🐶 RxJS+JSX framework experiment

originally posted at dev.to

I like React. And I love RxJS. So I tried to mix them in a new framework:

This and other examples are runable. Code images generated using carbon.now.sh

tl;dr

Github repo: github.com/recksjs/recks 🙂

Foreword

I’ve built this rendering engine in about a week for a hackathon. It turned out to be an interesting concept, that I wanted to share with you here!

The concept

React made DOM “first-class citizen” in our JS code (via virtual DOM). We can create vDOM anywhere in our structure and then pass it around.
React’s components are basically a mapping of properties to vDOM:

Angular deeply integrated Observable streams and made them native to its components and services. Observables let us easily operate and coordinate async events and updates, spread in time.

In this framework, we (similarly to React) map properties to vDOM. Only here we fully control update and render streams. We take the input stream of props and map them to the output stream of vDOM:

Stream in. Stream out.

Beloved dog from André Staltz’ great article

Let’s get to examples, shall we?

Basic usage

Surely, we have to start with a “Hello World”:

of creates an Observable that emits a single provided value

Since our component renders a static <h1> and never updates it — we can skip the Observable part and simply return the element:

Looks react-ish, doesn’t it? Let’s add more life to our components:

A Timer

timer(n, m) emits a 0 at n and then will emit consequent integers with m interval

Again our component returns a stream of vDOM. Each time a component emits a value — the vDOM is updated.

In this example, timer will emit a new value every second. That value we will map to a new vDOM, displaying each tick in the <h1>.

We can do this even simpler!

If a child in the vDOM is an Observable itself — the engine will start listening to it and render its values in place. So let’s move the timer Observable right into the <h1>:

run this example (this one is the same as in the header)

This allows us to define more fine updates with neat syntax.

Note that the component function will be called only once. When the Observable timer(0, 1000) emits a value — the vDOM will be updated in place, without recalculating or updating other parts of the tree

State

When we need a local state in a component — we can create one or several Subjects to write and listen to.

Subjects are Observables that also let us push values into them. So we can both listen and emit events

Here’s an example:

run the greeting app example

In the example above when the text field emits an input event — we push its value to name$ stream. view$ stream that we display derives from name$ input stream.

Note that we are using a startWith operator for the view$: to optimize rendering the engine waits for the first emission from all children before rendering them. So if we remove the startWith<div> will be rendered empty, until the view$ emits a value. Therefore we need to either add a startWith operator or to wrap the Observable child with a static child, e.g. <span>{ view$ }</span>

And a more conventional example with a counter:

run the counter example

In this example again we have an input$ Subject that we'll push updates to. The view$ Observable accumulates emissions from the input$ using scan operator and will display our state. E.g. when we push 1, 1, 1 to the input$ — we get a 1, 2, 3 on the view$.

Refs or “real DOM deal”

Sometimes we need to interact with DOM API. For that React uses specialref objects, that contain a reference to the current DOM element in their current property:

React way

Of course in this framework, we get a stream of DOM references! Once a DOM element is created or replaced — the engine pushes a new reference to the stream. We only need to provide the engine with a place for references to be pushed to — a Subject. The engine will push the HTML element to it once it is attached to the real DOM. Thus we get a stream of HTMLElements and can apply our logic either to each update or to the latest reference.

Here we’ll focus the <input /> each time the <button/> is clicked:

run the refs example

Subcomponents

So far we had components that only returned Observable results, and didn’t have to react to any input. Here’s an example of a parent component providing properties to a child component:

run the cat-mouse example

When a Parent is rendering a Child for the first time — it’s rendering <Child index={ 0 } />. The engine will create a Child and push the { index: 0 } props object to the subcomponent's props$ Observable. The child will immediately react with a mouse 🐭.

Later when the timer ticks again and emits <Child index={ 1 } /> — the engine will only push { index: 1 } to the existing Child props$.

The Child will now produce a cat 🐱.

And so on.

An example of a cat that could be produced by a component
Photo by
Michael Sum on Unsplash

Redux

For bigger apps, we’ll need a bit more sophisticated state management, then just a bunch of Subjects. Any implementation that outputs in an observable way would work with Recks! Let’s try redogs state manager — it’s redux, redux-observable and typesafe-actions in one small package. Redogs outputs to an Observable, so we’ll easily integrate it!

Let’s be innovative and create a simple To Do List app as an example 🙂

First, we’ll create the store:

Now we can access the state changes of the store in our components:

Or dispatch events to it:

For brevity, I’ll skip showing reducers, effects, and other components here. Please, see the full redux app example at codesandbox.

Note that we don’t have to learn reselect and re-reselect APIs to interact with redux.

We don’t have to tweak proprietary static getDerivedStateFromProps() or worry about UNSAFE_componentWillReceiveProps() and UNSAFE_componentWillUpdate() to be efficient with the framework.

We only need to know Observables, they are lingua franca in Recks.

Unlike React

For a React component to trigger a self-update — it has to update its state or props (indirectly). React itself will decide when to re-render your component. If you want to prevent unnecessary recalculations and re-renderings — there are several API methods (or hooks), that you can use to advice React how to deal with your component.

In this framework I wanted to make this flow more transparent and adjustable: you directly manipulate the output stream based on the input stream, using well known RxJS operators: filter, debounce, throttle, audit, sample, scan, buffer and many-many others.

You decide when and how to update your component!

Status

To try the framework, run:

git clone --depth=1 https://github.com/recksjs/recks-starter-project.git
cd recks-starter-project
npm i
npm start

Or you can run Recks in an online sandbox

The source code is published to github.com/recksjs/recks

The package is also available via npm i recks, all you need is to set up your JSX transpiler (babel, typescript compiler) to use Recks.createElement pragma.

[ Warning ] This is a concept, not a production-ready library.

Disclaimers

First of all, several times I’ve called this library a “framework”, yet this is no more of a “framework” than react is. So one might prefer to call it a “tool”. It’s up to you 🙂

Also, my comparisons to React are purely conceptual. React is a mature framework, supported by a smart team of professionals, surrounded by a brilliant community.

This one is a week old, built by me 🐶

Alternatives

There’s one library that provides a React hook to interact with Observables: rxjs-hooks. It works via auseState hook to update the component's state each time an Observable emits, which triggers component update. Worth checking out!

Another elephant I should mention here is a real streams-driven framework: cycle.js by André Staltz. It is a grown-up library, has a lot of supporters and solid integrations. Cycle.js has a bit different API of using subcomponents and interacting with DOM. Give it a try!

If you know other alternatives — please, share 📜

Outro

Okay, that’s it!

Should I continue developing this project?
What features would you like to see next?
I’d love to know your thoughts, so leave a comment, please 🙂

If you enjoyed reading this article — give a push to the clap button: it will let me understand the usefulness of this topic and will help others discover this read.

In the following posts, we’ll review other Recks integrations, I will share plans for features and publish project updates. So follow me here on medium and twitter to stay tuned!

I’m proud that you’ve read so far!
Thank you

The End

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store