a similar API for both Android and iOS

Each approach has its own considerations, and it’s up to you to determine what works best for your needs.

Approach #1

As an example of platform-specific components, Clarence talked about the DatePickerIOS and DatePickerAndroid from core React Native. On iOS, date pickers are rendered as part of the UI and can be easily embedded in an existing view, while date pickers on Android are presented modally. It makes sense to provide separate components in this case.

Approach #2

Photo pickers, on the other hand, are treated similarly on Android and iOS. There are some slight differences — Android does not group photos into folders like iOS does with Selfies, for example — but those are easily handled using if statements and the Platform component.

Regardless of which approach you settle on, it’s a good idea to minimize the API surface and build app-specific libraries. For example, iOS’s In-App Purchase framework supports one-time, consumable purchases, as well as renewable subscriptions. If your app will only need to support consumable purchases, you may get away with dropping support for subscriptions in your cross-platform library.

There was a brief Q&A session at the end of Clarence’s talk. One of the interesting tid bits that came out of it was that around 80% of the React Native code written for these libraries at Netflix is shared across both Android and iOS.

Bridging the Gap, Using React Native in Existing Codebases​

The final talk of the night was by Leland Richardson from Airbnb. The talk was focused on the use of React Native in existing codebases. I already know how easy it is to write a new app from scratch using React Native, so I was very interested to hear about Airbnb’s experience adopting React Native in their existing native apps.

Leland started off by talking about greenfield apps versus brownfield apps. Greenfield means to start a project without the need to consider any prior work. This is in contrast to brownfield projects where you need to take into account the existing project’s requirements, development processes, and all of the teams various needs.

When you’re working on a greenfield app, the React Native CLI sets up a single repository for both Android and iOS and everything just works. The first challenge against using React Native at Airbnb was the fact that the Android and iOS app each had their own repository. Multi-repo companies have some hurdles to get past before they can adopt React Native.

To get around this, Airbnb first set up a new repo for the React Native codebase. They used their continuous integration servers to mirror the Android and iOS repos into this new repo. After tests are run and the bundle is built, the build artifacts are synced back to the Android and iOS repos. This allows the mobile engineers to work on native code without altering their development environment. Mobile engineers don't need to install npm, run the packager, or remember to build the JavaScript bundle. The engineers writing actual React Native code do not have to worry about syncing their code across Android and iOS, as they work on the React Native repository directly.

This does come with some drawbacks, mainly they could not ship atomic updates. Changes that require a combination of native and JavaScript code would require three separate pull requests, all of which had to be carefully landed. In order to avoid conflicts, CI will fail to land changes back to the Android and iOS repos if master has changed since the build started. This would cause long delays during high commit frequency days (such as when new releases are cut).

Airbnb has since moved to a mono repo approach. Fortunately this was already under consideration, and once the Android and iOS teams became comfortable with using React Native they were happy to accelerate the move towards the mono repo.

This has solved most of the issues they had with the split repo approach. Leland did note that this does cause a higher strain on the version control servers, which may be an issue for smaller companies.

The Navigation Problem​

The second half of Leland's talk focused on a topic that is dear to me: the Navigation problem in React Native. He talked about the abundance of navigation libraries in React Native, both first party and third party. NavigationExperimental was mentioned as something that seemed promising, but ended up not being well suited for their use case.

In fact, none of the existing navigation libraries seem to work well for brownfield apps. A brownfield app requires that the navigation state be fully owned by the native app. For example, if a user’s session expires while a React Native view is being presented, the native app should be able to take over and present a login screen as needed.

Airbnb also wanted to avoid replacing native navigation bars with JavaScript versions as part of a transition, as the effect could be jarring. Initially they limited themselves to modally presented views, but this obviously presented a problem when it came to adopting React Native more widely within their apps.

They decided that they needed their own library. The library is called airbnb-navigation . The library has not yet being open sourced as it is strongly tied to Airbnb’s codebase, but it is something they’d like to release by the end of the year.

I won’t go into much detail into the library’s API, but here are some of the key takeaways:

  • One must preregister scenes ahead of time
  • Each scene is displayed within its own RCTRootView . They are presented natively on each platform (e.g. UINavigationController s are used on iOS).
  • The main ScrollView in a scene should be wrapped in a ScrollScene component. Doing so allows you to take advantage of native behaviors such as tapping on the status bar to scroll to the top on iOS.
  • Transitions between scenes are handled natively, no need to worry about performance.
  • The Android back button is automatically supported.
  • They can take advantage of View Controller based navigation bar styling via a Navigator.Config UI-less component.

There’s also some considerations to keep in mind:

  • The navigation bar is not easily customized in JavaScript, as it is a native component. This is intentional, as using native navigation bars is a hard requirement for this type of library.
  • ScreenProps must be serialized/de-serialized whenever they're sent through the bridge, so care must be taken if sending too much data here.
  • Navigation state is owned by the native app (also a hard requirement for the library), so things like Redux cannot manipulate navigation state.

Leland's talk was also followed by a Q&A session. Overall, Airbnb is satisfied with React Native. They’re interested in using Code Push to fix any issues without going through the App Store, and their engineers love Live Reload, as they don't have to wait for the native app to be rebuilt after every minor change.

Closing Remarks​

The event ended with some additional React Native news:

  • Deco announced their React Native Showcase, and invited everyone to add their app to the list.
  • The recent documentation overhaul got a shoutout!
  • Devin Abbott, one of the creators of Deco IDE, will be teaching an introductory React Native course.

Meetups provide a good opportunity to meet and learn from other developers in the community. I'm looking forward to attending more React Native meetups in the future. If you make it up to one of these, please look out for me and let me know how we can make React Native work better for you!

  • events
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Right-to-Left Layout Support For React Native Apps · React Native

Right-to-Left Layout Support For React Native Apps

· 7 min read

After launching an app to the app stores, internationalization is the next step to further your audience reach. Over 20 countries and numerous people around the world use Right-to-Left (RTL) languages. Thus, making your app support RTL for them is necessary.

We're glad to announce that React Native has been improved to support RTL layouts. This is now available in the react-native master branch today, and will be available in the next RC: v0.33.0-rc .

This involved changing css-layout, the core layout engine used by RN, and RN core implementation, as well as specific OSS JS components to support RTL.

To battle test the RTL support in production, the latest version of the Facebook Ads Manager app (the first cross-platform 100% RN app) is now available in Arabic and Hebrew with RTL layouts for both iOS and Android. Here is how it looks like in those RTL languages:

Overview Changes in RN for RTL support​

css-layout already has a concept of start and end for the layout. In the Left-to-Right (LTR) layout, start means left , and end means right . But in RTL, start means right , and end means left . This means we can make RN depend on the start and end calculation to compute the correct layout, which includes position , padding , and margin .

In addition, css-layout already makes each component's direction inherits from its parent. This means, we simply need to set the direction of the root component to RTL, and the entire app will flip.

The diagram below describes the changes at high level:

These include:

  • css-layout RTL support for absolute positioning
  • mapping left and right to start and end in RN core implementation for shadow nodes
  • and exposing a bridged utility module to help control the RTL layout

With this update, when you allow RTL layout for your app:

  • every component layout will flip horizontally
  • some gestures and animations will automatically have RTL layout, if you are using RTL-ready OSS components
  • minimal additional effort may be needed to make your app fully RTL-ready

Making an App RTL-ready​

  1. To support RTL, you should first add the RTL language bundles to your app.

    • See the general guides from iOS and Android.
  2. Allow RTL layout for your app by calling the allowRTL() function at the beginning of native code. We provided this utility to only apply to an RTL layout when your app is ready. Here is an example:


    // in AppDelegate.m
    [[RCTI18nUtil sharedInstance] allowRTL:YES];


    // in MainActivity.java
    I18nUtil sharedI18nUtilInstance = I18nUtil.getInstance();
    sharedI18nUtilInstance.allowRTL(context, true);
  3. For Android, you need add android:supportsRtl="true" to the <application> element in AndroidManifest.xml file.

Now, when you recompile your app and change the device language to an RTL language (e.g. Arabic or Hebrew), your app layout should change to RTL automatically.

Writing RTL-ready Components​

In general, most components are already RTL-ready, for example:

  • Left-to-Right Layout
  • Right-to-Left Layout

However, there are several cases to be aware of, for which you will need the I18nManager . In I18nManager , there is a constant isRTL to tell if layout of app is RTL or not, so that you can make the necessary changes according to the layout.

Icons with Directional Meaning​

If your component has icons or images, they will be displayed the same way in LTR and RTL layout, because RN will not flip your source image. Therefore, you should flip them according to the layout style.

  • Left-to-Right Layout
  • Right-to-Left Layout

Here are two ways to flip the icon according to the direction:

  • Adding a transform style to the image component:

    style={{transform: [{scaleX: I18nManager.isRTL ? -1 : 1}]}}
  • Or, changing the image source according to the direction:

    let imageSource = require('./back.png');
    if (I18nManager.isRTL) {
    imageSource = require('./forward.png');
    return <Image source={imageSource} />;

Gestures and Animations​

In Android and iOS development, when you change to RTL layout, the gestures and animations are the opposite of LTR layout. Currently, in RN, gestures and animations are not supported on RN core code level, but on components level. The good news is, some of these components already support RTL today, such as SwipeableRow and NavigationExperimental . However, other components with gestures will need to support RTL manually.

A good example to illustrate gesture RTL support is SwipeableRow .

Gestures Example​
// SwipeableRow.js
_isSwipingExcessivelyRightFromClosedPosition(gestureState: Object): boolean {
// ...
const gestureStateDx = IS_RTL ? -gestureState.dx : gestureState.dx;
return (
this._isSwipingRightFromClosed(gestureState) &&
Animation Example​
// SwipeableRow.js
_animateBounceBack(duration: number): void {
// ...
const swipeBounceBackDistance = IS_RTL ?

Maintaining Your RTL-ready App​

Even after the initial RTL-compatible app release, you will likely need to iterate on new features. To improve development efficiency, I18nManager provides the forceRTL() function for faster RTL testing without changing the test device language. You might want to provide a simple switch for this in your app. Here's an example from the RTL example in the RNTester:

<RNTesterBlock title={'Quickly Test RTL Layout'}>
<View style={styles.flexDirectionRow}>
<Text style={styles.switchRowTextView}>forceRTL</Text>
<View style={styles.switchRowSwitchView}>

_onDirectionChange = () => {
this.setState({isRTL: !this.state.isRTL});
'Reload this page',
'Please reload this page to change the UI direction! ' +
'All examples in this app will be affected. ' +
'Check them out to see what they look like in RTL layout.',

When working on a new feature, you can easily toggle this button and reload the app to see RTL layout. The benefit is you won't need to change the language setting to test, however some text alignment won't change, as explained in the next section. Therefore, it's always a good idea to test your app in the RTL language before launching.

Limitations and Future Plan​

The RTL support should cover most of the UX in your app; however, there are some limitations for now:

  • Text alignment behaviors differ in Android and iOS
    • In iOS, the default text alignment depends on the active language bundle, they are consistently on one side. In Android, the default text alignment depends on the language of the text content, i.e. English will be left-aligned and Arabic will be right-aligned.
    • In theory, this should be made consistent across platform, but some people may prefer one behavior to another when using an app. More user experience research may be needed to find out the best practice for text alignment.
  • There is no "true" left/right

    As discussed before, we map the left / right styles from the JS side to start / end , all left in code for RTL layout becomes "right" on screen, and right in code becomes "left" on screen. This is convenient because you don't need to change your product code too much, but it means there is no way to specify "true left" or "true right" in the code. In the future, allowing a component to control its direction regardless of the language may be necessary.

  • Make RTL support for gestures and animations more developer friendly

    Currently, there is still some programming effort required to make gestures and animations RTL compatible. In the future, it would be ideal to find a way to make gestures and animations RTL support more developer friendly.

Try it Out!​

Check out the RTLExample in the RNTester to understand more about RTL support, and let us know how it works for you!

Finally, thank you for reading! We hope that the RTL support for React Native helps you grow your apps for international audience!

  • engineering
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Expo Talks: Adam on Unraveling Navigation · React Native

Expo Talks: Adam on Unraveling Navigation

· One min read

Adam Miskiewicz from Expo talks about mobile navigation and the ex-navigation React Native library at Expo's office hours last week.

  • videos
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0.36: Headless JS, the Keyboard API, & more · React Native

0.36: Headless JS, the Keyboard API, & more

· 3 min read

Today we are releasing React Native 0.36. Read on to learn more about what's new.

Headless JS​

Headless JS is a way to run tasks in JavaScript while your app is in the background. It can be used, for example, to sync fresh data, handle push notifications, or play music. It is only available on Android, for now.

To get started, define your async task in a dedicated file (e.g. SomeTaskName.js ):

module.exports = async taskData => {
// Perform your task here.

Next, register your task in on AppRegistry :

AppRegistry.registerHeadlessTask('SomeTaskName', () =>

Using Headless JS does require some native Java code to be written in order to allow you to start up the service when needed. Take a look at our new Headless JS docs to learn more!

The Keyboard API​

Working with the on-screen keyboard is now easier with Keyboard . You can now listen for native keyboard events and react to them. For example, to dismiss the active keyboard, simply call Keyboard.dismiss() :

import {Keyboard} from 'react-native';

// Hide that keyboard!

Animated Division​

Combining two animated values via addition, multiplication, and modulo are already supported by React Native. With version 0.36, combining two animated values via division is now possible. There are some cases where an animated value needs to invert another animated value for calculation. An example is inverting a scale (2x --> 0.5x):

const a = Animated.Value(1);
const b = Animated.divide(1, a);

Animated.spring(a, {
toValue: 2,

b will then follow a 's spring animation and produce the value of 1 / a .

The basic usage is like this:

<Animated.View style={{transform: [{scale: a}]}}>
<Animated.Image style={{transform: [{scale: b}]}} />

In this example, the inner image won't get stretched at all because the parent's scaling gets cancelled out. If you'd like to learn more, check out the Animations guide.

Dark Status Bars​

A new barStyle value has been added to StatusBar : dark-content . With this addition, you can now use barStyle on both Android and iOS. The behavior will now be the following:

  • default : Use the platform default (light on iOS, dark on Android).
  • light-content : Use a light status bar with black text and icons.
  • dark-content : Use a dark status bar with white text and icons.

...and more​

The above is just a sample of what has changed in 0.36. Check out the release notes on GitHub to see the full list of new features, bug fixes, and breaking changes.

You can upgrade to 0.36 by running the following commands in a terminal:

$ npm install --save [email protected]
$ react-native upgrade
  • announcement
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Introducing Button, Faster Installs with Yarn, and a Public Roadmap · React Native

Introducing Button, Faster Installs with Yarn, and a Public Roadmap

· 3 min read

We have heard from many people that there is so much work happening with React Native, it can be tough to keep track of what's going on. To help communicate what work is in progress, we are now publishing a roadmap for React Native. At a high level, this work can be broken down into three priorities:

  • Core Libraries . Adding more functionality to the most useful components and APIs.
  • Stability . Improve the underlying infrastructure to reduce bugs and improve code quality.
  • Developer Experience . Help React Native developers move faster

If you have suggestions for features that you think would be valuable on the roadmap, check out Canny, where you can suggest new features and discuss existing proposals.

What's new in React Native​

Version 0.37 of React Native, released today, introduces a new core component to make it really easy to add a touchable Button to any app. We're also introducing support for the new Yarn package manager, which should speed up the whole process of updating your app's dependencies.

Introducing Button​

Today we're introducing a basic <Button /> component that looks great on every platform. This addresses one of the most common pieces of feedback we get: React Native is one of the only mobile development toolkits without a button ready to use out of the box.

Simple Button on Android, iOS

title="Press Me"
accessibilityLabel="Learn more about this Simple Button"

Experienced React Native developers know how to make a button: use TouchableOpacity for the default look on iOS, TouchableNativeFeedback for the ripple effect on Android, then apply a few styles. Custom buttons aren't particularly hard to build or install, but we aim to make React Native radically easy to learn. With the addition of a basic button into core, newcomers will be able to develop something awesome in their first day, rather than spending that time formatting a Button and learning about Touchable nuances.

Button is meant to work great and look native on every platform, so it won't support all the bells and whistles that custom buttons do. It is a great starting point, but is not meant to replace all your existing buttons. To learn more, check out the new Button documentation, complete with a runnable example!

Speed up react-native init using Yarn​

You can now use Yarn, the new package manager for JavaScript, to speed up react-native init significantly. To see the speedup please install yarn and upgrade your react-native-cli to 1.2.0:

$ npm install -g react-native-cli

You should now see “Using yarn” when setting up new apps:

Using yarn

In simple local testing react-native init finished in about 1 minute on a good network (vs around 3 minutes when using npm 3.10.8). Installing yarn is optional but highly recommended.

Thank you!​

We'd like to thank everyone who contributed to this release. The full release notes are now available on GitHub. With over two dozen bug fixes and new features, React Native just keeps getting better thanks to you.

  • announcement
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