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Active Filters: Profiling


#113: Profiling Core Animation 🏃📈


We covered how to analyze the performance of our app using the Time Profiler Instrument in Bite #68, now we'll take a look at how to do the same for how quickly our app draws its content to the device's display. Let's get started.

First, the basics: iOS wants to render content to the display 60 times per second. If our code can't keep up with that speed, some frames won't be drawn, and our app's UI will appear to lag and "skip" as things move around on screen. Even the slightest dip below 60 frames per second can make an app feel quite sluggish. One of the main places in our code this can be a challenge is when scrolling complex table and collection views. Let's look at how Instruments can help us identify and track down the cause of slow rendering views in our app:

We'll start Profiling like in Bite #68. When Instruments launches, we'll select the Core Animation Instrument and click Profile. Unlike before, we'll see two different gauges at the top of our screen.

We're starting to unlock some of the power of Instruments here. The Core Animation Instrument measures our app's rendering performance simultaneously with our code's performance. We'll scroll our table view for a bit then find a part of the graph where we dip below 60 fps. We'll drag to select it, then select the Time Profiler gauge. Now we can use the techniques we learned in Bite #68 to track down the offending slow function(s).

Now the really fun stuff: We can click the in the lower right-hand sidebar to show the Debug Options panel. These options alter how our app is drawn in real-time to help find problems. Here's a couple of the most helpful ones:

Color Blended Layers will tint views red that are being blended. Try to avoid non-opaque views or views with a clear background color.

Color Offscreen-Rendered Yellow will tint views that have been rendered twice - once on and once off-screen, yellow.

Remember, speed is a feature. Rendering speed is no different. Fast drawing means happy users!


#68: Time Profiler Basics 🕑📈


Measuring the performance of an app is the first step in optimizing it. Lucky for us, Apple's developer tools have plenty of profiling features. Let's take a look at one, Time Profiler. It's claim to fame is helping us fine tune performance by tracking down slow functions.

We start by opening our project in Xcode, and selecting Product > Profile from the menu.


This will build our app, and launch Instruments. When it does, we'll select the Time Profiler Instrument and click Profile. Now the fun part: We click 🔴 in the top left and Instruments will launch our app, and begin measuring its performance. One common way to use Time Profiler is to discover any under-performing functions that might be bogging down our main thread.

Remember, a bored main thread with nothing do is a happy one. Once our app is running, we'll turn on all the Call Tree options. This will clean up the data that's collected making it easier to sift through. We can flip these on and off after profiling to learn about different parts of the code being executed. From here we simply interact with our app, and after a few seconds we'll see data starting to appear. We expand the Main Thread, and see that a function called insertNewObject is at the top of the list, meaning of all the functions that were called, this one caused our main thread to block the most. We'll double click on it to see the exact spot in our code calling the sluggish function, ready for us to optimize: