Representations in Xamarin Workbooks


Within a workbook or inspector session, code that is executed and yields a result (e.g. a method returning a value or the result of an expression) is processed through the representation pipeline in the agent. All objects, with the exception of primitives such as integers, will be reflected to produce interactive member graphs and will go through a process to provide alternate representations that the client can render more richly. Objects of any size and depth are safely supported (including cycles and infinite enumerables) due to lazy and interactive reflection and remoting.

Xamarin Workbooks provides a few types common to all agents and clients that allow for rich rendering of results. Color is one example of such a type, where for example on iOS, the agent is responsible for converting CGColor or UIColor objects into a Xamarin.Interactive.Representations.Color object.

In addition to common representations, the integration SDK provides APIs for serializing custom representations in the agent and rendering representations in the client.

External Representations

Xamarin.Interactive.IAgent.RepresentationManager provides the ability to register a RepresentationProvider, which an integration must implement to convert from an arbitrary object to an agnostic form to render. These agnostic forms must implement the ISerializableObject interface.

Implementing the ISerializableObject interface adds a Serialize method that precisely controls how objects are serialized. The Serialize method expects that a developer will exactly specify which properties are to be serialized, and what the final name will be. Looking at the Person object in our [KitchenSink sample][sample], we can see how this works:

public sealed class Person : ISerializableObject
  public string Name { get; }

  // Rest of the code is omitted…

  void ISerializableObject.Serialize (ObjectSerializer serializer)
    => serializer.Property (nameof (Name), Name);

If we wanted to provide a superset or subset of properties from the original object, we can do that with Serialize. For example, we might do something like this to provide a pre-computed Age property on Person:

public sealed class Person : ISerializableObject
  public string Name { get; set; }
  public DateTime DateOfBirth { get; set; }

  // <snip>

  void ISerializableObject.Serialize (ObjectSerializer serializer)
    serializer.Property (nameof (Name), Name);
    serializer.Property (nameof (DateOfBirth), DateOfBirth);

    // Let's pre-compute an Age property that's the person's age in years,
    // so we don't have to compute it in the renderer.
    var age = (DateTime.MinValue + (DateTime.Now - DateOfBirth)).Year - 1;
    serializer.Property ("Age", age)


APIs that produce ISerializableObject objects directly do not need to be handled by a RepresentationProvider. If the object you want to display is not an ISerializableObject, you will want to handle wrapping it in your RepresentationProvider.

Rendering a Representation

Renderers are implemented in JavaScript and will have access to a JavaScript version of the object represented via ISerializableObject. The JavaScript copy will also have a $type string property that indicates the .NET type name.

We recommend using TypeScript for client integration code, which of course compiles to vanilla JavaScript. Either way, the SDK provides typings which can be referenced directly by TypeScript or simply referred to manually if writing vanilla JavaScript is preferred.

The main integration point for rendering is xamarin.interactive.RendererRegistry:

  function (source) {
    if (source.$type === "SampleExternalIntegration.Person")
      return new PersonRenderer;
    return undefined;

Here, PersonRenderer implements the Renderer interface. See the typings for more details.