Stuff I've Been Fiddling With Lately

I've been playing with a variety of languages and frameworks over the past month or two, but haven't had substantial enough experience with any of them to feel comfortable writing an in-depth blog post. However, I do have some opinions so I thought I'd gather some bite-sized pieces into one post. Hoping to write more on some of these technologies in the future.

React Native

Big fan of React Native. I've done a bit of Objective-C/Swift/Java but have never enjoyed building UIs in any of them. React Native definitely gets me a lot closer to something I'm comfortable with. That being said, it's not all great. After a lot of trial-and-error I finally landed on React Navigation as my routing solution. It's not perfect, but it works. The main contender, React Native Navigation, seems cool but it's an awful lot of setup without a real compelling argument to switch.

My biggest beef with RN routing is probably a side effect of spending the majority of my career working on web apps, but it just feels super inflexible. For example, the hobby app I'm working on uses drawer navigation but also wants a persistent header with some stack navigation, so basically a combination of two of the three routing options offered by React Navigation. I was unable to accomplish a persistent header with contextual back buttons without moving my routing state into Redux, which is something that React Navigation recommends against. Overall, not a great experience but I made it work.

I'm looking forward to exploring RN more in the future.

NativeScript

Since we use Angular at DroneDeploy, I also wanted to give NativeScript a fair shot. I'm no stranger to Angular and its idiosyncrasies, but I just didn't get the same rapid development vibe from NS as I did from RN. It felt like I did a lot more stumbling than I did with RN, even though I have far more experience with Angular. My biggest dislike is the wide variety of layout containers: FlexboxLayout, AbsoluteLayout, DockLayout, GridLayout, StackLayout, and WrapLayout. I get that the NS team is trying to give you solid options, but I felt like I spent the majority of my time with each component trying to decide which layout I wanted. RN's ubiquitous <View /> made me feel a lot more productive.

I'll definitely dig into NS more in the future, but if I was greenfielding an app I would lean strongly toward RN at this point.

Realm Database

The only database solution I've used for native apps in the past is sqlite, so I wanted to spread out a bit and try something new. I landed on Realm, which is a NoSQL database that was designed for native apps. I'm not a huge fan of NoSQL for large scale data, but I will admit that it's a great fit for a quick local database. I attempted to get Realm in sync with my Redux store via redux-observable, but ended up causing more issues than I solved so I ultimately left it out of Redux. If I was working on a serious project, I'd likely spend a bit more time trying to get this working because it was a bit limiting.

Biggest issue: No cascading deletes. Realm models support relationships (both 1:m and m:m), but it is insanely easy to leave orphaned records unless you're very diligent with your delete logic. I could see this becoming very problematic with a complex data model.

Elm

After avoiding Elm for a long time (and for no good reason), I finally gave in and went through their excellent tutorial. The tutorial is phenomenal and gave me a solid understanding of both the language and the typical architecture of an Elm program. I think it's a neat language and I'd like to build something with it in the future, but I don't have any great ideas right now so it'll probably sit on my "one day" shelf for a while.

Two nits to pick:

  • Complex business logic can get pretty verbose. This is probably in part due to my unfamiliarity with the language, but in general it felt like I did a lot of typing.
  • I don't really care for the view/template syntax. I think I've just gotten used to XML-esque syntax for views and this threw me off my game a bit.

ReasonML

I couldn't really get into Reason. I think it's a cool project, but I just didn't see it giving me a strong edge over regular TypeScript + React. Also, I'm totally one of these people:

An oddly common exchange

"So you get all this amazing stuff with @reasonml and ReasonReact that saves you time and lets you sleep soundly at night."

"Yeah but you gotta write ReasonReact.string to put text into components I'm out fam"

Rust

I'm fully aware that I'm drinking the Kool-Aid, but I really want to like Rust. I really like the syntax, but the language concepts just haven't clicked with me yet. It's a pretty big shift from web development so I think I just need to stick with it, but it's pretty tough to wrap my head around. There's an Elm-inspired UI crate called Relm that looks really promising and I think I'll probably try to focus on that if I give Rust another shot.

Other Stuff?

Want to convince me I'm wrong about any of these? Or have something I should be playing with? Leave me a comment or hit me up on Twitter!

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