Dojo Flux (lite)

Dojo Flux (lite)

Rene Rubalcava | April 5, 2015

React has blown up in popularity and has become a favorite among many JavaScripters. I am admittedly a fan and have even tried to integrate it with some of my Dojo and ArcGIS API for JavaScript projects.

One of the neat things that has also come out of Reacts popularity is the Flux application architecture that is favored in developing React applications. To be clear, Flux is not a requirement to build React apps, it is simply a recommendation as it works very well in managing application state and updates. As the docs themselves attest to, it's not really a framework, it's a collection of patterns used to develop applications. If you are doing React development, Facebook has packaged up Flux as a formal library you can use.

Tinker tinker

As with most things, I wasn't content to limit the use of Flux to React applications. In the handful of times I have used Flux for React apps, I found the patterns it used very familiar and the flow of it worked very nicely when building an application. I mostly work with the ArcGIS API for JavaScript and use Dojo on a regular basis and after a while it occurred to me these patterns could be implemented pretty easily in a vanilla Dojo project. There's no magic here. Let's look at what happens when using the Flux architecture.

flux architecture

Flux cycle

Basically, Dispatchers respond to Actions that are asking for some change (updating state) to happen in the application. The Dispatcher relays this to the Store along with any data needed to make the changes. The Store is then updated and those changes are reflected in the View. In turn, the View can relay more Actions that will repeat the cycle.

If you think about for a second, Dojo already has all these tools. dojo/topic can be used as the Dispatcher, which doesn't need much and be used right inside an Action. I wrote about dojo/topic here. At first I thought I could use dstore as the Store, but really, I think dojo/Stateful or dmodel are a better choice. A more complex Store may benefit from dstore, such as binding to a REST endpoint. A View could be a basic dijit using _WidgetBase. To simplify the process of binding to Store updates, you could use dbind and some of it's syntax sugar to format the Store data accordingly. I wrote about dbind here. Let's see what that might look like.

Simple code

I'm going to work off a previous example I did using React with Dojo that displayed the XY coordinates as you move the mouse over the map. First is the Action.

define([
  'dojo/topic'
], function(topic) {
  return {
    updateXY: function updateXY(data) {
      topic.publish('UPDATE-XY', data);
    }
  };
});

You can see this is very simple. It's going to use dojo/topic to pass the data by an UPDATE-XY topic. In this case I'm not using a stand-alone dispatcher, nor am I concerning myself with details about the Action Type. That may change with a larger application, but I just wanted to show how it might work in a simple sample.

Next let's look at the Store.

define([
  'dojo/_base/declare',
  'dojo/Stateful',
  'dojo/topic'
], function(
  declare, Stateful, topic
) {

  var Store = declare([Stateful], {
    x: 0,
    y: 0
  });

  // http://www.anujgakhar.com/2013/08/29/singletons-in-dojo/
  if (!_instance) {
    var _instance = new Store();
    topic.subscribe('UPDATE-XY', function(data) {
      _instance.set('x', data.x);
      _instance.set('y', data.y);
    });
  }
  return _instance;
});

As you can see in the comments, I borrowed a technique found here to make the Store a Singleton. This isn't a robust implementation, but it works, as far as I can tell. This just uses dojo/Stateful to create an object that has an x and a y property. It also uses dojo/topic to listen for the UPDATE-XY topic and update the Store accordingly.

Let's check out the View.

define([
  'dojo/_base/declare',
  'dijit/_WidgetBase',
  'dijit/_TemplatedMixin',
  'dbind/bind',
  'stores/LocatorStore',
  'helpers/NumFormatter',
  'dojo/text!./templates/LocatorView.html'
], function(
  declare,
  _WidgetBase, _TemplatedMixin,
  bind, store, format,
  template
) {

  var fixed = format(3);

  return declare([_WidgetBase, _TemplatedMixin], {
    templateString: template,
    postCreate: function() {
      var xStore = bind(fixed).to(store, 'x');
      var yStore = bind(fixed).to(store, 'y');

      bind(this.yNode).to(yStore);
      bind(this.xNode).to(xStore);
    }
  });

});

This view as simple as it is, does quite a bit. This is a basic widget with a template. It uses a helper module that will format the coordinates to three decimal places. The LocatorStore is passed in to the module and using the dbind library, you can bind any updates to the store to DOM elements. You can use some of dbinds syntactical sugar to first bind the updates to the format function. Then you can bind the DOM elements to the formatted results. That's really all there is to it. As a side note, the more I use dbind, the more I like dbind.

You can view the full source code for the project here.

That's it?

That's it. Granted this sample is not using Constants for Action types and if you wanted this to be maintainable for scale you may want to wrap dojo/topic in a more robust Dispatcher, but honestly, I think when you break down the Flux architecture to it's simplest parts, this works very well. To learn more about Flux and React, I highly recommend the videos at egghead.io.

Someone pointed out to me that this looks Mayhem-like in many ways. I still have not had a chance to really dig into Mayhem, but it quite possible could do much of this in a more Dojo'ish way.

I'll probably get ripped for bastardizing Flux, but hey, this works. Let's call it Flux-influenced if you like. Again, I think this just goes to show that the patterns used here do not have to be limited by libraries, they can be applied where ever you damn well please.

Hack on folks.