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tl;dr: Elements are components added to a session as a result of user interaction, similar to "apps" on other platforms.

This document provides a brief conceptual overview of elements, element annotations, and their relationship to components.

Elements are components

Elements are components with key-value annotations. While any component could hypothetically be instantiated as an element, elements contribute more directly to the user experience of a product, much like an "app" would on other platforms.

Since elements are components, they inherit all component properties, such as:

Elements are typically instantiated in component collections within the session component.

Elements provide a UI

Elements contribute to the user experience of a product by providing a visual, audible, or other discernible interaction with the user. The specific modes of interaction available to, and expected from, an element, are defined by the product and its configuration. The most common mode of output is graphical.

Elements have annotations

Every element has an associated list of mutable key-value annotations. These annotations are first set when the element instance is added to a product experience at runtime. Element annotations are used by the product's "user experience presenter" to control details of the element's presentation. For example, a for graphical element's annotations may specify if the presentation should hide system chrome, allow for certain types of gestures, and so on.

Elements are portable across products

Elements are an abstraction intended to make it easier to interactively run components on many different Fuchsia products and varying product configurations. An element's primary interaction surface with a product are defined by:

  • The mechanism by which it presents itself (graphically using Scenic, through audio, and so on).
  • The mechanism by which it receives user input (finger touches, gestures, keyboard, and so on).
  • The semantic meaning associated with its various annotations.

Although none of these mechanisms are strictly defined by the Fuchsia platform, some are standardized and intended to be re-used across all products built with Fuchsia.

While the specific meanings of different annotation keys and their respective values are not prescribed by the Fuchsia platform, some keys do have recommended meanings with recommended standard schemas.

Further reading