Displaying essential features when the Phimpme Application starts

In this blog, I will explain how I implemented showcase View to display all the essential features of the Phimpme Android application when the application starts first. In this, the users will know which activity is used for what purpose.  

Importing material design Showcase View

I used material design showcase in Phimpme  Android application to take the benefit of the latest Android design and to add more text on the screen which is easily visible by the users. We need to add the following to our gradle.

compile 'com.github.deano2390:MaterialShowcaseView:1.1.0'

There is a very good repository in Github for material design Showcase view which we have used here.

Implementing Material design showcaseView on the desired activity

In Phimpme Android application we have three main activity on the home screen. Namely:

  • Camera
  • Gallery
  • Accounts Activity

Camera Activity and Gallery Activity is used to take pictures and select the picture respectively. Accounts Activity contains more than 10 accounts of various social media platforms and storage platform. When the application starts my aim is to display the function of all three activities in a showcase View. it is implemented in the following Steps:

Step 1

Import all the module from the Material showcase view we have used in the gradle.

import uk.co.deanwild.materialshowcaseview.MaterialShowcaseSequence;
import uk.co.deanwild.materialshowcaseview.MaterialShowcaseView;
import uk.co.deanwild.materialshowcaseview.ShowcaseConfig;

Step 2

Get the reference all the buttons you want to show the features. These buttons will be highlighted when the showcase View is displayed.

nav_home = (BottomNavigationItemView) findViewById(R.id.navigation_home);
nav_cam = (BottomNavigationItemView) findViewById(R.id.navigation_camera);
nav_acc = (BottomNavigationItemView) findViewById(R.id.navigation_accounts);

Step 3

In Phimpme Android application I have used to display the features of three navigation buttons. So, to display the features of more than one button or View we have to use MaterialShowcaseSequence class to display the features of the buttons in a sequence, that is one after the other.

In the onCreate activity, I am calling presentShowcaseSequence function. This function has a delay time. This delay time is required to wait for four seconds until the splash screen activity is over and the activity is started.

private void presentShowcaseSequence() {
   ShowcaseConfig config = new ShowcaseConfig();
   config.setDelay(4000); // half second between each showcase view
   MaterialShowcaseSequence sequence = new MaterialShowcaseSequence(this, SHOWCASE_ID);
   sequence.setOnItemShownListener(new MaterialShowcaseSequence.OnSequenceItemShownListener() {
       public void onShow(MaterialShowcaseView itemView, int position) {

Step 4

Set the initial target Button. This target button will be pointed first when the app is launched for the first time.

sequence.addSequenceItem(nav_home, getResources().getString(R.string.home_button), getResources().getString(R.string.ok_button));


Step 5

Add subsequent target buttons to display the features of that buttons. To add more subsequent target buttons we will use function addSequenceitem. To set the target we have specify the button which we want to focus in setTarget(Button). We need to display the text which will show the important features in regarding that activity in setContentText(text to be displayed). For a dismiss button we need to specify the a string in setDismissText(Dismiss button string)

       new MaterialShowcaseView.Builder(this)
       new MaterialShowcaseView.Builder(this)

Sequence.start is used to display the showcase.


Using this method users can easily have the knowledge of the functionality of the application and can navigate through the activities without wasting a lot of time in figuring out the functionality of the application.




Skill Editor in SUSI Skill CMS

SUSI Skill CMS is a web application built on ReactJS framework for creating and editing SUSI skills easily. It follows an API centric approach where the SUSI Server acts as an API server. In this blogpost we will see how to add a component which can be used to create a new skill SUSI Skill CMS.

For creating any skill in SUSI we need four parameters i.e model, group, language, skill name. So we need to ask these 4 parameters from the user. For input purposes we have a common card component which has dropdowns for selecting models, groups and languages, and a text field for skill name input.

    floatingLabelText="Enter Skill name"
    hintText="My SUSI Skill"
<RaisedButton label="Save" backgroundColor="#4285f4" labelColor="#fff" style={{marginLeft:10}} onTouchTap={this.saveClick} />

This is the card component where we get the user input. We have API endpoints on SUSI Server for getting the list of models, groups and languages. Using those APIs we inflate the dropdowns.
Then the user needs to edit the skill. For editing of skills we have used Ace Editor. Ace is an code
editor written in pure javascript. It matches the features native editors like Sublime and TextMate.

To use Ace we need to install the component.

npm install react-ace --save                        

This command will install the dependency and update the package.json file in our project with this dependency.

To use this editor we need to import AceEditor and place it in the render function of our react class.

    mode=" markup"
    height= "400px"
    editorProps={{$blockScrolling: true}}

Now we have a page that looks something like this

Now we need to handle the click event when a user clicks on the save button.

First we check if the user is logged in or not. For this we check if we have the required cookies and the access token of the user.

 if(!cookies.get('loggedIn')) {
                message: 'Not logged In',
                description: 'Please login and then try to create/edit a skill',
                icon: <Icon type="close-circle" style={{ color: '#f44336' }} />,
            return 0;

If the user is not logged in then we show him a error notification and asks him to login.

Then we check if he has filled all the required fields like name of the skill etc. and after that we call an API Endpoint on SUSI Server that will finally store the skill in the skill_data_repo.

let url= “http://api.susi.ai/cms/modifySkill.json”
    dataType: 'jsonp',
    jsonp: 'callback',
    crossDomain: true,
    success: function (data) {
                message: 'Accepted',
                description: 'Your Skill has been uploaded to the server',
                icon: <Icon type="check-circle" style={{ color: '#00C853' }} />,

In the success function of ajax call we check if accepted parameter is true from the server or not. If accepted is true then we show user a notification with a message that “Your Skill has been uploaded to the server”.

To see this component running please visit http://skills.susi.ai/skillEditor.


Material-UI: http://www.material-ui.com/

Ace Editor: https://github.com/securingsincity/react-ace

Ajax: http://api.jquery.com/jquery.ajax/

Universal Cookies: https://www.npmjs.com/package/universal-cookie

Upgrading the Style and Aesthetic of an Android App using Material Design

I often encounter apps as I add Open Event format support that don’t follow current design guidelines. Earlier styling an app was a tough task as the color and behaviour of the views needed to be defined separately. But now as we move forward to advanced styling methods we can easily style our app.

I recently worked on upgrading the user interface of Giraffe app after adding our Open Event support. See the repository to view the code for more reference. Here I follow the same procedure to upgrade the user interface.

First we add essential libraries to move with our material aesthetic. The Appcompat library provides backward compatibility.

//Essential Google libraries
compile 'com.android.support:appcompat-v7:25.3.1'
compile 'com.android.support:design:25.3.1

Then we define an XML file in the values folder for the style of the app which we get through Appcompat library. We could inherit same style in the entire app or separate style for the particular activity.


   <!-- Base application theme. -->
   <style name="AppTheme" parent="Theme.AppCompat.Light.NoActionBar">
       <!-- Customize your theme here. -->
       <item name="colorPrimary">@color/colorPrimary</item>
       <item name="colorPrimaryDark">@color/colorPrimaryDark</item>
       <item name="colorAccent">@color/colorAccent</item>

   <style name="AlertDialogCustom" parent="Theme.AppCompat.Light.Dialog.Alert">
       <item name="colorPrimary">@color/colorPrimary</item>
       <item name="colorAccent">@color/colorAccent</item>


So now we can see the views made following the same color scheme and behaviour throughout the app following current design guidelines without any particular manipulation to each of them.

Tip: Don’t define values of colors separately for different views. Define them in colors.xml to use them everywhere. It becomes easier then to change in future if needed.

The app now uses Action Bar for the frequently used operations unlike the custom layout that was made earlier.

This is how Action Bar is implemented,

First declare the action bar in XML layout,

Tip: Define color of the bar two shades lighter than the status bar.


                     android:textSize="20sp" />


Then you can use the action bar in the activity, use onCreateOptionsMenu() method to inflate options in the toolbar.

    public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {

        title = (TextView) findViewById(R.id.titlebar);
        Toolbar toolbar = (Toolbar) findViewById(R.id.toolbar_main);


The menu that needs to be inflated will be like this for two button at the right end of the action bar for bookmarks and filter respectively,

<menu xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
        android:id = "@+id/action_bookmark"
        android:icon = "@drawable/ic_bookmark"
        android:menuCategory = "secondary"
        android:title = "Bookmark"
        app:showAsAction = "ifRoom" />
         android:id = "@+id/action_filter"
         android:icon = "@drawable/ic_filter"
         android:menuCategory = "secondary"
         android:title = "Filter"
         app:showAsAction = "ifRoom" />

To adapt the declared style further, Alert Dialogs are also modified to match the app’s theme, it’s style is defined along with the app’s style. See below

AlertDialog.Builder noFeedBuilder = new AlertDialog.Builder(context,R.style.AlertDialogCustom);
                    .setPositiveButton(R.string.common_yes, new DialogInterface.OnClickListener() {

Here is an example of improvement, before and after we update the user interface and aesthetic of app in easy steps defined,


See this for all the changes made to step up the user interface of the app.



Skill History Component in Susi Skill CMS

SUSI Skill CMS is an editor to write and edit skill easily. It is built on ReactJS framework and follows an API centric approach where the Susi server acts as API server. Using Skill CMS we can browse history of a skill, where we get commit ID, commit message and name the author who made the changes to that skills. In this blog post, we will see how to add skill revision history component in Susi Skill CMS.

One text file represents one skill, it may contain several intents which all belong together. Susi skills are stored in susi_skill_data repository. We can access any skill based on four tuples parameters model, group, language, skill.

<Menu.Item key="BrowseRevision">
 <Icon type="fork" />
   Browse Skills Revision
 <Link to="/browseHistory"></Link>

First let’s create a option in sidebar menu, and link it “/browseHistory” route created at index.js 

 <Route path="/browseHistory" component={BrowseHistory} />

Next we will be adding skill versioning using endpoints provided by Susi Server, to select a skill we will create a drop down list, for this we will be using Select Field a component of  Material UI.

request('http://cors-anywhere.herokuapp.com/api.susi.ai/cms/getModel.json').then((data) => {
    data = data.data;
    for (let i = 0; i < data.length; i++) {
        models.push(<MenuItem value={i} key={data[i]} primaryText={`${data[i]}`}/>);

   style={{width: '50px'}}

We store the models, groups and languages in array using the endpoints api.susi.ai/cms/getModel.json, api.susi.ai/cms/getGroups.json, api.susi.ai/cms/getAllLanguages.json set the values in respective select fields. The request functions takes the url as string and the parses the json and fetches the object containing data or error depending on the response from the server. Once run your project using

npm start

And you would be able to see the drop down list working

Next, we will use Material UI tables for displaying the organized data. For using  table component we need to import table, it’s body, header and row column from Material ui class. 

import {Table, TableBody, TableHeader, TableHeaderColumn, TableRow, TableRowColumn} from "material-ui/Table";

We then make our header Columns, in our case it’s three, namely Commit ID, Commit Message, Author name.

  <TableHeaderColumn tooltip="Commit ID">Commit ID</TableHeaderColumn>
  <TableHeaderColumn tooltip="Commit Message">Commit Message</TableHeaderColumn>
  <TableHeaderColumn tooltip="Author Name">Author Name</TableHeaderColumn>

To get the history of modification of a skill, we will use endpoint “http://api.susi.ai/cms/getSkillHistory.json”. It uses JGit for managing version control in skill data repository. JGit is a library which implements the Git functionality in Java. An endpoint is accessed based on userRoles, which can be Admin, Privilege, User, Anonymous. In our case it is Anonymous. Thus a User need not to log in to access this endpoint.

 url = "http://api.susi.ai/cms/getSkillHistory.json?model="+models[this.state.modelValue].key+"&group="+groups[this.state.groupValue].key+"&language="+languages[this.state.languageValue].key+"&skill="+this.state.expertValue;

After getting the url, we will next make a ajax network call to get the modification history of skill., if the method returns success, we get the desired data in table array and display it in rows through its render() method, which checks if the data is set in state -if so, it renders the contents otherwise we display the error occurred while processing the request.

            url: url,
            jsonpCallback: 'pccd',
            dataType: 'jsonp',
            jsonp: 'callback',
            crossDomain: true,
            success: function(data) {
                data = data.commits;
                let array = [];
                for(let i=0;i<data.length;i++){
{tableData.map((row, index) => (
  <TableRow key={index}>

Test the final output  on http://skills.susi.ai/browseHistory or http://localhost:3000/browseHistory , select the model, group , language and skill and get the history of that skill.

Next time when you need drop down list or tables to organize your data, do check out https://github.com/callemall/material-ui for examples, which can help in providing good outlines to you apps. For contributions to susi_skill_cms, join our chat channel  on gitter: https://gitter.im/fossasia/susi_server and browse https://github.com/fossasia/susi_skill_cms for complete code.


Better Bookmark Display Viewholder in Home Screen of the Open Event Android App

Earlier in the Open Event Android app we had built the homescreen with the bookmarks showing up at the top as a horizontal list of cards but it wasn’t very user-friendly in terms of UI. Imagine that a user bookmarks over 20-30 sessions, in order to access them he/she might have to scroll horizontally a lot in order to access his/her bookmarked session. So this kind of UI was deemed counter-intuitive. A new UI was proposed involving the viewholder used in the schedule page i.e DayScheduleViewHolder, where the list would be vertical instead of horizontal. An added bonus was that this viewholder conveyed the same amount of information on lesser white space than the earlier viewholder i.e SessionViewHolder.

Old Design
New Design










Above are two images, one in the initial design, the second in the new design. In the earlier design the number of bookmarks visible to the user at a time was at most 1 or 2 but now with the UI upgrade a user can easily see up-to 5-6 bookmarks at a time. Additionally there is more relevant content visible to the user at the same time.

Additionally this form of design also adheres to Google’s Material Design guidelines.

Code Comparison of the two Iterations

Initial Design
sessionsListAdapter = new SessionsListAdapter(getContext(), mSessions, bookmarkedSessionList);
 bookmarksRecyclerView.setLayoutManager(new LinearLayoutManager(getContext(),LinearLayoutManager.HORIZONTAL,false));

Here we are using the SessionListAdapter for the bookmarks. This was previously being used to display the list of sessions inside the track and location pages. It is again being used here to display the horizontal list of bookmarks.To do this we are using the function setBookmarkView(). Here mSessions consists the list of bookmarks that would appear in the homescreen.

Current Design
 bookMarksListAdapter = new DayScheduleAdapter(mSessions,getContext());
 bookmarksRecyclerView.setLayoutManager(new LinearLayoutManager(getContext()));

Now we are using the DayScheduleAdapter which is the same adapter used in the schedule page of the app. Now we use a vertical layout instead of a horizontal layout  but with a new viewholder design. I will be talking about the last line in the code snippet shortly.

ViewHolder Design (Current Design)

<RelativeLayout android:id="@+id/content_frame">
    <LinearLayout android:id="@+id/ll_sessionDetails">
        <TextView android:id="@+id/slot_title"/>
            <TextView android:id="@+id/slot_start_time”/>
            <TextView android:id="@+id/slot_underscore"/>
            <TextView android:id="@+id/slot_end_time"/>

           <TextView android:id="@+id/slot_comma"/>
            <TextView android:id="@+id/slot_location”/>
            <Button android:id="@+id/slot_track"/>
            <ImageButton android:id="@+id/slot_bookmark"/>

    <View android:id=”@+id/divider”/>

This layout file is descriptive enough to highlight each element’s location.

In this viewholder we can also access to the track page from the track tag and can also remove bookmarks instantly.

The official widget to make a scroll layout in android is ScrollView. Basically, adding a RecyclerView inside ScrollView can be difficult . The problem was that the scrolling became laggy and weird.  Fortunately, with the appearance of Material Design , NestedScrollView was released and this becomes much easier.


With this small snippet of code we are able to insert a RecyclerView inside the NestedScrollView without any scroll lag.
So now we have successfully updated the UI/UX for the homescreen  to meet the requirements as given by the Material Design guidelines.