Nostalgic Pickled Mango


    0.1.1 • Public • Published


    The xstate statecharts library has a few interpreters already available with miscelleanous design goals. In order to integrate xstate with React through our react-state-driven component, we needed to adapt the xstate interface to the interface for our Machine component.

    This is so because our component achieves a decoupling of the state machine on one side, and the React component on the other side, but also separates out the event handling, state representation and effect execution concerns out of the library. The usual technique of programming to an interface instead of to an implementation is used to that purpose, which in turn means that the external concerns have to abide by the interface set by the Machine component.

    It turns out that we could not reuse the default interpreter and other existing interpreters for xstate as they do not synchronously return the list of computed actions in response to an input (listeners are instead used). Additionally some interpreters may also produce effects which in our design is forbidden. As a result we created an interpreter which :

    • matches the required interface to integrate xstate in React through our Machine component
    • computes and returns a list of actions in response to an input
    • does not produce any effects

    The benefits are the following :

    • we were able to use json patch and immer for the state representation concern. Immutable.js could also be used via simple interface adaptation. If that is your use case, you may even interface a reducer which updates state in place. How you update state is not a concern of the Machine component
    • similarly (xstate machine library + this interpreter) can be replaced by the native react-state-driven library, or any other machine interpreter satisfying the required interface
    • event handling can be done with the event library of your choice, by writing an adapter for the accepted event handling interface (we did that for rxjs and most so far)
    • effect execution being separated out of the machine, it is easy to mock and stub effects for testing purposes. This will allow to enjoy the benefits of automated testing without breaking glasses.
    • and React aside, we were able to integrate the interpreter with cyclejs with no major effort! Integration with Angular2 is in progress but seems to be going the same painless way. After all, the interpreter is just a function!


    import { applyPatch } from "json-patch-es6"
    // The machine may produce several outputs when transitioning, they have to be merged
    const mergeOutputs = function (accOutputs, outputs) {
      return (accOutputs || []).concat(outputs)
    // The machine produces actions to update its extended state, the reducer executes those actions
    const jsonPatchReducer = (extendedState, extendedStateUpdateOperations) => {
      return applyPatch(extendedState, extendedStateUpdateOperations, false, false).newDocument;
    const actionFactoryMaps = {
      stringActions: {
        'cancelAdmin': (extendedState, event) => {
          return {
            updates: [{ op: 'add', path: '/isAdmin', value: false }],
            outputs: ['admin rights overriden']
    // xstate machine
    const hierarchicalMachine = {
      context: { isAdmin: true },
      id: 'door',
      initial: 'closed',
      states: {
        closed: {
          initial: 'idle',
          states: {
            'idle': {},
            'error': {
              onEntry: function logMessage(extS, ev) {return { updates: [], outputs: ['Entered .closed.error!', ev] }}
          // NOTE : test input sequence : ['OPEN', {'CLOSE', overrideAdmin:true}, 'OPEN']
          on: {
            OPEN: [
              { target: 'opened', cond: (extState, eventObj) => extState.isAdmin },
              { target: 'closed.error' }
        opened: {
          on: {
            CLOSE: [
              { target: 'closed', cond: (extState, eventObj) => eventObj.overrideAdmin, actions: ['cancelAdmin'] },
              { target: 'closed', cond: (extState, eventObj) => !eventObj.overrideAdmin }
    // Test paraphernalia
    export const testCases = {
      HierarchicalMachineAndJSONPatchAndFunctionActionsAndObjectEvents: {
        description: '(hierarchical, json patch, mergeOutput, action functions and strings, event as object, >1 inputs)',
        machine: hierarchicalMachine,
        updateState: reducers.jsonpatchReducer,
        actionFactoryMap: actionFactoryMaps.stringActions,
        inputSequence: ['OPEN', { type: 'CLOSE', overrideAdmin: true }, 'OPEN'],
        outputSequence: [null, ['admin rights overriden'], ["Entered .closed.error!", "OPEN"]]
    QUnit.test("(hierarchical, json patch, mergeOutput, action functions and strings, event as object, >1 inputs)", function exec_test(assert) {
      const testCase = testCases.HierarchicalMachineAndJSONPatchAndFunctionActionsAndObjectEvents;
      const machineConfig = testCase.machine;
      const interpreterConfig = {
        updateState: testCase.updateState,
        mergeOutputs: testCase.mergeOutputs,
        actionFactoryMap: testCase.actionFactoryMap,
      const interpreter = xstateReactInterpreter(Machine, machineConfig, interpreterConfig);
      const testScenario = testCase.inputSequence;
      const actualTestResults =;
      const expectedTestResults = testCase.outputSequence;
      testScenario.forEach((input, index) => {
      assert.ok(testCase.machine.context === initialContextHierarchicalMachine, `json patch does not mutate state in place`);

    What happens here :

    • the machine starts in the configured initial state with the configured extended state
    • we made the following choices for our interpreter :
      • use json patch for immutable state update
      • outputs of the machines are arrays
      • those arrays will be merged by simple concatenation
    • we send a OPEN input to the machine which triggers :
      • because the guard is satisfied, and there is no actions defined, the machine will move to the
        opened control state, and outputs null, which is the value chosen for indicating that there is no output.
    • we send an object input { type: 'CLOSE', overrideAdmin: true } to the machine :
      • because overrideAdmin property is set in the event object, the transition chosen triggers the cancelAdmin action, and the entry in the closed control state. The cancelAdmin action consists of updating the isAdmin property of the extended state of the machine to false. The machine outputs are [admin rights overrriden].
    • we then send the input 'OPEN' to the machine :
      • because the property isAdmin is no longer set on the extended state, the machine will transition to the 'closed.error' control state. On entering that state, the machine will outputs as configured ['Entered .closed.error!', ev] with ev being "OPEN"

    In short, we have shown :

    • mergeOutputs and updateState configuration
    • how to map action strings to action factories through the mapping object actionFactoryMap
    • how to directly include action factory in the xstate machine
    • action factories produce two pieces of information to the interpreter :
      • how to update the machine's extended state
      • what are the machine outputs

    Contrary to other interpreters, the interpreter does not interpret effects. In our React integration design, that responsibility is delegated to the command handler. The interpreter simply advances the machines, thereby updating the machine state, and producing the machine's outputs. The state of the machine is hence completely encapsulated and cannot be accessed from the outside. Our interpreter is just a function producing outputs in function of the state of the underlying machine. In our React machine component design, those outputs are commands towards to the interfaced systems.

    Another example using immer for state update can be found in the tests directory.


    npm xstate-interpreter


    npm run test


    xstateReactInterpreter(Machine, machineConfig, interpreterConfig)


    The factory xstateReactInterpreter returns an interpreter with a yield function by which inputs will be sent to the machine and outputs will be collected. It also returns an instance of the executable state machine.


    • the machine is initialized per its configuration and specifications
    • the interpreter returns a yield function to call the machine with an input
    • the machine's actions are in fine functions (termed action factories);
      • whose input parameters are the machine's extended state and event
      • which return are :
        • description of the updates to perform on its extended state as a result of the transition
        • the outputs for the state machine as a result of receiving the input
    • on transitioning, the machine produces updates and outputs. The interpreter :
      • perform actual updates on the machine's extended state, according to the updateState configured reducer
      • outputs from the machine's triggered action factories are merged with the configured mergeOutputs and returned


    • updateState and mergeOutput should be pure, monoidal operations
      • i.e. with an empty value, and associativity properties
    • all functions involved in the machine and interpreter configuration should be pure functions
    • type contracts

    Tips and gotchas

    • xstate has automatically configured actions (logs, assign, etc). If you use them you will have to define a matching action factory. Our interpreter comes without any predefined action factory.
    • you can specify xstate actions as strings or functions or objects. I recommend to pick up your poison instead of juggling with 3 different types. (Named) Functions are the best option in my eyes, provided they do not prevent the machine visualizer from doing its job.
    • the second parameter of the xstate machine factory i.e. actions is absorbed into the configuration of the interpreter to avoid confusion or duplication
    • if the machine does not have any actions configured for an occurring transition, it outputs a constant indicating that there is no output (in this version the constant is null). The machine being a function, always outputs something as a result of being called.




    npm i xstate-interpreter

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