Performing Effects

We've covered a lot of ground so far. You know how to write Halogen HTML. You can define components that respond to user interactions and model each part of the component in types. With this foundation we can move on to another vital tool when writing applications: performing effects.

In this chapter we'll explore how to perform effects in your component through two examples: generating random numbers and making HTTP requests. Once you know how to perform effects you are well on your way to mastering Halogen fundamentals.

Before we start, it's important to know that you can only perform effects during evaluation, which means functions like handleAction which use the type HalogenM. You can't perform effects when you produce your initial state or during rendering. Since you can only perform effects when you're within HalogenM, let's briefly learn more about it before diving in to the examples.

The HalogenM Type

If you recall from last chapter, the handleAction function returns a type called HalogenM. Here's the handleAction we wrote:

handleAction :: forall output m. Action -> HalogenM State Action () output m Unit

HalogenM is a crucial part of Halogen, often called the "eval" monad. This monad enables Halogen features like state, forking threads, starting subscriptions, and more. But it's quite limited, concerning itself only with Halogen-specific features. In fact, Halogen components have no built-in mechanisms for effects!

Instead, Halogen lets you choose what monad you would like to use with HalogenM in your component. You gain access to all the capabilities of HalogenM and also whatever capabilities your chosen monad supports. This is represented with the type parameter m, which stands for "monad".

A component that only uses Halogen-specific features can leave this type parameter open. Our counter, for example, only updated state. But a component that performs effects can use the Effect or Aff monads, or you can supply a custom monad of your own.

This handleAction is able to use functions from HalogenM like modify_ and can also use effectful functions from Effect:

handleAction :: forall output. Action -> HalogenM State Action () output Effect Unit

This one can use functions from HalogenM and also effectful functions from Aff:

handleAction :: forall output. Action -> HalogenM State Action () output Aff Unit

It is more common in Halogen to use constraints on the type parameter m to describe what the monad can do rather than choose a specific monad, which allows you to mix several monads together as your application grows. For example, most Halogen apps would use functions from Aff via this type signature:

handleAction :: forall output m. MonadAff m => Action -> HalogenM State Action () output m Unit

This lets you do everything the hardcoded Aff type did, but it also lets you mix in other constraints too.

One last thing: when you choose a monad for your component it will show up in your HalogenM type, your Component type, and, if you are using child components, in your ComponentHTML type:

component :: forall query input output m. MonadAff m => H.Component query input output m

handleAction :: forall output m. MonadAff m => Action -> HalogenM State Action () output m Unit

-- We aren't using child components, so we don't have to use the constraint here, but
-- we'll learn about when it's required in the parent & child components chapter.
render :: forall m. State -> H.ComponentHTML Action () m

An Effect Example: Random Numbers

Let's create a new, simple component that generates a new random number each time you click a button. As you read through the example, notice how it uses the same types and functions that we used to write our counter. Over time you'll become used to scanning the state, action, and other types of a Halogen component to get a gist of what it does, and familiar with standard functions like initialState, render, and handleAction.

You can paste this example into Try Purescript to explore it interactively. You can also see and run the full example code from the examples directory in this repository.

Notice that we don't perform any effects in our initialState or render functions -- for example, we initialize our state to Nothing rather than generate a random number for our initial state -- but we're free to perform effects in our handleAction function (which uses the HalogenM type).

module Main where

import Prelude

import Data.Maybe (Maybe(..), maybe)
import Effect (Effect)
import Effect.Class (class MonadEffect)
import Effect.Random (random)
import Halogen as H
import Halogen.Aff (awaitBody, runHalogenAff)
import Halogen.HTML as HH
import Halogen.HTML.Events as HE
import Halogen.VDom.Driver (runUI)

main :: Effect Unit
main = runHalogenAff do
  body <- awaitBody
  runUI component unit body

type State = Maybe Number

data Action = Regenerate

component :: forall query input output m. MonadEffect m => H.Component query input output m
component =
  H.mkComponent
    { initialState
    , render
    , eval: H.mkEval $ H.defaultEval { handleAction = handleAction }
    }

initialState :: forall input. input -> State
initialState _ = Nothing

render :: forall m. State -> H.ComponentHTML Action () m
render state = do
  let value = maybe "No number generated yet" show state
  HH.div_
    [ HH.h1_
        [ HH.text "Random number" ]
    , HH.p_
        [ HH.text ("Current value: " <> value) ]
    , HH.button
        [ HE.onClick \_ -> Regenerate ]
        [ HH.text "Generate new number" ]
    ]

handleAction :: forall output m. MonadEffect m => Action -> H.HalogenM State Action () output m Unit
handleAction = case _ of
  Regenerate -> do
    newNumber <- H.liftEffect random
    H.modify_ \_ -> Just newNumber

As you can see, a component that performs effects is not much different from a component that doesn't! We've only done two things:

  1. We added a MonadEffect constraint to the m type parameter for our component and for our handleAction function. We don't need the constraint for our render function because we don't have any child components.
  2. We actually used an effect for the first time: the random function, which comes from Effect.Random.

Let's break down using this effect a little more.

--                          [1]
handleAction :: forall output m. MonadEffect m => Action -> H.HalogenM State Action () output m Unit
handleAction = case _ of
  Regenerate -> do
    newNumber <- H.liftEffect random -- [2]
    H.modify_ \_ -> Just newNumber   -- [3]
  1. We have constrained our m type parameter to say we support any monad, so long as that monad supports MonadEffect. It's another way to say "We need to be able to use Effect functions in our evaluation code."
  2. The random function has the type Effect Number. But we can't use it directly: our component doesn't support Effect but rather any monad m so long as that monad can run effects from Effect. It's a subtle difference, but in the end we require the random function to have the type MonadEffect m => m Number instead of being Effect directly. Fortunately, we can convert any Effect type to MonadEffect m => m using the liftEffect function. This is a common pattern in Halogen, so keep liftEffect in mind if you're using MonadEffect.
  3. The modify_ function lets you update state, and it comes directly from HalogenM with the other state update functions. Here we use it to write the new random number to our state.

This is a nice example of how you can freely interleave effects from Effect with Halogen-specific functions like modify_. Let's do it again, this time using the Aff monad for asynchronous effects.

An Aff Example: HTTP Requests

It's common to fetch information from elsewhere on the Internet. For example, let's say we'd like to work with GitHub's API to fetch users. We'll use the affjax package to make our requests, which itself relies on the Aff monad for asynchronous effects.

This example is even more interesting, though: we'll also use the preventDefault function to prevent form submission from refreshing the page, which runs in Effect. That means our example shows how you can interleave different effects together (Effect and Aff) along with Halogen functions (HalogenM).

As with the Random example, you can paste this example into Try Purescript to explore it interactively. You can also see and run the full example code from the examples directory in this repository.

This component definition should start to look familiar. We define our State and Action types and implement our initialState, render, and handleAction functions. We bring them together into our component spec and turn them into a valid component H.mkComponent.

Once again, notice that our effects are concentrated in the handleAction function and no effects are performed when making the initial state or rendering Halogen HTML.

module Main where

import Prelude

import Affjax as AX
import Affjax.ResponseFormat as AXRF
import Data.Either (hush)
import Data.Maybe (Maybe(..))
import Effect (Effect)
import Effect.Aff.Class (class MonadAff)
import Halogen as H
import Halogen.Aff (awaitBody, runHalogenAff)
import Halogen.HTML as HH
import Halogen.HTML.Events as HE
import Halogen.HTML.Properties as HP
import Halogen.VDom.Driver (runUI)
import Web.Event.Event (Event)
import Web.Event.Event as Event

main :: Effect Unit
main = runHalogenAff do
  body <- awaitBody
  runUI component unit body

type State =
  { loading :: Boolean
  , username :: String
  , result :: Maybe String
  }

data Action
  = SetUsername String
  | MakeRequest Event

component :: forall query input output m. MonadAff m => H.Component query input output m
component =
  H.mkComponent
    { initialState
    , render
    , eval: H.mkEval $ H.defaultEval { handleAction = handleAction }
    }

initialState :: forall input. input -> State
initialState _ = { loading: false, username: "", result: Nothing }

render :: forall m. State -> H.ComponentHTML Action () m
render st =
  HH.form
    [ HE.onSubmit \ev -> MakeRequest ev ]
    [ HH.h1_ [ HH.text "Look up GitHub user" ]
    , HH.label_
        [ HH.div_ [ HH.text "Enter username:" ]
        , HH.input
            [ HP.value st.username
            , HE.onValueInput \str -> SetUsername str
            ]
        ]
    , HH.button
        [ HP.disabled st.loading
        , HP.type_ HP.ButtonSubmit
        ]
        [ HH.text "Fetch info" ]
    , HH.p_
        [ HH.text $ if st.loading then "Working..." else "" ]
    , HH.div_
        case st.result of
          Nothing -> []
          Just res ->
            [ HH.h2_
                [ HH.text "Response:" ]
            , HH.pre_
                [ HH.code_ [ HH.text res ] ]
            ]
    ]

handleAction :: forall output m. MonadAff m => Action -> H.HalogenM State Action () output m Unit
handleAction = case _ of
  SetUsername username -> do
    H.modify_ _ { username = username, result = Nothing }

  MakeRequest event -> do
    H.liftEffect $ Event.preventDefault event
    username <- H.gets _.username
    H.modify_ _ { loading = true }
    response <- H.liftAff $ AX.get AXRF.string ("https://api.github.com/users/" <> username)
    H.modify_ _ { loading = false, result = map _.body (hush response) }

This example is especially interesting because:

  1. It mixes together functions from multiple monads (preventDefault is Effect, AX.get is Aff, and gets and modify_ are HalogenM). We're able to use liftEffect and liftAff along with our constraints to make sure everything plays well together.
  2. We only have one constraint, MonadAff. That's because anything that can be run in Effect can also be run in Aff, so MonadAff implies MonadEffect.
  3. We're making multiple state updates in one evaluation.

That last point is especially important: when you modify state your component renders. That means that during this evaluation we:

  1. Set loading to true, which causes the component to re-render and display "Working..."
  2. Set loading to false and update the result, which causes the component to re-render and display the result (if there was one).

It's worth noting that because we're using MonadAff our request will not block the component from doing other work, and we don't have to deal with callbacks to get this async superpower. The computation we've written in MakeRequest simply suspends until we get the response and then proceeds to update the state the second time.

It's a smart idea to only modify state when necessary and to batch updates together if possible (like how we call modify_ once to update both the loading and result fields). That helps make sure you're only re-rendering when needed.