Loading XAML at Runtime in Xamarin.Forms

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The Xamarin.Forms.Xaml namespace includes two LoadFromXaml extension methods that can be used to load, and parse XAML at runtime.

Background

When a Xamarin.Forms XAML class is constructed, the LoadFromXaml method is indirectly called. This occurs because the code-behind file for a XAML class calls the InitializeComponent method from its constructor:

public partial class MainPage : ContentPage
{
    public MainPage()
    {
        InitializeComponent();
    }
}

When Visual Studio builds a project containing a XAML file, it parses the XAML file to generate a C# code file (for example, MainPage.xaml.g.cs) that contains the definition of the InitializeComponent method:

private void InitializeComponent()
{
    global::Xamarin.Forms.Xaml.Extensions.LoadFromXaml(this, typeof(MainPage));
    ...
}

The InitializeComponent method calls the LoadFromXaml method to extract the XAML file (or its compiled binary) from the .NET Standard library. After extraction, it initializes all of the objects defined in the XAML file, connects them all together in parent-child relationships, attaches event handlers defined in code to events set in the XAML file, and sets the resultant tree of objects as the content of the page.

Loading XAML at runtime

The LoadFromXaml methods are public, and therefore can be called from Xamarin.Forms applications to load, and parse XAML at runtime. This permits scenarios such as an application downloading XAML from a web service, creating the required view from the XAML, and displaying it in the application.

Warning

Loading XAML at runtime has a significant performance cost, and generally should be avoided.

The following code example shows a simple usage:

using Xamarin.Forms.Xaml;
...

string navigationButtonXAML = "<Button Text=\"Navigate\" />";
Button navigationButton = new Button().LoadFromXaml(navigationButtonXAML);
...
_stackLayout.Children.Add(navigationButton);

In this example, a Button instance is created, with it's Text property value being set from the XAML defined in the string. The Button is then added to a StackLayout that has been defined in the XAML for the page.

Note

The LoadFromXaml extension methods allow a generic type argument to be specified. However, it's rarely necessary to specify the type argument, as it will be inferred from the type of the instance its operating on.

The LoadFromXaml method can be used to inflate any XAML, with the following example inflating a ContentPage and then navigating to it:

using Xamarin.Forms.Xaml;
...

// See the sample for the full XAML string
string pageXAML = "<?xml version=\"1.0\" encoding=\"utf-8\"?>\r\n<ContentPage xmlns=\"http://xamarin.com/schemas/2014/forms\"\nxmlns:x=\"http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2009/xaml\"\nx:Class=\"LoadRuntimeXAML.CatalogItemsPage\"\nTitle=\"Catalog Items\">\n</ContentPage>";

ContentPage page = new ContentPage().LoadFromXaml(pageXAML);
await Navigation.PushAsync(page);

Accessing elements

Loading XAML at runtime with the LoadFromXaml method does not permit strongly-typed access to the XAML elements that have specified runtime object names (using x:Name). However, these XAML elements can be retrieved using the FindByName method, and then accessed as required:

// See the sample for the full XAML string
string pageXAML = "<?xml version=\"1.0\" encoding=\"utf-8\"?>\r\n<ContentPage xmlns=\"http://xamarin.com/schemas/2014/forms\"\nxmlns:x=\"http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2009/xaml\"\nx:Class=\"LoadRuntimeXAML.CatalogItemsPage\"\nTitle=\"Catalog Items\">\n<StackLayout>\n<Label x:Name=\"monkeyName\"\n />\n</StackLayout>\n</ContentPage>";
ContentPage page = new ContentPage().LoadFromXaml(pageXAML);

Label monkeyLabel = page.FindByName<Label>("monkeyName");
monkeyLabel.Text = "Seated Monkey";
...

In this example, the XAML for a ContentPage is inflated. This XAML includes a Label named monkeyName, which is retrieved using the FindByName method, before it's Text property is set.