KA Engineering

KA Engineering

We're the engineers behind Khan Academy. We're building a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.


Latest posts

Interning at Khan Academy: from student to intern

Shadaj Laddad on December 12

Prototyping with Framer

Nick Breen on October 3

Evolving our content infrastructure

William Chargin on September 19

Building a Really, Really Small Android App

Charlie Marsh on August 22

A Case for Time Tracking: Data Driven Time-Management

Oliver Northwood on August 8

Time Management at Khan Academy

Several Authors on July 25

Hackathons Can Be Healthy

Tom Yedwab on July 11

Ensuring transaction-safety in Google App Engine

Craig Silverstein on June 27

The User Write Lock: an Alternative to Transactions for Google App Engine

Craig Silverstein on June 20

Khan Academy's Engineering Principles

Ben Kamens on June 6

Minimizing the length of regular expressions, in practice

Craig Silverstein on May 23

Introducing SwiftTweaks

Bryan Clark on May 9

The Autonomous Dumbledore

Evy Kassirer on April 25

Engineering career development at Khan Academy

Ben Eater on April 11

Inline CSS at Khan Academy: Aphrodite

Jamie Wong on March 29

Starting Android at Khan Academy

Ben Komalo on February 29

Automating Highly Similar Translations

Kevin Barabash on February 15

The weekly snippet-server: open-sourced

Craig Silverstein on February 1

Stories from our latest intern class

2015 Interns on December 21

Kanbanning the LearnStorm Dev Process

Kevin Dangoor on December 7

Forgo JS packaging? Not so fast

Craig Silverstein on November 23

Switching to Slack

Benjamin Pollack on November 9

Receiving feedback as an intern at Khan Academy

David Wang on October 26

Schrödinger's deploys no more: how we update translations

Chelsea Voss on October 12

i18nize-templates: Internationalization After the Fact

Craig Silverstein on September 28

Making thumbnails fast

William Chargin on September 14

Copy-pasting more than just text

Sam Lau on August 31

No cheating allowed!!

Phillip Lemons on August 17

Fun with slope fields, css and react

Marcos Ojeda on August 5

Khan Academy: a new employee's primer

Riley Shaw on July 20

How wooden puzzles can destroy dev teams

John Sullivan on July 6

Babel in Khan Academy's i18n Toolchain

Kevin Barabash on June 22

tota11y - an accessibility visualization toolkit

Jordan Scales on June 8


Introducing SwiftTweaks

by Bryan Clark on May 9

Today, we’re releasing SwiftTweaks, a way to adjust your Swift-based iOS app without needing to recompile.

Overview of SwiftTweaks Your users won’t see your animation study, Sketch comps, or prototypes. What they will see is the finished product - so it’s really important to make sure that your app feels right on a real device!

Animations that look great on your laptop often feel too slow when in-hand. Layouts that looks perfect on a 27-inch display might be too cramped on a 4-inch device. Light gray text may look subtle in Sketch, but it’s downright illegible when you’re outside on a sunny day.

For these reasons, it’s helpful to fine-tune your designs on-device - but that’s a lot of work: open Xcode, tweak your code, and wait for the app to build to device before seeing the results.

What about Facebook Tweaks?

In Objective-C projects, I’ve cherished Facebook’s Tweaks, a tool that makes this process easy. However, while it's possible to use FBTweaks in Swift, it's far less convenient than in Objective-C.

Since Khan Academy’s iOS code is almost entirely Swift, we wanted something that would make it easy to use tweaks. (Plus: with Swift’s generic types, protocols, and all-around awesomeness, we figured we could make some improvements.)

We’ve been using SwiftTweaks for a few months now in our iOS app, and it’s been wonderful for fine-tuning gestures, adjusting animations, and toggling feature flags.

Using SwiftTweaks

Create a TweakLibrary

First, you create a TweakLibrary, which contains Tweaks and a TweakStore. (If TweakStore.enabled is false, then the Tweaks UI will be inaccessible and all tweaks return their default value - which means you can leave this code in-place when you ship your production app.)

public struct ExampleTweaks: TweakLibraryType {
    public static let colorTint = Tweak("General", "Colors", "Tint", UIColor.blueColor())
    public static let marginHorizontal = Tweak<CGFloat>("General", "Layout", "H. Margins", defaultValue: 15, min: 0)
    public static let marginVertical = Tweak<CGFloat>("General", "Layout", "V. Margins", defaultValue: 10, min: 0)
    public static let featureFlag = Tweak("Feature Flags", "Main Screen", "Show Body Text", true)

    public static let buttonAnimation = SpringAnimationTweakTemplate("Animation", "Button Animation")

    public static let defaultStore: TweakStore = {
        let allTweaks: [TweakType] = [colorTint, marginHorizontal, marginVertical, featureFlag]

        #if DEBUG
            let tweaksEnabled: Bool = true
            let tweaksEnabled: Bool = false

        return TweakStore(
            tweaks: allTweaks.map(AnyTweak.init),
            enabled: tweaksEnabled

Calling Tweaks in your code

When you want to use a tweak in your code, use the assign, bind, and bindMultiple functions.

assign returns the current value of the tweak:

button.tintColor = ExampleTweaks.assign(ExampleTweaks.colorTint)

bind calls its closure immediately, and again each time the tweak changes:

ExampleTweaks.bind(ExampleTweaks.colorTint) { button.tintColor = $0 }

bindMultiple calls its closure immediately, and again each time any of its tweaks change:

// A "multipleBind" is called initially, and each time _any_ of the included tweaks change:
let tweaksToWatch: [TweakType] = [ExampleTweaks.marginHorizontal, ExampleTweaks.marginVertical]
ExampleTweaks.bindMultiple(tweaksToWatch) {
    let horizontal = ExampleTweaks.assign(ExampleTweaks.marginHorizontal)
    let vertical = ExampleTweaks.assign(ExampleTweaks.marginVertical)
    scrollView.contentInset = UIEdgeInsets(top: vertical, right: horizontal, bottom: vertical, left: horizontal)

There are also several handy TweakGroupTemplate types, to help you with commonly-tweaked things. Our above ExampleTweaks library included one for a UIView spring animation:

public static let buttonAnimation = SpringAnimationTweakTemplate("Animation", "Button Animation")

This single line of code creates four tweaks - for duration, delay, damping, and initial spring velocity. Each has sensible defaults (e.g. “delay can’t be negative”) - and there’s a UIView extension to easily use the TweakGroup: UIView.animateWithSpringAnimationTweakTemplate

For more on using Tweaks and TweakGroupTemplates, check out the example project.

Accessing the interface

Lastly, we need a way to adjust our Tweaks while the app is running. The simplest way is to set your app’s UIWindow to be a TweakWindow. By default, the TweakWindow presents a TweaksViewController when you shake the device in a debug build, but you can provide a different gesture recognizer, too.

You can also handle the presentation of a TweaksViewController if you prefer to not use a TweakWindow.

Tweaking values

Now for the fun part - shake your phone, and your tweaks appear! Adjust booleans with a switch, numbers with a stepper or keyboard, and there’s a great color-editing interface in there, too! There’s also a “floating UI” so you can edit tweaks without leaving a screen.

Here's a preview of the SwiftTweaks example app (included in the repository): animated demo

Check it out on GitHub and let us know what you think!