Scenic Views, view tree, and ViewRefs

Scenic View

A UI client that wishes to vend user-visible content must place it in a Scenic View, which is a Session-based resource, local to that client. No resource can be directly referenced outside the scope of their owning Scenic Session.

ViewRef refers to a Scenic View

For a view resource in particular, it is very useful to have a stable and consistent view reference, that can be used across component boundaries.

We define a fuchsia.ui.views.ViewRef FIDL datatype that has some desirable properties:

  • A ViewRef is globally unique across the operating system, it cannot be forged. This property arises from the ViewRef's underlying kernel object, an eventpair.
  • A ViewRef is globally unique over the lifetime of the operating system, it is never reused. This property arises from Zircon's guarantee of KOID uniqueness for kernel objects.
  • A ViewRef can be used in a feed-forward pattern for Scenic View creation. Protocols and components that participate in View creation do not have to “tunnel back” the corresponding ViewRef.
  • ViewRef holders can implement lifecycle management by listening for a ZX_EVENTPAIR_PEER_CLOSED zircon signal on the underlying eventpair object.

Each Scenic View has an associated ViewRef.

View tree

The global scene graph can be thought of as a tree of Views, each containing UI content and embedding other Views. Because we have a ViewRef for each View, we can also think of the view tree as a tree of ViewRefs.

In a view tree, parent views have tremendous power over child views: the power to reposition the child‘s view, enforce clip boundaries on the child’s view, hide the child's UI content, etc. Because of the inherent power of the view hierarchy, we use it as a basis of hierarchy outside of Scenic. This hierarchy, which changes dynamically based on view focusing, is represented with a “focus chain”.

How is a ViewRef used?

Typically, a UI client uses a ViewRef to self-identify itself to manager-type programs.

Because of the feed-forward nature of view creation, a manager program can start handling View-specific logic prior to the View's creation in Scenic.

Here are some example usages. Accessibility Manager uses ViewRefs to identify and manage client content; IME Manager uses ViewRefs to identify IME clients, Shortcuts Manager uses ViewRefs to identify and manage client-authored keyboard shortcuts, Sys UI uses ViewRefs to identify and manage focus of child views.

Are ViewRef and ViewToken the same thing?

No. These FIDL datatypes are both backed by eventpairs, but serve different uses.

The ViewToken is used internally by Scenic. It connects a View resource to a corresponding ViewHolder resource in the scene graph. The semantics work because each side of the eventpair is held uniquely by View (child) and ViewHolder (parent).

The ViewRef is used outside of Scenic. UI clients and manager components use it to refer to a View.

ViewRef not for authentication

A ViewRef can easily be propagated across protocol boundaries. Hence, it is important to not use a ViewRef as an authentication mechanism: merely holding a ViewRef should not grant the holder powers. Instead, use capability routing to distribute a ViewRef-consuming protocol securely to trusted components.

One example of this is the fuchsia.ui.views.ViewRefInstalled protocol, which allows a client to determine when Scenic has installed a ViewRef in the view tree.

ViewRef design tradeoffs

The feedforward pattern is not inherently secure; the client is trusted to not make a secret copy of the ViewRefControl when feeding the ViewRef and ViewRefControl pair to Scenic.