Elm-inspired Scala library for writing web user interfaces
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README.md

scalm

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Elm-inspired Scala library for writing web user interfaces.

Installation

scalm supports Scala 2.12 and Scala.js 0.6.

Since scalm uses a JavaScript library (snabbdom) under the hood, you will have to use scalajs-bundler:

// project/plugins.sbt
addSbtPlugin("ch.epfl.scala" % "sbt-scalajs-bundler" % "0.9.0")
// build.sbt
enablePlugins(ScalaJSBundlerPlugin)
libraryDependencies += "org.julienrf" %%% "scalm" % "1.0.0-RC1"

Overview

Elm Architecture

Scalm provides a runtime environment for executing applications designed according to the Elm architecture.

In essence, the state of the application is modeled by an immutable Model, events that change the state of the application are modeled by an immutable Msg type, state transitions are implemented by a (Msg, Model) => Model function, and finally, a Model => Html[Msg] function defines how to render the state of the application in HTML.

Reacting to User Input

Here is how the usual counter example looks like with scalm:

import scalm.{Html, Scalm}
import scalm.Html._
import org.scalajs.dom.document

object Counter {

  def main(): Unit = Scalm.start(document.body)(init, update, view)

  type Model = Int

  def init: Model = 0

  sealed trait Msg
  case object Increment extends Msg
  case object Decrement extends Msg

  def update(msg: Msg, model: Model): Model =
    msg match {
      case Increment => model + 1
      case Decrement => model - 1
    }

  def view(model: Model): Html[Msg] =
    div()(
      button(onClick(Decrement))(text("-")),
      div()(text(model.toString)),
      button(onClick(Increment))(text("+"))
    )

}

Dealing With Effects

In the architecture presented above, the state of the application evolves with DOM events but there is no way to perform HTTP requests or register a timer. We call this kind of actions “effects”. We classify them into two groups: commands and subscriptions. Commands let you do stuff, whereas subscriptions let you register that you are interested in something. You can find more information on effects here.

Here is how the clock example looks like in scalm:

import scalm.{App, Cmd, Html, Scalm, Sub}
import scalm.Html._
import org.scalajs.dom.document

import scalajs.js
import concurrent.duration.DurationInt

object Clock extends App {

  def main(): Unit = Scalm.start(this, document.body)

  type Model = js.Date

  def init: (Model, Cmd[Msg]) = (new js.Date(), Cmd.Empty)

  case class Msg(newTime: js.Date)

  def update(msg: Msg, model: Model): (Model, Cmd[Msg]) =
    (msg.newTime, Cmd.Empty)

  def subscriptions(model: Model): Sub[Msg] =
    Sub.every(1.second, "clock-ticks").map(Msg)

  def view(model: Model): Html[Msg] = {
    val angle = model.getMinutes() * 2 * math.Pi / 60 - math.Pi / 2
    val handX = 50 + 40 * math.cos(angle)
    val handY = 50 + 40 * math.sin(angle)
    tag("svg")(attr("viewBox", "0, 0, 100, 100"), attr("width", "300px"))(
      tag("circle")(attr("cx", "50"), attr("cy", "50"), attr("r", "45"), attr("fill", "#0B79CE"))(),
      tag("line")(attr("x1", "50"), attr("y1", "50"), attr("x2", handX.toString), attr("y2", handY.toString), attr("stroke", "#023963"))()
    )
  }

}

Discussion

To my experience, correctly implementing a user interface is hard.

The very disciplined Elm programming model helps me a lot to reason about the user interface implementation.

More specifically, in this programming model the mapping between the state of the application and the rendered HTML is easy to follow. Furthermore, commands and subscriptions simplify resource management a lot (you don’t have to worry about cancelling some event handler anymore, this is taken care of by the runtime).

On the other hand, the architecture is, by design, not extremely efficient: on each event the entire application state is recomputed. We use a virtual-dom technique to patch the DOM as efficiently as possible, but still, that’s a lot of work that’s not needed with approaches like monadic-html or Binding.scala.