NgRx creator functions 101
createAction creator function opened opportunities in the NgRx world. With it came two other creator functions,
createEffect. Let's take a look at what's so special about it and why it's important.
The creator functions were introduced in NgRx v8
In previous versions of NgRx, defining a new action took 3 steps.
The first step was to create the action type, usually as a string or as an enum value.
Then an action creator was defined as a class, implementing from the
Action interface from NgRx.
Lastly, the action needed to be added to a grouping of actions, also known as a union type.
The action types are used in reducers and effects. A type plays an important role because it's based on this type that reducers and effects filter out actions that they are interested in.
Via the action class, an action instance can be created. These instances are dispatched to the NgRx store.
To provide type-safety, the union type (and classes) are used to type the incoming actions.
With the added
createAction method, we achieve the same result with a single step.
The action creator is defined by invoking the
createAction function with the action's type and an optional payload.
The return type of the
createAction function is the
ActionCreator type. This is not just an action creator function, but it also has a
type property attached to the function.
This will be important for the
createEffect creator functions.
createAction has three different styles:
- without a payload
- with a
- with a function
Object.defineProperty method is used to create the
type property on the action creator.
Depending on how the action is configured,
createAction will create a function:
- without a payload, return a parameterless function and return the type
props, return a function that has the action's payload parameter and return payload with the added type
- with function, return a function that has the function's parameter as parameter; the function is invoked and the output is returned with the added type
NgRx wouldn't be as powerful as it is, without having (the possibility to create) type-safe reducers.
ActionTypes enum and
ActionsUnion union type are used to make a reducer typed.
To have a type-safe reducer, we have to add the types a little bit manually.
This is done by typing the incoming action's type as the
If you are handling an action from another feature, it's possible to add the specific type by creating an "inline union type".
By creating a
switch statement on the incoming action's type, TypeScript can infer the action's type within a case clause statement.
To use the action creators in a reducer, we have to make two changes.
First, we have to use the
ActionCreator's type property in the switch statement instead of the enum.
Secondly, to not lose the type-safety we have to type the incoming action.
Just like before, we have to create a union type.
But we can't simply create a union of the
ActionCreators, but we need to access the actual action. Therefore we use the
ReturnType utility type of TypeScript, this will get us the return value of the action creator. In other words this gets us the actual action.
To fully make use of the
ActionCreator's power, we can take it up another level. With the
createReducer function, creating a type-safe reducer becomes easier.
Instead of a good old switch statement,
on functions to handle the actions and reduce a new state.
on function expects at least one
ActionCreator, and the last argument is an action reducer. An action reducer can be compared to a normal reducer function. It has the current state and the action as parameters, and it returns a new state.
on works with
ActionCreators, NgRx can infer the action and you have type-safety out of the box. Neat!
Internally, it uses the
type property on the
ActionReducer to know which
on reducers should be invoked.
There are two differences with the
createReducer function, compared to a reducer function.
- it doesn't need a default case to return the current state; if the action type can't be found in an
onfunction within the reducer,
createReducerreturns the current state
- a switch statement can only react once to an action type; with the
onfunction it's possible to react to the same action more than once in a single reducer
Let's take a look at the internal workings of the
on function plucks all the types of the given
It returns the list of action types and the action reducer function.
createReducer uses a
Map to know which
on function it should invoke. The
Map uses the action types as key, and has the action reducer function as the value for the coupled reducer to the action type.
To populate the map, it loops over all
on functions, and next it loops over all the action types. If the action type is already added to the map, it wraps the existing reducer with new reducer. Wrapping the reducer function ensures the second reducer receives the updated state. This can be done because all of the reducers look the same (they all have a state and an action as arguments, and they all return state), If it's the first time that the action type is encountered, it will simply be added to the map.
createReducer function returns a reducer function, which is invoked when an action is dispatched.
When the reducer function gets invoked, it uses the incoming action's type to find the to be invoked reducer based on the populated map. If the reducer function does not handle the incoming action, it will simply return the current state.
To create a NgRx Effect in previous versions, the Effect is decorated with the
Here, again, we have to manually type the Effect, or the
Actions, to have the type-safety in place.
In the Effect, it's the
ofType operator that adds the type to the action.
Just like the reducer, the operator uses the action's type to know if it should handle the action and to provide type-safety throughout the next operators.
The first option to achieve a type-safe Effect is to add a generic to the
ofType operator. The generic is the action's class, and we give it the action's type (the enum value) as parameter.
The second option (introduced NgRx 7) to offer type-safety in the Effect, is to provide a generic on the
Actions class. Similar to the reducers, we can use the union type for it.
Because of this change, it also makes the
ofType operator smarter. It isn't needed anymore to type every single
With the added
ofType operator is smart enough to infer the action's type.
The internal code of the
ofType operator looks as follows.
As you can see, it's the attached
type property on the
ActionCreator that makes this check possible.
At first sight, the
createEffect function doesn't offer anything special, we already know that it's the combination of the
ActionCreator and the
ofType operator that does the trick. So what does
createEffect give us?
A downside of the
@Effect decorator is that its return type can not be checked at compile time. It's possible to not return an action, and when this happens it results in a runtime error (because the store expects an action to have a
This what the
createEffect function solves. It adds a check at compile time to protect ourselves from making this mistake.
Instead of using the
@Effect decorator, wrap the Effect's logic inside a
The internal workings of an Effect are still the same, so I will not cover the code in this article. You can take a look at the source code if you're interested.
Inside a switch statement, you could group state clauses so it executed the same statement for different actions:
on function accepts more than one action creator as parameter to offer the same possibilities as a switch statement:
createReducer opens up the ability to compose a reducer because it can handle the same action multiple times. This isn't possible with a switch statement.
For a use case see the original issue that led to this change, by Siyang Kern.
Actions that are not converted to the new
ActionCreator's syntax, but need to be used inside a
createReducer function, a wrapper has to be written.
The wrapper will not be used in the code to dispatch the action, but will be used to comply with the
For actions without a payload this can be done as:
Or an action with a payload:
Internally, NgRx used this approach for the router actions and effect actions. See the Pull Requests ROOT_EFFECTS_INIT actions as ActionCreators - by Sam Lin and add action creator for root router actions - by Jeffrey Bosch.
There's a schematic to convert all the
@Effect decorators to the
createEffect function, run the following command to run the schematic:
The NgRx Schematics has to be installed to run the command.
Most of the developers are excited about the new creator functions, and so am I. From my experience, the majority is happy that they can save keystrokes while writing NgRx code but I believe the power lies in the type-safety it provides out of the box.
Because TypeScript is growing, many libraries can benefit from the added features in each release. NgRx is one of them, without TypeScript, we wouldn't be able to create these features.
Another benefit that the creator functions bring to the table is the ability to create higher order functions, we already saw how this looked for a reducer but we can do the same thing for actions and Effects. We can even plug in our own flavors, for example, the
mutableOn reducer function that wraps the reducer with the Immer
Throughout this article I might have sounded like a broken record, but the power that
createAction action provides is huge. The added
type property plays a huge part of it, because it can be accessed (without having to invoke the action creator function) in the reducers and effects to filter actions. This all, while staying (and making it easier) to remain type-safe. Without it, the other creator functions would not exist.
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