The world of UI development consists mainly of two dominant paradigms: retained mode and immediate
mode. Most traditional GUI libraries operate under the retained mode paradigm. However,
employs the immediate mode rendering approach for TUI development.
ratatui different from GUI frameworks you might use, because it only updates when you
tell it to.
What is Immediate Mode Rendering?
Immediate mode rendering is a UI paradigm where the UI is recreated every frame. Instead of creating a fixed set of UI widgets and updating their state, you “draw” your UI from scratch in every frame based on the current application state.
In a nutshell:
- Retained Mode: You set up your UI once, create widgets, and later modify their properties or handle their events.
- Immediate Mode: You redraw your UI every frame based on your application state. There’s no permanent widget object in memory.
ratatui, every frame draws the UI anew.
This article and the accompanying YouTube video is worth your time if you are new to the immediate mode rendering paradigm.
This 4 minute talk about
IMGUI is also tangentially relevant.
Advantages of Immediate Mode Rendering
- Simplicity: Without a persistent widget state, your UI logic becomes a direct reflection of your application state. You don’t have to sync them or worry about past widget states.
- Flexibility: You can change your UI layout or logic any time, as nothing is set in stone. Want to hide a widget conditionally? Just don’t draw it based on some condition.
Disadvantages of Immediate Mode Rendering
Render loop management: In Immediate mode rendering, the onus of triggering rendering lies on the programmer. Every visual update necessitates a call to
Backend.draw(). Hence, if the rendering thread is inadvertently blocked, the UI will not update until the thread resumes. The
ratatuilibrary in particular only handles how widgets are rendered to a “Backend” (e.g.
CrosstermBackend). The Backend would in turn use an external crate (e.g.
crossterm) to actually draw to the terminal.
Event loop orchestration: Along with managing “the render loop”, developers are also responsible for handling “the event loop”. This involves deciding on a third-party library for the job.
crosstermis a popular crate to handle key inputs and you’ll find plenty of examples in the repository and online for how to use it.
crosstermalso supports a
asyncevent stream, if you are interested in using
Architecture design considerations: With
ratatui, out of the box, there’s little to no help in organizing large applications. Ultimately, the decision on structure and discipline rests with the developer to be principled. However, we do provide templates to help you get started.