A library for writing React components that automatically manage subscriptions to data sources simply by accessing them
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README.md

ReSub

GitHub license npm version npm downloads Build Status David David

A library for writing better React components and data stores. Uses automatic subscriptions to reduce code and avoid common data flow pitfalls. Scales for projects of all sizes and works great with TypeScript.

Overview

In React’s early days, Flux gave us guidance on how to manage data flow in our apps. At its core, data would be placed into stores and React components would fetch it from them. When a store’s data was updated, it would notify all concerned components and give them the opportunity to rebuild their states.

While Flux works well, it can also be cumbersome and error prone. Separate actions, action creators, and stores can result in a great deal of boilerplate code. Developers can fetch data from a store but fail to subscribe to changes, or components can oversubscribe and cause performance issues. Furthermore, developers are left to implement these patterns from scratch.

ReSub aims to eliminate these limitations (and more) through the use of automatic data binding between stores and components called autosubscriptions. By using TypeScript’s method decorators, ReSub components can subscribe to only the data they need on only the stores that provide it, all without writing any code.

Basic Example

The easiest way to understand ReSub is to see it in action. Let’s make a simple todo app.

The heavy lifting in ReSub is done mostly within two classes, ComponentBase and StoreBase. It’s from these that we make subclasses and implement the appropriate virtual functions.

First, we create a store to hold todos:

import { StoreBase, AutoSubscribeStore, autoSubscribe } from 'resub';

@AutoSubscribeStore
class TodosStore extends StoreBase {
    private _todos: string[] = [];

    addTodo(todo: string) {
        // Don't use .push here, we need a new array since the old _todos array was passed to the component by reference value
        this._todos = this._todos.concat(todo);
        this.trigger();
    }

    @autoSubscribe
    getTodos() {
        return this._todos;
    }
}

export = new TodosStore();

Next, we create a component to display the todos:

import * as React from 'react';
import { ComponentBase } from 'resub';

import TodosStore = require('./TodosStore');

interface TodoListState {
    todos?: string[];
}

class TodoList extends ComponentBase<{}, TodoListState> {
    protected _buildState(props: {}, initialBuild: boolean): TodoListState {
        return {
            todos: TodosStore.getTodos()
        }
    }

    render() {
        return (
            <ul className="todos">
                { this.state.todos.map(todo => <li>{ todo }</li> ) }
            </ul>
        );
    }
}

export = TodoList;

That’s it. Done!

When future todos are added to the TodoStore, TodoList will automatically fetch them and re-render. This is achieved because TodoList._buildState makes a call to TodosStore.getTodos() which is decorated as an @autoSubscribe method.

Subscriptions and Scaling

ReSub is built with scalability in mind; it works for apps of all sizes with all scales of data traffic. But this doesn’t mean scalability should be the top concern for every developer. Instead, ReSub encourages developers to create the simplest code possible and to only add complexity and tune performance when it becomes an issue. Follow these guidelines for best results:

  1. Start by doing all your work in _buildState and rebuilding the state from scratch using autosubscriptions. Tracking deltas and only rebuilding partial state at this stage is unnecessary for the vast majority of components.
  2. If you find that components are re-rendering too often, introduce subscriptions keys. For more information, see the “Subscriptions by key” and “Subscriptions by props” sections below.
  3. If components are still re-rendering too often, consider using trigger throttling and trigger blocks to cut down on the number of callbacks. For more information, see the “Trigger throttling” and “Trigger blocks” sections below.
  4. If rebuilding state completely from scratch is expensive, manual subscriptions with custom callbacks may help. For more information, see the “Custom subscription callbacks” section below.

A Deep Dive on ReSub Features

Subscriptions and Triggering

Subscriptions by key:

By default, a store will notify all of its subscriptions any time new data is available. This is the simplest approach and useful for many scenarios, however, stores that have heavy data traffic may result in performance bottlenecks. ReSub overcomes this by allowing subscribers to specify a string key that limit the scope in which they will trigger.

Consider an example where our Todo app differentiates between high and low priority todo items. Perhaps we want to show a list of all high priority todo items in a HighPriorityTodoItems component. This component could subscribe to all changes on the TodosStore, but this means it’d re-render even when a new low priority todo was created. That’s wasted effort!

Let’s make TodosStore smarter. When a new high priority todo item is added, it should trigger with a special key TodosStore.Key_HighPriorityTodoAdded instead of using the default StoreBase.Key_All key. Our HighPriorityTodoItems component can now subscribe to just this key, and its subscription will trigger whenever TodosStore triggers with either TodosStore.Key_HighPriorityTodoAdded or StoreBase.Key_All, but not for TodosStore.Key_LowPriorityTodoAdded.

All of this can still be accomplished using method decorators and autosubscriptions. Let’s create a new method in TodosStore:

class TodosStore extends StoreBase {
    ...

    static Key_HighPriorityTodoAdded = "Key_HighPriorityTodoAdded";

    @autoSubscribeWithKey(TodosStore.Key_HighPriorityTodoAdded)
    getHighPriorityTodos() {
        return this._highPriorityTodos;
    }
}

Components that call TodosStore.getHighPriorityTodos() inside _buildState will automatically subscribe to all future high priority todos triggers from TodosStore.

Alternatively, this subscription can be made manually. Subclasses of ComponentBase would implement a _initStoreSubscriptions method that returns a custom StoreSubscription like the following:

protected _initStoreSubscriptions(): StoreSubscription<TodoListState>[] {
    return [{
        store: TodosStore,
        specificKeyValue: 'Key_HighPriorityTodoAdded'
    }];
}

Note: Of course it’s possible to separate high and low priority todo items into separate stores, but sometimes similar data is simultaneously divided on different axes and is therefore difficult to separate into stores without duplicating. Using custom keys is an elegant solution to this problem.

Subscriptions by props:

Once you’re comfortable with key-based subscriptions, you can push the concept further and eliminate even more boilerplate code. ComponentBase allows developers to create manual subscriptions that, instead of specifying a key, will use whatever value is found inside of a given component prop.

For example, perhaps our TodosList receives the user’s username as a prop, and it only wishes to subscribe to TodosStore updates related to that user. This could be established like the following:

protected _initStoreSubscriptions(): StoreSubscription<TodoListState>[] {
    return [{
        store: TodosStore,
        keyPropertyName: 'username'
    }];
}

Here, ComponentBase will automatically read the value from props.username and use this as the subscription key on TodosStore. If props.username is ever modified, the old subscription will be unregistered and a new one will be formed with the new key.

Autosubscriptions using @key:

Key-based subscriptions are very powerful, but they can be even more powerful and can reduce more boilerplate code when combined with autosubscriptions. Let’s update our TodosStore to add the @key decorator:

class TodosStore extends StoreBase {
    ...

    @autoSubscribe
    getTodosForUser(@key username: string) {
        return this._todosByUser[username];
    }
}

Now, we can establish the autosubscription for this user in _buildState:

class TodoList extends ComponentBase<TodoListProps, TodoListState> {
    ...

    protected _buildState(props: {}, initialBuild: boolean): TodoListState {
        return {
            todos: TodosStore.getTodosForUser(this.props.username)
        }
    }
}

_buildState will be called when TodoStore triggers any changes for the specified username, but not for any other usernames. This eliminates the need completely for any manual subscriptions to be made in _initStoreSubscriptions.

Custom subscription callbacks:

StoreSubscriptions created inside of _initStoreSubscriptions will call _buildState by default when they trigger. Instead, developers can specify a custom callback in StoreSubscription definitions using either callbackBuildState (with autosubscription support just like using _buildState) or callback (no autosubscription support):

protected _initStoreSubscriptions(): StoreSubscription<TodoListState>[] {
    return [{
        store: TodosStore,
        keyPropertyName: 'username',
        callbackBuildState: this._userUpdated.bind(this)
    }];
}

Custom callbacks are usually unnecessary, but they do give components the opportunity to do delta state management and other performance tuning.

ComponentBase

To get the most out of ReSub, your components should inherit ComponentBase and should implement some or all of the methods below.

Callable methods:

isComponentMounted(): boolean

Returns true if the component is currently mounted, false otherwise. Subclasses should not override this method.

shouldComponentUpdate(nextProps: P, nextState: S): boolean

This method is provided by ReSub already, but can be overridden. Subclasses that override it do not need to call super.

ReSub’s implementation of this method uses _.isEqual to compare new state and props with their previous values and returns true if a change is found.

Note: _.isEqual is a deep comparison operator, and hence can cause performance issues with deep data structures.

Subclassing:

Subclasses should implement some or all of the following methods:

protected _buildState(props: P, initialBuild: boolean): S

This method is called to rebuild the module’s state. All but the simplest of components should implement this method. It is called on three occurrences:

  1. During initial component construction, initialBuild will be true. This is where you should set all initial state for your component. This case rarely needs special treatment because the component always rebuilds all of its state from its props, whether it's an initial build or a new props received event.
  2. In the React lifecycle, during a componentWillReceiveProps, if the props change (determined by a _.isEqual), this is called so that the component can rebuild its state from the new props.
  3. When this component subscribes to any stores, this will be called whenever the subscription is triggered. This is the most common usage of subscriptions, and the usage created by autosubscriptions.

Any calls from this method to store methods decorated with @autoSubscribe will establish an autosubscription.

React’s setState method should not be called directly in this function. Instead, the new state should be returned and ComponentBase will call setState.

protected _initStoreSubscriptions(): StoreSubscription<S>[]

This method is called during component construction and should return a list of all StoreSubscriptions. These subscriptions will be registered and will work in addition to any autosubscriptions formed later.

protected _componentDidRender()

This method is automatically called from componentDidMount and componentDidUpdate, as both of these methods typically do the same work.

React lifecycle methods

Methods include:

  • constructor(props: P)
  • componentWillMount()
  • componentDidMount()
  • componentWillUnmount()
  • componentWillUpdate(nextProps: P, nextState: S)
  • componentDidUpdate(prevProps: P, prevState: S)
  • componentWillReceiveProps(nextProps: P)

Many of these methods are unnecessary in simple components thanks to _componentDidRender and _buildState, but may be overridden if needed. Implementations in subclasses must call super.

StoreBase

ReSub’s true power is realized when creating subclasses of StoreBase. Several features are exposed as public methods on StoreBase, and subclasses should also implement some or all of the virtual methods below.

In addition to providing useful patterns for store creation, StoreBase also provides features to squeeze out additional performance through heavy data traffic.

Trigger throttling:

By default, a store will instantly (and synchronously) notify all of its subscriptions when trigger is called. For stores that have heavy data traffic, this may cause components to re-render far more often than needed.

To solve this issue, stores may specify a throttle time limit by specifying throttleMs = X (X being a number of milliseconds) during construction. Any triggers within the time limit will be collected, de-duped, and callbacks will be called after the time is elapsed.

Trigger blocks:

In applications with heavy data traffic, especially on mobile browsers, frequent component re-rendering can cause major performance bottlenecks. Trigger throttling (see above) helps this problem, but sometimes this isn’t enough. For example, if the developer wants to show an animation at full 60-fps, it is important that there is little to no other work happening at the same time.

StoreBase allows developers to block all subscription triggers on all stores until the block is lifted. All calls to trigger in this time will be queued and will be released once the block is lifted.

Because certain stores may be critical to the app, StoreBase allows stores to opt out of (and completely ignore) trigger blocks by passing bypassTriggerBlocks = true to the constructor.

Multiple stores or components might want to block triggers simultaneously, but for different durations, so StoreBase counts the number of blocks in effect and only releases triggers once the block count reaches 0.

Callable methods:

subscribe(callback: SubscriptionCallbackFunction, key = StoreBase.Key_All): number

Manually subscribe to this store. By default, the callback method will be called when the store calls trigger with any key, but this can be reduced by passing a specific key. For more information, see the “Subscriptions and Triggering” section.

subscribe returns a token that can be passed to unsubscribe.

unsubscribe(subToken: number)

Removes a subscription from the store.

trigger(keyOrKeys?: string|string[])

Trigger all subscriptions that match the provided keyOrKeys to be called back. If no key is specified, StoreBase.Key_All will be used and all subscriptions will be triggered. For more information, see the “Subscriptions and Triggering” section.

protected _getSubscriptionKeys(): string[]

This method returns a de-duped list of all keys on which subscribers have subscribed.

protected _isTrackingKey(key: string)

Returns true if a subscription has been made on the specified key, or false otherwise.

static pushTriggerBlock()

Calling StoreBase.pushTriggerBlock() will halt all triggers on all stores until the trigger block is lifted by a subsequent call to StoreBase.popTriggerBlock(). For more information, see the “Trigger blocks” section.

static popTriggerBlock()

Lifts the trigger block on all stores and releases any queued triggers. If more than one trigger block is in effect (because more than one store or component wants to block triggers simultaneously), popTriggerBlock will decrement the block count but not release the triggers. For more information, see the “Trigger blocks” section.

Subclassing:

constructor(throttleMs: number = 0, bypassTriggerBlocks = false)

Subclass constructors should call super. throttleMs refers to the throttle time (see “Trigger throttling” section). bypassTriggerBlocks refers to the trigger blocking system (see “Trigger blocks” section).

_startedTrackingKey(key: string)

StoreBase uses reference counting on subscription keys. This method is called whenever a subscription is created using a new key.

In certain applications, a store will be passed data that it chooses to ignore until it knows that a subscriber is interested in it. This method will notify the store to begin collecting that data.

Subclasses do not need to call super.

_stoppedTrackingKey(key: string)

StoreBase uses reference counting on subscription keys. This method is called when the last occurrence of this key is unsubscribed.

In certain applications, a store will be passed data that it chooses to ignore until it knows that a subscriber is interested in it. When there are no longer any interested subscribers for a given key, this method gives the store the opportunity to flush this data.

Subclasses do not need to call super.

Data Flow

ReSub avoids taking a strong opinion on data flow in your project.

While it’s not encouraged, it’s fine for components to make calls to modify store data, for components and stores to make AJAX and other asynchronous calls, and for stores to subscribe to one another. Action creators may be used to organize data flow, but they’re not required and often not necessary.

Whether using ReSub or not, your app will likely scale best if it follows these guidelines:

  1. Components should remain pure, and as such, should only get data from props and stores.
  2. Store data should never be modified on the same cycle as component data fetching and rendering. Race conditions and update cycles can form when a component modifies store data while building its state.

Using ReSub Without TypeScript

It is fine to use ReSub without TypeScript, but without access to TypeScript’s method decorators, stores and components cannot leverage autosubscriptions, and as such, lose a lot of their value.

At the very least, developers can still leverage the organizational patterns of ComponentBase and StoreBase, and any virtual functions that subclasses implement will still be called.

TSLint rules

We have couple of tslint rules to automate search of common problems in ReSub usage. They are located at the ./dist/tslint folder of the package. add following rules to your tslint.json in order to use them.

incorrect-state-access rule doesn't check abstract methods called from componentWillMount, but you could enforce check of your methods by passing them to the rule as an argument.

"incorrect-state-access": [
    true
],

"override-calls-super": [
    true,
    "_buildInitialState",
    "componentWillMount",
    "componentDidMount",
    "componentWillReceiveProps",
    "componentWillUpdate",
    "componentDidUpdate",
    "componentWillUnmount"
],