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Image Processing with Coil in Android

July 25, 2021

One of the essential skills that an Android developer must know is how to correctly work with images, especially from a remote source. This is because many applications in some way or another use images.

Image processing can be done in many different ways depending on the features you want to implement. In most cases, you might need to perform not only loading but also memory and disk caching, down-sampling the image in memory, re-using Bitmaps, and automatically pausing/canceling requests.

In this tutorial, we will learn how to perform the above-mentioned tasks and many more using a fast, lightweight, and easy-to-use library called Coil.

Coil is made using Kotlin and has embedded coroutine support which makes it suitable for modern Android development.

Prerequisites

Before getting started with this tutorial, make sure that you’re conversant with:

Getting started

Let’s start by creating an Android project that we will use for this tutorial.

To include Coil in our app, we need either of the following dependencies that are already published on mavenCentral():

Note that at the time of writing this article, the Coil library used was version 1.2.2.

implementation("io.coil-kt:coil:1.2.2")

This is the default dependency that comes with ImageView extension functions and Coil singleton. It highly depends on io.coil-kt:coil-base. This dependency supports the loading of static images.

implementation("io.coil-kt:coil-base:1.2.2")

This is the base artifact that is mostly depended on by other dependencies. Unlike io.coil-kt:coil, this doesn’t include ImageView extension functions and Coil singleton.

implementation("io.coil-kt:coil-gif:1.2.2")

Includes GIF decoders that allow you to display GIF images in your app. Animated WEBP requires Android 9.0+ whereas animated HEIF images need Android 11.0+.

implementation("io.coil-kt:coil-svg:1.2.2")

The above dependency supports the decoding of SVGs.

implementation("io.coil-kt:coil-video:1.2.2")

The io.coil-kt:coil-video:1.2.2 plugin provides video frames for video codecs that are supported in Android. A codec is software that decodes and encodes digital data streams.

The choice of the right artifact is based on your app requirements. Fortunately, more than one dependency can be used in the same project.

With that said, add the following into the module-level build.gradle file as we’ll only work with plain images.

dependencies{
    implementation("io.coil-kt:coil:1.2.2")
}

Note that Coil depends on Java-8. To enable this, include the following in the same build.gradle file:

android {
    compileOptions {
            sourceCompatibility JavaVersion.VERSION_1_8
            targetCompatibility JavaVersion.VERSION_1_8
        }
}

Lastly, Coil needs internet permission since we will fetch remote images. Add the following line in the Manifest file:

<uses-permission android:name="android.permission.INTERNET"/>

We can now sync the project.

Building the user interface

In this project, we’ll use a single ImageView and several Buttons. Each button will represent a function to modify the loaded image.

In your activity_main.xml file, add the code below:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<androidx.constraintlayout.widget.ConstraintLayout xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
    xmlns:app="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res-auto"
    xmlns:tools="http://schemas.android.com/tools"
    android:layout_width="match_parent"
    android:layout_height="match_parent"
    tools:context=".MainActivity">

    <ImageView
        android:id="@+id/imageView"
        android:layout_width="match_parent"
        android:layout_height="300dp"
        android:layout_margin="16dp"
        android:src="@drawable/ic_launcher_foreground"
        app:layout_constraintEnd_toEndOf="parent"
        app:layout_constraintStart_toStartOf="parent"
        app:layout_constraintTop_toTopOf="parent" />

    <TextView
        android:id="@+id/stateText"
        android:layout_width="wrap_content"
        android:layout_height="wrap_content"
        android:text="State: Default"
        android:textSize="20sp"
        app:layout_constraintBottom_toTopOf="@+id/flow"
        app:layout_constraintEnd_toEndOf="@+id/imageView"
        app:layout_constraintStart_toStartOf="@+id/imageView"
        app:layout_constraintTop_toBottomOf="@+id/imageView" />

    <androidx.constraintlayout.helper.widget.Flow
        android:id="@+id/flow"
        android:layout_width="match_parent"
        android:layout_height="wrap_content"
        android:padding="8dp"
        app:constraint_referenced_ids="circle,rounded,grayScale,crossFade,blur,crop,placeholder,error,combined"
        app:flow_horizontalGap="8dp"
        app:flow_horizontalStyle="packed"
        app:flow_verticalStyle="spread"
        app:flow_wrapMode="chain"
        app:layout_constraintBottom_toBottomOf="parent"
        app:layout_constraintEnd_toEndOf="parent"
        app:layout_constraintStart_toStartOf="parent"
        app:layout_constraintTop_toBottomOf="@id/imageView"
        app:layout_constraintVertical_bias="1" />

    <Button
        android:id="@+id/circle"
        android:layout_width="match_parent"
        android:layout_height="wrap_content"
        android:text="Circle Trans" />

    <Button
        android:id="@+id/rounded"
        android:layout_width="wrap_content"
        android:layout_height="wrap_content"
        android:text="rounded" />

    <Button
        android:id="@+id/grayScale"
        android:layout_width="wrap_content"
        android:layout_height="wrap_content"
        android:text="Gray scale" />

    <Button
        android:id="@+id/crossFade"
        android:layout_width="wrap_content"
        android:layout_height="wrap_content"
        android:text="cross fade" />

    <Button
        android:id="@+id/blur"
        android:layout_width="wrap_content"
        android:layout_height="wrap_content"
        android:text="blur" />

    <Button
        android:id="@+id/crop"
        android:layout_width="wrap_content"
        android:layout_height="wrap_content"
        android:text="crop" />

    <Button
        android:id="@+id/placeholder"
        android:layout_width="wrap_content"
        android:layout_height="wrap_content"
        android:text="Placeholder" />

    <Button
        android:id="@+id/error"  
        android:layout_width="match_parent"
        android:layout_height="wrap_content"
        android:text="Error Image" />

    <Button
        android:id="@+id/combined"
        android:layout_width="match_parent"
        android:layout_height="wrap_content"
        android:text="combined trans" />
</androidx.constraintlayout.widget.ConstraintLayout>

A Flow is a helper widget that allows us to align views within it without constraining each referenced view.

The code above adds buttons in a horizontally-packed, vertically spread, chained flow. In between the imageview and the flow is a TextView that indicates the current state of the image.

See the preview below:

Design preview

Images sources

Coil supports three main sources of images. A load() method is used to display the images. This is an extension function that extends the ImageView class. It provides a request builder lambda where Most of the manipulation functions are applied.

Below are the major image sources:

URL

This uses a link to a remote image that you want to load into a target.

// for instance
imageView.load("https://example.images/example.png")

Drawable resource

It loads images from within the project files.

imageView.load(R.drawable.image)

File resource

The file resource makes use of a given image from the host device.

imageView.load(File("/path/to/image"))

Enabling view binding

viewBinding allows us to access UI views in a more simplified way. It makes use of binding classes generated by the viewBinding library.

To enable viewBinding, add the following code in the module-level gradle.build file and sync:

android{
    buildFeatures{
        viewBinding true
    }
}

Now, we are good to go!

Image processing functionalities

Here, we listen for button clicks and perform the respective action. To start with, open MainActivity.kt and add the following starter code:

class MainActivity : AppCompatActivity() {
    private var _binding: ActivityMainBinding? = null
    private val binding get() = _binding!!
    override fun onCreate(savedInstanceState: Bundle?) {
        supportActionBar?.hide()
        super.onCreate(savedInstanceState)
        _binding = ActivityMainBinding.inflate(layoutInflater)
        setContentView(binding.root)
        // we'll handle clicks here
    }
}

In the code above, we have inflated the UI using viewBinding.

Loading an image to the target

In this step, we will load an image onto a target (ImageView) from a URL. Since this will include several operations, it’s a good idea to separate the sample links from the main code.

Therefore, create a Kotlin class named ImageLink and add the code below in it:

class ImageLinks {
    // array of links to free images on the internet
    private val links = arrayListOf<String>(
        "https://images.freeimages.com/images/large-previews/825/linked-hands-1308777.jpg",
        "https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1541443131876-44b03de101c5?ixlib=rb-1.2.1&q=80&fm=jpg&crop=entropy&cs=tinysrgb&dl=mathieu-renier-4WBvCqeMaDE-unsplash.jpg",
        "https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1549399542-7e3f8b79c341?ixlib=rb-1.2.1&q=80&fm=jpg&crop=entropy&cs=tinysrgb&dl=roberto-nickson-zu95jkyrGtw-unsplash.jpg",
        "https://www.cnet.com/a/img/XtH050ErlMIQxKn_HYUx2plJnDc=/940x528/2020/12/17/c9a829c8-69d6-4299-b2d0-cf9624aa7556/2021-acura-tlx-a-spec-65.jpg",
        "https://cdn.jdpower.com/JDPA_2021%20Acura%20TLX%20Advance%20Red%20Front%20View.jpg",
        "https://s3-us-east-2.amazonaws.com/matter-blog/2020/09/People_Person_Cover_Image.png",
        "https://images.fandango.com/ImageRenderer/0/0/redesign/static/img/default_poster.png/0/images/masterrepository/other/ant_man_ver5.jpg"
    )
    fun randomLink(): String {
        return links.random()
    }
}

The randomLink() function above returns a randomly selected link whenever we call it. This ensures that we don’t use the same image in every process.

Let’s manage the state in our application.

Open MainActivity.kt file and add the following code just below the onCreate() method.


private fun updateState(newState: String){
    binding.stateText.text = "State: $newState"
}

The function above sets the new state to help us identify the latest action performed on the image.

Transitions

A transition is the duration incurred when switching states.

Crossfade

This is an animated transition that visualizes the changes on an imageView. It does so by changing the opacity from 0 t0 1 within a given period.

// triggered when crossfade button is clicked...(this applies to other snippets as well)

binding.crossFade.setOnClickListener {
    val link = ImageLinks().randomLink()
    binding.imageView.load(link) {
        crossfade(750) // 75th percentile of a second
        build()
    }
    // set current state
    updateState("cross fade")
}

Crossfade duration is determined by the time (in microseconds) passed in the crossfade() function.

Transformations

Image transformations are manipulation techniques that can be applied to an ImageView. Coil supports the following transformations:

Rounded corners

This creates curved corners on an image. The level of roundness is determined by the floating value passed in the RoundedCornersTransformation() function.

binding.rounded.setOnClickListener {
    val link = ImageLinks().randomLink()
    binding.imageView.load(link) {
        transformations(
            RoundedCornersTransformation(8F)
        )
        build()
    }
    updateState("Rounded")
}

Blur

This involves the manipulation of the image quality.

binding.blur.setOnClickListener {
    val link = ImageLinks().randomLink()
    binding.imageView.load(link) {
        transformations(
            BlurTransformation(this@MainActivity,radius = 8f),
        )
        build()
    }
    updateState("Blur")
}

The higher the blur radius, the blurrier the image. Blurring can be helpful when we don’t want users to see some images or content. For instance, when the service requires premium access only.

Circle crop

The circle crop forms a circular-shaped image within the available dimensions.

binding.circle.setOnClickListener {
    val link = ImageLinks().randomLink()
    binding.imageView.load(link) {
        transformations(
            CircleCropTransformation()
        )
        build()
    }
    updateState("Circle Crop")
}

Grayscale

Grayscale refers to a decolorized image format. All colors are turned to either black or white.

binding.grayScale.setOnClickListener {
    val link = ImageLinks().randomLink()
    binding.imageView.load(link) {
        transformations(
            GrayscaleTransformation(),
        )
        build()
    }
    updateState("Grayscale")
}

Placeholder

As the name suggests, placeholders are images that are pre-set to appear on an ImageView before the actual image is set.

When a request is completed, the placeholder is instantly replaced with the intended image. For this reason, it might not be visually detected especially when an image request is done pretty fast.

binding.placeholder.setOnClickListener {
    val link = ImageLinks().randomLink()
    binding.imageView.load(link){
        /* create a drawable resource to use here */
        placeholder(R.drawable.ic_placeholder)
        build()
    }
    updateState("Placeholder")
}

Crop

It allows us to hard-code dimensions or image size. Note that we do not specify the measurement unit when using Coil’s size() function as the default unit is pixels.

binding.crop.setOnClickListener {
    val link = ImageLinks().randomLink()
    binding.imageView.apply {
        scaleType = ImageView.ScaleType.CENTER_CROP
        load(link) {
            size(300, 300)
        }
    }
}

Combined Transformations

In some cases, you may want to apply more than just one transformation on the same image at the same time. This can be achieved as shown below:

binding.combined.setOnClickListener {
    val link = ImageLinks().randomLink()
    binding.imageView.load(link) {
        crossfade(750)
        transformations(
            CircleCropTransformation(),
            GrayscaleTransformation() // e.t.c
        )
        build()
    }
    updateState("Combined State")
}

Notice the use of commas to separate transformations.

Cancelling Requests

In some cases, a network request needs to be canceled, especially if it takes too long to respond. Request cancellation is also referred to as disposal, as shown in the snippet below.

imageView.load(link){
        ...
    }.dispose()

This frees resources associated with the request by canceling any work in progress. This method is idempotent meaning that multiple applications do not affect the result of the first app.

Memory Caching

Caching makes it possible to display remote images even when the internet connection is lost. For this to happen, the image must have been fetched in at least one instance.

Coil makes use of OkHttp which is an HTTP client that supports the SPDY protocol. Refer to this official documentation for further reading.

Exception handling

Keeping track of a request is important as it helps in handling errors encountered during the process.

Coil uses a listener() function that accepts two lambdas, onSuccess and onError, as demonstrated below:

// handle error button click
binding.error.setOnClickListener {
    binding.imageView.load("https://a/bad/link") {
        listener(
            // pass two arguments
            onSuccess = { _, _ ->
                Toast.makeText(this@MainActivity, "Success", Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show()
            },
            onError = { request: ImageRequest, throwable: Throwable ->
                request.error
                Toast.makeText(this@MainActivity, "$throwable", Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show()
            })
        // setup error image
        error(R.drawable.ic_error_image)
        
    }
}

An error image is used to indicate that something went wrong when resolving the request.

Conclusion

Congratulations on completing this tutorial. You can now comfortably use Coil to process images in Android. You can, therefore, use this knowledge to build more powerful applications.

The source code for this tutorial can be found on this Github repository.


Peer Review Contributions by: Wanja Mike