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Make animations smooth (XAML)

A key aspect of Windows Store apps using C++, C#, or Visual Basic for Windows 8 is smooth interactions. This includes touch manipulations that "stick to your finger," smooth transitions and animations, and small motions that provide input feedback. In the XAML framework there is a thread called the composition thread that is dedicated to the composition and animation of an app’s visual elements. Because the composition thread is separate from UI thread (the thread that runs framework and developer code), apps can achieve a consistent frame rate and smooth animations regardless of complicated layout passes or extended calculations. This topic shows how to use the composition thread to keep an app’s animations buttery smooth. For more info about animations, see Animating your UI. To learn about increasing an app’s responsiveness while performing intensive computations, see Keep the UI thread responsive.

Use independent instead of dependent animations

Animations can be calculated from beginning to end at the time of its creation. Sometimes the changes to the property being animated don't affect rest of the objects in a scene. These are called independent animations and they are run on the composition thread instead of the UI thread. This guarantees that they remain smooth because the composition thread is updated at a consistent cadence. All of these types of animations are guaranteed to be independent.

Dependent animations affect layout and cannot be calculated without extra input from the UI thread. These animations include modifications to properties like Width and Height. By default, dependent animations are not run and require an opt-in from the app developer. When enabled, they run smoothly if the UI thread remains unblocked, but they begin to stutter if the framework or app is doing a lot of other work.

The XAML framework has worked hard to make almost all animations independent by default, but there are some actions that you can take to disable this optimization. Beware of these scenarios particularly:

  • Setting the EnableDependentAnimation property to allow a dependent animation to run on the UI thread. Convert these animations into an independent version. For example animate ScaleTransform.ScaleX and ScaleTransform.ScaleY instead of the Width and Height of an object. Don’t be afraid to scale objects like images and text. The framework applies bilinear scaling only while the ScaleTransform is being animated. The image/text will be rerasterized at the final size to ensure it’s always clear.
  • Making per frame updates, which are effectively dependent animations. An example of this is applying transformations in the handler of the CompositonTarget.Rendering event.
  • Running any animation considered independent in an element with the CacheMode property set to BitmapCache. This is considered dependent because the cache must be re-rasterized for each frame.

Don't animate a WebView or MediaElement

Web content within a WebView control is not directly rendered by the XAML framework and it requires extra work to be composed with the rest of the scene. This extra work adds up when animating the control around the screen and can potentially introduce synchronization issues (for example, the HTML content might not move in sync with the rest of the XAML content on the page). When you need to animate a WebView control, swap it with a WebViewBrush for the duration of the animation.

Animating a MediaElement is a similarly bad idea. Beyond the performance detriment, it can cause tearing or other artifacts in the video content being played.

Use infinite animations sparingly

Most animations execute for a specified amount of time, but setting the Timeline.Duration property to Forever allows an animation to run indefinitely. We recommend minimizing the use of infinite animations because they continually consume CPU resources and can prevent the CPU from going into a low power or idle state, causing it to run out of power more quickly.

Adding a handler for CompositionTarget.Rendering is similar to running an infinite animation. Normally the UI thread is active only when there is work to do, but adding handler for this event forces it to run every frame. Remove the handler when there is no work to be done and reregister it when it’s needed again.

Use the animation library

The Windows.UI.Xaml.Media.Animation namespace includes a library of high-performance, smooth animations that have a look and feel consistent with other Windows animations. The relevant classes have "Theme" in their name, and are described in Quickstart: Animating your UI using library animations. This library supports many common animation scenarios, such as animating the first view of the app and creating state and content transitions. We recommend using this animation library whenever possible to increase performance and consistency for Windows 8 UI.

Note  The animation library can't animate all possible properties. For XAML scenarios where the animation library doesn't apply, see Storyboarded animations.