Ciro Ivan

@k1r0s

Angular Tutorial: Separation of Concerns using ES7 Decorators

This tutorial is intended to create a simple Angular app which drives a “common issue in OOP paradigm” which is code duplication and hidden patterns usually found in real world that can be solved using Inversion of Control techniques and allowing us to perform declarative programming.

Resources (what this article is about):

The App

  • The app should load a list of users (authors) in its home page.
  • If a list element is clicked a dialog should be presented
  • That dialog should have a brief[1] about the selected user and two buttons
  • One button should close the dialog
  • Other button should load user specific ‘post page’
  • Clicking on an user from ‘South Elvis’ will trigger a random exception
  • Exception should be cached, an error dialog[2] should be presented
  • Post page should render selected user’s specific posts

[1] User dialog format/content isn’t part of tutorial’s scope

[2] Error dialog format/content isn’t part of tutorial’s scope

Rules

  • Each time we perform an ajax request we must show a loading dialog
  • All ajax request should be stored for cache purposes

Technical details

Users (writers) resource is placed here: https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/users

Posts resource is placed here: https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/posts

Let’s start

You can follow these instructions, step by step.

Prepare your workspace

  • $ git clone https://github.com/k1r0s/angular2-srp-showcase.git
  • $ git checkout normal-oop
  • $ npm install

Run the code

  • $ npm start
  • browse localhost:4200

Read the code

Okay so lets start by openingsrc/app/components/writers/writers.component.ts . This component has the following responsibilities:

  • Invoke a service to fetch users
  • Render users list
  • Listen clicks on users list
  • Invoke a service to store users request result and the selected user to be loaded on ‘posts screen’
  • Invoke a service to build a dialog to render selected user
  • Handle an exception if selected user is from ‘South Elvis’

Now lets look over src/app/components/user-posts/user-posts.component.ts . This one has the following responsibilities:

  • Grab selected user from cache
  • Invoke a service to fetch user’s specific posts
  • Render a post list
  • Invoke a service to store posts request result for that specific user

Common OOP drives repetition:

Let’s see the code at https://github.com/k1r0s/angular2-srp-showcase/blob/normal-oop/src/app/components/writers/writers.component.ts#L41

Most of times a method body that should describe a business action is entangled with code that does not describe at all that action. Like opening a dialog, capturing exceptions, subscribe to close events, etc.

In OOP we try to separate concerns by declaring entities (classes) that group actions (methods) that describe what business wants to happen and where (domain speaking). Methods describe how things should be fulfited.

A common issue in OOP paradigm is that, to replicate a behavior, code must be replicated too. Sometimes class extension isn’t enough because your behavior doesn’t always occur in the same spot or you simply don’t have enough time to change whole app arquitecture. For example, a log service has to be invoked at the end of some method calls printing method’s arguments and result but that implementation isn’t important at all in terms of domain problem meaning that code is polluting your app. Can you deal with logs calls with class extension? nope.

What about projects with 12 developers coding the same behavior with different implementation? That’s hidden patterns. For example when a developer is used to add a feature similar or identical a previous one most of them will seek that previous implementation on the code base to look ‘how to deal with the same problem’ or simply paste that code in their feature changing some variables related with the context of that specific screen or feature, while some developers will implement their own code to solve the same problem. We don’t care about which implementation is the best. Different implementations for the same problem drives bugs, code is harder to mantain, etc. An easy solution to deal with this are interface definition that all developers must agree. But still duplication spreads.

Authentication, Ajax resolution, UX action invocation, exception handling… almost anything that isn’t related with business logic its likely to be invoked in several places and that implementations can pollute your domain logic.

Examples

Lets back to writers component

What is really doing writers.component.ts at setup ?

Reading the code we may conclude that:

  • Is reading from cache if resource was already fulfilled (if so list is assigned) and all steps below are skipped
  • If that cache is empty: We must show a loading dialog[2] and we fetch users resource
  • Then we should store that resource on cache by calling a service
  • Then we should hide loading dialog
  • Then we should asign the list to be rendered by the component

Many concerns take place as this code gets executed. In terms of domain this is simply fetch and render users list. There are a few domain rules that apply on this, catch resources, show a loading dialog while requesting a resource

That behavior also gets replicated on user-posts.component.ts . But on this case there is a domain concern before: grab the selected user from cache.

There is a way to code that implementation abstracting us from component’s specific domain? Yes!

We already defined some interfaces that writers.component.ts and user-posts.component.ts share: LoadingDialog, ResourceContainer<T>, LoadingDialog, CacheContainer . We also assure that there are no hidden patterns.

  • Both components have to fetch some resource when created
  • Both components have to show a loading dialog at anytime
  • Both have to write/read from cache something

Hence we can achieve this on both components:

Note that the same behavior needs to be invoked in different spots and with different context/arguments.

writers.component.ts (code)

user-posts.component.ts (code)

And this works, trust me (running example).

Tip >argsDriverIndex param for @ArgsCacheReader its just a specification of which method arguments index will be used as a serialized key to read/write from cache. This means that user-posts.component.ts will access cache having first fetchPostsargument. Therefore it will not call the same resource twice.

Is important to know that these decorators can be imported everywhere and are completly standalone (that depends on you). Meaning that you can remove some of them without messing callstack while in common OOP implementations you face side effects.

Conclusion

Method and class Decorators are a powerful tool against repetition and, it also provides a needed abstraction layer needed in modern applications. We have cleared infrastructure code from our component by using declarative programing whichs aims for:

“Remove side effects by describing what the program must accomplish in terms of the problem domain, rather than describe how to accomplish it as a sequence of the programming language primitives”.

Our code is clear as water and easy to mantain.

We have to understand that we have created a strong association with two components which can become very different in the near future. So if our abstraction is somehow deprecated, we must remove this decorator from that component which no longer match a pattern (interface), paste its implementation and code the difference.

Bonus

Why Decorators?

Decorators are bread and butter in modern libraries like Angular, Vue (addon), also in backend, for instance Nest framework provides a lot of built in decorators to enhace your dev experience, improve readability, separate concerns.. etc.

Decorators are nice because provide you a language feature that allows you to add/remove/manage rich implementations without messing in language primitives.

Maybe in the near future decorators will be used as “standalone plugins” which can be downloaded and plugged in your code providing features (example).

For instance, Angular’s @Component decorator is a neat way to register your class as a web component into angular boilerplate. So why you wont define some for your own needs?

How to @ in Typescript/Babel?

Babel does not support interfaces to deal with hidden patterns, but it supports method and class decorators.

Currently if you need to write a function that needs to be called before specific constructor in some classes you need to deal with ES7 decorators API which is well explained in TS docs.

I created a library that makes very easy define your own method/class decorators. It will allow you to change, extend, modify the behavior of methods and constructors non-invasively. Of course this tutorial example was made using that library.

Give a try!

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