Skandha: generic interacting behaviours
May 2020, by Maarten Nieber
Containers and facets

Storing UI state in containers

In a React application, the render components are responsible for receiving user input and displaying the UI state. When it comes to storing the UI state there are two options: we can do this inside the component as well, or we can store it externally. I prefer to store UI state in so-called containers that are external to the component, for three reasons:

  • It helps to keep the code of the render components simple;
  • It allows to share the UI state between several render components;
  • It makes it easier to program interactions between behaviours (such as selection, filtering, addition, etc).

In the remainder of this article I will elaborate on these points. To explain my approach for storing the UI state, I will use the example of Vidlito (video-list-tool): an application that allows people to store collections of playlists that contain video clips. Broadly speaking, my approach is the following:

  • I store UI state in containers (e.g. playlistsCtr, and clipsCtr).
  • Each container contains facets. A facet is an object that stores a particular type of UI state such as selection, filtering, drag-and-drop, etc.
  • You can map data between facets. For example, the output of the filtering facet is used as the input of the selection facet. By making this connection, we ensure that you can only select clips that were not filtered out.
  • Facets have operations that accept callback functions. These callback functions assist in implementing the operation, but they also allow us to create interactions between behaviours. For example, the applyFilter callback of the filtering facet can automatically correct the highlight, so that the highlighted clip is not hidden by the filter.

An example container

Let's look at the code for clipsCtr and its facets, as well as the mapClipsData function that maps data between these facets.

import { Addition, Deletion /* other imports omitted for brevity */ } from 'skandha-facets';

const clipsCtr = {
  addition: new Addition<ClipT>(),
  deletion: new Deletion(),
  display: new Display<ClipT>(),
  dragAndDrop: new DragAndDrop(),
  edit: new Edit(),
  filtering: new Filtering<ClipT>(),
  highlight: new Highlight<ClipT>(),
  insertion: new Insertion<ClipT>(),
  // This facet is used to move a clip to another playlist
  move: new Move(),
  selection: new Selection<ClipT>(),
  store: new Store<ClipT>(),

Purpose of the selection facet

Each facet has its own API that contains data fields and operations. For example, the selection facet has fields ids, selectableIds, anchorId and items, as well as the select operation (we will take a closer look in the next section). You can think of the Selection facet class as an abstraction: a very general description of what selections look like and how they are used. Like all abstractions, this helps with promoting code consistency and reuse: regardless of how selection is implemented, it will look the same everywhere in the application. It also means we can create generic helper functions that take a selection as their argument.

Using mapDataToProps to connect facets

In many cases, the output of one facet is used as the input of another facet. Therefore, we can use the mapDataToProps function to map data between facets. This function patches a facet by replacing a data field by a get property. In the example code above, we want to select from the displayed items. Therefore, mapDataToProps is used to replace the ctr.selection.selectableIds field by a property that returns getIds(ctr.display.items).