@robicue/use-context
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1.0.25 • Public • Published

An architecture of hooks

Overcome a dependency nightmare by using the simplicity of contextual hook functions. No complex dependency injection frameworks, just simple functions.

About this package

This package provides you the core functions for integrating a hook function architecture in your projects. We have been using this architecture in many of our projects and found out that developers like it because of its simplicity and modularity. They are inspired by the React hooks, but the concept has been made more abstract and usable for both backend and frontend development.

What is a hook?

A hook is a simple function that provides some features. If for example we need functions to perform mathematical calculations then a hook is not the function that will do the calculations, but it is a function that will provide other functions to perform the calculations.

Example:

export const useMath = (context: Context) => {
  const { rand } = useRandom(context);

  return {
    pi: Math.pi,
    add(x: number, y: number) {
      return x + y;
    },
    randomInt(max: number) {
      return Math.round(rand() * max);
    },
  };
};

The advantage of using functionalities through hooks instead of using them directly is that most hooks rely on dependencies coming from the context parameter. The context can be easily changed and mocked which makes hooks modular, loosely coupled and much easier to test.

Conventions

If you start developing hooks there are some rules you can follow to keep consistency:

  1. Almost all features should be provided by a hook.

  2. A hook should start with use, e.g.: useContext, useFile, ...

  3. Every hook should have a single-responsibility (single-responsibility principle).

  4. Every hook should be in a separate file with the same name as the hook.

  5. Place your hooks together under a common folder, for example hooks.

  6. If you have a bunch of hooks that are related to each other, you can bundle them in a subfolder, but it is not required. Keep in mind that having too many nested folders might make it hard to keep an overview.

  7. If possible, try to write your hooks in TypeScript. This makes it easier to discover mistakes during development-time before running the application.

  8. If your hooks become too large and complex, refactor your code and split functionalities apart in separate hooks.

  9. Write tests for your hooks (make them testable). If you like test-driven, go for it!

  10. Hook functions must be fast. Heavy calculations should not happen inside the body of the hook function, but in functions returned from the hook. This makes them easy to include into other hooks without too much overhead.

  11. Avoid depending on global states. Make use of a useContext hook to store your state in a contextual object and pass this context object to other hooks.

  12. Try not to depend your hooks directly on external resources like files, databases, network requests, device inputs, ... If you need access to an external resource, then make a separate hook for it, that can be mocked for testing.

  13. Your hook files can export constants or other functions, but if possible try to make other functions part of your hook function.

  14. Take your time to think about the names you give to your hooks, functions or properties. Avoid abbreviations, and make sure that names are self explanatory.

  15. All names of hooks, functions or properties should be in camel case

  16. If possible try to include other hooks at the top of your hook. This makes it easier to find on which other hooks it depends. E.g.:

    export const useMyHook = (context: Context) => {
        const { select } = useDBQuery(context);
        const { organizations } = useModelOrganizations(context);
    
        ....
    }
  17. If possible, try to include other hooks directly into the body of your hook, so as to avoid placing it in sub-functions, loops or conditional statements when not required. This makes it easier to understand on which other hooks there are dependencies.

Context

The context is a special object that provides, as the name suggests, contextual information to hooks. Below are some reasons why a context is useful.

Prevents prop drilling

Contexts prevent that when deeply nested functions suddenly need some dependency, you don't have to drill that dependency through many functions until it finally lands into the function you need it for. This would otherwise create dependency on functions that do not really need it, and it forces you to change many parts of your code.

For example, contexts can be created on the level of an HTTP request. If your application is very complex and suddenly there is somewhere deeply in your application a function that needs the request object, you can simple use a hook like useHTTPRequest which will immediately give the request object at the right place.

Easy to mock and test

Suppose you want to create a test scenario for your code that applies within a specific time period. If all your hooks rely on some time provider hook, you can write that hook in such a way that the current time can be overruled. Because that rule would be applied on context level, it is easy to make an individual unit test that does not interfere with the time period of other concurrent running tests.

The useContext hook

This hook is maybe the most crucial hook in the whole architecture. It provides a way to create a new context object and to communicate with that context. We encourage never to access the context object directly. Instead you should rely on other hooks to read or wite the correct information in the context. This gives you a nice separation of concerns.

There are different ways to implement a context hook. But if you want you can use the official version below which we use for our own projects.

Install as NPM package:

npm install @robicue/use-context

How to store states into the context?

The state of your hook should live either inside your hook or inside the context, but not globally.

If you make use of the useContext hook, then creating a contextual object can be done like this:

import { Context, useContext } from "@robicue/use-context";

const counterState = () => ({ value: 0 });

export const useCounterHook = (context: Context) => {
  const { use } = useContext(context);

  // The first parameter of the 'use' function is an
  // initializer that can return an object or value.
  // It will only be invoked if the initializer has
  // not been used before. Make sure you always store
  // your initializer outside the hook function.

  const counterState = use(counterState);

  return {
    increase() {
      counterState.value++;
    },
    decrease() {
      counterState.value--;
    },
  };
};

Since version 1.0.10 there is the anchor helper function that allows you to create a hook that remembers the return value of the hook within the context. This also means that the function will only be called once per context.

The above example would then be implemented like this:

import { anchor } from "@robicue/use-context";

export const useCounterHook = anchor((context) => {
  let counterValue = 0;

  return {
    increase() {
      counterValue++;
    },
    decrease() {
      counterValue--;
    },
  };
});

Keep in mind that the return value will also be remembered for forked contexts. If you do not want this, you can use the buoy function instead of anchor.

How to create a new context?

Most contexts are just created at very specific places in the application and then passed from one hook to another. If you use this package, a new context can be created by using the useContext hook without specifying a parameter:

const { context: yourNewContext } = useContext();

What is context forking?

The use-context package allows you to fork a context. Forking is useful when you need to keep the existing state of a context, but want all new states to be stored in a different context.

This can, for example, be useful for authentication if you do not want the permissions of a user to conflict with those of other logged in users that are using the same parent context.

import { Context, useContext } from "@robicue/use-context";

const useAuthState = anchor((_context, username) => ({ currentUser: username }));

export const useAuthentication = (context: Context) => {
  const { use, fork } = useContext(context);

  const counterState = use(counterState);

  return {
    login(username: string, password: string) {
      if(isValidLogin(username, password)) {
        const forkedContext = fork();
        useAuthState(forkedContext, username);
        return forkedContext;
      }
    }
  };
};

Be aware that forking does not make deep copies of the states in the context. This means that objects that were already present in a parent contexts have the same reference in their forked context.

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npm i @robicue/use-context

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