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ListView performance

When writing mobile applications, performance matters. Users have come to expect smooth scrolling and fast load times. Failing to meet your users' expectations will cost you ratings in the application store, or in the case of a line-of-business application, cost your organization time and money.

The Xamarin.Forms ListView is a powerful view for displaying data, but it has some limitations. Scrolling performance can suffer when using custom cells, especially when they contain deeply nested view hierarchies or use certain layouts that require complex measurement. Fortunately, there are techniques you can use to avoid poor performance.

Caching strategy

ListViews are often used to display much more data than fits onscreen. For example, a music app might have a library of songs with thousands of entries. Creating an item for every entry would waste valuable memory and perform poorly. Creating and destroying rows constantly would require the application to instantiate and cleanup objects constantly, which would also perform poorly.

To conserve memory, the native ListView equivalents for each platform have built-in features for reusing rows. Only the cells visible on screen are loaded in memory and the content is loaded into existing cells. This pattern prevents the application from instantiating thousands of objects, saving time and memory.

Xamarin.Forms permits ListView cell reuse through the ListViewCachingStrategy enumeration, which has the following values:

public enum ListViewCachingStrategy
    RetainElement,   // the default value


The Universal Windows Platform (UWP) ignores the RetainElement caching strategy, because it always uses caching to improve performance. Therefore, by default it behaves as if the RecycleElement caching strategy is applied.


The RetainElement caching strategy specifies that the ListView will generate a cell for each item in the list, and is the default ListView behavior. It should be used in the following circumstances:

  • Each cell has a large number of bindings (20-30+).
  • The cell template changes frequently.
  • Testing reveals that the RecycleElement caching strategy results in a reduced execution speed.

It's important to recognize the consequences of the RetainElement caching strategy when working with custom cells. Any cell initialization code will need to run for each cell creation, which may be multiple times per second. In this circumstance, layout techniques that were fine on a page, like using multiple nested StackLayout instances, become performance bottlenecks when they're set up and destroyed in real time as the user scrolls.


The RecycleElement caching strategy specifies that the ListView will attempt to minimize its memory footprint and execution speed by recycling list cells. This mode doesn't always offer a performance improvement, and testing should be performed to determine any improvements. However, it's the preferred choice, and should be used in the following circumstances:

  • Each cell has a small to moderate number of bindings.
  • Each cell's BindingContext defines all of the cell data.
  • Each cell is largely similar, with the cell template unchanging.

During virtualization the cell will have its binding context updated, and so if an application uses this mode it must ensure that binding context updates are handled appropriately. All data about the cell must come from the binding context or consistency errors may occur. This problem can be avoided by using data binding to display cell data. Alternatively, cell data should be set in the OnBindingContextChanged override, rather than in the custom cell's constructor, as demonstrated in the following code example:

public class CustomCell : ViewCell
    Image image = null;
    public CustomCell ()
        image = new Image();
        View = image;
    protected override void OnBindingContextChanged ()
        base.OnBindingContextChanged ();
        var item = BindingContext as ImageItem;
        if (item != null) {
            image.Source = item.ImageUrl;

For more information, see Binding Context Changes.

On iOS and Android, if cells use custom renderers, they must ensure that property change notification is correctly implemented. When cells are reused their property values will change when the binding context is updated to that of an available cell, with PropertyChanged events being raised. For more information, see Customizing a ViewCell.

RecycleElement with a DataTemplateSelector

When a ListView uses a DataTemplateSelector to select a DataTemplate, the RecycleElement caching strategy does not cache DataTemplates. Instead, a DataTemplate is selected for each item of data in the list.


The RecycleElement caching strategy has a pre-requisite, introduced in Xamarin.Forms 2.4, that when a DataTemplateSelector is asked to select a DataTemplate that each DataTemplate must return the same ViewCell type. For example, given a ListView with a DataTemplateSelector that can return either MyDataTemplateA (where MyDataTemplateA returns a ViewCell of type MyViewCellA), or MyDataTemplateB (where MyDataTemplateB returns a ViewCell of type MyViewCellB), when MyDataTemplateA is returned it must return MyViewCellA or an exception will be thrown.


The RecycleElementAndDataTemplate caching strategy builds on the RecycleElement caching strategy by additionally ensuring that when a ListView uses a DataTemplateSelector to select a DataTemplate, DataTemplates are cached by the type of item in the list. Therefore, DataTemplates are selected once per item type, instead of once per item instance.


The RecycleElementAndDataTemplate caching strategy has a pre-requisite that the DataTemplates returned by the DataTemplateSelector must use the DataTemplate constructor that takes a Type.

Set the caching strategy

The ListViewCachingStrategy enumeration value is specified with a ListView constructor overload, as shown in the following code example:

var listView = new ListView(ListViewCachingStrategy.RecycleElement);

In XAML, set the CachingStrategy attribute as shown in the XAML below:

<ListView CachingStrategy="RecycleElement">

This method has the same effect as setting the caching strategy argument in the constructor in C#.

Set the caching strategy in a subclassed ListView

Setting the CachingStrategy attribute from XAML on a subclassed ListView will not produce the desired behavior, because there's no CachingStrategy property on ListView. In addition, if XAMLC is enabled, the following error message will be produced: No property, bindable property, or event found for 'CachingStrategy'

The solution to this issue is to specify a constructor on the subclassed ListView that accepts a ListViewCachingStrategy parameter and passes it into the base class:

public class CustomListView : ListView
    public CustomListView (ListViewCachingStrategy strategy) : base (strategy)

Then the ListViewCachingStrategy enumeration value can be specified from XAML by using the x:Arguments syntax:


ListView performance suggestions

There are many techniques for improving the performance of a ListView. The following suggestions may improve the performance of your ListView

  • Bind the ItemsSource property to an IList<T> collection instead of an IEnumerable<T> collection, because IEnumerable<T> collections don't support random access.
  • Use the built-in cells (like TextCell / SwitchCell ) instead of ViewCell whenever you can.
  • Use fewer elements. For example, consider using a single FormattedString label instead of multiple labels.
  • Replace the ListView with a TableView when displaying non-homogenous data – that is, data of different types.
  • Limit the use of the Cell.ForceUpdateSize method. If overused, it will degrade performance.
  • On Android, avoid setting a ListView's row separator visibility or color after it has been instantiated, as it results in a large performance penalty.
  • Avoid changing the cell layout based on the BindingContext. Changing layout incurs large measurement and initialization costs.
  • Avoid deeply nested layout hierarchies. Use AbsoluteLayout or Grid to help reduce nesting.
  • Avoid specific LayoutOptions other than Fill (Fill is the cheapest to compute).
  • Avoid placing a ListView inside a ScrollView for the following reasons:
    • The ListView implements its own scrolling.
    • The ListView will not receive any gestures, as they will be handled by the parent ScrollView.
    • The ListView can present a customized header and footer that scrolls with the elements of the list, potentially offering the functionality that the ScrollView was used for. For more information, see Headers and Footers.
  • Consider a custom renderer if you need a specific, complex design presented in your cells.

AbsoluteLayout has the potential to perform layouts without a single measure call, making it highly performant. If AbsoluteLayout cannot be used, consider RelativeLayout. If using RelativeLayout, passing Constraints directly will be considerably faster than using the expression API. This method is faster because the expression API uses JIT, and on iOS the tree has to be interpreted, which is slower. The expression API is suitable for page layouts where it only required on initial layout and rotation, but in ListView, where it's run constantly during scrolling, it hurts performance.

Building a custom renderer for a ListView or its cells is one approach to reducing the effect of layout calculations on scrolling performance. For more information, see Customizing a ListView and Customizing a ViewCell.