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Bootstrapping Application State

To bootstrap a re-frame application, you need to:

  1. register handlers:
    • subscription (via reg-sub)
    • events (via reg-event-db or reg-event-fx)
    • effects (via reg-fx)
    • coeffects (via reg-cofx)
  2. kickstart reagent (views)
  3. Load the right initial data into app-db which might, for example, be a merge of:
    • Some default values
    • Values stored in LocalStorage
    • Values obtained via service calls to server

Point 3 is the interesting bit and will be the main focus of this page, but let's work our way through them ...

1. Register Handlers

re-frame's various handlers all work in the same way. You declare and register your handlers in the one step, like this "event handler" example:

(re-frame/reg-event-db       ;; event handler will be registered automatically
  :some-id
  (fn [db [_ value]]
    ...  do some state change based on db and value ))

As a result, there's nothing further you need to do because handler registration happens as a direct result of loading the code (presumably via a <script> tag in your HTML file).

2. Kick Start Reagent

Create a function main which does a reagent/render of your root reagent component main-panel:

(defn main-panel       ;; my top level reagent component
  []
  [:div "Hello DDATWD"])

(defn ^:export main     ;; call this to bootstrap your app
  []
  (reagent/render [main-panel]
                  (js/document.getElementById "app")))

Mounting the top level component main-panel will trigger a cascade of child component creation. The full DOM tree will be rendered.

3. Loading Initial Data

Let's rewrite our main-panel component to use a subscription. In effect, we want it to source and render some data held in app-db.

First, we'll create the subscription handler:

(re-frame.core/reg-sub     ;; a new subscription handler
  :name               ;; usage (subscribe [:name])
  (fn [db _]
    (:display-name db)))  ;; extracts `:display-name` from app-db

And now we use that subscription:

(defn main-panel 
  []
  (let [name  (re-frame.core/subscribe [:name])]  ;; <--- a subscription  <---
      [:div "Hello " @name])))   ;; <--- use the result of the subscription

The user of our app will see funny things if that (subscribe [:name]) doesn't deliver good data. But how do we ensure "good data"?

That will require:

  1. getting data into app-db; and
  2. not get into trouble if that data isn't yet in app-db. For example, the data may have to come from a server and there's latency.

Note: app-db initially contains {}

Getting Data Into app-db

Only event handlers can change app-db. Those are the rules!! Indeed, even initial values must be put in app-db via an event handler.

Here's an event handler for that purpose:

(re-frame.core/reg-event-db
  :initialise-db				 ;; usage: (dispatch [:initialise-db])
  (fn [_ _]						 ;; Ignore both params (db and event)
	 {:display-name "DDATWD"	 ;; return a new value for app-db
	  :items [1 2 3 4]}))

You'll notice that this handler does nothing other than to return a map. That map will become the new value within app-db.

We'll need to dispatch an :initialise-db event to get it to execute. main seems like the natural place:

(defn ^:export main
  []
  (re-frame.core/dispatch [:initialise-db])   ;;  <--- this is new 
  (reagent/render [main-panel]
                  (js/document.getElementById "app")))

But remember, event handlers execute async. So although there's a dispatch within main, the event is simply queued, and the handler for :initialise-db will not be run until sometime after main has finished.

But how long after? And is there a race condition? The component main-panel (which assumes good data) might be rendered before the :initialise-db event handler has put good data into app-db.

We don't want any rendering (of main-panel) until after app-db has been correctly initialised.

Okay, so that's enough of teasing-out the issues. Let's see a quick sketch of the entire pattern. It is very straight-forward.

The Pattern

(re-frame.core/reg-sub   ;; supplied main-panel with data
  :name                  ;; usage (subscribe [:name])
  (fn  [db _]
	(:display-name db)))
	   
(re-frame.core/reg-sub   ;; we can check if there is data
  :initialised?          ;; usage (subscribe [:initialised?])
  (fn  [db _]
	(not (empty? db))))  ;; do we have data
	
(re-frame.core/reg-event-db
   :initialise-db
   (fn [db _]
       (assoc db :display-name "Jane Doe")))

(defn main-panel    ;; the top level of our app 
  []
  (let [name  (re-frame.core/subscribe [:name])]   ;; we need there to be good data
    [:div "Hello " @name])))

(defn top-panel    ;; this is new
  []
  (let [ready?  (re-frame.core/subscribe [:initialised?])]
    (if-not @ready?         ;; do we have good data?
      [:div "Initialising ..."]   ;; tell them we are working on it
      [main-panel])))      ;; all good, render this component

(defn ^:export main     ;; call this to bootstrap your app
  []
  (re-frame.core/dispatch [:initialise-db])
  (reagent/render [top-panel]
                  (js/document.getElementById "app")))

Scales Up

This pattern scales up easily.

For example, imagine a more complicated scenario in which your app is not fully initialised until 2 backend services supply data.

Your main might look like this:

(defn ^:export main     ;; call this to bootstrap your app
  []
  (re-frame.core/dispatch [:initialise-db])           ;; basics
  (re-frame.core/dispatch [:load-from-service-1])     ;; ask for data from service-1
  (re-frame.core/dispatch [:load-from-service-2])     ;; ask for data from service-2
  (reagent.core/render [top-panel]
                  (js/document.getElementById "app")))

Your :initialised? test then becomes more like this sketch:

(re-frame.core/reg-sub
  :initialised?          ;; usage (subscribe [:initialised?])
  (fn  [db _]
    (and  (not (empty? db))
          (:service1-answered? db)
          (:service2-answered? db)))))

This assumes boolean flags are set in app-db when data was loaded from these services.

Cheating - Synchronous Dispatch

In simple cases, you can simplify matters by using dispatch-sync (instead of dispatch) in the main function.

This technique can be seen in the TodoMVC Example.

dispatch queues an event for later processing, but dispatch-sync acts like a function call and handles an event immediately. That's useful for initial data load we are considering, particularly for simple apps. Using dispatch-sync guarantees that initial state will be in place before any views are mounted, so we know they'll subscribe to sensible values. We don't need a guard like top-panel (introduced above).

But don't get into the habit of using dispatch-sync everywhere. It is the right tool in this context and, sometimes, when writing tests, but dispatch is the staple you should use everywhere else.

Loading Initial Data From Services

Above, in our example main, we imagined using (re-frame/dispatch [:load-from-service-1]) to request data from a backend services. How would we write the handler for this event?

The next Tutorial will show you how.


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