An Android library for building complex screens in a RecyclerView

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Eli Hart

Eli Hart


Epoxy is an Android library for building complex screens in a RecyclerView. It abstracts the boilerplate of view holders, item types, item ids, span counts, and more, in order to simplify building screens with multiple view types. Additionally, Epoxy adds support for saving view state and automatic diffing of item changes.

We developed Epoxy at Airbnb to simplify the process of working with RecyclerViews, and to add the missing functionality we needed. We now use Epoxy for most of the main screens in our app and it has improved our developer experience greatly.

Sample app demo gif


Gradle is the only supported build configuration, so just add the dependency to your project build.gradle file:

dependencies {
  compile 'com.airbnb.android:epoxy:1.2.0'

Optionally, if you want to use the attributes for generated helper classes you must also provide the annotation processor as a dependency. ```groovy buildscript { dependencies { classpath ‘com.neenbedankt.gradle.plugins:android-apt:1.8’ } }

apply plugin: ‘android-apt’

dependencies { compile ‘com.airbnb.android:epoxy:1.2.0’ apt ‘com.airbnb.android:epoxy-processor:1.2.0’ } ```

Basic Usage

Create a class that extends EpoxyAdapter and add an instance of your adapter to a RecyclerView as you normally would.

Create EpoxyModels and add them to the adapter in the order you want them displayed. The base EpoxyAdapter will handle inflating your views and binding them to your models.

In this example our PhotoAdapter starts off showing just a title header and a loading indicator. It has a method to add photos, which might be called as photos are loaded from a network request.

public class PhotoAdapter extends EpoxyAdapter {
  private final LoaderModel loaderModel = new LoaderModel();

  public PhotoAdapter() {
    addModels(new HeaderModel("My Photos"), loaderModel);

  public void addPhotos(Collection<Photo> photos) {
    for (Photo photo : photos) {
      insertModelBefore(new PhotoModel(photo), loaderModel);

Epoxy Models

The EpoxyAdapter uses a list of EpoxyModels to know which views to display and in what order. You should subclass EpoxyModel to specify what layout your model uses and how to bind data to that view.

For example, the PhotoModel in the above example could be created like so

public class PhotoModel extends EpoxyModel<PhotoView> {
  private final Photo photo;

  public PhotoModel(Photo photo) {
    this.photo = photo;

  public int getDefaultLayout() {
    return R.layout.view_model_photo;

  public void bind(PhotoView photoView) {
  public void unbind(PhotoView photoView) {

In this case the PhotoModel is typed with PhotoView, so the getDefaultLayout() method must return a layout resource that will inflate into a PhotoView. The file R.layout.view_model_photo might look like this

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<PhotoView xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
    android:padding="16dp" />

Epoxy works well with custom views - in this pattern the model holds the data and passes it to the view, the layout file describes which view to use and how to style it, and the view itself handles displaying the data. This is a bit different from the normal ViewHolder pattern, and allows for a separation of data and view logic.

Models also allow you to control other aspects of the view, such as the span size, id, saved state, and whether the view should be shown. Those aspects of models are described in detail below.

Modifying the Models List

Subclasses of EpoxyAdapter have access to the models field, a List<EpoxyModel<?>> which specifies what models to show and in what order. The list starts off empty, and subclasses should add models to this list, and otherwise modify it as they see fit, in order to build their view.

Every time the list is modified you must notify the changes with the standard RecyclerView methods - notifyDataSetChanged(), notifyItemInserted(), etc. As always with RecyclerView, notifyDataSetChanged() should be avoided in favor of more specific methods like notifyItemInserted() when possible.

Helper methods such as EpoxyAdapter#addModels(EpoxyModel<?>...) exist that will modify the list and notify the proper change for you. Alternatively, you may choose to leverage Epoxy’s automatic diffing to avoid the overhead of manually notifying item changes.

The example from the Basic Usage section uses these helper methods, but could be changed to instead access the models list directly like so:

public class PhotoAdapter extends EpoxyAdapter {
  private final LoaderModel loaderModel = new LoaderModel();

  public PhotoAdapter() {
    models.add(new HeaderModel("My Photos"));
    notifyItemRangeInserted(0, 2);

  public void addPhotos(Collection<Photo> photos) {
    for (Photo photo : photos) {
      int loaderPosition = models.size() - 1;
      models.add(loaderPosition, photo);

Having direct access to the models list allows complete flexibility in how you arrange and rearrange your models as needed.

Once the models list is modified and the changes notified, EpoxyAdapter will reference the list in order to create and bind the appropriate view for each model.

Automatic Diffing

Epoxy is especially useful for screens that have many view types backed by a complex data structure. In these cases, data may be updated via network requests, asynchronous observables, user inputs, or other sources that would require you to update your models and notify the proper changes to the adapter.

Tracking all of these changes manually is difficult and adds significant overhead to do correctly. In these cases you can leverage Epoxy’s automatic diffing to reduce the overhead, while also efficiently only updating the views that changed.

To enable diffing, call enableDiffing() in the constructor of your EpoxyAdapter subclass. Then simply call notifyModelsChanged() after modifying your models list to let the diffing algorithm figure out what changed. This will dispatch the appropriate calls to insert, remove, change, or move your models, batching as necessary.

For this to work you must leave stable ids set to true (this is the default) as well as implement hashCode() on your models to completely define the state of the model. This hash is used to detect when data on a model is changed.

You may mix usage of normal notify calls, such as notifyItemInserted(), along with notifyModelsChanged() when you know specifically what changed, as that will be more efficient than relying on the diffing algorithm.

A common usage pattern of this is to have a method on your adapter that updates the models according to a state object. Here is a very simple example. In practice you may have many more models, hide or show models, insert new models, involve click listeners, etc.

public class MyAdapter extends EpoxyAdapter {
  private final HeaderModel headerModel = new HeaderModel();
  private final BodyModel bodyModel = new BodyModel();
  private final FooterModel footerModel = new FooterModel();

  public MyAdapter() {

  public void setData(MyDataClass data) {


To avoid the manual overhead and boilerplate of implementing hashCode() on all your models you may use the @ModelAttribute annotation on model fields to generate that code for you.

When using diffing there are a few performance pitfalls to be aware of.

First, diffing must process all models in your list, and so may affect performance for cases of more than hundreds of models. The diffing algorithm performs in linear time for most cases, but still must process all models in your list. Item moves are slow however, and in the worse case of shuffling all the models in the list the performance is (n^2)/2.

Second, each diff must recompute each model’s hashcode in order to determine item changes. Avoid including unnecessary computation in your hash codes as that can significantly slow down the diff.

Third, beware of changing model state unintentionally, such as with click listeners. For example, it is common to set a click listener on a model, which would then be set on a view when bound. An easy mistake here is using anonymous inner classes as click listeners, which would affect the model hashcode and require the view to be rebound when the model is updated or recreated. Instead, you can save a listener as a field to reuse with each model so that it does not change the model’s hashcode. Another common mistake is modifying model state that affects the hashcode during a model’s bind call.

With these considerations in mind, avoid calling notifyModelsChanged() unnecessarily and batch your changes as much as possible. For very long lists of models, or for cases with many item moves, you may prefer to use manual notifications over automatic diffing in order to prevent frame drops. That being said, diffing is fairly fast and we have used it with up to 600 models with negligible performance impact. As always, profile your code and make sure it works for your specific situation.

A note about the algorithm - We are using a custom diffing algorithm that we wrote in house. The Android Support Library class DiffUtil was released after we completed this work. We continue to use our original algorithm because in our tests it is roughly 35% faster than the DiffUtil. However, it does make some optimizations that use more memory than DiffUtil. We value the speed increase, but in the future may add the option to choose which algorithm you use.

Binding Models

Epoxy uses the layout resource id provided by EpoxyModel#getLayout() to create a view for that model. When RecyclerView.Adapter#onBindViewHolder(ViewHolder holder, int position) is called, the EpoxyAdapter looks up the model at the given position and calls EpoxyModel#bind(View) with the inflated view. You may override this bind call in your model to update the view with whatever data you have set in your model.

Since RecyclerView reuses views when possible, a view may be bound multiple times. You should make sure that your usage of EpoxyModel#bind(View) completely updates the view according to the data in your model.

When the view is recycled, EpoxyAdapter will call EpoxyModel#unbind(View), giving you a chance to release any resources associated with the view. This is a good opportunity to clear the view of large or expensive data such as bitmaps.

If the recycler view provided a non empty list of payloads with onBindViewHolder(ViewHolder holder, int position, List<Object> payloads), then EpoxyModel#bind(View, List<Object>) will be called instead so that the model can be optimized to rebind according to what changed. This can help you prevent unnecessary layout changes if only part of the view changed.

Model IDs

The RecyclerView concept of stable ideas is built into EpoxyModels, and the system works best when stable ids are enabled.

Every time a model is instantiated it is automatically assigned a unique id. You may override this id with the id(long) method, which is often useful for models that represent objects from a database which would already have an id associated with them.

The default ids are always negative values so that they are less likely to clash with manually set ids. When using a model with a default id it is often helpful to save that model as a field in the adapter, so that the model and id are unique and constant for the lifetime of the adapter. This is common for more static views like headers, whereas dynamic content loaded from a server is likely to use a manual id.

Using stable ids are highly recommended, but not required. By default the EpoxyAdapter sets setHasStableIds to true in its constructor, but you may set it to false in your subclass’s constructor if desired.

The adapter relies on stable ids for saving view state and for automatic diffing. You must leave stable ids enabled to use these features. The combination of stable ids and diffing allows for fairly good item animations with no extra work on your part.

Once a model has been added to an adapter its ID can no longer be changed. Doing so will throw an error. This allows the diffing algorithm to make several optimizations to avoid checking for removals, insertions, or moves if none have been made.

Specifying Layouts

The only method that an EpoxyModel must implement is getDefaultLayout. This method specifies what layout resource should be used by the adapter when creating a view holder for that model. The layout resource id also acts as the view type for the EpoxyModel, so that views sharing a layout can be recycled. The type of View inflated by the layout resource should be the parameterized type of the EpoxyModel, so that the proper View type is passed to the model’s bind method.

If you want to dynamically change which layout is used for your model you can call EpoxyModel#layout(layoutRes) with the new layout id. This allows you to easily change the style of the view, such as size, padding, etc. This is useful if you want to reuse the same model, but alter the view’s style based on where it is used, eg landscape vs portrait or phone vs tablet.

Hiding Models

If you want to remove a view from the Recycler View you can either remove its model from the list, or just set the model to hidden. Hiding a model is useful for cases where a view is conditionally shown and you want an easy way to toggle between showing and hiding it.

You may hide it by calling model.hide() and show it by calling model.show(), or use the conditional model.show(boolean).

Hidden models are technically still in the RecyclerView, but they are changed to use an empty layout that takes up no space. This means that changing the visibility of a model must be accompanied by an appropriate notifyItemChanged call to the adapter.

There are helper methods on the adapter, such as EpoxyAdapter#hideModel(model), that will set the model’s visibility and then notify the item change for you if the visibility changed.

Saved State

RecyclerView does not support saving the view state of its children the way a normal ViewGroup would. EpoxyAdapter adds this missing support by managing the saved state of each view on its own.

Saving view state is useful for cases where the view is modified by the user, such as checkboxes, edit texts, expansion/collapse, etc. These can be considered transient state that the model doesn’t need to know about.

To enable this support you must have stable ids enabled. Then, override EpoxyModel#shouldSaveViewState and return true on each model whose state should be saved. When this is enabled, EpoxyAdapter will manually call View#saveHierarchyState to save the state of the view when it is unbound. That state is restored when the view is bound again. This will save the state of the view as it is scrolled off screen and then scrolled back on screen.

To save the state across separate adapter instances you must call EpoxyAdapter#onSaveInstanceState (eg in your activity’s onSaveInstanceState method), and then restore it with EpoxyAdapter#onRestoreInstanceState once the adapter is created again.

Since a view’s state is associated with its model id, the model must have a constant id across adapter instances. This means you should manually set an id on models that are using saved state.

Grid Support

EpoxyAdapter can be used with RecyclerView’s GridLayoutManager to allow EpoxyModels to change their span size. EpoxyModels can claim various span sizes by overriding int getSpanSize(int totalSpanCount, int position, int itemCount) to vary their span size based on the span count of the layout manager as well as the model’s position in the adapter. EpoxyAdapter.getSpanSizeLookup() returns a span size lookup object that delegates lookup calls to each EpoxyModel.

int spanCount = 2;
GridLayoutManager layoutManager = new GridLayoutManager(getContext(), spanCount);

Generating helper classes with @EpoxyAttribute

You can reduce boilerplate in you model classes by using the EpoxyAttribute annotation to generate a subclass of your model with setters, getters, equals, and hashcode.

For example, you may set up a model like this:

public class HeaderModel extends EpoxyModel<HeaderView> {
  @EpoxyAttribute String title;
  @EpoxyAttribute String subtitle;
  @EpoxyAttribute String description;
  @EpoxyAttribute(hash=false) View.OnClickListener clickListener;
  public int getDefaultLayout() {
    return R.layout.view_model_header;

  public void bind(HeaderView view) {

A HeaderModel_.java class will be generated that subclasses HeaderModel, and you would use the generated class directly.

models.add(new HeaderModel_()
    .title("My title")
    .subtitle("my subtitle")
    .description("my description"));

The setters return the model so that they can be used in a builder style. The generated class includes a hashCode() implementation for all of the annotated attributes so that the model can be used in automatic diffing. Sometimes, you may not want certain fields to be included in your hash code and equals such as a click listener that gets recreated in every bind call. To tell Epoxy to skip that annotation, add hash=false to the annotation.

The generated class will always be the name of the original class with an underscore appended at the end. If the original class is abstract then a class will not be generated for it. If a model class is subclassed from other models that also have EpoxyAttributes, the generated class will include all of the super class’s attributes. The generated class will duplicate any constructors on the original model class. If the original model class has any method names that match generated setters then the generated method will call super.

This is an optional aspect of Epoxy that you may choose not to use, but it can be helpful in reducing the boilerplate in your models.

Eli Hart

Eli Hart

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