Anko is an Android library written in Kotlin by Jetbrains, that can be used for a lot of different stuff. Its main feature is to create views by code using a DSL.

Although this can be very interesting, the truth is that I got along very well with XMLs for so long. So I haven’t tried this feature much.

But it does have other very useful features, and the one I tell you today is quite cool.

Anko used to execute background tasks

The issue of getting out of the main thread to execute operations that can block is very recurrent in Android.

There are thousands of alternatives, from several offered by the framework (such as AsyncTask or Loader) to libraries. Some even use RxJava for this.

All are valid options, and all have their pros and cons.

But most of them are very complex just to achieve the simple goal of getting out of the main thread to do some heavy task.

Anko takes advantage of Kotlin power to offer an easy and light solution to free the main thread from long-running tasks.

Add the dependency to your project

The first thing is to include the dependency.

As Anko does many things, the size of the library got out of hand. So there came a time when they decided to break it.

For this example, you only need to add the following import:

Run the task in a background thread

If you remember, in a previous article we implemented a pretty basic doAsync function, which could run background operations. Anko is able to use the execution context to do one thing or the other. We’ll see an example later.

For now, the resulting code is very similar:

But how do we get back to the main thread?

Returning to the main thread

It is also very simple. You just have to write a uiThread block inside the doAsync, and this will run on the main thread.

toast() is another useful function provided by Anko, which simplifies the way we display toasts in our App.

But the important part is that of uiThread. This runs on the main thread.

And you know what? If the doAsync was called by an Activity, the code of uiThread will not be executed if the Activity is dying (isFinishing returns true). This way, we avoid a recurrent error that usually happens with the AsyncTask or any other callback that does not pay attention to the activity lifecycle.

Conclusion

As you can see, Anko provides a set of utilities that will simplify our life when writing Android Apps. There are many others, such as dialog creation or database management, which we may look at in the following articles.

But if you really want to take the plunge and start creating Apps with Kotlin, then you can start with my free guide, that will help you create your first Android project using Kotlin.

Author: Antonio Leiva

I’m in love with Kotlin. I’ve been learning about it for a couple of years, applying it to Android and digesting all this knowledge so that you can learn it with no effort.

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