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Mehul Kar

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Dec 06, 2019

Ember Octane: Default Values

programming frontend ember.js

The Octane upgrade has introduced one notable complication into Ember apps that is worth talking about: default values for component arguments. There are a number of variables to the scenario your app could be in, so I thought I’d document them.

Classic components

This “just works”, because properties assigned by EmberObject.extend() are assigned to the Javascript object prototype, and any arguments passed into the component at invocation override those properties. For example:

import Component from '@ember/component';

export default Component.extend({
    foo: 'default foo'
});
<MyComponent @foo="override" />

Classic Component defaults in init

This also “just works” because init assigns properties after the component instance has been created, and has access to the arguments passed at invocation time.

Note that the example code below is contrived because I’m sticking to simple strings as values, but it is a valid technique for assigning arrays and objects as defaults. Assigning an array/object to the prototype (as in the first example) can lead to bugs because, as mentioned above, the array/object would be assigned to the object’s prototype and shared by reference across all instances of the component.

import Component from '@ember/component';

export default Component.extend({
    init() {
        this._super(...arguments);
        this.foo = this.foo || 'default foo';
    }
});
<MyComponent @foo="override" />

Classic Components with Native Class

import Component from '@ember/component';

export default class MyComponent extends Component {
    foo = 'default foo'
}
<MyComponent @foo="override" />

This also “just works” because the native class field is assigned per instance of the class, and passing in an override at invocation will override the value.

Classic Component with Native Class and contructor

import Component from '@ember/component';

export default class MyComponent extends Component {
    constructor() {
        super(...arguments);
        this.foo = this.foo || 'default argument';
    }
}
<MyComponent @foo="override" />

This infamously does NOT work because a native class’s constructor does not have access to the arguments passed to it by the invocation. That means that that when this component is invoked, it will always assign the 'default argument' to foo, and then, when the props are passed to it, it will reassign it again.

The big problem this creates is that the default value does NOT get picked up if falsey or undefined values are passed at invocation.

<MyComponent @foo={{undefined}} />

Workarounds

There are 3 workarounds that I know of:

  • create a getter and use that instead:

    import Component from '@ember/component';
    
    export default class MyComponent extends Component {
        get fooWithDefault() {
            return this.foo || 'default argument';
        }
    }
    

    The downside to this workaround is that you have to remember never to use this.foo and always use this.fooWithDefault.

  • Use init instead of constructor to assign the default:

    import Component from '@ember/component';
    
    export default class MyComponent extends Component {
        init() {
            this._super(...arguments);
            this.foo = this.foo || 'default argument';
        }
    }
    

    This works, but it’s unclear if this is encouraged or discouraged at the moment, because it violates the ember/classic-decorator-hooks rule.

  • @classic decorator and init

    import Component from '@ember/component';
    import classic from 'ember-classic-decorator';
    
    @classic
    export default class MyComponent extends Component {
        init() {
            this._super(...arguments);
            this.foo = this.foo || 'default argument';
        }
    }
    

    This also works, but the @classic decorator requires installing the ember-classic-decorator and I ran into a bug that I couldn’t workaround.

Classic Components Computed Properties

A classic component that implements a default value as a computed property can be overriden at invocation, but it logs a deprecation warning:

import Component from '@ember/component';
import { computed } from '@ember/object';

export default Component.extends({
    foo: computed(function() {
        return 'default argument';
    })
})
<MyComponent @foo="override" />

The deprecation recommends implementing the computed property in the get/set syntax, but I am not sure why that is. (If you know please let me know and I’ll update this!)

import Component from '@ember/component';
import { computed } from '@ember/object';

export default Component.extends({
    foo: computed({
        get() {
            return 'default argument';
        }
    }
})

Glimmer Components

Glimmer Compnents have a bit of magic sauce that mitigates the problems of Classic componnts as native classes: this.args. The args API allows Glimmer components to access component properties in the constructor and assign defaults easily:

import Component from '@ember/component';

export default class MyComponent extends Component {
    constructor() {
        super(...arguments); // super must be called first.
        return this.args.foo || 'default argument';
    }
}
<MyComponent @foo="override" /> <!-- override works -->
<MyComponent /> <!-- will fall back to default -->
<MyComponent @foo={{undefined}} /> <!-- alls falls back to default -->

This is the Happy Path™, but because migrating existing components to Glimmer Components require other changes as well, it isn’t always immediately possible to immediately use this.

Note: I haven’t made a point of this in the other examples, but assigning deafult values in the constructor (or init) means that the default value will not get applied if arguments change. If that’s needed, use a getter instead (which can also use the this.args API).

import Component from '@ember/component';

export default class MyComponent extends Component {
    get foo() {
        return this.args.foo || 'default argument';
    }
}

Template Only Components

All of the examples above assume that the template for MyComponent uses this.foo. However, components that do not have a backing JS class do not have any of these problems. There is no official API for default valuea of arguments in Template Only components at the moment, but one possbile solution is to use the or helper from ember-truth-helpers (or define your own) to do something like this:

<h1>{{or @foo "default arg"}}</h1>
<MyComponent @foo="override" />
<MyComponent @foo={{undefined}} />

Other approaches for an “official” API are being discussed in Discord, but there is no conclusive solution yet.

Conclusion

These are the places I reference when I get confused:

This is a pretty basic thing that has caused me a lot of confusion as I move my app towards Octane paradigms. I think the future is bright but the path to upgrade is also long and covered in peril. This post probably does not cover all the possible variations of default values in component instances. If you think of more let me know and I’ll add them here!

Want to talk about this blag? Email me or send me a toot @mehulkar!