If you've taken a look at some open source projects that use Ngrx such as example-app, ngrx-examples , or angular-nye-advanced-ngrx then you may have noticed that they have an interesting way of defining Action types. In this post I'll go over why we use the "type" method and why we construct the Action strings in this specific style. Big thanks to Xavier, @xlozingues, for staying at the office late on a Friday to help me understand this. ?
Other Ngrx Posts
This is an intermediate-advanced post about a specific aspect of Ngrx. If you're new to using Ngrx I recommend checking out my earlier post Setting Up An Angular 2 Project With Ngrx.
I'm almost embarrassed to admit that when I first got started with ngrx I didn't fully understand the weird brackets-in-a-string syntax. I didn't think it was a big deal so my original Ngrx example project's Action types were straight up strings! My code would look something like this:
I'm not sure who started this tradition it, but the official ngrx example's actions use this somewhat strange "type" method when defining their actions (see the original source for the type method here). Now, the action It looks something like this:
In the very first code snippet of this post that illustrates the "pure strings" method we are define variables for the strings that will define the type of a particular action. This is nice because the IDE will let us know if we spell something incorrectly. We get this from the act of creating variables for our action strings (as opposed to hardcoding our strings right in our code when we want to use them). However, we can do even better! In many Ngrx examples they use this square bracket notation to define their strings. Often there are actions that complement each other; a ying and yang relationship between actions for some specific event that occurs in your application. Especially when dealing with side effects, there is normally a "beginning action", a "success action", and often the third-wheel "failure action". With this recommended syntax we place these begin, success, and fail modifiers outside of the square brackets, and inside the square brackets we write some name that describes the overall event that is happening in this group of actions. The word or words inside the brackets describe really describe what action you're dealing with, and the word (or words) outside the brackets sort of describe the point in time of the "action lifecycle" (yes, I just made up that phrase, but hopefully you know what I mean). For example, we might write the anonymous authentication action types like this:
Wow, Look at how clean and understandable that is! We can easily see that these three actions are all related to each other in that they are actions that have to do with anonymous authentication. We can also clearly see which is the begin, success, and failure action! I also think the spaces instead of underscores add an extra little sliver of readability as well.
The "type" method is extremely helpful for making actions because it prevents a set of bugs that could arise from accidentally using the same string for two different actions. Once your team of developers and/or application starts growing to multiple stores, reducers, and action creators you may at some point accidentally use the same string for two actions that are meant to be completely independent. Suppose you did this and didn't use the type method; what would happen? The short answer is bad things will happen! When you fire one of these actions your reducers / effects will basically think both actions are being dispatched and thus will try to manipulate the state, trigger side effects, etc. for BOTH of these actions each time you dispatch either of them! You (or worse, your users) may notice subtle bugs and weird things happening with the state although no errors are being thrown. From a developer point of view this a very difficult problem to notice and debug, and it kept people up at night so much so that it inspired this type method to be created and declared as a best practice when defining Ngrx actions. With the type method, if you duplicate a string you will be immediately notified when you run your app as it will prevent the page from loading and throw an error about Action types not being unique:
Now that's one error you should be glad to see! So now that you are aware of this type method and why it's so wonderful for defining Ngrx Action type strings, make sure you use it!
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