node package manager

alt

alt

Check out the API Reference for full in-depth docs. For a high-level walk-through on flux, take a look at the Getting Started guide. What follows below applies only to the master branch of alt and not the latest distribution. Any questions? ask in the gitter room.

Gitter

NPM version Build Status Coverage Status Dependency Status Download Count JS.ORG

Why you should be using Alt

  • It is pure flux. Stores have no setters, the flow is unidirectional.
  • Isomorphic and works with react-native.
  • Actively maintained and being used in production.
  • Extremely flexible and unopinionated in how you use flux. Create traditional singletons or use dependency injection.
  • It is terse. No boilerplate.

What does it look like?

Alt

import Alt from 'alt';
export default new Alt();

Actions

import alt from './alt';
 
class TodoActions {
  updateTodo(id, text) {
    return { id, text }
  }
}
 
export default alt.createActions(TodoActions);

Store

import alt from './alt';
import TodoActions from './TodoActions'
 
class TodoStore {
  constructor() {
    this.bindListeners({
      updateTodo: TodoActions.updateTodo
    });
 
    this.state = {
      todos: []
    };
  }
 
  updateTodo(todo) {
    this.setState({ todos: this.state.todos.concat(todo) });
  }
}
 
export default alt.createStore(TodoStore, 'TodoStore');

View

Using the connectToStores util from alt-utils package (npm install alt-utils)

// ES2015 (ES6) 
import connectToStores from 'alt-utils/lib/connectToStores';
import { Component } from 'react';
import TodoStore from './TodoStore';
 
class TodoView extends Component {
  static getStores() {
    return [TodoStore];
  }
 
  static getPropsFromStores() {
    return TodoStore.getState();
  }
 
  render() {
    return (
      <ul>
        {this.props.todos.map((todo) => {
          return (
            <li key={todo.id}>{todo.text}</li>
          );
        })}
      </ul>
    );
  }
}
export default connectToStores(TodoView);

or

//ES2016 (ES7) using @connectToStores Decorator 
import connectToStores from 'alt-utils/lib/connectToStores';
import { Component } from 'react';
import TodoStore from './TodoStore';
 
@connectToStores
class TodoView extends Component {
  static getStores() {
    return [TodoStore];
  }
 
  static getPropsFromStores() {
    return TodoStore.getState();
  }
 
  ...
}

In the Wild

Examples

Boilerplates

Pure Flux + More

  • Unidirectional data flow
  • Stores have no setters
  • Inversion of control
  • Single central dispatcher
  • All Stores receive the dispatch

Read about the Principles of Flux.

One really cool aspect of alt is that you can save snapshots of the entire application's state at any given point in time. This has many different use cases like:

  • Time traveling through the state of your application. For fun and profit.
  • Being able to debug from a broken state. Have your team send you the exact state the app was in when it crashed.
  • Isomorphism. You save a snapshot that you send from the server to the client and then bootstrap back on the client.
  • Rolling back to previous stable states.

There are also many utils available which interface well with alt:

  • ActionListener lets you listen to individual actions without having to create a store.
  • AltContainer a higher-order container component that is your swiss army knife for React.
  • AltIso addon that uses iso to render your application on both server and client.
  • atomic enables your stores for atomic transactions.
  • connectToStores a higher-order function that wraps your React components for store listening.
  • decorators a collection of useful ES7 decorators for working with alt.
  • DispatchRecorder lets you record all your dispatches and replay them back at a later time.
  • FinalStore is a Store that you can listen to that only emits when all your other stores have received all their data.
  • ImmutableUtil makes working with immutable-js easy.
  • TimeTravel enhances your stores so they are able to travel through different states in time.

Topical Guide

First we install alt through npm. Although alt is also available through bower.

npm install alt

The following topical guide covers on using alt as a singleton in a traditional flux way.

We'll be referring back to this code a lot by using the alt reference declared.

const Alt = require('alt');
const alt = new Alt();

ES6

Alt is written in, and encourages ES6. It is completely optional but it is pleasant to write.

You can use the es6 transpiler that comes with react courtesy of jstransform or you can use one of the other popular ES6 transpilers: babel or traceur.

You won't need an es6-shim but you can use one for further goodies in your javascripts.

Alt does depend on ES5 features, the good news is so does React. You can use es5-shim to support those pesky old browsers.

Typescript Definitions and Support

The typescript definitions for alt are located in the typings directory. This should be included in your project under typings/alt or whatever folder you use to manage your definitions files. You can import the dependencies react and es6-promises, easily with TSD. From here you can reference your typings as per usual with a reference tag <reference path="<path>.d.ts" />. Check the alt-typescript-tutorial for more information and project examples.

Using Typescript 1.5 you can import with the legacy syntax:

import Alt = require("alt");
import chromeDebug = require("alt/utils/chromeDebug");
import AltContainer = require("alt/AltContainer");

Creating Actions

Actions are the way you update state. They're kind of a big deal.

alt.createActions :: Class -> Actions

class LocationActions {
  updateLocation(city) {
    return city;
  }
}
 
const locationActions = alt.createActions(LocationActions);

You return the data from your action that you wish to dispatch. If you want to run async in your actions then you simply return a function where the first argument is the dispatch:

class LocationActions {
  updateLocationThatDoesItAsync(city) {
    return (dispatch) => {
      setTimeout(() => dispatch(city));
    };
  }
}

alt.createActions then returns an Object containing all the methods defined. You can then call your actions directly.

locationActions.updateLocation('Paris');

Writing out actions that pass data through directly can get quite tedious so there's a shorthand for writing these what are essentially identity functions

class LocationActions {
  constructor() {
    // for single action 
    this.generateActions('updateLocation');
 
    // as well as for many actions 
    this.generateActions('updateCity', 'updateCountry');
  }
}
 
const locationActions = alt.createActions(LocationActions);
locationActions.updateLocation('Las Vegas')
 
locationActions.updateCity('Las Vegas')
locationActions.updateCountry('US')

Remember, dispatch only takes one argument. Therefore, if you need to pass multiple arguments into a store you can use an Object.

class LocationActions {
  updateLocation(x, y) {
    return { x, y };
  }
}
 
const locationActions = alt.createActions(LocationActions);
 
locationActions.updateLocation('Miami', 'Florida');

A shorthand function created in the constructor will pass through the multiple parameters as an Array

class LocationActions {
  constructor() {
    this.generateActions('updateLocation'); // ['South Lake Tahoe, 'California'] 
  }
}
 
const locationActions = alt.createActions(LocationActions);
 
locationActions.updateLocation('South Lake Tahoe', 'California');

There's even a shorthand for the shorthand if all you're doing is generating a list of actions

const locationActions = alt.generateActions('updateLocation', 'updateCity', 'updateCountry');

Stores

Stores are where you keep a part of your application's state.

You can either define your stores as a class/constructor-prototype or as an Object.

alt.createStore :: Class, string -> Store

class LocationStore {
  constructor() {
    this.bindAction(locationActions.updateLocation, this.onUpdateLocation);
 
    this.state = {
      city: 'Denver',
      country: 'US'
    };
  }
 
  onUpdateLocation(obj) {
    const { city, country } = obj
    this.setState({ city, country });
  }
}
 
const locationStore = alt.createStore(LocationStore);

You can also use a regular old JavaScript Object to create your stores. This is more about aesthetic preference.

const locationStore = alt.createStore({
  displayName: 'LocationStore',
 
  bindListeners: {
    onUpdateLocation: locationActions.updateLocation
  },
 
  state: {
    city: 'Denver',
    country: 'US'
  },
 
  onUpdateLocation(obj) {
    const { city, country } = obj
    this.setState({ city, country });
  }
});

If you're creating a store using a class/constructor then you also have the option of assigning your state values to your instance directly and then you're able to update them in place.

function LocationStore() {
  this.city = 'San Francisco';
  this.country = 'US';
}
 
LocationStore.prototype.onUpdateLocation = function (obj) {
  this.city = obj.city;
  this.country = obj.country;
};

Store instances returned by alt.createStore can be listened to for updates by calling listen.

listen is meant to be used by your View components in order to await changes made to each store. It returns a function you can use to un-listen to your store.

locationStore.listen((data) => {
  console.log(data)
});

Alternatively, you can use the unlisten method. It takes in the same function you used for listen and unregisters it.

Another important method is getState, which returns a copy of the current store's state.

locationStore.getState().city === 'Denver'

Important Note

All defined methods in your Store class will not be available on the store instance. They are accessible within the class but not on the returned Object via alt.createStore. This ensures that stores have no direct setters and the state remains mutable only through actions keeping the flow unidirectional. If you want to attach public/static functions to your store the recommended method is to call the exportPublicMethods method from the constructor:

class LocationStore {
  constructor() {
    this.exportPublicMethods({
      myPublicMethod: this.myPublicMethod
    });
  }
 
  myPublicMethod() {
    const internalInstanceState = this.getState();
    return internalInstanceState;
  }
}
 
const locationStore = alt.createStore(LocationStore);
 
locationStore.myPublicMethod();

An alternative is to declare the method as static, which will cause alt to expose the method on the store:

// does the same thing as above except in a more magical way 
class LocationStore {
  static myPublicMethod() {
    const internalInstanceState = this.getState();
    return internalInstanceState;
  }
}

Canceling An Event

If you don't want the store to inform the view of an action you can call this.preventDefault() (or you can return false) from inside an action handler method.

class LocationStore {
  constructor() {
    this.bindAction(locationActions.updateCity, this.onUpdateCity);
 
    this.state = {
      city: 'Portland',
      country: 'US'
    };
  }
 
  onUpdateCity(city) {
    this.setState({ city });
 
    // ensure the view never finds out 
    this.preventDefault();
  }
}
 
const locationStore = alt.createStore(LocationStore);

Constants

I thought you said there were no constants? Well, yeah, sort of. The thing is, they're automagically created for you. Feel free to use them to bind your actions or use the method itself, whatever reads better in your opinion.

class LocationStore {
  constructor() {
    this.bindAction(locationActions.UPDATE_CITY, this.onUpdateCity);
 
    this.state = {
      city: '',
      country: ''
    };
  }
}
 
const locationStore = alt.createStore(LocationStore);

Listening To Multiple Actions

class LocationActions {
  constructor() {
    this.generateActions('updateCity', 'updateCountry');
  }
}
 
const locationActions = alt.createActions(LocationActions);

Using the function bindListeners you're able to specify which action handlers belong to which actions this way you have ultimate control over what gets called and handled.

The function bindListeners is the inverse of bindAction. bindListeners takes an object of action handlers as keys and actions as a value.

class LocationStore {
  constructor() {
    this.bindListeners({
      handleCity: locationActions.updateCity,
      handleCountry: [locationActions.updateCountry, locationActions.updateLatLng]
    });
  }
 
  handleCity(data) {
    // will only be called by locationActions.updateCity() 
  }
 
  handleCountry(data) {
    // will be called by locationActions.updateCountry() and locationActions.updateLatLng() 
  }
}

Alternatively, you can bind all the actions inside locationActions using the shortcut bindActions

class LocationStore {
  constructor() {
    this.bindActions(locationActions);
 
    this.state = {
      city: 'Austin',
      country: 'US'
    };
  }
 
  onUpdateCity(city) {
    this.setState({ city });
  }
 
  onUpdateCountry(country) {
    this.setState({ country });
  }
}
 
const locationStore = alt.createStore(LocationStore);

Actions who have a onCamelCasedAction method or an actionName method available in the store will be bound. In this example locationActions.updateCity will be handled by onUpdateCity. There is no difference between calling the action handler updateCity or onUpdateCity it's just a matter of aesthetic preference.

Managing Store Data Dependencies

waitFor is mostly an alias to Flux's Dispatcher waitFor. Here's an excerpt from the flux docs on what waitFor is designed for:

As an application grows, dependencies across different stores are a near certainty. Store A will inevitably need Store B to update itself first, so that Store A can know how to update itself. We need the dispatcher to be able to invoke the callback for Store B, and finish that callback, before moving forward with Store A. To declaratively assert this dependency, a store needs to be able to say to the dispatcher, "I need to wait for Store B to finish processing this action." The dispatcher provides this functionality through its waitFor() method.

You can use waitFor like so:

const dependingStore = alt.createStore(class DependingStore {
  constructor() {
    this.bindActions(someActions);
 
    this.state = { answer: 42 };
  }
 
  onRandom(answer) {
    this.setState({ answer });
  }
})
 
const locationStore = alt.createStore(class LocationStore {
  constructor() {
    this.bindActions(someOtherActions)
 
    this.state = {
      meaningOfLife: null
    };
  }
 
  onThings() {
    this.waitFor(dependingStore.dispatchToken);
 
    this.setState({ meaningOfLife: dependingStore.getState().answer });
  }
})

You can also waitFor multiple stores by passing in an Array: this.waitFor([store1.dispatchToken, store2.dispatchToken])

Views

Your choice of view isn't important to alt. What's important is to know how the view consumes the store's data, and that is via event listeners.

In this example I'll be using React, but you're free to use your library of choice.

 
class LocationView extends React.Component {
  // these are methods that work with `connectToStores` which connects 
  // one or many stores to your component passing the state in as props. 
  // you're free to choose how the state from the store is passed into the 
  // component as props. 
 
  // this automatically does the listening/unlistening for you as well as 
  // handles the state changes 
  static getStores() {
    return [locationStore];
  }
 
  static getPropsFromStores() {
    return locationStore.getState();
  }
 
  render() {
    return (
      <div>
        <p>
          City {this.props.city}
        </p>
        <p>
          Country {this.props.country}
        </p>
      </div>
    )
  }
}
 
// just make sure to wrap your component with connectToStores() 
export default connectToStores(LocationView);

Full Circle

Restart the loop by making your views kick off new actions.

Alt Features

Snapshots

takeSnapshot :: ?...string -> string

Snapshots are a core component of alt. The idea is that at any given point in time you can takeSnapshot and have your entire application's state serialized for persistence, transferring, logging, or debugging.

Taking a snapshot is as easy as calling alt.takeSnapshot(). It can also take an optional number of arguments as strings which correspond to the store names you would like to include in the snapshot. This allows you to take a snapshot of a subset of your app's data.

Bootstrapping

bootstrap :: string -> undefined

Bootstrapping can be done as many times as you wish, but it is common to use when initializing your application. The alt.bootstrap() function takes in a snapshot (JSON string) you've saved and reloads all the state with that snapshot, no events will be emitted to your components during this process, so again, it's best to do this on init before the view has even rendered. If you need to emit a change event, you can use this.emitChange inside of your bootstrap life cycle method.

Bootstrap is great if you're running an isomorphic app, or if you're persisting state to localstorage and then retrieving it on init later on. You can save a snapshot on the server side, send it down, and then bootstrap it back on the client.

If you're bootstrapping then it is recommended you pass in a unique Identifier, name of the class is good enough, to createStore so that it can be referenced later for bootstrapping.

alt.createStore(LocationStore, 'LocationStore')

Rollback

rollback :: undefined

If you've screwed up the state, or you just feel like rolling back you can call alt.rollback(). Rollback is pretty dumb in the sense that it's not automatic in case of errors, and it only rolls back to the last saved snapshot, meaning you have to save a snapshot first in order to roll back.

Flushing

flush :: string

Flush takes a snapshot of the current state and then resets all the stores back to their original initial state. This is useful if you're using alt stores as singletons and doing server side rendering because of concurrency. In this particular scenario you would load the data in via bootstrap and then use flush to take a snapshot, render the data, and reset your stores so they are ready for the next request.

Recycling

recycle :: ?...string -> undefined

If you wish to reset a particular, or all, store's state back to their original initial state you would call recycle. Recycle takes an optional number of arguments as strings which correspond to the store's names you would like reset. If no argument is provided then all stores are reset.

Lifecycle Methods

When bootstrapping, snapshotting, or recycling there are special methods you can assign to your store to ensure any bookeeping that needs to be done. You would place these in your store's constructor.

bootstrap is called after the store has been bootstrapped. Here you can add some logic to take your bootstrapped data and manipulate it.

class Store {
  constructor() {
    this.on('bootstrap', () => {
      // do something here 
    })
  }
}

init is called when the store is initialized as well as whenever a store is recycled.

class Store {
  constructor() {
    this.on('init', () => {
      // do something here 
    })
  }
}

rollback is called whenever all the stores are rolled back.

class Store {
  constructor() {
    this.on('rollback', () => {
      // do something here 
    })
  }
}

error is called whenever an error occurs in your store during a dispatch. You can use this listener to catch errors and perform any cleanup tasks.

class Store {
  constructor() {
    this.on('error', (err, actionName, payloadData, currentState) => {
      if (actionName === MyActions.fire) {
        logError(err, payloadData);
      }
    });
 
    this.bindListeners({
      handleFire: MyActions.fire
    });
  }
 
  handleFire() {
    throw new Error('Something is broken');
  }
}

See all the lifecycle methods

Single Dispatcher

A single dispatcher instance is made available for listening to all events passing through. You can access this via the dispatcher property: alt.dispatcher and listening to all events is as easy as

alt.dispatcher.register(console.log.bind(console))

Each store has a reference to the dispatcher as well

alt.createStore(class MyStore {
  constructor() {
    this.dispatcher.register(console.log.bind(console))
  }
})

Flexibility

You can choose to use alt in many ways just like you'd use flux. This means your asynchronous data fetching can live in the actions, or they can live in the stores. Stores may also be traditional singletons as in flux, or you can create an instance and have multiple store copies. This leads us into server side rendering.

Server Side Rendering

Alt was built with isomorphism in mind. This means that you can run full flux server-side and pick back up on the client-side.

There are two options for using flux on the server:

  • Keep stores as singletons, keep data loading synchronous, bootstrap, and flush.
  • Create multiple instances of flux and inject the context into your app.

Stores as Singletons

With this approach your stores are singletons. Any actions that load data must be synchronous, meaning you can fetch your data outside of actions and stores, and once done you fire off a synchronous action which loads the store. Alternatively, you can gather all of your data, and once complete, you call bootstrap() which seeds all the stores with some initial data.

Once you've completed loading the stores with data you call flush() which takes a snapshot to send to the client and then resets all the stores' state back to their initial state. This allows the stores to be ready for the next server request.

Flux Instances

Creating separate instances of flux rather than relying on singletons can help when building isomorphic applications.

The problem with singletons is that you need to manage them by clearing out all their state and reloading them with new state on every request because requests happen concurrently. This isn't a problem if you already have your data and just need to load it into flux, or if you don't want to share your data fetching logic with the client -- in which case you can just load all your data at once on the server and render once that is all complete.

Singletons only become a problem if you wish to share data fetching with client and server, don't want to use something like Render to define your data fetching at the component level, or if you have a really complex data fetching scheme where some fetches depend on the result of other ones. In these cases creating separate instances (or copies) keeps flux sandboxed to each request so other async requests won't mutate the state in the stores.

Taking this approach means you're making the trade-off of injecting the flux instance into your application in order to retrieve the stores and use the actions. This approach is similar to how fluxible solves isomorphic applications.

Creating a new alt instances is fairly simple.

class Flux extends Alt {
  constructor() {
    super();
 
    this.addActions('myActions', ActionCreators);
    this.addStore('storeName', Store);
  }
}
 
const flux = new Flux();
// client.js 
 
React.render(
  <App flux={flux} />,
  document.body
);
// server.js 
React.renderToString(<App flux={flux} />);
// retrieving stores 
flux.getStore('storeName').getState();
 
// actions 
flux.getActions('myActions');

Picking back up on the client

To help facilitate with isomorphism alt recommends you use iso, a helper function which serializes the data on the server into markup and then parses that data back into usable JavaScript on the client. Iso is a great complement to alt for a full-stack flux approach.

Converting a flux application to alt

  1. Importing the chat project.
  2. Adding alt and removing boilerplate.
  3. Converting some actions and the last action.
  4. Converting the stores MessageStore, ThreadStore, and UnreadThreadStore.
  5. Finishing touches.

Differences Example

Flux has constants, the dispatcher is also pretty dumb as in it just takes what you passed in the action and pipes it through to the store. This is completely fine but not something you should be expected to write. The nice thing about constants is that you can easily grep for them in your application and see where all the actions are being called, with alt you get the same benefit without having to manage them.

Before: Flux

var keyMirror = require('keymirror');
 
var actionConstants = keyMirror({
  HANDLE_ACTION: null
});
 
var action = {
  foo() {
    AppDispatcher.handleAction({ type: actionConstants.HANDLE_ACTION, data: 'foo' })
  }
};
 
var AppDispatcher = Object.assign(new Dispatcher(), {
  handleAction(payload) {
    this.dispatch(payload);
  }
});

After: Alt

class Action {
  handleAction() {
    return 'foo';
  }
}
 
const action = alt.createActions(Action);

TL;DR

  • Isomorphic
  • Pure Flux
  • No constants
  • No static string checking
  • No giant switch statement
  • Save state snapshots
  • Rollbacks
  • Bootstrap components on app load
  • Light-weight and terse
  • ES6 Syntax, code your actions and stores with classes
  • Flexible
  • No direct setters on stores
  • Single dispatcher
  • Global listening for debugging
  • Small library

License

MIT