Passing Parcelable / Serializable and Other Data in Jetpack Compose Navigation

NOTE: The Jetpack Compose team doesn’t recommend passing Parcelable in the navigation composable routes. Instead the route structure in Navigation Compose has the best analog with a restful web service so developers should use bookDetails/{bookid} not bookDetails/{a whole set of fields representing a book} which is essentially what passing a Parcelable is doing. There’s a new issue created to update the official Google Docs to explain the best practices for passing complex arguments like Parcelable in the composable routes. You can see it on this Issue Tracker link.

While trying to create a simple demo UI of a books app concept, I stumbled upon an issue where I had to pass the Parcelable in another Composable screen through Navigation. On looking at the official documentation of Jetpack Compose Navigation, which is at the 1.0.0-alpha08 at the time of writing this article, I found that Jetpack Compose allows many different kind of arguments to be passed.

Supported Argument Types for Jetpack Compose Navigation Supported Argument Types for Jetpack Compose Navigation

There’re two methods to pass the data between Composable through Navigation.

In your main class, where the whole NavHost graph is being defined, declare which Composable will expect what kind of arguments and what their keys will be.

NavHost(startDestination = "home") {
    // Home
    composable("home") {
        HomeScreen(navController)
    }

    // Book Details
    composable(
        "bookDetails/{bookId}",
        // Fetching the argument which has been passed
        arguments = listOf(navArgument("bookId") { type = NavType.StringType })     
    ) {
        // Using that argument in the destination Composable
        BookDetails(navController, backStackEntry.arguments?.getString("bookId"))
    }
}

You can see how we are declaring the arguments through navArgument list and telling compiler that it should expect a bookId of the String type value from the NavigationController. And then that argument is being passed to the actual BookDetails() Composable method by getting the value from backStackEntry.arguments field.

Now, when we want to navigate to the bookDetails Composable screen, we can pass our bookId like this:

val navController = rememberNavController()
val bookId = "12456"
val dest = "bookDetails/" + bookId
navController.navigate(dest)

You can read more about this here. But I found an issue with this method that I have to manually serialize the Parcelable object in the String. If I don’t do that, the Jetpack Compose Navigation will simply try to do this by calling toString() method, which didn’t worked for my case. In this StackOverflow question, there’s explained a workaround for this.


A Workaround for Parcelables

In your main class, where the whole NavHost graph is being defined, instead of declaring which Composable will expect what kind of arguments, simply do this:

NavHost(startDestination = "home") {
    // Home
    composable("home") {
        HomeScreen(navController)
    }

    // Book Details
    composable("bookDetails) {
        // Directly extract the argument from previousBackStackEntry
        var bookModel = navController.previousBackStackEntry?.arguments?.getParcelable<BookModel>("book")
        
        // Using that Parcelable in the destination Composable
        BookDetails(navController, book = bookModel)
    }
}

You can see how we are actually doing almost similar of Arguments approach in a different way by extracting the Parcelable from the previousBackStackEntry. And when we want to navigate to the bookDetails Composable screen, we can pass our book Parcelable like this:

navController.currentBackStackEntry?.arguments?.putParcelable("book", bookModel)
navController.navigate("book_details")


You can see this method implemented in my simple Books UI demo app available at this link.



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Wajahat Karim
🌍 Making the world a better place, one app at a time.
🔥 Google Developer Expert (GDE) in Android . 📱 Professional Android Developer with ~7 years experience. 💻 Creator of various Open Source libraries on Android . 📝 Author of two technical books and 100+ articles on Android. 🎤 A passionate Public Speaker giving talks all over the world.
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Wajahat Karim

🔥 Google Dev Expert (GDE) in Android .
📱 Android Dev. 💻 Open Source Contributor . 📝 Technical Writer . 🎤 Public Speaker

Senior Android Developer

Karachi, Pakistan