Define a computed by returning a Promise
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README.md

computed-async-mobx

Define a computed by returning a Promise

Build Status Coverage Status

"People starting with MobX tend to use reactions [autorun] too often. The golden rule is: if you want to create a value based on the current state, use computed." - MobX - Concepts & Principles

What is this for?

A computed in MobX is defined by a function, which consumes other observable values and is automatically re-evaluated, like a spreadsheet cell containing a calculation.

@computed get creditScore() {
    return this.scoresByUser[this.userName];
}

However, it has to be a synchronous function body. What if you want to do something asynchronous? e.g. get something from the server. That's where this little extension comes in:

creditScore = promisedComputed(0, async () => {
    const response = await fetch(`users/${this.userName}/score`);
    const data = await response.json();
    return data.score;
});

Further explanation, rationale, etc.

New in Version 3.0.0...

There is a completely new API, much more modular and made of simple, testable pieces. The old API is deprecated, though is still available for now. First here's how the current features work. Stay tuned for a migration guide below.


asyncComputed

This is the most capable function. It is actually just a composition of two simpler functions, promisedComputed and throttledComputed, described below.

Parameters

  • init - the value to assume until the first genuine value is returned
  • delay - the minimum time in milliseconds to wait between creating new promises
  • compute - the function to evaluate to get a promise (or plain value)

Returns

A Mobx-style getter, i.e. an object with a get function that returns the current value. It is an observable, so it can be used from other MobX contexts. It cannot be used outside MobX reactive contexts (it throws an exception if you attempt it).

The returned object also has a busy property that is true while a promise is still pending. It also has a refresh method that can be called to force a new promise to be requested immediately (bypassing the delay time).

Example

fullName = asyncComputed("(Please wait...)", 500, async () => {
        const response = await fetch(`users/${this.userName}/info`);
        const data = await response.json();
        return data.fullName;
});

The value of fullName.get() is observable. It will initially return "(Please wait...)" and will later transition to the user's full name. If the this.userName property is an observable and is modified, the promisedComputed will update also, but after waiting at least 500 milliseconds.


promisedComputed

Like asyncComputed but without the delay support. This has the slight advantage of being fully synchronous if the compute function returns a plain value.

Parameters

  • init - the value to assume until the first genuine value is returned
  • compute - the function to evaluate to get a promise (or plain value)

Returns

Exactly as asyncComputed.

Example

fullName = promisedComputed("(Please wait...)", async () => {
    const response = await fetch(`users/${this.userName}/info`);
    const data = await response.json();
    return data.fullName;
});

The value of fullName.get() is observable. It will initially return "(Please wait...)" and will later transition to the user's full name. If the this.userName property is an observable and is modified, the promisedComputed will update also, as soon as possible.


throttledComputed

Like the standard computed but with support for delaying for a specified number of milliseconds before re-evaluation. It is like a computed version of the standard autorunAsync; the advantage is that you don't have to manually dispose it.

(Note that throttledComputed has no special functionality for handling promises.)

Parameters

  • compute - the function to evaluate to get a plain value
  • delay - the minimum time in milliseconds to wait before re-evaluating

Returns

A Mobx-style getter, i.e. an object with a get function that returns the current value. It is an observable, so it can be used from other MobX contexts. It can also be used outside MobX reactive contexts but (like standard computed) it reverts to simply re-evaluating every time you request the value.

It also has a refresh method that immediately (synchronously) re-evaluates the function.

Example

fullName = throttledComputed(500, () => {
    const data = slowSearchInMemory(this.userName);
    return data.fullName;
});

The value of fullName.get() is observable. It will initially return the result of the search, which happens synchronously the first time. If the this.userName property is an observable and is modified, the throttledComputed will update also, but after waiting at least 500 milliseconds.


autorunThrottled

Much like the standard autorunAsync, except that the initial run of the function happens synchronously.

(This is used by throttledComputed to allow it to be synchronously initialized.)

Parameters

  • func - The function to execute in reaction
  • delay - The minimum delay between executions
  • name - (optional) For MobX debug purposes

Returns

  • a disposal function.

A Mobx-style getter, i.e. an object with a get function that returns the current value. It is an observable, so it can be used from other MobX contexts. It can also be used outside MobX reactive contexts but (like standard computed) it reverts to simply re-evaluating every time you request the value.


Installation

npm install computed-async-mobx

TypeScript

Of course TypeScript is optional; like a lot of libraries these days, this is a JavaScript library that happens to be written in TypeScript. It also has built-in type definitions: no need to npm install @types/... anything.

Acknowledgements

I first saw this idea on the Knockout.js wiki in 2011. As discussed here it was tricky to make it well-behaved re: memory leaks for a few years.

MobX uses the same (i.e. correct) approach as ko.pureComputed from the ground up, and the Atom class makes it easy to detect when your data transitions between being observed and not. More recently I realised fromPromise in mobx-utils could be used to implement promisedComputed pretty directly. If you don't need throttling (delay parameter) then all you need is a super-thin layer over existing libraries, which is what promisedComputed is.

Also a 🌹 for Basarat for pointing out the need to support strict mode!

Thanks to Daniel Nakov for fixes to support for MobX 4.x.

Usage

Unlike the normal computed feature, promisedComputed can't work as a decorator on a property getter. This is because it changes the type of the return value from PromiseLike<T> to T.

Instead, as in the example above, declare an ordinary property. If you're using TypeScript (or an ES6 transpiler with equivalent support for classes) then you can declare and initialise the property in a class in one statement:

class Person {

     @observable userName: string;

     creditScore = promisedComputed(0, async () => {
         const response = await fetch(`users/${this.userName}/score`);
         const data = await response.json();
         return data.score; // score between 0 and 1000
     });

     @computed
     get percentage() {
         return Math.round(this.creditScore.get() / 10);
     }
}

Note how we can consume the value via the .get() function inside another (ordinary) computed and it too will re-evaluate when the score updates.

useStrict(true)

This library is transparent with respect to MobX's strict mode. Like computed, it doesn't mutate state but only consumes it.

Gotchas

Take care when using async/await. MobX dependency tracking can only detect you reading data in the first "chunk" of a function containing awaits. It's okay to read data in the expression passed to await (as in the above example) because that is evaluated before being passed to the first await. But after execution "returns" from the first await the context is different and MobX doesn't track further reads.

For example, here we fetch two pieces of data to combine them together:

answer = asyncComputed(0, 1000, async () => {
    const part1 = await fetch(this.part1Uri),
          part2 = await fetch(this.part2Uri);
    
    // combine part1 and part2 into a result somehow...
    return result;
});

The properties part1Uri and part2Uri are ordinary mobx observables (or computeds). You'd expect that when either of those values changes, this asyncComputed will re-execute. But in fact it can only detect when part1Uri changes. When an async function is called, only the first part (up to the first await) executes immediately, and so that's the only part that MobX will be able to track. The remaining parts execute later on, when MobX has stopped listening.

(Note: the expression on the right of await has to be executed before the await pauses the function, so the access to this.part1Uri is properly detected by MobX).

We can work around this like so:

answer = asyncComputed(0, 1000, async () => {
    const uri1 = this.part1Uri, 
          uri2 = this.part2Uri;

    const part1 = await fetch(uri1),
          part2 = await fetch(uri2);

    // combine part1 and part2 into a result somehow...
    return result;
});

When in doubt, move all your gathering of observable values to the start of the async function.

Migration

The API of previous versions is still available. It was a single computedAsync function that had all the capabilities, like a Swiss-Army Knife, making it difficult to test, maintain and use. It also had some built-in functionality that could just as easily be provided by user code, which is pointless and only creates obscurity.

  • Instead of calling computedAsync with a zero delay, use promisedComputed, which takes no delay parameter.
  • Instead of calling computedAsync with a non-zero delay, use asyncComputed.
  • Instead of using the value property, call the get() function (this is for closer consistency with standard MobX computed.)
  • Instead of using revert, use the busy property to decide when to substitute a different value.
  • The rethrow property made computedAsync propagate exceptions. There is no need to request this behaviour with promisedComputed and asyncComputed as they always propagate exceptions.
  • The error property computed a substitute value in case of an error. Instead, just do this substitution in your compute function.

Version History

See CHANGES.md.

License

MIT, see LICENSE