Types and Tailcalls

Understanding the react-redux connection function

published on December 1, 2016

As described in the last post, I tried and failed to write a type safe wrapper for the react-redux connect function. In this post, I want to examine this function with a view towards writing a type safe replacement in the future. To do so I’m examining the connect.js module of react-redux version 4.4.32.

The first 33 lines are prelude, defining some helper functions and objects, nothing too special. I’m not really sure how nextVersion helps with code reloading, we’ll hopefully figure this out as we’ll move along.

import { Component, createElement } from 'react'
import storeShape from '../utils/storeShape'
import shallowEqual from '../utils/shallowEqual'
import wrapActionCreators from '../utils/wrapActionCreators'
import warning from '../utils/warning'
import isPlainObject from 'lodash/isPlainObject'
import hoistStatics from 'hoist-non-react-statics'
import invariant from 'invariant'

const defaultMapStateToProps = state => ({}) // eslint-disable-line no-unused-vars
const defaultMapDispatchToProps = dispatch => ({ dispatch })
const defaultMergeProps = (stateProps, dispatchProps, parentProps) => ({
  ...parentProps,
  ...stateProps,
  ...dispatchProps
})

function getDisplayName(WrappedComponent) {
  return WrappedComponent.displayName || WrappedComponent.name || 'Component'
}

let errorObject = { value: null }
function tryCatch(fn, ctx) {
  try {
    return fn.apply(ctx)
  } catch (e) {
    errorObject.value = e
    return errorObject
  }
}

// Helps track hot reloading.
let nextVersion = 0

Next, we’ll move on to define the connect function, which is obviously the heart of this module. The start of this function is again some prelude, where we figure out which parameters are passed and assign default values for the ones not present. One interesting part is maybe that the presence of mapStateToProps determines (via shouldSubscribe) if the new component subscribes to store changes or not.

export default function connect(mapStateToProps, mapDispatchToProps, mergeProps, options = {}) {
  const shouldSubscribe = Boolean(mapStateToProps)
  const mapState = mapStateToProps || defaultMapStateToProps

  let mapDispatch
  if (typeof mapDispatchToProps === 'function') {
    mapDispatch = mapDispatchToProps
  } else if (!mapDispatchToProps) {
    mapDispatch = defaultMapDispatchToProps
  } else {
    mapDispatch = wrapActionCreators(mapDispatchToProps)
  }

  const finalMergeProps = mergeProps || defaultMergeProps
  const { pure = true, withRef = false } = options
  const checkMergedEquals = pure && finalMergeProps !== defaultMergeProps

  // Helps track hot reloading.
  const version = nextVersion++

The way the connect function should be called is connect(mapStateToProps, mapDispatchToProps)(Component), so it must return a function which receives the component which we want to wrap. This is what happens on line 55. connectDisplayName and checkStateShape are helper variables / functions for error messages.

The computeMergedProps function is basically a wrapper around the mergeProps function which is the user defined merged props or a default version. The only difference is that it checks in non-production environments if the final props object has the right shape.

  return function wrapWithConnect(WrappedComponent) {
    const connectDisplayName = `Connect(${getDisplayName(WrappedComponent)})`

    function checkStateShape(props, methodName) {
      if (!isPlainObject(props)) {
        warning(
          `${methodName}() in ${connectDisplayName} must return a plain object. ` +
          `Instead received ${props}.`
        )
      }
    }

    function computeMergedProps(stateProps, dispatchProps, parentProps) {
      const mergedProps = finalMergeProps(stateProps, dispatchProps, parentProps)
      if (process.env.NODE_ENV !== 'production') {
        checkStateShape(mergedProps, 'mergeProps')
      }
      return mergedProps
    }

Now we get into the heart of the matter - creating the new react component which we’ll return from the wrapWithConnect function. The shouldComponentUpdate method already reveals some key information about the optimizations that this container performs - we’ll update if we’re either not pure, some of our properties have changed or if the store state has changed. Looks sensible ;)

    class Connect extends Component {
      shouldComponentUpdate() {
        return !pure || this.haveOwnPropsChanged || this.hasStoreStateChanged
      }

      constructor(props, context) {
        super(props, context)
        this.version = version
        this.store = props.store || context.store

        invariant(this.store,
          `Could not find "store" in either the context or ` +
          `props of "${connectDisplayName}". ` +
          `Either wrap the root component in a <Provider>, ` +
          `or explicitly pass "store" as a prop to "${connectDisplayName}".`
        )

        const storeState = this.store.getState()
        this.state = { storeState }
        this.clearCache()
      }

This class contains a lot of methods which are concerned with figuring out how to compute the right state from the mapStateToProps and mapDispatchToProps methods. Let’s first take a look at computeStateProps and configureFinalMapState as there seems to be a lot going on here.

The configureFinalMapState method is used to install the finalMapStateToProps method and is called from computeStateProps if it is not already present. It calls mapState on the state and the props, if this returns a function1 that function is set as finalMapStateToProps and computeStateProps is called, otherwise mapState is used as the finalMapStateToProps and the result of the first call to mapStateToProps is returned. It helps that configureFinalMapState is only ever called from computeStateProps, so it is really an initialization method that should run at most once. I am not sure if the optimization of only installing the finalMapStateToProps property in the computeStateProps method, or the different magic cases are really needed, but that’s what we have.

The only place where computeStateProps is called from is the updateStatePropsIfNeeded method, we will look at this functions purpose in a minute.

      computeStateProps(store, props) {
        if (!this.finalMapStateToProps) {
          return this.configureFinalMapState(store, props)
        }

        const state = store.getState()
        const stateProps = this.doStatePropsDependOnOwnProps ?
          this.finalMapStateToProps(state, props) :
          this.finalMapStateToProps(state)

        if (process.env.NODE_ENV !== 'production') {
          checkStateShape(stateProps, 'mapStateToProps')
        }
        return stateProps
      }

      configureFinalMapState(store, props) {
        const mappedState = mapState(store.getState(), props)
        const isFactory = typeof mappedState === 'function'

        this.finalMapStateToProps = isFactory ? mappedState : mapState
        this.doStatePropsDependOnOwnProps = this.finalMapStateToProps.length !== 1

        if (isFactory) {
          return this.computeStateProps(store, props)
        }

        if (process.env.NODE_ENV !== 'production') {
          checkStateShape(mappedState, 'mapStateToProps')
        }
        return mappedState
      }

The computeDispatchProps and configureFinalMapDispatch methods follow the same pattern as the computeStateProps and configureFinalMapStat methods above. In fact, they could almost be copied-and-pasted. computeDispatchProps first installs the finalMapDispatchToProps property by calling configureFinalMapDispatch method, if it is not already present. Analogously to the case above, the configureFinalMapDispatch method checks if mapDispatch returns a function and in this case installs that or mapDispatch as the finalMapDispatchToProps property. Again, computeDispatchProps is only ever called from the updateDispatchPropsIfNeeded method.

      computeDispatchProps(store, props) {
        if (!this.finalMapDispatchToProps) {
          return this.configureFinalMapDispatch(store, props)
        }

        const { dispatch } = store
        const dispatchProps = this.doDispatchPropsDependOnOwnProps ?
          this.finalMapDispatchToProps(dispatch, props) :
          this.finalMapDispatchToProps(dispatch)

        if (process.env.NODE_ENV !== 'production') {
          checkStateShape(dispatchProps, 'mapDispatchToProps')
        }
        return dispatchProps
      }

      configureFinalMapDispatch(store, props) {
        const mappedDispatch = mapDispatch(store.dispatch, props)
        const isFactory = typeof mappedDispatch === 'function'

        this.finalMapDispatchToProps = isFactory ? mappedDispatch : mapDispatch
        this.doDispatchPropsDependOnOwnProps = this.finalMapDispatchToProps.length !== 1

        if (isFactory) {
          return this.computeDispatchProps(store, props)
        }

        if (process.env.NODE_ENV !== 'production') {
          checkStateShape(mappedDispatch, 'mapDispatchToProps')
        }
        return mappedDispatch
      }

Next up are three updateXYZPropsIfNeeded methods, where XYZ is either State, Dispatch or Merge. These always compute the new part of the properties, but only update the cached version on the object, if they are not shallowEqual to the currently cached version. If no update is performed, they return false, otherwise they return true.

      updateStatePropsIfNeeded() {
        const nextStateProps = this.computeStateProps(this.store, this.props)
        if (this.stateProps && shallowEqual(nextStateProps, this.stateProps)) {
          return false
        }

        this.stateProps = nextStateProps
        return true
      }

      updateDispatchPropsIfNeeded() {
        const nextDispatchProps = this.computeDispatchProps(this.store, this.props)
        if (this.dispatchProps && shallowEqual(nextDispatchProps, this.dispatchProps)) {
          return false
        }

        this.dispatchProps = nextDispatchProps
        return true
      }

      updateMergedPropsIfNeeded() {
        const nextMergedProps = computeMergedProps(this.stateProps, this.dispatchProps, this.props)
        if (this.mergedProps && checkMergedEquals && shallowEqual(nextMergedProps, this.mergedProps)) {
          return false
        }

        this.mergedProps = nextMergedProps
        return true
      }

The other large block of methods are methods for managing subscriptions and the lifecycle componentDidMount, componentWillUnmount and componentWillReceiveProps methods. In the later haveOwnPropsChanged is set to true if the component is either marked as not pure of if the new props are not shallow equal to the old ones.

      isSubscribed() {
        return typeof this.unsubscribe === 'function'
      }

      trySubscribe() {
        if (shouldSubscribe && !this.unsubscribe) {
          this.unsubscribe = this.store.subscribe(this.handleChange.bind(this))
          this.handleChange()
        }
      }

      tryUnsubscribe() {
        if (this.unsubscribe) {
          this.unsubscribe()
          this.unsubscribe = null
        }
      }

      componentDidMount() {
        this.trySubscribe()
      }

      componentWillReceiveProps(nextProps) {
        if (!pure || !shallowEqual(nextProps, this.props)) {
          this.haveOwnPropsChanged = true
        }
      }

      componentWillUnmount() {
        this.tryUnsubscribe()
        this.clearCache()
      }

Net up is the clear cache method, which shows us what is all cached on the new component, there are the three prop types (state, dispatch and merge), the final methods to compute them (finalMapDispatchToProps, finalMapStateToProps), the rendered wrapped element (renderedElement) and flags indicating if the stateProps or the storeProps have changed. I don’t quite understand what haveStatePropsBeenPrecalculated and statePropsPrecalculationError do quite yet.

      clearCache() {
        this.dispatchProps = null
        this.stateProps = null
        this.mergedProps = null
        this.haveOwnPropsChanged = true
        this.hasStoreStateChanged = true
        this.haveStatePropsBeenPrecalculated = false
        this.statePropsPrecalculationError = null
        this.renderedElement = null
        this.finalMapDispatchToProps = null
        this.finalMapStateToProps = null
      }

The handleChange method is the one that is subscribed to the store, thus it is being called when the store has changed. When there is not this.unsubscribe method, we’re not yet subscribed, so we just return. If the component is pure and the new store state is shallowEqual to the old one, we also return. Otherwise, there is another optimization if the stateProps do not depend on the ownProps, we try to pre-compute the stateProps, store an error if there is an exception thrown and remember that the state props have been precalculated. In any case we set the hasStoreStateChanged flag to true and store the new state.

      handleChange() {
        if (!this.unsubscribe) {
          return
        }

        const storeState = this.store.getState()
        const prevStoreState = this.state.storeState
        if (pure && prevStoreState === storeState) {
          return
        }

        if (pure && !this.doStatePropsDependOnOwnProps) {
          const haveStatePropsChanged = tryCatch(this.updateStatePropsIfNeeded, this)
          if (!haveStatePropsChanged) {
            return
          }
          if (haveStatePropsChanged === errorObject) {
            this.statePropsPrecalculationError = errorObject.value
          }
          this.haveStatePropsBeenPrecalculated = true
        }

        this.hasStoreStateChanged = true
        this.setState({ storeState })
      }

Finally, there is a getWrappedInstance convenience method.

      getWrappedInstance() {
        invariant(withRef,
          `To access the wrapped instance, you need to specify ` +
          `{ withRef: true } as the fourth argument of the connect() call.`
        )

        return this.refs.wrappedInstance
      }

The render method

Finally the render method is pretty involved, it does far more than just rendering the wrapped compoent, it is where all the caching and precomputing mechanisms come into play.

There is a bit (too much(?)) logic in this function, fortunately the variable names are really good. I’ve found it the easiest to work my way from the bottom up. At the very end, the this.renderedElement is returned, which is an instance of the wrapped element (with or without a ref).

        if (withRef) {
          this.renderedElement = createElement(WrappedComponent, {
            ...this.mergedProps,
            ref: 'wrappedInstance'
          })
        } else {
          this.renderedElement = createElement(WrappedComponent,
            this.mergedProps
          )
        }

        return this.renderedElement

However, this.renderedElement is only computed if (a) haveMergedPropsChanged is true or (b) renderedElement is falsy (so probably undefined).

        if (!haveMergedPropsChanged && renderedElement) {
          return renderedElement
        }

Now haveMergedPropsChanged is either false if all of haveStatePropsChanged, haveDispatchPropsChanged andhaveOwnPropsChanged are false (so no props have changed), or the result of the this.updateMergedPropsIfNeeded() method.

        let haveMergedPropsChanged = true
        if (
          haveStatePropsChanged ||
          haveDispatchPropsChanged ||
          haveOwnPropsChanged
        ) {
          haveMergedPropsChanged = this.updateMergedPropsIfNeeded()
        } else {
          haveMergedPropsChanged = false
        }

haveStatePropsChanged is true if either haveStatePropsBeenPrecalculated is true or if shouldUpdateStateProps is true and this.updateStatePropsIfNeeded() returns true. shouldUpdateStateProps is true if either (a) the component is not pure or there is not rendered element yet, (b) hasStoreStateChanged is true or (c) haveOwnPropsChanged is true and this.doStatePropsDependOnOwnProps is. Similar conditions apply to shouldUpdateDispatchProps, except that the hasStoreStateChanged condition is not checked.

Now, another interesting thing that is going on in the render method is that it sets a number of instance variables which control the caching behavior, namely haveOwnPropsChanged, hasStoreStateChanged, haveStatePropsBeenPrecalculated. After render has run, these are set to false, so that the respective components would not be recalculated on a second run of render. Other life cycle methods turn these instance variables to true again, this is essential for only recomputing the parts of the properties which are acutally needed.

Now that we have examined the full render method, let’s see it once more from top to bottom in all of its glory:

      render() {
        const {
          haveOwnPropsChanged,
          hasStoreStateChanged,
          haveStatePropsBeenPrecalculated,
          statePropsPrecalculationError,
          renderedElement
        } = this

        this.haveOwnPropsChanged = false
        this.hasStoreStateChanged = false
        this.haveStatePropsBeenPrecalculated = false
        this.statePropsPrecalculationError = null

        if (statePropsPrecalculationError) {
          throw statePropsPrecalculationError
        }

        let shouldUpdateStateProps = true
        let shouldUpdateDispatchProps = true
        if (pure && renderedElement) {
          shouldUpdateStateProps = hasStoreStateChanged || (
            haveOwnPropsChanged && this.doStatePropsDependOnOwnProps
          )
          shouldUpdateDispatchProps =
            haveOwnPropsChanged && this.doDispatchPropsDependOnOwnProps
        }

        let haveStatePropsChanged = false
        let haveDispatchPropsChanged = false
        if (haveStatePropsBeenPrecalculated) {
          haveStatePropsChanged = true
        } else if (shouldUpdateStateProps) {
          haveStatePropsChanged = this.updateStatePropsIfNeeded()
        }
        if (shouldUpdateDispatchProps) {
          haveDispatchPropsChanged = this.updateDispatchPropsIfNeeded()
        }

        let haveMergedPropsChanged = true
        if (
          haveStatePropsChanged ||
          haveDispatchPropsChanged ||
          haveOwnPropsChanged
        ) {
          haveMergedPropsChanged = this.updateMergedPropsIfNeeded()
        } else {
          haveMergedPropsChanged = false
        }

        if (!haveMergedPropsChanged && renderedElement) {
          return renderedElement
        }

        if (withRef) {
          this.renderedElement = createElement(WrappedComponent, {
            ...this.mergedProps,
            ref: 'wrappedInstance'
          })
        } else {
          this.renderedElement = createElement(WrappedComponent,
            this.mergedProps
          )
        }

        return this.renderedElement
      }
    }

Finally, we have some additional properties installed on the Connect class (static properties in OO terms)

    Connect.displayName = connectDisplayName
    Connect.WrappedComponent = WrappedComponent
    Connect.contextTypes = {
      store: storeShape
    }
    Connect.propTypes = {
      store: storeShape
    }

    if (process.env.NODE_ENV !== 'production') {
      Connect.prototype.componentWillUpdate = function componentWillUpdate() {
        if (this.version === version) {
          return
        }

        // We are hot reloading!
        this.version = version
        this.trySubscribe()
        this.clearCache()
      }
    }

    return hoistStatics(Connect, WrappedComponent)
  }

Conclusion & next steps

OK, we’ve seen that the generated component is somewhat involved and has some fancy optimizations going on. Splitting the creation of the properties of the wrapped component into external props, properties computed from the state and properties computed from the dispatch method allows deciding precisely which part has been updated and if the wrapped component should be rendered again or not. The caching mechanisms employed are also fancy, with a fairly precise control over what needs to be recomputed when and only recomputing the parts needed. All in all, the connect function is very simple apart from these optimizations.


  1. This is where I would prefer the constraints of a static type system - why do we need the case where mapState does not return a final result? To me this seems like a bit too much unneeded (=hard to understand) flexiblity, which dynamic languages tend to gravitate to.


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