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evaluate flux in real work and proposal for next step

I used Flux in recent work and after some evaluation, we decide to use it for future development.

1. Intro

1.1 React and Flux

React is a library to build view. You can build abstract UI components in a declarative way, start with basic ones and finally compose a complex UI. React component is state machine, the whole UI is predictable according to the state.

Flux is an application architecture, which defines the way of organizing code and data flow. In Facebook’s example implementation, Store is the data, View is the components. View will render based on Store, and Actions can be triggered from View to update Store.

flux flow

From Store to View to Store, the data flows only in one direction. It makes the application predictable. Every change in Store will re-render the whole app and it’s still fast thanks to virtual dom.

1.2 ES6

1.2.1 Intro

The JavaScript programming language is standardized by ECMA (a standards body like W3C) under the name ECMAScript. ES6 aka ECMAScript 6 or 2015, is a ECMAScript standard approved in the summer of 2015.

1.2.1 Compatibility

It is basically not supported by all browsers (2015.10), check the compatibility.

1.2.2 Why learn it?

1.2.3 How to use it?

We need to convert ES6 code to ES5 code. For example, use module bundler to convert and bundle the JS files (Webpack + babel-loader).

I am working on a [cheatsheet for ES6] (/learnES6/).
ES6 features

2 Evaluate flux in real work

2.1 Summary

Work: pivot viewer is built using Flux, the implementation is based on Facebook’s example.

Conclusion: using Flux can reduce bugs and make the development easier in the following aspects:

  • modularize UI components. Each component’s interactions are restricted to itself, and external references should be explicitly referenced.
  • separation of logic. Components only care about what data they get (props) and what action will be triggered by which interaction. Updating data logic is in Store.
  • declarative way to build components. One direction data flow makes the interaction more clear.

Another benefit could be a better way to organize style sheet, to easily find which style is applied to which component.

While on the other hand, difficulties:

  • many Flux implementations and no best practice yet. [Facebook itself has different implementations internally.] (https://discuss.reactjs.org/t/lost-on-what-flux-implementation-to-use/545/12).
  • learn:
    • React
    • JS (CommonJS format, ES6)
    • module bundler (Browserify, Webpack), organize JS and style sheet
    • new test API ()
  • building form-like widget which contains data update and re-render is complex (maybe solvable)
  • rewrite existing widgets (wrap kendo widget using react, etc)
  • some widgets that manipulate dom is not supported in react
  • the performance is bad when you need to re-render a lot components without reusing (e.g. table cells). (should be solvable)

2.2 Current status

The project is a Java Maven project, a multi-page application in JSP. JS is written in plain IIFE style. CSS is not organized either.

For pivot viewer:

  • JS is written in ES5, CommonJS style (simply add export in JS file)
  • React 0.13, using React.createClass and mixin
  • frontend-maven-plugin will call npm during Maven build phase generate-resources, which calls Browserify to bundle the JS files
  • wro4j will reference the JS file in JSP file, it will also minify the file and append hash to the URL
  • styles for components are placed in different files, referenced in JSP.
  • no test cases

2.3 Next step

The first step should be reorganizing the files and use Webpack to bundle file, because:

  • we need to separate different entry point if there will be more pages
  • Webpack support multi entry points (each page has a entry point)
  • Webpack can support ES6 and other module standard
  • Webpack can bundle style sheets
  • Webpack has some powerful features like hot module reload for development

The second step is to reorganize style sheets and use SASS (file extension is .scss) , because:

  • CSS files and class names are messy
  • SASS is more powerful than CSS, especially for code reuse

One decision to be made: inline or external CSS?

  • inline: style sheet is inserted to source code in style tag. This means no caching in browser.
  • external CSS: one CSS file for one entry point, need to be referenced in JSP. This will add one more HTTP request.
  • In both ways, the style sheet is global scope. Still not perfect.

The above two steps has been validated to be working in my test, and it will take one or two hour to apply and test it.

Further steps:

  • add test cases
  • rewrite components following ES6 and React 0.14
  • refactoring, since some of them are not React, some logic should not be in Store

Further further steps or in the mean time:

2.4 Testing

2.4.1 JSET

JEST is a unit test framework promoted by Facebook. It’s:

  • Built on top of the Jasmine test framework, using familiar expect(value).toBe(other) assertions
  • Automatically mocks CommonJS modules returned by require(), making most existing code testable
  • DOM APIs are mocked and tests run in parallel via a small node.js command line utility

It can unit test single component and automatically mock others, but we have some issues:

  • slow, a couple seconds for a test case in watch mode
  • Kendo UI is referenced in HTML globally, which can not be imported/required as a module. It’s OK when bundling the JS files and visit the web page, but in a unit test, kendo UI needs to be imported somehow. There is no support for npm package for Kendo UI.
  • no DEBUG in browser [yet] (https://github.com/facebook/jest/issues/139).

What’s more, it requires some learning for ReactTestUtils.Simulate API, which is used to simulate events.

2.4.2 Karma plus karma-webpack

The proposal is using karma with karma-webpack, which:

  • is faster than JEST
  • can add global reference like Kendo UI using Karma
  • DEBUG in browser

3 Plan

After some discussion, this is the final plan:

3.1 Folder structure

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|-build            Output folder for bundled JS and CSS file 
|---pivot.js
|---pivot.css
|-components components can be reused (those who do not directly connected to Store)
|---kendo kendo components rewritten
|-dispatcher reference dispatcher by Facebook (do not touch)
|-lib JS utilities (parse data, build pie chart using d3)
|-mixin mixin
|-services JS services, communicate with API, ajax calls
|-styles global styles can be referenced by others
|---variables.scss define variables
|---helper.scss define helper classes, like hide, float etc.
|---...
|-pages folder contain all pages, each page has a entry JS file and a folder
|---pivot single page folder, containing corresponding actions, components, constants and stores
|-----pivot.js entry point for pivot page
|-----actions
|-----components
|-------List.jsx a component named 'List'
|-------List.scss style for 'List'
|-----constants
|-----stores

3.2 Work flow

Create a new page called SuperViewer:

  • create new folder SuperViewer and entry point SuperViewer.js under folder pages.
  • create components, actions, constants, stores, styles, etc.
  • for a component, reference required style sheet in JS file.
  • add entry point SuperViewer.js in /app-web/webpack.config.js
  • for development, execute npm run dev in terminal (/app-web), Webpack will watch the changes and automatically re-bundle.
  • for production, execute npm run prod in terminal, files will be bundled
  • for testing, execute npm run test-flux for simple testing (executed in build process). Execute npm run test-flux-debug for debugging.

  • [package.json] (../files/package.json)

  • [webpack.config.js] (../files/webpack.config.js)
  • [pom.xml] (../files/pom.xml)
  • [karma.flux.conf.js] (../files/karma.flux.conf.js)
  • [karma.flux.ci.conf.js] (../files/karma.flux.ci.conf.js)

3.3 TODO

  • upgrade to React 0.14
  • build style guide, naming conventions
  • rewrite components with ES6 syntax and style guide
  • refactoring code:
    • separate logic from store
    • make more component reusable
  • investigate building complex React component
    • form
    • large grid
  • write test cases
  • Redux seems nice

3.3 Style guide

This is some references, we need to build our own:


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