# Appendix: Display Render Template

TIP

For some background information on using screens in Alexa skills, please refer to Screens.

Alexa's Display interface allows for showing static, one-size-fits-all templates on compatible Alexa-enabled screen devices. Using such render templates, it is possible to:

  • display one of five body templates (different layouts of text and images)
  • display one of two list templates (vertical/horizontal scrollable list items)
  • use HTML tags for text formatting of certain text fields

# Display Render Template Directive

Every Alexa response can include one render template in a Display.RenderTemplate directive. As mentioned above, the render template can be one of seven, as detailed here: Display Template Reference

The module @litexa/render-template supports easily building, sending, and validating a Display.RenderTemplate directive. Please find the information on how to install and use this module below.

TIP

When installed, @litexa/render-template will validate any Display.RenderTemplate directive added to a response, even if the directive wasn't built using the module's screen statement.

# Installation

The module can be installed globally, which makes it available to any of your Litexa projects:

npm install -g @litexa/render-template

If you alternatively prefer installing the extension locally inside your Litexa project, for the sake of tracking the dependency, just run the following inside of your Litexa project directory:

npm install --save @litexa/render-template

This should result in the following directory structure:

project_dir
├── litexa
└── node_modules
    └── @litexa
        └── render-template

# New Statement

When installed, the module adds a new screen statement to Litexa's syntax, which can be used to send a specific render template type via directive as follows:

screen
  template: "BodyTemplate1"

The supported template types are split into two categories:

# 1) Body Templates

The following body templates are supported along with their respective attributes:

template type background title primaryText secondaryText tertiaryText displaySpeechAs image hint
BodyTemplate1
BodyTemplate2
BodyTemplate3
BodyTemplate6
BodyTemplate7

# Example: BodyTemplate2

Here's an example of sending a BodyTemplate2 with every possible attribute (any subset of attributes is allowed).

screen
    template: BodyTemplate2
    title: "Cheese Varieties"
    primaryText: "Brie originated in France"
    secondaryText: "Gruyere originated in Switzerland"
    tertiaryText: "Gorgonzola originated in Italy"
    background: background.jpg
    image: "https://www.example.com/my-image.png"
    displaySpeechAs: "title"
    hint: "Cheesy Hint"

displaySpeechAs

This attribute requires a value that is:

  • one of [title, primaryText, secondaryText, tertiaryText]
  • supported by the specified template type

Setting this attribute will:

  1. concatenate any output speech sent in the next response to the indicated text field
  2. strip any SSML tags (e.g. <say-as interpret-as='ordinal'>) from the displayed text

# 2) List Templates

The following list templates are supported along with their respective attributes:

template type background title list
ListTemplate1
ListTemplate2

list

This attribute requires an array of list items. Each list item is an object with any subset of the attributes: [token, primaryText, secondaryText, tertiaryText, image]

token

This new list item-specific attribute is optional, and can be used to set a String identifier for the associated list item. For example:

// list item:
{
  token: "My List Item's Token",
  primaryText: "My List Item's Text"
}

The specified token can then be used to allocate a touch event to the list item, as seen in the following example.

# Example: ListTemplate1

Here's an example of sending a ListTemplate1 with every attribute, and handling touch events.

Dynamically generating the list in some JS code:

// static list
let list = [
    {token: 'brie', primaryText: 'Brie (France)', image: 'brie.jpg'},
    {token: 'gruyere', tertiaryText: 'Gruyere (Switzerland)', image: 'gruyere.jpg'},
];

// alternative or supplementary code to assemble/manipulate a dynamic list
let listItem = {token: 'gorgonzola', primaryText: 'Gorgonzola (Italy)', image: 'gorgonzola.jpg'};
list.push(listItem);
// (...)

const getList = function() {
    return list;
}

Sending the list directive in litexa:

local myCheeseList = getList()
screen
    template: ListTemplate1
    background: background.jpg
    title: "Cheese List"
    list: myCheeseList

when Display.ElementSelected
    say "You touched list item {$request.token}."

The above example would display the defined list on the screen and, if an item were touched by the user, Alexa would say the item's token out loud. The touch event and corresponding token can be handled in whichever way is required.

# Statement Shorthands

There are several statement shorthand options available.

screen [title] [background]  # screen "My Title" background.jpg
screen [background] [title]  # screen background.jpg "My Title"
screen [title]               # screen "My Title"
screen [background]          # screen background.jpg

# Statement Attribute Specifications

# Attribute properties

  • If no template is specified, the template type defaults to BodyTemplate1.
  • hint will generate a Hint Directive with the supplied String, and add it to the pending response.
  • image and background expect one of the following:
    • Unquoted or quoted name of a file provided in litexa/assets.
    • Existing image's URL as a String (litexa does not validate URL's existence).
    • A variable storing either of the above.
  • image and primary|secondary|tertiaryText size and placement depend on which template is used (see examples in Display Template Reference).

TIP

It is useful to frequently test your skill on an Alexa device or the ASK Developer Console (ideally test each device type), to detect any unforeseen rendering issues (e.g. text overflow).

# Attribute shorthands

As can be seen in the above examples, we've shortened some of the official render template attributes (see Display Template Reference), for the sake of convenience:

  • Use background instead of backgroundImage.
  • Use list instead of listItems.
  • Use primary|secondary|tertiaryText instead of a textContent container.

# Text Formatting

The text attributes primary|secondary|tertiaryText support the below RichText HTML tags.

NOTE

These HTML tags are supported without requiring closing tags - see the examples below.

# Bold, Italics, Underlined

"<b a bold sentence 1>"
"<b> a bold sentence 2"
"<b> bold
  not bold"

For italics and underlined, use <i> and <u> analogously.

# Font Sizes

"<f2 this has font size two> <f3 this has font size three>"
"<f3> font size three"
"regular size <f5 size 5>"
"<f7 size 7> regular size"

WARNING

Only the following font sizes are allowed: [2,3,5,7]

# Alignment

"<center something 1>"
"<center>something 2"
"<center> centered
  not centered"
"<center> centered
  <center> also centered"

# Mixing Tags

"<center><u><b>centered, underlined and bold"
"<center><b>centered and bold
  neither
  <b><f7 bold and large><f2 bold and small>"

# Special Characters

You should only use the special characters newline (\n) and ampersand (&) in primary|secondary|tertiaryText. These two characters will automatically be converted to the HTML tags <br/> and &amp;.

# Intent Handling Requirements

When using a Render Template directive, certain built-in intents must be supported by the skill (i.e. included in at least one when listener). Not doing so will result in an error during deployment.

The following intents should be handled correctly by the skill author, to control the skill's screen flow:

AMAZON.NextIntent
AMAZON.PreviousIntent

EXAMPLE

when AMAZON.NextIntent
  screen "My Next Screen"
when AMAZON.PreviousIntent
  screen "My Previous Screen"

The following intents must also be included, but can be routed to do nothing since they have automatic handling:

AMAZON.ScrollUpIntent
AMAZON.ScrollDownIntent
AMAZON.ScrollLeftIntent
AMAZON.ScrollRightIntent
AMAZON.MoreIntent
AMAZON.NavigateHomeIntent
AMAZON.NavigateSettingsIntent
AMAZON.PageDownIntent
AMAZON.PageUpIntent

TIP

Examples of the above mentioned automatic handling are:

  • ListTemplate1 will automatically "scroll down" and "scroll up"
  • ListTemplate2 will automatically "scroll right" and "scroll left"

If no custom handling is required, the intent listeners can be added to an unreachable state:

invalidIntents # nothing points to this state
  when AMAZON.ScrollUpIntent
    # do nothing

Doing so will include the intents in the skill model, while not ever actively handling them.

# Checking Render Template Support

To check whether the Display interface, and therewith render templates are supported by the active device at runtime, the following command can be used in litexa or external code:

RenderTemplate.isEnabled()

TIP

This check can and should be used to potentially compensate for any missing visuals on a voice-only device. For example:

  if RenderTemplate.isEnabled()
    screen instructions.png
    say "Please read the instructions on the screen."
  else
    say "Here are your instructions: @instructions"

# Relevant Resources

For more information, please refer to the official Display Render Templates documentation: