cassowary 0.2.0

A Rust implementation of the Cassowary linear constraint solving algorithm. The Cassowary algorithm is designed for naturally laying out user interfaces using linear constraints, like 'this button must line up with this text box'.

Crate cassowary [] [src]

This crate contains an implementation of the Cassowary constraint solving algorithm, based upon the work by G.J. Badros et al. in 2001. This algorithm is designed primarily for use constraining elements in user interfaces. Constraints are linear combinations of the problem variables. The notable features of Cassowary that make it ideal for user interfaces are that it is incremental (i.e. you can add and remove constraints at runtime and it will perform the minimum work to update the result) and that the constraints can be violated if necessary, with the order in which they are violated specified by setting a "strength" for each constraint. This allows the solution to gracefully degrade, which is useful for when a user interface needs to compromise on its constraints in order to still be able to display something.

Constraint syntax

This crate aims to provide syntax for describing linear constraints as naturally as possible, within the limitations of Rust's type system. Generally you can write constraints as you would naturally, however the operator symbol (for greater-than, less-than, equals) is replaced with an instance of the WeightedRelation enum wrapped in "pipe brackets".

For example, for the constraint (a + b) * 2 + c >= d + 1 with strength s, the code to use is

(a + b) * 2.0 + c |GE(s)| d + 1.0

A simple example

Imagine a layout consisting of two elements laid out horizontally. For small window widths the elements should compress to fit, but if there is enough space they should display at their preferred widths. The first element will align to the left, and the second to the right. For this example we will ignore vertical layout.

First we need to include the relevant parts of cassowary:

use cassowary::{ Solver, Variable };
use cassowary::WeightedRelation::*;
use cassowary::strength::{ WEAK, MEDIUM, STRONG, REQUIRED };

And we'll construct some conveniences for pretty printing (which should hopefully be self-explanatory):

use std::collections::HashMap;
let mut names = HashMap::new();
fn print_changes(names: &HashMap<Variable, &'static str>, changes: &[(Variable, f64)]) {
    println!("Changes:");
    for &(ref var, ref val) in changes {
        println!("{}: {}", names[var], val);
    }
}

Let's define the variables required - the left and right edges of the elements, and the width of the window.

let window_width = Variable::new();
names.insert(window_width, "window_width");

struct Element {
    left: Variable,
    right: Variable
}
let box1 = Element {
    left: Variable::new(),
    right: Variable::new()
};
names.insert(box1.left, "box1.left");
names.insert(box1.right, "box1.right");

let box2 = Element {
    left: Variable::new(),
    right: Variable::new()
};
names.insert(box2.left, "box2.left");
names.insert(box2.right, "box2.right");

Now to set up the solver and constraints.

let mut solver = Solver::new();
solver.add_constraints(&[window_width |GE(REQUIRED)| 0.0, // positive window width
                         box1.left |EQ(REQUIRED)| 0.0, // left align
                         box2.right |EQ(REQUIRED)| window_width, // right align
                         box2.left |GE(REQUIRED)| box1.right, // no overlap
                         // positive widths
                         box1.left |LE(REQUIRED)| box1.right,
                         box2.left |LE(REQUIRED)| box2.right,
                         // preferred widths:
                         box1.right - box1.left |EQ(WEAK)| 50.0,
                         box2.right - box2.left |EQ(WEAK)| 100.0]).unwrap();

The window width is currently free to take any positive value. Let's constrain it to a particular value. Since for this example we will repeatedly change the window width, it is most efficient to use an "edit variable", instead of repeatedly removing and adding constraints (note that for efficiency reasons we cannot edit a normal constraint that has been added to the solver).

solver.add_edit_variable(window_width, STRONG).unwrap();
solver.suggest_value(window_width, 300.0).unwrap();

This value of 300 is enough to fit both boxes in with room to spare, so let's check that this is the case. We can fetch a list of changes to the values of variables in the solver. Using the pretty printer defined earlier we can see what values our variables now hold.

print_changes(&names, solver.fetch_changes());

This should print (in a possibly different order):

Changes:
window_width: 300
box1.right: 50
box2.left: 200
box2.right: 300

Note that the value of box1.left is not mentioned. This is because solver.fetch_changes only lists changes to variables, and since each variable starts in the solver with a value of zero, any values that have not changed from zero will not be reported.

Now let's try compressing the window so that the boxes can't take up their preferred widths.

solver.suggest_value(window_width, 75.0);
print_changes(&names, solver.fetch_changes);

Now the solver can't satisfy all of the constraints. It will pick at least one of the weakest constraints to violate. In this case it will be one or both of the preferred widths. For efficiency reasons this is picked nondeterministically, so there are two possible results. This could be

Changes:
window_width: 75
box1.right: 0
box2.left: 0
box2.right: 75

or

Changes:
window_width: 75
box2.left: 50
box2.right: 75

Due to the nature of the algorithm, "in-between" solutions, although just as valid, are not picked.

In a user interface this is not likely a result we would prefer. The solution is to add another constraint to control the behaviour when the preferred widths cannot both be satisfied. In this example we are going to constrain the boxes to try to maintain a ratio between their widths.

solver.add_constraint(
    (box1.right - box1.left) / 50.0 |EQ(MEDIUM)| (box2.right - box2.left) / 100.0
    ).unwrap();
print_changes(&names, solver.fetch_changes());

Now the result gives values that maintain the ratio between the sizes of the two boxes:

Changes:
box1.right: 25
box2.left: 25

This example may have appeared somewhat contrived, but hopefully it shows the power of the cassowary algorithm for laying out user interfaces.

One thing that this example exposes is that this crate is a rather low level library. It does not have any inherent knowledge of user interfaces, directions or boxes. Thus for use in a user interface this crate should ideally be wrapped by a higher level API, which is outside the scope of this crate.

Modules

strength

Contains useful constants and functions for producing strengths for use in the constraint solver. Each constraint added to the solver has an associated strength specifying the precedence the solver should impose when choosing which constraints to enforce. It will try to enforce all constraints, but if that is impossible the lowest strength constraints are the first to be violated.

Structs

Constraint

A constraint, consisting of an equation goverened by an expression and a relational operator, and an associated strength.

Expression

An expression that can be the left hand or right hand side of a constraint equation. It is a linear combination of variables, i.e. a sum of variables weighted by coefficients, plus an optional constant.

PartialConstraint

This is an intermediate type used in the syntactic sugar for specifying constraints. You should not use it directly.

Solver

A constraint solver using the Cassowary algorithm. For proper usage please see the top level crate documentation.

Term

A variable and a coefficient to multiply that variable by. This is a sub-expression in a constraint equation.

Variable

Identifies a variable for the constraint solver. Each new variable is unique in the view of the solver, but copying or cloning the variable produces a copy of the same variable.

Enums

AddConstraintError

The possible error conditions that Solver::add_constraint can fail with.

AddEditVariableError

The possible error conditions that Solver::add_edit_variable can fail with.

RelationalOperator

The possible relations that a constraint can specify.

RemoveConstraintError

The possible error conditions that Solver::remove_constraint can fail with.

RemoveEditVariableError

The possible error conditions that Solver::remove_edit_variable can fail with.

SuggestValueError

The possible error conditions that Solver::suggest_value can fail with.

WeightedRelation

This is part of the syntactic sugar used for specifying constraints. This enum should be used as part of a constraint expression. See the module documentation for more information.