Redux Basics

Redux Basics

In this post, the simplest React Redux tutorial I wish I had when I started learning. ... Having seen the basics let's now talk about what problem Redux tries to solve.

Throughout last week, I had my first taste of Redux. During this time, we implemented Redux with React but, it does not need to be used exclusively with React. However, this has been my only experience with it thus far, so I will explain it the way it is used with React.

Upon introduction to Redux, you may be left feeling instantly confused. Initially learning React, most days are spent getting comfortable with the idea of passing props from one component, to another, to another... to another.... to.... another.

While this is an easy concept to understand, it's not necessarily the most efficient. There are a variety of state management systems used within React, but I want to discuss Redux and what has helped me wrap my mind around it!

You may also like: Angular vs React vs Vue: Which one will be popular in 2020.

What is Redux?

Redux has one main advantage, and that's the efficiency it provides. Redux allows you to store your state in what is called a "Redux Store" and uses actions to call reducers, which in turn manipulate your state however you see fit.

Let's keep this simple and straight to the point. Redux is Uber Eats.

I know what you may be thinking... What are you are talking about? Let me explain.

In traditional prop passing, relate each component to a neighbor. If you needed something from the grocery store, imagine that you have to ask neighbor E, to ask neighbor D, to ask neighbor C, to ask neighbor B, to ask neighbor A, if you can use some of their bread. It works... but, it's pretty inconvenient

What if there was a way to just have the bread delivered straight to you?!

AH, this is where Redux shines. With the use of the Redux store, that bread (AKA state), is always available whenever you need it. No passing props, no talking to neighbors, just simply call up the store and get what you need!

The Redux Store

The Redux Store takes about 3.87 seconds to build, and is one of the easiest things to do in React. After installing Redux with your package manager of choice, simply import the function into your main component (usually index.js).

import { createStore } from 'redux'

Boom! Now you have the power, just create a store really quick! Be sure to export your reducer from it's proper file, and import it into your index.js file.

const store = createStore(yourReducerGoesHere)

Simple enough? Now your store exists in a variable called store. It takes in a reducer as well.(This is how it will manipulate the state that's held within the store. Now, let's talk about the Provider.

Providing state to your components

Provider is simple enough to remember, because it provides access the state from the store to your components. I say access, because it doesn't necessarily give your components the state just yet (this is what we have connect() for).

In that same component, you'll want to import Provider.

import { Provider } from 'react-redux' Booyah!

After that, you want to wrap your App component in that provider. Think of this as granting your application the ability to use the store. It typically looks something like this:

ReactDOM.render(
<Provider store={store}>
    <App />
</Provider>
, document.getElementById("root"));

See that sneaky little prop pass, right there? It almost forms a sentence! In the Provider we passed in the store. It can almost be read as, "Providing the store to the component". Well, that's how I read it at least! :)

Awesome, now we created a store, passed the store to the provider, which is providing that store to our application. Before seeing how we grab the state, we need to have state first! On to the reducer!

Reducing The Stress

Reducers! This is one of the powerful aspects of Redux. Essentially, I call them the execution guidelines. The reducer file will typically consist of two things: the initial state, and the reducer itself.

For example, for simplicity sake, let's say our initial state has an array of names.

const initialState = {
   names: ['Bob', 'Susan']
}

Woo! They are looking great. Now the reducer comes into play. This section can get messy, so we'll keep it extremely simple. Reducers are functions full of if...else conditions. The easier way to write this is with switch cases. To prevent confusion, I'll provide an example of both, if...else and a switch case, if you happen to be familiar with both!

Our case that modifies state will be called, 'Add Name'. However, in Redux cases, it's common practice to use all capital letters for this (kind of similar to just screaming at the reducer to do its job), so it would look like 'ADD_NAME'.

If none of the cases do match, you want to be sure to return the initialState. I know this is a lot of words, so let's see an example!

export const reducer = (state = initialState, action) {
    if (action.type === 'ADD_NAME') {
        return {
            ...state,
            names: [...names, action.payload]
        }
    } else {
        return state
    }
}

What's happening here is the reducer takes in state, and an action. State will be undefined if you don't provide it an initial state, so in this example, we assign state to initialState. The action will be an object containing a type and sometimes a payload property. For example, this action object for this example may look like:

{ type: 'ADD_NAME', payload: newNameGoesHere }

The type specifies what reducer case to trigger, like instructions! The payload is just data, it can be called anything. In this case, we have a new name we want to add to the users array. So we spread the whole state object first, then spread the users array into a new array, and add the new name on to the end, this name is being referenced by the action.payload.

So back to my point, reducers are the execution guidelines. They take instruction from the action, and perform based on what action.type is called. This will make more sense in a second when we discuss actions. The payload property is just a common way of passing in the data you want to incorporate into state, it can be called anything - beanChili if you want! :D

Like I said, reducers are typically written in a switch case format, so they may look like this when you come across them:

export const reducer = (state = initialState, action) {
    switch(action.type){
        case 'ADD_NAME':
            return {
                ...state,
                names: [...names, action.payload]
            }
        default:
            return state
    }
}

This achieves the same result, just tends to be less words, the longer your code gets!

Okay, so we've covered the store, the provider, initial state, and the reducer. Now let's take a peek at actions!

Lights, Camera, ACTIONS

As I stated earlier, actions are the instructions for the reducer. Action creators are functions, that return actions. These actions are objects similar to the one I referenced above, with a type and a payload property.

The way these work, is your action creator function is called within your component, which returns an object of "instructions". In this case, you call the action, and it will return an object that looks like:

{ type: 'ADD_NAME', payload: newName }

This function could be represented by:

export const addName = (newName) => {
   return { type: 'ADD_NAME', payload: newName }
}

In this case, when the addName function is invoked, we will pass in the name we want to add, as newName!

Now, this returned object gets passed into the reducer. Can you tell what's going to happen?

The reducer enters the switch case, and checks the action.type. OH! The type is 'ADD_NAME', so hop into that return statement.

Okay, so it is returning state, and then attaching action.payload onto the enter of the array... what is action.payload?

Well, referencing our object above, we see action.payload is the newName. Let's say that we passed in the name 'Chris' as the newName argument. What happens now, is Chris is tacked onto the end of the array. Now our users array in state looks like:

['Bob', 'Susan', 'Chris'] Awesome!

So essentially we just called a function (an action creator), which said, "Hey Reducer... add a new name, the new name is Chris!"

The reducer responds, "Cool, added the name, here's your new state!"

Simple enough, right? They definitely get more complex as more functionality is incorporated into your application, but these are the basics.

However, there is one final question:

How do the components actually access this state?

Simple! By connect! Let's take a look.

Connecting the links

Connecting the store state to our components becomes a bit of extra work, but essentially we have our state, and provide access to the main component (App.js). However, now we need to accept access, via the connect() method.

Connect is a higher-order component, which is a different topic itself, but essentially this gets invoked twice in a row. It is called during the export of your component.

First, let's import connect into our component:

import { connect } from 'react-redux';

Say we have a <List /> component being rendered in App.js, and we want to connect List.js. In that component, on the export line we could do something like:

export default connect(null, {})(List);

The first invocation takes in two items, the state you're receiving, and the actions you want to use (in that order). Let's touch on the state.

Remember, connecting only accepts access, it doesn't actually provide the state, that's what we have mapStateToProps for. :D

mapStateToProps says, "Oh, you connected your component? You granted access? Well here is the state you asked for!"

Okay... Maybe the component doesn't talk, but if they did, they'd probably say something along those lines.

This mapStateToProps example, is a function that receives the state, and is then passed into the connect method. Like this:

const mapStateToProps = state => {
   return {
      names: state.names 
   }
}

This function takes in state, which is the entire state object from the reducer. In this case, our state object only has one array inside of it, but these state objects are typically 10x as long, so we have to specify what information we want!

In this return line, we say, "Return an object with a names property." How do we know what names is? Well, we access it off of the state object, by state.names.

Our returned property doesn't need to be called names, we could do something like:

const mapStateToProps = state => {
   return {
      gummyBears: state.names
   }
}

But, that's not very semantic is it? We want to understand that names is an array of names. So it's common practice to keep the same property name, in your returned state object!

We're almost finished, so hang in there! Let's recap where we're at.

We have our component accessing state from the store, through mapStateToProps. The state exists in the component now, but the component can't access it just yet.

First, we need to pass it to the connect function. The connect functions says, "Access to the store granted! Now... what state am I granting access to?"

So we pass in the function returning state, mapStateToProps, like this:

export default connect(mapStateToProps, {})(List) Radical!

We're almost there!

Now the component is capable of receiving that state as props, like it traditionally would from a parent component. Maybe we are mapping over it, and displaying each name on the screen in a div. Here's what this may look like!

const List = props => {
    return (
        <div>
            {
                props.names.map(name => {
                    return <div>{name}</div>
                })
            }
        </div>
    )
}

Awesome! But there is one final problem... Where does the action get called?

Typically there would be an input, so you could input a new name, and add it to the array - but, for simplicity sake, let's just add a button that adds the name Chris, when clicked! (Not very functional, but you see my point! :D)

We need to access that action creator function. Well, earlier we exported that function so we could import it where we need it, like in our List.js component!

import { addName } from "../actions"

The file location will depend on your directory structure, but it is common to have all actions exported from an index.js file in your actions directory, and then import from that directory. Don't worry too much about that now though!

Great, we have our function, but we can't just pass this function as props to our component just yet. This action is related to Redux, and with Redux we need to connect the action through the connect higher-order component, so when we return our action object, our reducer can accept it and perform accordingly!

Remember that extra space in the connect at the bottom of our List.js component? Let's fill that in with our addName function.

export default connect(mapStateToProps, {addName})(List);

Now, we can pass in our function as props (similar to our state), and use the function as we need!

const List = props => {
    return (
        <div>
            <button onClick={() => props.addName('Chris')}></button>
            {
                props.names.map(name => {
                    return <div>{name}</div>
                })
            }
        </div>
    )
}

I simply created a button, and added an onClick event listener, which triggers the addName function, and passing in 'Chris', like we set out to achieve!

Geez! that was a mission... but we made it! So, let's recap what is happening exactly.

The Redux Recap

We started with creating our store, and passed access to it through the provider, which wrapped our application. Then we created our initial state to use, and formed our reducer which manipulates the state. We built an action creator, addName which is a function that returns instructions for the reducer. These specific instructions said, "We want to add the name Chris to the names array!"

The reducer then takes that information and adds the name to the state. Our component accesses the state through connect, and receives the state through the mapStateToPropsfunction. We also import our action creator, addName, and pass it to connect as well.

The result? We can access our action creator, and our state, as props! However, we aren't passing this information through any other components, just pulling it directly from the store. Delivery straight to your door! Uber eats roc- I mean, Redux rocks!

I understand there is so much more to Redux, and many other things you can change to make everything easier and simpler to use, I just wanted to cover some of the basic foundations of it, and what has helped me understand it a bit better!

I would love to hear your thoughts/opinions on Redux. Thank you for reading !

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JavaScript developers should you be using Web Workers?

JavaScript developers should you be using Web Workers?

Do you think JavaScript developers should be making more use of Web Workers to shift execution off of the main thread?

Originally published by David Gilbertson at https://medium.com

So, Web Workers. Those wonderful little critters that allow us to execute JavaScript off the main thread.

Also known as “no, you’re thinking of Service Workers”.

Photo by Caleb Jones on Unsplash

Before I get into the meat of the article, please sit for a lesson in how computers work:

Understood? Good.

For the red/green colourblind, let me explain. While a CPU is doing one thing, it can’t be doing another thing, which means you can’t sort a big array while a user scrolls the screen.

This is bad, if you have a big array and users with fingers.

Enter, Web Workers. These split open the atomic concept of a ‘CPU’ and allow us to think in terms of threads. We can use one thread to handle user-facing work like touch events and rendering the UI, and different threads to carry out all other work.

Check that out, the main thread is green the whole way through, ready to receive and respond to the gentle caress of a user.

You’re excited (I can tell), if we only have UI code on the main thread and all other code can go in a worker, things are going to be amazing (said the way Oprah would say it).

But cool your jets for just a moment, because websites are mostly about the UI — it’s why we have screens. And a lot of a user’s interactions with your site will be tapping on the screen, waiting for a response, reading, tapping, looking, reading, and so on.

So we can’t just say “here’s some JS that takes 20ms to run, chuck it on a thread”, we must think about where that execution time exists in the user’s world of tap, read, look, read, tap…

I like to boil this down to one specific question:

Is the user waiting anyway?

Imagine we have created some sort of git-repository-hosting website that shows all sorts of things about a repository. We have a cool feature called ‘issues’. A user can even click an ‘issues’ tab in our website to see a list of all issues relating to the repository. Groundbreaking!

When our users click this issues tab, the site is going to fetch the issue data, process it in some way — perhaps sort, or format dates, or work out which icon to show — then render the UI.

Inside the user’s computer, that’ll look exactly like this.

Look at that processing stage, locking up the main thread even though it has nothing to do with the UI! That’s terrible, in theory.

But think about what the human is actually doing at this point. They’re waiting for the common trio of network/process/render; just sittin’ around with less to do than the Bolivian Navy.

Because we care about our users, we show a loading indicator to let them know we’ve received their request and are working on it — putting the human in a ‘waiting’ state. Let’s add that to the diagram.

Now that we have a human in the picture, we can mix in a Web Worker and think about the impact it will have on their life:

Hmmm.

First thing to note is that we’re not doing anything in parallel. We need the data from the network before we process it, and we need to process the data before we can render the UI. The elapsed time doesn’t change.

(BTW, the time involved in moving data to a Web Worker and back is negligible: 1ms per 100 KB is a decent rule of thumb.)

So we can move work off the main thread and have a page that is responsive during that time, but to what end? If our user is sitting there looking at a spinner for 600ms, have we enriched their experience by having a responsive screen for the middle third?

No.

I’ve fudged these diagrams a little bit to make them the gorgeous specimens of graphic design that they are, but they’re not really to scale.

When responding to a user request, you’ll find that the network and DOM-manipulating part of any given task take much, much longer than the pure-JS data processing part.

I saw an article recently making the case that updating a Redux store was a good candidate for Web Workers because it’s not UI work (and non-UI work doesn’t belong on the main thread).

Chucking the data processing over to a worker thread sounds sensible, but the idea struck me as a little, umm, academic.

First, let’s split instances of ‘updating a store’ into two categories:

  1. Updating a store in response to a user interaction, then updating the UI in response to the data change
  2. Not that first one

If the first scenario, a user taps a button on the screen — perhaps to change the sort order of a list. The store updates, and this results in a re-rendering of the DOM (since that’s the point of a store).

Let me just delete one thing from the previous diagram:

In my experience, it is rare that the store-updating step goes beyond a few dozen milliseconds, and is generally followed by ten times that in DOM updating, layout, and paint. If I’ve got a site that’s taking longer than this, I’d be asking questions about why I have so much data in the browser and so much DOM, rather than on which thread I should do my processing.

So the question we’re faced with is the same one from above: the user tapped something on the screen, we’re going to work on that request for hopefully less than a second, why would we want to make the screen responsive during that time?

OK what about the second scenario, where a store update isn’t in response to a user interaction? Performing an auto-save, for example — there’s nothing more annoying than an app becoming unresponsive doing something you didn’t ask it to do.

Actually there’s heaps of things more annoying than that. Teens, for example.

Anyhoo, if you’re doing an auto-save and taking 100ms to process data client-side before sending it off to a server, then you should absolutely use a Web Worker.

In fact, any ‘background’ task that the user hasn’t asked for, or isn’t waiting for, is a good candidate for moving to a Web Worker.

The matter of value

Complexity is expensive, and implementing Web Workers ain’t cheap.

If you’re using a bundler — and you are — you’ll have a lot of reading to do, and probably npm packages to install. If you’ve got a create-react-app app, prepare to eject (and put aside two days twice a year to update 30 different packages when the next version of Babel/Redux/React/ESLint comes out).

Also, if you want to share anything fancier than plain data between a worker and the main thread you’ve got some more reading to do (comlink is your friend).

What I’m getting at is this: if the benefit is real, but minimal, then you’ve gotta ask if there’s something else you could spend a day or two on with a greater benefit to your users.

This thinking is true of everything, of course, but I’ve found that Web Workers have a particularly poor benefit-to-effort ratio.

Hey David, why you hate Web Workers so bad?

Good question.

This is a doweling jig:

I own a doweling jig. I love my doweling jig. If I need to drill a hole into the end of a piece of wood and ensure that it’s perfectly perpendicular to the surface, I use my doweling jig.

But I don’t use it to eat breakfast. For that I use a spoon.

Four years ago I was working on some fancy animations. They looked slick on a fast device, but janky on a slow one. So I wrote fireball-js, which executes a rudimentary performance benchmark on the user’s device and returns a score, allowing me to run my animations only on devices that would render them smoothly.

Where’s the best spot to run some CPU intensive code that the user didn’t request? On a different thread, of course. A Web Worker was the correct tool for the job.

Fast forward to 2019 and you’ll find me writing a routing algorithm for a mapping application. This requires parsing a big fat GeoJSON map into a collection of nodes and edges, to be used when a user asks for directions. The processing isn’t in response to a user request and the user isn’t waiting on it. And so, a Web Worker is the correct tool for the job.

It was only when doing this that it dawned on me: in the intervening quartet of years, I have seen exactly zero other instances where Web Workers would have improved the user experience.

Contrast this with a recent resurgence in Web Worker wonderment, and combine that contrast with the fact that I couldn’t think of anything else to write about, then concatenate that combined contrast with my contrarian character and you’ve got yourself a blog post telling you that maybe Web Workers are a teeny-tiny bit overhyped.

Thanks for reading

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Further reading

An Introduction to Web Workers

JavaScript Web Workers: A Beginner’s Guide

Using Web Workers to Real-time Processing

How to use Web Workers in Angular app

Using Web Workers with Angular CLI


Why ReactJS is better for Web Application Development?

Why ReactJS is better for Web Application Development?

Web Application Development is the point of contact for a business in today's digital era. It is important to choose the right platform for Web Application Development to build a high end Web

Web Application Development is essential for a business in today’s digital era. Finding the right platform for Web Application Development is important for building an effective Web Application that can enhance the overall customer engagement. Here’s what makes ReactJS a better option for building your next Web Application.