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@litexa/apl

0.7.0 • Public • Published

Litexa APL

The Alexa Presentation Language supports curating visual experiences on compatible Alexa-enabled screen devices.

APL Directives

There are two different APL directives:

  • Render Document Directive: Sends a required document with graphical layouts and components, and optional datasources.
  • Execute Commands Directive: Sends one or more commands, which are tied to a document (in the same or a past response), and execute in sequence upon arrival.

This module supports easily building, sending, and validating APL directives. Please find the information on how to install and use this module (along with some general APL usage information) below.

WARNING: The Display.RenderTemplate directive (as supported by the @litexa/render-template extension) is not compatible with these APL directives. The two can still both be used in the same skill, as long as they aren't sent in the same response. If they are, the APL directive(s) will take precedence and the Display.RenderTemplate directive will be removed!

Installation

The module can be installed globally, which makes it available to any of your Litexa projects:

npm install -g @litexa/apl

If you alternatively prefer installing the extension locally inside your Litexa project for the sake of tracking the dependency, just run the following inside of your Litexa project directory:

npm install --save @litexa/apl

This should result in the following directory structure:

project_dir
├── litexa
└── node_modules
    └── @litexa
        └── apl

New Statement

When installed, the module adds a new apl statement to Litexa's syntax, which can be used to build and send APL directives from within Litexa.

The apl statement supports the following attributes:

  • document ... requires a Document object
  • data ... requires a Data object
  • commands ... requires either a single object or array of Commands objects
  • token ... requires a String identifier to be attached to the APL directives

There are two options for supplying the objects required by document, data, and commands:

  1. Use a (quoted or unquoted) path to a JSON file. This path should be relative to your skill's litexa directory. Doing this will assign the JSON file's contents to the indicated attribute (and throw a compile-time error, if the file can't be found). This option is meaningful for anything static (e.g. a fixed document).

    For example, assuming the following project structure:

    project_dir
    └── litexa
        └── my_doc.json
        └── apl
            └── my_data.json

    The above files could be referenced like so:

      apl
        document: my_doc.json
        data: apl/my_data.json
  2. Use a function in external code to generate the object/array and supply the output. This option is meaningful for anything dynamic (e.g. data or commands which depend on certain parameters).

      function generateMyData(args) {
        // ...
      }
      local myData = generateMyData(args)
      apl
        data: myData

More information on how to use each of these attributes is provided below.

Document

As a reminder, every APL.RenderDocument directive is required to have a document (this means sending only data is not possible).

Here's an example for sending a document with minimal properties via apl.

apl my_doc.json
 
# The above shorthand for specifying a document is equivalent to: 
apl
  document: my_doc.json
// my_doc.json
{
  "type": "APL",
  "version": "1.0",
  "mainTemplate": {
    // required components for APL to inflate on the device upon activation
  }
}

TIP: apl will automatically add default values for type and version, if missing.

Beyond the required mainTemplate, a document can optionally include import, resources, styles, and layouts. For more information on these, please refer to the official APL Document documentation.

TIP: If you prefer, you can specify a document that wraps either or both of document and data. This is also the format provided by any APL Authoring Tool exports, so directly referencing any exported examples as your document will work.

// my_doc.json:
{
  "document": {
    // your APL document
  },
  "data": { // or alias: "datasources"
    // your APL data
  }
}

TIP: To customize behavior per device, you can use the data-bound viewport variable in when conditionals, to check device properties. Here are a couple examples:

"resources"[
  {
    "description": "Stock color for the light theme",
    "colors": {
      "colorTextPrimary": "#151920"
    }
  },
  {
    "description": "Stock color for the dark theme",
    "when": "${viewport.theme == 'dark'}",
    "colors": {
      "colorTextPrimary": "#f0f1ef"
    }
  }
]
"layouts"{
  "items": [
    {
      "when": "${viewport.shape == 'round'}",
      "type": "Container",
      (...)
      // use this container, if running on the Echo Spot
    }
    {
      "type": "Container",
      (...)
      // otherwise, use this container
    }
  ]
}

For more information on viewport and which characteristics of the display device it includes, please refer to the Viewport Property documentation.

Data

As a reminder, every APL.RenderDocument directive can optionally include "datasources". This data is a collection of skill-author defined objects which can then be referenced in an APL document's components.

Here's an example of sending some data via apl, and using it in a document:

apl
  document: my_doc.json
  data: my_data.json
// my_data.json
// datasources:
{
  "myDataObject": {
    "type": "object",
    "properties": {
      "title": "This is myDataObject's title."
    }
  }
}

The above data is then accessed with the parameter payload:

// my_doc.json
// document:
{
  "mainTemplate": {
    "parameters": [
      "payload"
    ],
    "item": {
      "type": "Text",
      "text": "${payload.myDataObject.title}"
    }
  }
}

WARNING: The data reference "payload" is the default, but could be replaced with any String. However, it is important to only have a single String in parameters (adding anything else will break the document).

For more information on what kind of data you can use, please refer to the APL Data Sources and Transformers documentation.

Commands

As a reminder, the APL.ExecuteCommands directive is sent with a single command object, or an array of multiple commands. These commands are then executed in sequence.

Here's an example of using commands via apl, to show pages in a document's Pager:

apl
  document: my_pager.json
  commands: pager_commands.json
// my_pager.json:
{
  "mainTemplate": {
    "item": [
      {
        "type": "Pager",
        "id": "pagerComponentId",
        "items": [
          {
            "type": "Text",
            "text": "Page 1" // page 1 will inflate first
          },
          {
            "type": "Text",
            "hint": "Page 2"
          },
          {
            "type": "Text",
            "hint": "Page 2"
          }
        ]
      }
    ]
  }
}
// pager_commands.json
[
  {
    "type": "Idle",
    "delay": 2000 // let page 1 show for 2 secs
  },
  {
    "type": "SetPage",
    "componentId": "pagerComponentId", // above Pager's ID
    "value": 2 // turn to page 2
  },
  {
    "type": "Idle",
    "delay": 2000 // let page 2 show for 2 secs
  },
  {
    "type": "SetPage",
    "componentId": "pagerComponentId",
    "value": 3 // turn to page 3
  }
]

TIP: You can send commands without a document or data. If a document is active on the device, the commands will execute accordingly. Otherwise, they will be ignored.

This means you can send a document at some point in your skill, and then choose to send detached commands in future responses.

Tokens

The apl token defaults to "DEFAULT_TOKEN", if not specified. It's important to note that an ExecuteCommands directive's token must match the displaying RenderDocument's token for the commands to run.

WARNING: As of March 2018, commands with tokens not matching the active document incorrectly do work on the ASK Developer Console. They are properly suppressed on APL-compatible devices.

Additional to insuring that commands only run atop the intended document, tokens can also be used to allocate User Events, as demonstrated farther below.

Merging Fragments

The apl statement supports aggregating multiple instances of document, data, commands. What does this mean? If your skill encounters multiple apl statements before sending a response (e.g. apl statements in different states), it will aggregate any such "fragments" before sending them in APL directives. Here's an example:

stateOne
  apl doc_one.json
    data: data_one.json
    commands: commands_one.json
  -> stateOne
stateTwo
  apl doc_two.json
    data: data_two.json
    commands: commands_two.json
  -> stateThree
stateThree
  apl
    document: ["doc_three.json"]
    data: data_three.json
    commands: commands_three.json
 
# The above state sequence would merge all three documents, 
# data, and commands prior to sending the response. 

This behavior is useful for adding state-specific content or instructions to your skill's APL behavior, or interleaving commands with Litexa say or soundEffect statements.

WARNING: Since the document can only meaningfully have one mainTemplate (i.e. active template), any consecutively encountered document fragments that have a mainTemplate will overwrite the previous mainTemplate (with a logged warning)!

Make sure any possible state flow with at least one apl document always finds a valid mainTemplate, and wouldn't accidentally overwrite a previous document's required mainTemplate.

NOTE: If a Litexa state flow encounters consecutive apl tokens prior to sending a response, it will simply use the latest.

Referencing Assets

Beyond using existing URLs, it is possible to reference assets files in any apl document or data. To do so, simply add the placeholder prefix assets:// to your file's name. For example:

  {
    "type": "Image",
    "source": "assets://my_image.jpg",
    "width": 300,
    "height": 300
  }

Assuming there's a my_image.jpg in your assets directory, the above reference would then be replaced with the S3 link of the deployed file.

Interleaving Sound

Litexa's say and soundEffect are usually added to the response outputSpeech. However, any outputSpeech is spoken before APL commands are executed.

Using the apl statement, if a document is pending, say and soundEffect will be converted to APL commands and interleave in the expected sequence. For example:

apl
  document: apl_doc.json
  data: apl_data.json
  commands: apl_commands.json
 
say "turning page"
apl
  commands: turn_page.json
 
soundEffect page_chime.mp3
say "page turned"

would produce the following output sequence:

  1. APL would execute commands in apl_commands.json
  2. Alexa would say "turning page"
  3. APL would execute commands in turn_page.json
  4. Alexa would play the sound effect page_chime.mp3
  5. Alexa would say "page turned"

NOTE: The above sequencing will only take place if a document is found before sending the response.

Reason: Converting any sound output to APL requires insertions in the document. Creating a new document to accomplish this might unintentionally replace an active document on the device.

Summary: If no document is pending, no interleaving will take place, and any say or soundEffect will normally play through outputSpeech. In the above example, if no apl document were defined, the output sequence would be 2-4-5-1-3.

WARNING: As of March 2018, sound effects incorrectly do not work on the ASK Developer Console. They do however work on APL-compatible devices.

User Events

APL can trigger user events back to the skill when the user presses an on-screen TouchWrapper. Here's an example:

{
  "type": "TouchWrapper",
  "id": "My Touchable",
  "item": {
    "type": "Text",
    "text": "I am a touchable that will send an event back to the skill."
  },
  "onPress": {
      "type": "SendEvent",
      "arguments": [
          "I am coming from My Touchable."
      ]
  }
}

A skill user touching the touchable would then trigger this Alexa.Presentation.APL.UserEvent:

{
  "type": "Alexa.Presentation.APL.UserEvent",
  "requestId": "...",
  "timestamp": "...",
  "locale": "en-US",
  "arguments": [
      "I am coming from My Touchable."
  ],
  "components": {},
  "source": {
      "type": "TouchWrapper",
      "handler": "Press",
      "id": "My Touchable",
      "value": false
  },
  "token": "This is the token of the APL document that sourced this event."
}

You can optionally handle any such user events in your code with something like:

## In litexa: 
when Alexa.Presentation.APL.UserEvent
  handleUserEvent($request)
// In your external code (e.g. JavaScript):
function handleUserEvent(request) {
  switch(request.token) {
    // could ignore a token from an outdated document
  }
  switch(request.source.id) {
    // could trigger behavior specific to this touchable
    // (e.g. send command to scroll a visible list)
  }
  switch(request.arguments) {
    // could send and evaluate something like data-bound arguments
  }
}

Intent Handling Requirements

When using an APL directive, the built-in AMAZON.HelpIntent must be handled by the skill (i.e. included in at least one when listener). This can be done via state-specific handlers, or a global handler:

global
  when AMAZON.HelpIntent
    -> helpState

Checking APL Support

If APL is not supported on the device running your skill, any apl statements will be ignored, and everything else will work normally (e.g. say and soundEffect will run via outputSpeech instead of APL commands).

To check APL support at runtime, the following command can be used from within Litexa or external code:

if APL.isEnabled()
  # say "APL is supported on this device." 
else
  # say "APL is not supported on this device." 

TIP: This availability check should be used to curate any skill for both APL and non-APL devices.

Relevant Resources

For more information, please refer to the official APL documentation:

Install

npm i @litexa/apl

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124

Version

0.7.0

License

Apache-2.0

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Total Files

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Homepage

litexa.com

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