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Daniel Imfeld
Daniel Imfeld

Posted on • Originally published at website-4awp5ix1k-dimfeld.vercel.app on

Coordinating Multiple Elements with Svelte Deferred Transitions, Part 2

In the last post, we looked at how Svelte deferred transitions work and implemented our own version of Svelte’s crossfade transition.

This is nice for many cases, but with some extra coordination we can create even more complex transitions that involve three or more elements. In this sample application for svelte-zoomable, there are multiple groups of boxes on the screen at once. When a box is clicked, the other boxes in the group will merge into the clicked box, which then expands to fill the whole area.

View this post on the website for an interactive example.

We start with a zoomTransition function that returns a send and receive pair, just like crossfade.

export const [send, receive] = zoomTransition({});

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Each box has a unique ID and also a group ID that it shares with all its siblings. In the code, the zoomed out boxes are called overviews and each overview has a corresponding detail which is the “zoomed in” view for the overview. Clicking an overview box causes the corresponding detail box to replace it, while all of the other overviews are removed.

<script>
  // The full code is at the link above. This is a stripped-down excerpt.
  import { send, receive } from './transition';
  export let elementId;
  export let groupId;
  export let zoomed = false;
</script>

{#if zoomed}
<div
    class="zoomed"
    id={elementId + '-zoomed'}
    in:receive|local={{
      key: elementId,
      parent: groupId,
      isDetail: true,
    }}
    out:send|local={{
      key: elementId,
      parent: groupId,
      isDetail: true,
    }}>
  <slot name="detail" />
</div>
{:else}
<div
    class="overview"
    id={elementId + '-zoomed'}
    in:receive|local={{
      key: elementId,
      parent: groupId,
      isDetail: false,
    }}
    out:send|local={{
      key: elementId,
      parent: groupId,
      isDetail: false,
    }}>
  <slot name="overview" />
</div>

{/if}

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As before, the transition tracks the sending and receiving elements, and there is also a Map for tracking all the transitioning elements together. This Map, called siblingData, allows elements with the same group ID to coordinate their transitions.

Different transitions for each element

In this case, there are three different animations to play:

  1. The overview elements that were not clicked slide to overlap with the clicked overview.
  2. The clicked overview element does a crossfade with the incoming detail that is replacing it.
  3. Likewise, the incoming detail element crossfades with the overview element it’s replacing.

When zooming out (that is, switching from a detail element back to its overview), these animations just run in reverse.

Much of this implementation is specific to the particular layout that is being run, with the overview and detail elements, but the coordination techniques generalize well, and hopefully this can give you some ideas for your own implementation.

The main challenge is that when each element initializes its animation, it has no knowledge of which other elements may be transitioning in or out. So the data structure needs to hold all of the information that could possibly be required, even if some of it might not be used.

In this case, all the transitioning elements need to know the bounding rectangle of the box element which is being replaced, so they can know where to zoom toward. But we don’t know which one will be transitioning right away, and so we store every overview element’s bounding rectangle, then figure out which one is relevant later.

There’s never more than one detail element in this animation, and its data goes in the Map entry’s detail field. This way, when an overview element transitions, it just checks if its element ID matches the detail element’s ID. If they do, then this is the element being replaced. Otherwise, it’s one of the “other” overview elements, which was not clicked and is just transitioning out with no replacement.

Not leaking memory

It’s easy to know when an element should add an entry into siblingData, but once the transition starts running, we also have to know when it’s OK to remove the entry from siblingData so that it doesn’t sit around forever. In the crossfade example from the previous post, we had just two elements, so there were two Maps, one for incoming elements and the other for outgoing elements, and each element deleted the entry in the other’s Map after reading it.

But with three or more transitioning elements, we need to take more care to retain the data until all the elements have read it. There isn’t a good way for our transition creation code to know when all the transitions have finished, and so the easiest way is to use a decentralized memory management method.

A reference count works well here. They don’t appear often in garbage-collected languages like JavaScript, but they’re relatively simple to use. Each entry in the Map has a reference count which starts at 0. When an element adds its data to the Map, it increments the reference count, and it decrements the count when the transition runs and it reads the finished data. When the reference count hits zero, whichever element did the decrement also deletes it from the map.

The main issue that comes up with manual reference counting like this is that we need to always remember to increment or decrement the reference count at the appropriate time. Otherwise the data will be removed too early or it will sit around forever as leaked memory.

To reduce the chance of bugs, every element uses the same code path to put data into the Map and consume it, regardless of its actual role in the resulting transition.

Now, let’s look at the actual transition code.

export function zoomTransition({
  delay: delayParam,
  duration: durationParam,
  easing,
} = {}) {

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Here we have the sending and receiving Maps from the original deferred transition and also the new siblingData Map.

  let sending = new Map();
  let receiving = new Map();

  let siblingData = new Map();

  const send = transition(sending, receiving);
  const receive = transition(receiving, sending);

  function transition(items, counterparts) {
    let isIncoming = items === receiving;

    return (node, params) => {

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The transition manager is configurable with different presets, which control the timing and CSS applied during the transition. I’ll talk about how this works in the next post in this series.

      let preset = params.preset ?? presets.fade;

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Again, we start by grabbing the bounding rectangle of this element so that the counterpart element (if it exists) transitioning the opposite way can access it.

      let rect = node.getBoundingClientRect();
      items.set(params.key, rect);

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Get the correct entry from siblingData, or create it if it doesn’t exist yet. The Map entry has three values:

  • The reference count.
  • Another Map containing all the overview elements.
  • Information about the transitioning detail element.
      if (params.parent !== undefined) {
        let d = siblingData.get(params.parent);
        if (!d) {
          d = {
            refCount: 0,
            overviews: new Map(),
            detail: null,
          };

          siblingData.set(params.parent, d);
        }

        // Since we don't know yet which node was actually clicked and which
        // are just the other overviews transitioning out, track them all.
        d.refCount++;

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Each entry in siblingData is shared by all the elements with the same parent, so we enter the information for this element in the appropriate place: either the detail key or as an entry in the overviews map.

        if (params.isDetail) {
          d.detail = {
            id: params.key,
            rect,
            incoming: isIncoming,
          };
        } else {
          d.overviews.set(params.key, rect);
        }
      }

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Finally we return the transition function. By the rules of Svelte deferred transitions, this function will run after all the other transitioning elements have initialized and put their information into siblingData.

      return () => {
        let rect = counterparts.get(params.key);
        counterparts.delete(params.key);

        if (!rect) {
          // No other element to fade with.
          items.delete(params.key);
        }

        let style;

        let duration = durationParam ?? preset.defaultDuration;
        let delay = delayParam ?? 0;
        let start = 0;
        let end = 1;
        if (params.parent !== undefined) {
          let d = siblingData.get(params.parent);
          if (d) {

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The schedule tells this element’s transition when to start and end in relation to the other transitioning elements. Again, this will be covered in more detail in the next post, or you can see it here. The default preset tells the unselected overview boxes to transition in the first half, and then the selected overview and its detail element will transition in the second half.

            let schedule = preset.schedule({
              siblingData: d,
              id: params.key,
              isDetail: params.isDetail,
            });

            start = schedule.start;
            end = schedule.end;

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If there is a transitioning detail object, but there is no item in counterparts for this element, then this is one of the overview elements that was not clicked.

With this in mind, we look up the rectangles for the incoming detail element to get the proper ID, and then look up the clicked overview rectangle as zoomingOverviewRect.

In the default preset, otherOverviews returns a Svelte transition css function that fades out this overview box and moves it to overlap with zoomingOverviewRect.

If for some reason we don’t have a zoomingOverviewRect, we degrade gracefully by having the element just disappear with a transition that does nothing.

            if (d.detail && !rect) {
              let detailRect = d.detail.rect;
              let zoomingOverviewRect = d.overviews.get(d.detail.id);

              let executorParams = {
                detailRect,
                activeOverviewRect: zoomingOverviewRect,
                otherRect: null,
                node,
                start,
                end,
              };

              style = zoomingOverviewRect
                ? preset.otherOverviews(executorParams)
                : transitions.none();
            }

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Finally, the memory management. We decrement the reference count, and delete the item if everything else is done with it.


            d.refCount--;
            if (!d.refCount) {
              siblingData.delete(params.parent);
            }
          }
        }

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The code above sets the transition style for the unselected overview boxes, so if we don’t have one yet, then this is either the clicked overview element or its corresponding detail element. As with the code above, we gather the information to generate the transition and then call either preset.detail or preset.selectedOverview to generate the styles.

        if (!style) {
          if (rect) {
            let nodeRect = node.getBoundingClientRect();
            let executorParams = {
              detailRect: params.isDetail ? nodeRect : rect,
              activeOverviewRect: params.isDetail ? rect : nodeRect,
              otherRect: rect,
              node,
              start,
              end,
            };
            // This is one of the "active" elements
            style = params.isDetail
              ? preset.detail(executorParams)
              : preset.selectedOverview(executorParams);
          } else {
            // There is no other element, so just do nothing.
            style = transitions.none();
          }
        }

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And with that done, we simply return the transition data to the Svelte runtime.

        return {
          delay,
          duration,
          easing,
          ...style,
        };
      };
    };
  }

  return [send, receive];
}

export const [send, receive] = zoomTransition({});

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The beauty of Svelte transitions here is that nothing in any of this code cares about the direction the transition is running. We can write everything assuming that the transition is running forward and that the user clicked an overview to zoom in. When the user zooms out or goes up a level, Svelte reverses the transition for us and it all just works, even in a complex example like this.

And that’s it. A bit complicated, but not too bad to understand I hope. Please reach out and let me know if anything remains unclear!

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