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Webpack Bundle Analyzer for create-react-app

14 May 2018 0 comments   ReactJS, Javascript

https://github.com/facebook/create-react-app/issues/3518#issue-277616195


webpack-bundle-analyzer is an awesome little program for understanding why and which parts of your bundled .js files are so big. It's a lot more advanced (and pretty) than source-map-explorer.

Thanks to this tip by @trevorwhealy you can now use webpack-bundle-analyzer on a create-react-app bundle. Yay!

Check out the report I made for the client side code of Songsear.ch:

Webpack bundle analyzed for Songsear.ch

One thing I personally noticed from this is that the .png do take up quite a lot of kilobytes. And I'm quite that the whatwg-fetch polyfill uses 12KB before gzip.

Real minimal example of going from setState to MobX

04 May 2018 0 comments   ReactJS, Javascript

https://github.com/peterbe/workon/commit/c1846ce782ce7c9da16f44b10c48f0be1337ae41


This is not meant as a tutorial on MobX but hopefully it can be inspirational for people who have grokked how React's setState works but now feel they need to move the state management in their React app out of the components.

Store.js
To jump right in, here is a changeset that demonstrates how to replace setState with a MobX store:
https://github.com/peterbe/workon/commit/c1846ce782ce7c9da16f44b10c48f0be1337ae41

It's a really simple Todo list application based on create-react-app. Not much to read into at this point.

Here are some caveats to be aware if you look at the diff and wonder...

Caveat last but not least... This diff does not much other than adding more library dependencies and fancy "observable arrays" that are hard to introspect with console.log debugging.
However, the intention is to...

  1. Add react-router to the mix so opening the Todo list is just one of many possible views.
  2. Now the Store.js file can be all about data. Data retrieval, storage, manipulation, mutation etc. The other components will be more simple since their only job is to render that's in the store and send events back to the store based on user actions.
  3. Note that the store is also put into window. That means I can open the web console and type store.items[2].text = "Test change" and simply by hitting enter the app re-renders to this change.

filterToQueryString - JavaScript function to turn current filter into a query string

15 March 2018 1 comment   ReactJS, Javascript, Web development


tl;dr; this function:

export const filterToQueryString = (filterObj, overrides) => {
  const copy = Object.assign(overrides || {}, filterObj)
  const searchParams = new URLSearchParams()
  Object.entries(copy).forEach(([key, value]) => {
    if (Array.isArray(value) && value.length) {
      value.forEach(v => searchParams.append(key, v))
    } else if (value) {
      searchParams.set(key, value)
    }
  })
  searchParams.sort()
  return searchParams.toString()
}

I have a React project that used to use query-string to serialize and deserialize objects between React state and URL query strings. Yesterday version 6.0.0 came out and now I'm getting this error during yarn run build:

yarn run v1.5.1
$ react-scripts build
Creating an optimized production build...
Failed to compile.

Failed to minify the code from this file: 

    ./node_modules/query-string/index.js:8 

Read more here: http://bit.ly/2tRViJ9

error An unexpected error occurred: "Command failed.
Exit code: 1

Perhaps this is the wake up call to switch to URLSearchParams (documentation here). Yes it is. Let's do it.

My use case is that I store a dictionary of filters in React this.state. The filter object is updated by submitting a form that looks like this:

Fitler form

Since the form inputs might be empty strings my filter dictionary in this.state might look like this:

{
  user: '@mozilla.com', 
  created_at: 'yesterday', 
  size: '>= 1m, <300G', 
  uploaded_at: ''
}

What I want that to become is: created_at=yesterday&size=>%3D+1m%2C+<300G&user=%40mozilla.com
So it's important to be able to skip falsy values (empty strings or possibly empty arrays).

Sometimes there are other key-values that needs to be added that isn't part of what the user chose. So it needs to be easy to squeeze in additional key-values. Here's the function:

export const filterToQueryString = (filterObj, overrides) => {
  const copy = Object.assign(overrides || {}, filterObj)
  const searchParams = new URLSearchParams()
  Object.entries(copy).forEach(([key, value]) => {
    if (Array.isArray(value) && value.length) {
      value.forEach(v => searchParams.append(key, v))
    } else if (value) {
      searchParams.set(key, value)
    }
  })
  searchParams.sort()
  return searchParams.toString()
}

I use it like this:

_fetchUploadsNewCountLoop = () => {
  const qs = filterToQueryString(this.state.filter, {
    created_at: '>' + this.state.latestUpload
  })
  const url = '/api/uploads?' + qs
  ...
  fetch(...)
}

UPDATE - May 2018

In the original blog post (now edited and corrected) I copied the wrong code and didn't discover the subtle mistake until now.
What was wrong as the order of the arguments to Object.assign().

Wrong

const copy = Object.assign(filterObj, overrides || {})

Correct

const copy = Object.assign(overrides || {}, filterObj)

The old version was dangerous because it mutated the filterObj passed in. So if you did something like

const qs = filterToQueryString(this.state.filter, {
  created_at: '>' + this.state.latestUpload
})

it would potentially mutate this.state.filter which isn't desirable.

How to throttle AND debounce an autocomplete input in React

01 March 2018 3 comments   ReactJS, Javascript, Web development


Let's start with some best practices for a good autocomplete input:

'f' - most common search term on Google

To demonstrate these best practises, I'm going to use React with a mocked-out network request and mocked out UI for actual drop-down of options that usually appears underneath the input widget.

The Most Basic Version

In this version we have an event listener on every onChange and send the value of the input to the autocomplete function (called _fetch in this example):

class App extends React.Component {
  state = { q: "" };

  changeQuery = event => {
    this.setState({ q: event.target.value }, () => {
      this.autocompleteSearch();
    });
  };

  autocompleteSearch = () => {
    this._fetch(this.state.q);
  };

  _fetch = q => {
    const _searches = this.state._searches || [];
    _searches.push(q);
    this.setState({ _searches });
  };

  render() {
    const _searches = this.state._searches || [];
    return (
      <div>
        <input
          placeholder="Type something here"
          type="text"
          value={this.state.q}
          onChange={this.changeQuery}
        />
        <hr />
        <ol>
          {_searches.map((s, i) => {
            return <li key={s + i}>{s}</li>;
          })}
        </ol>
      </div>
    );
  }
}

You can try it here: No Throttle or Debounce

Note, when use it that an autocomplete lookup is done for every single change to the input (characters typed in or whole words pasted in). Typing in "Alask" at a normal speed our make an autocomplete lookup for "a", "al", "ala", "alas", and "alask".

Also worth pointing out, if you're on a CPU limited device, even if the autocomplete lookups can be done without network requests (e.g. you have a local "database" in-memory) there's still expensive DOM updates for that needs to be done for every single character/word typed in.

Throttled

What a throttle does is that it triggers predictably after a certain time. Every time. Basically, it's it prevents excessive or repeated calling of another function but doesn't get reset.

So if you type "t h r o t t l e" at a speed of 1 key press per 500ms the whole thing will take 8x500ms=3s and if you have a throttle on that, with a delay of 1s, it will fire 4 times.

I highly recommend using throttle-debounce to actually do the debounce. Let's rewrite our demo to use debounce:

import { throttle } from "throttle-debounce";

class App extends React.Component {
  constructor(props) {
    super(props);
    this.state = { q: "" };
    this.autocompleteSearchThrottled = throttle(500, this.autocompleteSearch);
  }

  changeQuery = event => {
    this.setState({ q: event.target.value }, () => {
      this.autocompleteSearchThrottled(this.state.q);
    });
  };

  autocompleteSearch = q => {
    this._fetch(q);
  };

  _fetch = q => {
    const _searches = this.state._searches || [];
    _searches.push(q);
    this.setState({ _searches });
  };

  render() {
    const _searches = this.state._searches || [];
    return (
      <div>
        <h2>Throttle</h2>
        <p>½ second Throttle triggering the autocomplete on every input.</p>
        <input
          placeholder="Type something here"
          type="text"
          value={this.state.q}
          onChange={this.changeQuery}
        />
        <hr />
        {_searches.length ? (
          <button
            type="button"
            onClick={event => this.setState({ _searches: [] })}
          >
            Reset
          </button>
        ) : null}
        <ol>
          {_searches.map((s, i) => {
            return <li key={s + i}>{s}</li>;
          })}
        </ol>
      </div>
    );
  }
}

One thing to notice on the React side is that the autocompleteSearch method can no longer use this.state.q because the function gets executed by the throttle function so the this is different. That's why, in this version we pass the search term as an argument instead.

You can try it here: Throttle

If you type something reasonably fast you'll notice it fires a couple of times. It's quite possible that if you type a bunch of stuff, with your eyes on the keyboard, by the time you're done you'll see it made a bunch of (mocked) autocomplete lookups whilst you weren't paying attention. You should also notice that it fired on the very first character you typed.

A cool feature about this is that if you can afford the network lookups, the interface will feel snappy. Hopefully, if your server is fast to respond to the autocomplete lookups there are quickly some suggestions there. At least it's a great indicator that the autocomplete UX is a think the user can expect as she types more.

Debounce

An alternative approach is to use a debounce. From the documentation of throttle-debounce:

"Debouncing, unlike throttling, guarantees that a function is only executed a single time, either at the very beginning of a series of calls, or at the very end."

Basically, ever time you "pile something on" it discards all the other delayed executions. Changing to this version is easy. just change import { throttle } from "throttle-debounce"; to import { debounce } from "throttle-debounce"; and change this.autocompleteSearchThrottled = throttle(1000, this.autocompleteSearch); to this.autocompleteSearchDebounced = debounce(1000, this.autocompleteSearch);

Here is the debounce version:

import { debounce } from "throttle-debounce";

class App extends React.Component {
  constructor(props) {
    super(props);
    this.state = { q: "" };
    this.autocompleteSearchDebounced = debounce(500, this.autocompleteSearch);
  }

  changeQuery = event => {
    this.setState({ q: event.target.value }, () => {
      this.autocompleteSearchDebounced(this.state.q);
    });
  };

  autocompleteSearch = q => {
    this._fetch(q);
  };

  _fetch = q => {
    const _searches = this.state._searches || [];
    _searches.push(q);
    this.setState({ _searches });
  };

  render() {
    const _searches = this.state._searches || [];
    return (
      <div>
        <h2>Debounce</h2>
        <p>
          ½ second Debounce triggering the autocomplete on every input.
        </p>
        <input
          placeholder="Type something here"
          type="text"
          value={this.state.q}
          onChange={this.changeQuery}
        />
        <hr />
        {_searches.length ? (
          <button
            type="button"
            onClick={event => this.setState({ _searches: [] })}
          >
            Reset
          </button>
        ) : null}
        <ol>
          {_searches.map((s, i) => {
            return <li key={s + i}>{s}</li>;
          })}
        </ol>
      </div>
    );
  }
}

You can try it here: Throttle

If you try it you'll notice that if you type at a steady pace (under 1 second for each input), it won't really trigger any autocomplete lookups at all. It basically triggers when you take your hands off the keyboard. But the silver lining with this approach is that if you typed "This is my long search input" it didn't bother looking things up for "this i", "this is my l", "this is my long s", "this is my long sear", "this is my long search in" since they are probably not very useful.

Best of Both World; Throttle and Debounce

The throttle works great in the beginning when you want the autocomplete widget to seem eager but if the user starts typing in a lot, you'll want to be more patient. It's quite human. If a friend is trying to remember something you're probably at first really quick to try to help with suggestions, but once you friend starts to remember and can start reciting, you patiently wait a bit more till they have said what they're going to say.

In this version we're going to use throttle (the eager one) in the beginning when the input is short and debounce (the patient one) when user has ignored the first autocomplete inputs and starting typing something longer.

Here is the version that uses both:

import { throttle, debounce } from "throttle-debounce";

class App extends React.Component {
  constructor(props) {
    super(props);
    this.state = { q: ""};
    this.autocompleteSearchDebounced = debounce(500, this.autocompleteSearch);
    this.autocompleteSearchThrottled = throttle(500, this.autocompleteSearch);
  }

  changeQuery = event => {
    this.setState({ q: event.target.value }, () => {
      const q = this.state.q;
      if (q.length < 5) {
        this.autocompleteSearchThrottled(this.state.q);
      } else {
        this.autocompleteSearchDebounced(this.state.q);
      }
    });
  };

  autocompleteSearch = q => {
    this._fetch(q);
  };

  _fetch = q => {
    const _searches = this.state._searches || [];
    _searches.push(q);
    this.setState({ _searches });
  };

  render() {
    const _searches = this.state._searches || [];
    return (
      <div>
        <h2>Throttle and Debounce</h2>
        <p>
          ½ second Throttle when input is small and ½ second Debounce when
          the input is longer.
        </p>
        <input
          placeholder="Type something here"
          type="text"
          value={this.state.q}
          onChange={this.changeQuery}
        />
        <hr />
        {_searches.length ? (
          <button
            type="button"
            onClick={event => this.setState({ _searches: [] })}
          >
            Reset
          </button>
        ) : null}
        <ol>
          {_searches.map((s, i) => {
            return <li key={s + i}>{s}</li>;
          })}
        </ol>
      </div>
    );
  }
}

In this version I cheated a little bit. The delays are different. The throttle has a delay of 500ms and the debounce as a delay of 1000ms. That makes it feel little bit more snappy there in the beginning when you start typing but once you've typed more than 5 characters, it switches to the more patient debounce version.

You can try it here: Throttle and Debounce

With this version, if you, in a steady pace typed in "south carolina" you'd notice that it does autocomplete lookups for "s", "sout" and "south carolina".

Avoiding wrongly ordered async responses

Suppose the user slowly types in "p" then "pe" then "pet", it would trigger 3 XHR requests. I.e. something like this:

fetch('/autocomplete?q=p')

fetch('/autocomplete?q=pe')

fetch('/autocomplete?q=pet')

But because all of these are asynchronous and sometimes there's unpredictable slowdowns on the network, it's not guarantee that they'll all come back in the same exact order. The solution to this is to use a "global variable" of the latest search term and then compare that to the locally scoped search term in each fetch callback promise. That might sound harder than it is. The solution basically looks like this:

class App extends React.Component {

  makeAutocompleteLookup = q => {
    // Store the latest input here scoped in the App instance.
    this.waitingFor = q;
    fetch('/autocompletelookup?q=' + q)
    .then(response => {
      if (response.status === 200) {
        // Only bother with this XHR response
        // if this query term matches what we're waiting for.
        if (q === this.waitingFor) {
          response.json()
          .then(results => {
              this.setState({results: results});
          })
        }
      }
    })
  }
}

Bonus feature; Caching

For caching the XHR requests, to avoid unnecessary network requests if the user uses backspace, the simplest solution is to maintain a dictionary of previous results as a component level instance. Let's assume you do the XHR autocomplete lookup like this initially:

class App extends React.Component {

  makeAutocompleteLookup = q => {
    const url = '/autocompletelookup?q=' + q;
    fetch(url)
    .then(response => {
      if (response.status === 200) {
        response.json()
        .then(results => {
            this.setState({ results });
        })
      }
    })
  }

}

To add caching (also a form of memoization) you can simply do this:

class App extends React.Component {

  _autocompleteCache = {};

  makeAutocompleteLookup = q => {
    const url = '/autocompletelookup?q=' + q;

    const cached = this._autocompleteCache[url];
    if (cached) {
      return Promise.resolve(cached).then(results => {
        this.setState({ results });
        });
      });
    }

    fetch(url)
    .then(response => {
      if (response.status === 200) {
        response.json()
        .then(results => {
            this.setState({ results });
        })
      }
    })
  }

}

In a more real app you might want to make that whole method always return a promise. And you might want to do something slightly smarter when response.status !== 200.

Bonus feature; Watch out for spaces

So the general gist of these above versions is that you debounce the XHR autocomplete lookups to only trigger sometimes. For short strings we trigger every, say, 300ms. When the input is longer, we only trigger when it appears the user has stopped typing. A more "advanced" approach is to trigger after a space. If I type "south carolina is a state" it's hard for a computer to know if "is", "a", or "state" is a complete word. Humans know and some English words can easily be recognized as stop words. However, what you can do is take advantage of the fact that a space almost always means the previous word was complete. It would be nice to trigger an autocomplete lookup after "south carolina" and "south carolina is" and "south carolina is a". These are also easier to deal with on the server side because, depending on your back-end, it's easier to search your database if you don't include "broken" words like "south carolina is a sta". To do that, here's one such implementation:

class App extends React.Component {

  // Just overriding the changeQuery method in this example.

  changeQuery = event => {
    const q = event.target.value
    this.setState({ q }, () => {

      // If the query term is short or ends with a
      // space, trigger the more impatient version.
      if (q.length < 5 || q.endsWith(' ')) {
        this.autocompleteSearchThrottled(q);
      } else {
        this.autocompleteSearchDebounced(q);
      }
    });
  };

  // Just overriding the changeQuery method in this example.

}

You can try it here: Throttle and Debounce with throttle on ending spaces.

Next level stuff

There is so much more that you can do for that ideal user experience. A lot depends on the context.

For example, when the input is small instead of doing a search on titles or names or whatever, you instead return a list of possible full search terms. So, if I have typed "sou" the back-end could return things like:

{
  "matches": [
     {"term": "South Carolina", "count": 123},
     {"term": "Southern", "count": 469},
     {"term": "South Dakota", "count": 98},
  ]
}

If the user selects one of these autocomplete suggestions, instead of triggering a full search you just append the selected match back into the search input widget. This is what Google does.

And if the input is longer you go ahead and actually search for the full documents. So if the input was "south caro" you return something like this:

{
  "matches": [
     {
       "title": "South Carolina Is A State", 
       "url": "/permapage/x19v093d"
     },
     {
       "title": "Best of South Carolina Parks", 
       "url": "/permapage/9vqif3z"
     },
     {
       "title": "I Live In South Carolina", 
       "url": "/permapage/abc300a1y"
     },
  ]
}

And when the XHR completes you look at what the user clicked and do something like this:

  return (<ul className="autocomplete">
    {this.state.results.map(result => {
      return <li onClick={event => {
        if (result.url) {
          document.location.href = result.url;
        } else {
          this.setState({ q: result.term });
        }
      }}>
        {result.url ? (
          <p className="document">{result.title}</p>
        ) : (
            <p className="new-term">{result.term}</p>
          )}
      </li>
    })
    }
    </ul>
  )

This is an incomplete example and more pseudo-code than a real solution but the pattern is quite nice. You're either helping the user type the full search term or if it's already a good match you can go skip the actual searching and go to the result directly.

This is how SongSearch works for example:

Suggestions for full search terms
Suggestions for full search terms

Suggestions for actual documents
Suggestions for actual documents

Items function in JavaScript for looping over dictionaries like Python

23 February 2018 0 comments   ReactJS, Javascript


Too many times I've written code like this:

class MyComponent extends React.PureComponent {
  render() {
    return <ul>
      {Object.keys(this.props.someDictionary).map(key => {
        return <li key={key}><b>{key}:</b> {this.props.someDictionary[key]}</li> 
      })}
    </ul>
  }
}

The clunky thing about this is that you have to reference the dictionary twice. Makes it harder to refactor. In Python, you do this instead:

for key, value in some_dictionary.items():
    print(f'$key: $value')

To do the same in JavaScript make a function like this:

function items(dict, fn) {
  return Object.keys(dict).map((key, i) => {
    return fn(key, dict[key], i)
  })
}

Now you can use it "more like Python":

class MyComponent extends React.PureComponent {
  render() {
    return <ul>
      {items(this.props.someDictionary, (key, value) => {
        return <li key={key}><b>{key}:</b> {value}</li> 
      })}
    </ul>
  }
}

Example on CodeSandbox here

UPDATE

Thanks to @Osmose and @saltycrane for alerting me to Object.entries().

class MyComponent extends React.PureComponent {
  render() {
    return <ul>
      {Object.entries(this.props.someDictionary).map(([key, value]) => {
        return <li key={key}><b>{key}:</b> {value}</li> 
      })}
    </ul>
  }
}

Updated CodeSandbox here

Component, component function or plain function in React

06 February 2018 0 comments   ReactJS


tl;dr; Use React.PureComponent (or React.Component) if your component contains, or might contain, non-trivial logic that might affect it rendering or not. For all other cases, use a function, especially if it's not React specific.

Your choices

When you have state, especially good old this.state and this.setState you have to use React.PureComponent (or React.Component if you must).

For stateless functions, where you're just getting some props in, perhaps massaging them and rendering some JSX, you have choices.
You can write a React component in these three different ways:

Component

class MyComponent extends React.PureComponent {
  render() {
    return <h1>Hello {this.props.name}</h1>
  }
}

Component function

const MyComponent = ({ name }) => {
  return <h1>Hello {name}</h1>
}

Plain function

const MyComponent = name => {
  return <h1>Hello {name}</h1>
}

The first two can be used like this:

return (
  <div>
    <MyComponent name="Peter"/>
  </div>
)

The last one can be called directly:

return (
  <div>
    {MyComponent("Peter")}/>
  </div>
)

To be exact, you can actually call the second, component function, like this too:

return (
  <div>
    {MyComponent({name: "Peter"})}/>
  </div>
)

Example CodeSandbox here.

Each one has its strength and weaknesses.

Pros & cons for class MyComponent extends React.PureComponent

Pros & cons for const MyComponent = (...) =>

Benchmarking the difference

I don't know with confidence if this is the right way to test this but I really wanted to avoid process.env.NODE_ENV==='development' and I wanted to run each variant a bunch of times, because it feels more realistic, so as to avoid the slowness of the initial mounting.

So I made an app that looks like this:

class Components extends React.Component {
  render() {
    return <Component100 count={this.props.count} />;
  }
}

export default Components;

class Component100 extends React.PureComponent {
  render() {
    return <Component99 count={this.props.count} />;
  }
}
class Component99 extends React.PureComponent {
  render() {
    return <Component98 count={this.props.count} />;
  }
}

//...
//...you can imagine...
//...

class Component1 extends React.PureComponent {
  render() {
    return <Component0 count={this.props.count} />;
  }
}

class Component0 extends React.PureComponent {
  render() {
    collect('Components', performance.now());
    return <h1>Component0: {this.props.count}</h1>;
  }
}

This long chain of components calling "sub-components" starts right after the prop at the top changes. In the App that parents all of the variants, when the state changes the props change and it trickles down to that final last component. By taking a timestamp right before changing the state and during that last render you get a rough timeline for how long the whole chain took to render.

See the variants here:

Perhaps it's best to skim the code of the App.js too. It's a bit messy and there's a bunch of whacky code that uses global window to log all the timestamps but the gist is that it measures the few milliseconds it takes before a re-render is triggered until the final components render function gets called.

The app has a little hacky interval function that randomly switches between the different variants every 2 seconds and every 300 milliseconds it clicks a button, which changes the state which triggers a re-render.

Benchmark results

Results

Component style Median Comparison
Components 3.46ms 100%
ComponentFunctions 3.04ms 14% faster
Functions 2.02ms 71% faster

This was done using React 16.2.0 with process.env.NODE_ENV === 'production' in Firefox 60.

Sample app
You can try for yourself here: https://peterbe.github.io/function-or-component/

It might break when you click Reset. If it doesn't work very well in github.io, just download it and test locally.

Discussion

Here's my rule of thumb, the life-cycle hooks are awesome. I often write a component, using ...extends React.PureComponent even though it could be a plain function. But over time, eventually you expand it and realize you need some life cycle hook. Or you might find that writing inline functions is getting messy. Or, you realize that this component is sometimes unnecessarily called by a more complicated parent, with the same props as last time!

The performance penalty, for using full React components, is small. It exists, but it's probably dwarfed by other costs such as mounting not to mention actual DOM updating. It's also very likely that your components could benefit more from avoiding render (which only shouldComponentUpdate really can do) than the cost of calling it. Meaning, if the slower component only has to render 500 times, marginally slower, than the function component rendering 1,000 times, then the slower sometimes-not-needing-to-render will eventually win the performance battle.

There is still value in the functional stateless component. See the pros & cons above. But one rule of thumb I have is that if the component is really simple and contains no fancy logic that might affect its rendering or not rendering, then use components as functions. They're "sending a message" (to the code reader) by being brief and simple. For example, I have this little snippet in my Common.js module:

export const formatFileSize = (bytes, decimals = 0) => {
  if (!bytes) return '0 bytes'
  const k = 1024
  const dm = decimals + 1 || 3
  const sizes = ['bytes', 'KB', 'MB', 'GB', 'TB', 'PB', 'EB', 'ZB', 'YB']
  const i = Math.floor(Math.log(bytes) / Math.log(k))
  return parseFloat((bytes / Math.pow(k, i)).toFixed(dm)) + ' ' + sizes[i]
}

It's got nothing to do with React and that becomes extra obvious simply my looking at it. It's cleary got just one job. It's used a lot and often by more complicated components.

Last but not least; I'm very aware that the much more experienced React gurus of the world have already said something similar but with more accuracy. But I didn't want to just blurt out my opinion without adding some meat and some numbers to it. And I've always disliked the confusion that there's a choice at all so hopefully this blog post will help someone else who still suffers from having to wonder when to use which.

This tweet sums it up well:
Craig Kerstiens tweet

Display current React version

07 January 2018 1 comment   ReactJS, Javascript


Usually you know what version of React your app is using by opening the package.json, or poking around in node_modules/react/index.js. But perhaps there are many packaging abstractions in between your command line and the server. Especially if you have a continous integration server that builds your static assets and if that CI uses caching. It might get scary.

If you really want to print out what version of React is rendering your app here's one way to do that:

import React from 'react'

class Introspection extends React.Component {
  render() {
    return <div>
      Currently using React {React.version}
    </div>
  }
}

Suppose that you want this display to depend on the app being in dev or prod mode:

import React from 'react'

class Introspection extends React.Component {
  render() {
    return <div>
      {
        process.env.NODE_ENV === 'development' ?
        <p>Currently using React {React.version}</p> : null
      }
    </div>
  }
}

Note that there's no need to import process.

See this CodeSandbox snippet for a live example.

How to create-react-app with Docker

17 November 2017 16 comments   Docker, ReactJS, Javascript, Web development, Linux


Why would you want to use Docker to do React app work? Isn't Docker for server-side stuff like Python and Golang etc? No, all the benefits of Docker apply to JavaScript client-side work too.

So there are three main things you want to do with create-react-app; dev server, running tests and creating build artifacts. Let's look at all three but using Docker.

Create-react-app first

If you haven't already, install create-react-app globally:

▶ yarn global add create-react-app

And, once installed, create a new project:

▶ create-react-app docker-create-react-app
...lots of output...

▶ cd docker-create-react-app
▶ ls
README.md    node_modules package.json public       src          yarn.lock

We won't need the node_modules here in the project directory. Instead, when building the image we're going let node_modules stay inside the image. So you can go ahead and... rm -fr node_modules.

Create the Dockerfile

Let's just dive in. This Dockerfile is the minimum:

FROM node:8

ADD yarn.lock /yarn.lock
ADD package.json /package.json

ENV NODE_PATH=/node_modules
ENV PATH=$PATH:/node_modules/.bin
RUN yarn

WORKDIR /app
ADD . /app

EXPOSE 3000
EXPOSE 35729

ENTRYPOINT ["/bin/bash", "/app/run.sh"]
CMD ["start"]

A couple of things to notice here.
First of all we're basing this on the official Node v8 repository on Docker Hub. That gives you a Node and Yarn by default.

Note how the NODE_PATH environment variable puts the node_modules in the root of the container. That's so that it doesn't get added in "here" (i.e. the current working directory). If you didn't do this, the node_modules directory would be part of the mounted volume which not only slows down Docker (since there are so many files) it also isn't necessary to see those files.

Note how the ENTRYPOINT points to run.sh. That's a file we need to create too, alongside the Dockerfile file.

#!/usr/bin/env bash
set -eo pipefail

case $1 in
  start)
    # The '| cat' is to trick Node that this is an non-TTY terminal
    # then react-scripts won't clear the console.
    yarn start | cat
    ;;
  build)
    yarn build
    ;;
  test)
    yarn test $@
    ;;
  *)
    exec "$@"
    ;;
esac

Lastly, as a point of convenience, note that the default CMD is "start". That's so that when you simply run the container the default thing it does is to run yarn start.

Build container

Now let's build it:

▶ docker image build -t react:app .

The -t react:app is up to you. It doesn't matter so much what it is unless you're going to upload your container the a registry. Then you probably want the repository to be something unique.

Let's check that the build is there:

▶ docker image ls react:app
REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
react               app                 3ee5c7596f57        13 minutes ago      996MB

996MB! The base Node image is about ~700MB and the node_modules directory (for a clean new create-react-app) is ~160MB (at the time of writing). What the remaining difference is, I'm not sure. But it's empty calories and easy to lose. When you blow away the built image (docker image rmi react:app) your hard drive gets all that back and no actual code is lost.

Before we run it, lets go inside and see what was created:

▶ docker container run -it react:app bash
root@996e708a30c4:/app# ls
Dockerfile  README.md  package.json  public  run.sh  src  yarn.lock
root@996e708a30c4:/app# du -sh /node_modules/
148M    /node_modules/
root@996e708a30c4:/app# sw-precache
Total precache size is about 355 kB for 14 resources.
service-worker.js has been generated with the service worker contents.

The last command (sw-precache) was just to show that executables in /node_modules/.bin are indeed on the $PATH and can be run.

Run container

Now to run it:

▶ docker container run -it -p 3000:3000 react:app
yarn run v1.3.2
$ react-scripts start
Starting the development server...

Compiled successfully!

You can now view docker-create-react-app in the browser.

  Local:            http://localhost:3000/
  On Your Network:  http://172.17.0.2:3000/

Note that the development build is not optimized.
To create a production build, use yarn build.

Default app running

Pretty good. Open http://localhost:3000 in your browser and you should see the default create-react-app app.

Next step; Warm reloading

create-react-app does not support hot reloading of components. But it does support web page reloading. As soon as a local file is changed, it sends a signal to the browser (using WebSockets) to tell it to... document.location.reload().

To make this work, we need to do two things:
1) Mount the current working directory into the Docker container
2) Expose the WebSocket port

The WebSocket thing is set up by exposing port 35729 to the host (-p 35729:35729).

Below is an example running this with a volume mount and both ports exposed.

▶ docker container run -it -p 3000:3000 -p 35729:35729 -v $(pwd):/app react:app
yarn run v1.3.2
$ react-scripts start
Starting the development server...

Compiled successfully!

You can now view docker-create-react-app in the browser.

  Local:            http://localhost:3000/
  On Your Network:  http://172.17.0.2:3000/

Note that the development build is not optimized.
To create a production build, use yarn build.

Compiling...
Compiled successfully!
Compiling...
Compiled with warnings.

./src/App.js
  Line 7:  'neverused' is assigned a value but never used  no-unused-vars

Search for the keywords to learn more about each warning.
To ignore, add // eslint-disable-next-line to the line before.

Compiling...
Failed to compile.

./src/App.js
Module not found: Can't resolve './Apps.css' in '/app/src'

In the about example output. First I make a harmless save in the src/App.js file just to see that the dev server notices and that my browser reloads when I did that. That's where it says

Compiling...
Compiled successfully!

Secondly, I make an edit that triggers a warning. That's where it says:

Compiling...
Compiled with warnings.

./src/App.js
  Line 7:  'neverused' is assigned a value but never used  no-unused-vars

Search for the keywords to learn more about each warning.
To ignore, add // eslint-disable-next-line to the line before.

And lastly I make an edit by messing with the import line

Compiling...
Failed to compile.

./src/App.js
Module not found: Can't resolve './Apps.css' in '/app/src'

This is great! Isn't create-react-app wonderful?

Build build :)

There are many things you can do with the code you're building. Let's pretend that the intention is to build a single-page-app and then take the static assets (including the index.html) and upload them to a public CDN or something. To do that we need to generate the build directory.

The trick here is to run this with a volume mount so that when it creates /app/build (from the perspective) of the container, that directory effectively becomes visible in the host.

▶ docker container run -it -v $(pwd):/app react:app build
yarn run v1.3.2
$ react-scripts build
Creating an optimized production build...
Compiled successfully.

File sizes after gzip:

  35.59 KB  build/static/js/main.591fd843.js
  299 B     build/static/css/main.c17080f1.css

The project was built assuming it is hosted at the server root.
To override this, specify the homepage in your package.json.
For example, add this to build it for GitHub Pages:

  "homepage" : "http://myname.github.io/myapp",

The build folder is ready to be deployed.
You may serve it with a static server:

  yarn global add serve
  serve -s build

Done in 5.95s.

Now, on the host:

▶ tree build
build
├── asset-manifest.json
├── favicon.ico
├── index.html
├── manifest.json
├── service-worker.js
└── static
    ├── css
    │   ├── main.c17080f1.css
    │   └── main.c17080f1.css.map
    ├── js
    │   ├── main.591fd843.js
    │   └── main.591fd843.js.map
    └── media
        └── logo.5d5d9eef.svg

4 directories, 10 files

The contents of that file you can now upload to a CDN some public Nginx server that points to this as the root directory.

Running tests

This one is so easy and obvious now.

▶ docker container run -it -v $(pwd):/app react:app test

Note the that we're setting up a volume mount here again. Since the test runner is interactive it sits and waits for file changes and re-runs tests immediately, it's important to do the mount now.

All regular jest options work too. For example:

▶ docker container run -it -v $(pwd):/app react:app test --coverage
▶ docker container run -it -v $(pwd):/app react:app test --help

Debugging the node_modules

First of all, when I say "debugging the node_modules", in this context, I'm referring to messing with node_modules whilst running tests or running the dev server.

One way to debug the node_modules used is to enter a bash shell and literally mess with the files inside it. First, start the dev server (or start the test runner) and give the container a name:

▶ docker container run -it -p 3000:3000 -p 35729:35729 -v $(pwd):/app --name mydebugging react:app

Now, in a separate terminal start bash in the container:

▶ docker exec -it mydebugging bash

Once you're in you can install an editor and start editing files:

root@2bf8c877f788:/app# apt-get update && apt-get install jed
root@2bf8c877f788:/app# jed /node_modules/react/index.js

As soon as you make changes to any of the files, the dev server should notice and reload.

When you stop the container all your changes will be reset. So if you had to sprinkle the node_modules with console.log('WHAT THE HECK!') all of those disappear when the container is stopped.

NodeJS shell

This'll come as no surprise by now. You basically run bash and you're there:

▶ docker container run -it -v $(pwd):/app react:app bash
root@2a21e8206a1f:/app# node
> [] + 1
'1'

Conclusion

When I look back at all the commands above, I can definitely see how it's pretty intimidating and daunting. So many things to remember and it's got that nasty feeling where you feel like your controlling your development environment through unwieldy levers rather than your own hands.

But think of the fundamental advantages too! It's all encapsulated now. What you're working on will be based on the exact same version of everything as your teammate, your dev server and your production server are using.

Pros:

Cons:

In my (Mozilla Services) work, the projects I work on, I actually use docker-compose for all things. And I have a Makefile to help me remember all the various docker-compose commands (thanks Jannis & Will!). One definitely neat thing you can do with docker-compose is start multiple containers. Then you can, with one command, start a Django server and the create-react-app dev server with one command. Perhaps a blog post for another day.

React lifecycle hooks must-have

13 August 2017 1 comment   ReactJS, Javascript, Web development

http://imgh.us/react-lifecycle.svg


I don't know who made this flowchart originally, but whoever you are: Thank you!

At this point, in my React learning I think I've memorized much of this but it's taken me a lot of time and having to dig up the documentation again. (Also, not to mention the number of times I've typo'ed componentWillReciveProps and componentWillRecevieProps etc.)

Remember this; You don't need to know all of these by heart to be good at React. In fact, there's several of these that I almost never use.

React lifecycle hooks flowchart

UPDATE

The above link is dead. Use this blog post instead.

UPDATE April 2018

Here's an even better one from @dan_abramov:

React life-cycle hooks

Public Class Fields saves sooo many keystrokes in React code

14 April 2017 0 comments   ReactJS, Javascript

https://tc39.github.io/proposal-class-public-fields/


tl;dr; I'm not a TC39 member and I barely understand half of what those heros are working on but there is one feature they're working on that really stands out, in my view, for React coders; Public Class Fields.

The Problem?

Very common pattern in React code is that have a component that has methods that are tied to DOM events (e.g. onClick) and often these methods need acess to this. The component's this. So you can reach things like this.state or this.setState().

You might have this in your code:

class App extends Component {
  state = {counter: 0}

  constructor() {
    super()

    // Like homework or situps; something you have to do :(
    this.incrementCounter = this.incrementCounter.bind(this) 
  }

  incrementCounter() {
    this.setState(ps => {
      return {counter: ps.counter + 1}
    })
  }

  render() {
    return (
      <div>
        <p>
          <button onClick={this.incrementCounter}>Increment</button>
        </p>
        <h1>{this.state.counter}</h1>
      </div>
    )
  }
}

Demo

If you don't bind the class method to this in the constructor, this will be undefined inside the class instance field incrementCounter. Buu!

Suppose you don't like having the word incrementCounter written in 4 placecs, you might opt for this shorthand notation where you create a new unnamed function inside the render function:

class App extends Component {
  state = {counter: 0}

  render() {
    return (
      <div>
        <p>
          <button onClick={() => {
            this.setState(ps => {
              return {counter: ps.counter + 1}
            })
          }}>Increment</button>
        </p>
        <h1>{this.state.counter}</h1>
      </div>
    )
  }
}

Demo

Sooo much shorter and kinda nice that the code can be so close in proximity to the actual onClick event definition.

But this notation has a horrible side-effect. It creates a new function on every render. If instead of a regular DOM jsx object <button> it might be a sub-component like <CoolButton/> then that sub-component would be forced to re-render every time (unless you write your own shouldComponentUpdate.

Also, this notation works when the code is small and light but it might get messy quickly if you need that functionality on other element's onClick. Or it might become mess with really deep indentation.

The Solution?

Public Class Fields.

That new feature is currently in the "Draft" stage at TC39. Aka. stage 1.

However, I discovered that you can use stage-2 in Babel to use this particular feature.

Note! I don't understand why you only have to put on your stage-2-brave socks for this feature when it's part of a definition that is stage 1.

Anyway, what it means is that you can define your field (aka method) like this instead:

class App extends Component {
  state = {counter: 0}

  incrementCounter = () => {
    this.setState(ps => {
      return {counter: ps.counter + 1}
    })
  }

  render() {
    return (
      <div>
        <p>
          <button onClick={this.incrementCounter}>Increment</button>
        </p>
        <h1>{this.state.counter}</h1>
      </div>
    )
  }
}

Demo

Now it's only mentioned by name incrementCounter twice. And no need for that manual binding in a constructor.
And since it's automatically bound, the function isn't recreated and those can easily make sub-components be pure.

So, let's always write our React methods this way from now on.

Oh, and in case you wonder. Inheritence works the same with these public class fields as the regular class instance fields.