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Persist your state anywhere with createPersistentItem with React examples

Published 11.07.2022


Persisting your state can sometimes be difficult. Useful ways to do it are setting the value to localStorage or sessionStorage. But managing manual set and get operations on larger applications will become difficult. And what if you want to store your state on the server and sync it across devices? In that case you need even more hassle with fetch calls, useEffects and more. It becomes a great big hassle.

In this article we are going to discuss a better solution, which will not only scale well but provide us with features that aren’t available to us with just the local storage API, such as typesafety and automatic updates.

Follow the code on GitHub where I have posted all the code shown in this article and more.

Note on TypeScript and React

All the following code (with types removed) is also valid JavaScript and will also work in JavaScript. The implementation is also completely framework agnostic and will work with any framework, from vanilla JavaScript to Vue. The hook and React examples provided at the end of this article are however React-specific, but should be implementable in other frameworks as well to achieve similar results.

The idea

The target is to create an API for working with pieces of data which are stored in persistent stores (localStorage, sessionStorage, a server) which provides us all the following perks:

  • Abstracts away the implementation of interacting with the store using the strategy pattern and thus allows for implementing other stores as well.
  • Is typesafe, with all values being validated.
  • Supports custom serialization and deserialization.
  • Contains a subscribable which allows for subscribing to all state updates, which will further allow us to create React hooks which automatically update to match the state (or similar constructs in other frameworks).
  • Provides a simple API for interacting with the data with minimal functions .get(), .set(value), .update(prev => newValue), .clear() and .subscribe(listener).

The solution is an abstraction, a function, createPersistentItem that creates a single centralized object with an API to access any single piece of persistent data, be it a primitive or a complex object.

Moreover, the function should take as an argument a persistence strategy, which handles the actual setting, getting and clearing of the value in any persistent store, such as localStorage or even a custom server.

Let’s start off by tackling persistence strategies

Pesistence strategies are an important part of the solution. They abstract away the implementation of actually storing the data somewhere, be it localStorage, sessionStorage, a database via an API or any other solution.

A persistence strategy should implement three methods: get, set and clear for getting, setting and clearing an item for a given key with a value of a given type.

Additionally, some storage methods are synchronous, such as localStorage and sessionStorage and we might want to get the data synchronously from these stores when possible. To support this functionality, we add another method, getSync which returns the value synchronously and a flag (supportsSync), which tells the user whether the persistence strategy supports synchronous operations. Using getSync for async stores (such as an API) will always return undefined as they can not fetch the data synchronously.

From the above plan, we get the following interface for all persistence strategies.

// src/lib/PersistenceStrategy.ts export interface IPersistenceStrategy { supportsSync?: boolean; get<T>(options: PersistenceStrategyGetOptions<T>): Promise<T | undefined>; getSync<T>(options: PersistenceStrategyGetOptions<T>): T | undefined; set<T>(options: PersistenceStrategySetOptions<T>): Promise<T>; clear(key: string): Promise<void>; }

Additionally, the PersistenceStrategyGetOptions and PersistenceStrategySetOptions are defined below. They include a key to identify where the value is stored. For getting the value, we also provide methods for validating the value and optionally deserializing the value (else we use JSON.parse). For setting the value respectively, we provide the value we want to set and optionally a function to serialize it when JSON.stringify will not do.

// src/lib/PersistenceStrategy.ts export type PersistenceStrategyGetOptions<T> = { key: string; validate: (t: any) => t is T; deserialize?: (serial: string) => T | undefined; }; export type PersistenceStrategySetOptions<T> = { key: string; value: T; serialize?: (t: T) => string; };

Following these guidelines, we can create an example strategy for storing items in localStorage.

// src/lib/LocalStoragePersistenceStrategy.ts export const LocalStoragePersistenceStrategy: IPersistenceStrategy = { // Local storage supports synchronous operations supportsSync: true, // Local storage synchronous getter getSync<T>(opts: PersistenceStrategyGetOptions<T>): T | undefined { try { // Get serial value from local storage, if not found return undefiend const serial = localStorage.getItem(opts.key); if (!serial) return undefined; // Deserialize with deserializer or JSON.parse if no deserializer, // return undefined if serialization fails const value = opts.deserialize ? opts.deserialize(serial) : JSON.parse(serial); if (!value) return undefined; // Validate, return value or undefined on invalid validation if (opts.validate(value)) return value; return undefined; } catch (e) { // On all errors return undefined console.error(e); return undefined; } }, // Async getter simply promisifies the sync getter method async get<T>(opts: PersistenceStrategyGetOptions<T>): Promise<T | undefined> { return this.getSync(opts); }, async set<T>(opts: PersistenceStrategySetOptions<T>): Promise<T> { // Serialize with serializer or JSON.stringify and save to localStorage const serial = opts.serialize ? opts.serialize(opts.value) : JSON.stringify(opts.value); localStorage.setItem(opts.key, serial); return opts.value; }, // Clear value async clear(key: string): Promise<void> { localStorage.removeItem(key); }, };

Other persistence strategies

Implementing createPersistentItem

Now that we have tackled persistence strategies and our persistent items no longer need to worry about the details of how they will be fetched, updated and cleared, we can continue on with implementing persistent items. The first step is to define an interface for persistent items, which contains three parts.

  • Data getting methods
    • get() for asynchronously getting the value of the item.
    • getSync() for synchronously getting the value of the item if the persistence strategy supports synchronous operations (when persistenceStrategy.supportsSync is true).
    • subscribe(listener) which subscribes to all state updates and returns an unsubscriber function.
  • Date updating methods
    • set(value) for setting the value. Returns the new value.
    • update(updater) for updating the value with an updater function when the next value depends on the previous value. Returns the new value.
    • clear() for clearing the value.
  • Options for the persistent item. These are also the options that are provided when creating a persistent item.
    • key for storing the persistent item.
    • persistenceStrategy for storing the item in a store.
    • validate for validating that a value is a valid value for this item.
    • serialize for optionally overriding JSON.stringify serialization.
    • deserialize for optionally overriding JSON.parse deserialization.

The final interface will look like the following.

// src/lib/createPersistentItem.ts export interface IPersistentItem<T> { // Interfaces for getting data (sync / async) and subscribing to data updates get(): Promise<T | undefined>; getSync(): T | undefined; subscribe(listener: (t: T | undefined) => void): () => void; // Interfaces for updating data (set value, update value with updater function // or clear value) set(value: T): Promise<T>; update(updater: (t: T | undefined) => T): Promise<T>; clear(): Promise<void>; // Options key: string; persistenceStrategy: IPersistenceStrategy; validate: (t: any) => t is T; serialize?: (t: T) => string; deserialize?: (string: string) => T | undefined; }

Let’s start implementing this. First we’ll define the function signature (options and return type). The function will return a IPersistentItem<T> as defined previously and take as options the previously discussed options and directly reveal them in the return value.

// src/lib/createPersistentItem.ts export function createPersistentItem<T>(options: { key: string; validate: (t: any) => t is T; persistenceStrategy: IPersistenceStrategy; serialize?: (t: T) => string; deserialize?: (string: string) => T | undefined; }): IPersistentItem<T> { /* ... */ return { // Reveal the options ...options, /* ... Implement rest of the methods here ... */ } }

Let’s next implement each method. First, the getter methods get and getSync are simple calls to the persistenceStrategy.get and persistenceStrategy.getSync methods respectively.

// src/lib/createPersistentItem.ts export function createPersistentItem<T>(/* ... */): IPersistentItem<T> { /* .. */ return { ...options, getSync() { return options.persistenceStrategy.getSync({ key: options.key, validate: options.validate, deserialize: options.deserialize }); }, get() { return options.persistenceStrategy.get({ key: options.key, validate: options.validate, deserialize: options.deserialize }); }, } }

Next up lets implement the subscribe method. For that use, we are going to need an internal subscribable, created with a createSubscribable method (see here for implementation). That subscribable is going to receive updates from all data updating methods (set, update and clear) and subscribe is going to only function as a wrapper for subscribable.subscribe. After implementing createSubscribable, the implementation is as easy as below.

// src/lib/createPersistentItem.ts export function createPersistentItem<T>(/* ... */): IPersistentItem<T> { const subscribable = createSubscribable<T | undefined>(); return { ...options, getSync() { /* ... */ }, get() { /* ... */ }, subscribe: subscribable.subscribe, } }

This allows us to finally implement all data updating methods. Each of the methods is primarily a call to either the persistenceStrategy.set or persistenceStrategy.clear methods. Additionally, the methods handle errors, publish the new value to the subscribable after successfully updating the value and return the new value. In addition, update also fetches the previous value and uses it to call the provided updater function to derive the new value.

// src/lib/createPersistentItem.ts export function createPersistentItem<T>(/* ... */): IPersistentItem<T> { const subscribable = createSubscribable<T | undefined>(); return { ...options, getSync() { /* ... */ }, get() { /* ... */ }, subscribe: subscribable.subscribe, async set(value: T) { try { await options.persistenceStrategy.set({ value, key: options.key, serialize: options.serialize, }); subscribable.publish(value); } catch (e) { console.error(e); } finally { return value; } }, async update(updater: (prev: T | undefined) => T) { const prev = await this.get(); const value = updater(prev); try { await options.persistenceStrategy.set({ value, key: options.key, serialize: options.serialize, }); subscribable.publish(value); } catch (e) { console.error(e); } finally { return value; } }, async clear() { try { await options.persistenceStrategy.clear(options.key); subscribable.publish(undefined); } catch (e) { console.error(e); } }, } }

There we have it! A wrapper for persistent items!

Using persistent items

We can now use the API for example for storing the number of clicks to a button as follows.

const nClicks = createPersistentItem<number>({ key: "clicks", validate: (t: any): t is number => typeof t === "number" && t >= 0, persistenceStrategy: LocalStoragePersistenceStrategy }) // Setting the value to a number from an input document.querySelector("button#set").addEventListener("click", () => { nClicks.set(document.querySelector("input#num").valueAsNumber); }); // Updating the value document.querySelector("button#add").addEventListener("click", () => { nClicks.update(prev => (prev ?? 0) + 1); }); // Resetting the value document.querySelector("button#reset").addEventListener("click", () => { nClicks.clear(); }); // Logging each new value to the console nClicks.subscribe(newValue => console.log(newValue));

Creating a React hook

For easier use with React, we can also create a custom hook for accessing the current value of a persistent item. The hook will allow us to automatically rerender a component whenever the persistent item’s value is updated from anywhere within the app.

The hook contains takes as input a persistent item and contains its value in a useState. The state is initialized with the getSync method, which will automatically be undefined for async items. For async items, another useEffect is fired once which asynchronously initializes the state from undefined. Finally another useEffect is fired which handles subscribing and unsubscribing to state updates.

// src/hooks/usePersistentItem.ts export function usePersistentItem<T>(item: IPersistentItem<T>) { // State for holding current value, automatically updated. Initialize with // synchronously gotten value (undefined for async persistence strategies). const [value, setValue] = useState<T | undefined>(item.getSync()); // Initialize value asynchronously for async persistence strategies useEffect(() => { if (!item.persistenceStrategy.supportsSync) { item.get().then((_) => setValue(_)); } }, [setValue, item]); // Subscribe to updates and auto-update state useEffect(() => item.subscribe((t) => setValue(t)), [setValue, item]); // Return current value return value; }

The following snippet demonstrates the usage of the hook. The beautiful thing about this centralized implementation with a subscribable is that clicking one button automatically increments the value in both buttons as they are subscribed to the same item. The value is stored in local storage, but changing it to be stored in session storage, on a server or somewhere else is as easy as changing the persistence strategy.

// src/App.tsx function Counter(props: { item: IPersistentItem<number>, label: string }) { const clicks = usePersistentItem(props.item); return <div> <p> {props.label} </p> <button onClick={() => props.item.update(current => (current ?? 0) + 1)}> Clicked {clicks ?? 0} times </button> <button onClick={() => props.item.set(5)}> Set to 5 </button> <button onClick={() => props.item.clear()}> Reset </button> </div> } function App() { return ( <div> <Counter item={nClicks} label="Local storage 1" /> <Counter item={nClicks} label="Local storage 2" /> </div> ); } const nClicks = createPersistentItem<number>({ key: "clicks", validate: (t: any): t is number => typeof t === "number" && t >= 0, persistenceStrategy: LocalStoragePersistenceStrategy });

Final words

Thank you for reading. You are free to use the pattern provided in this article as well as any code you find here. Please feel free to send me a message if you find this useful or find a way to make this even better.

Ideas on how to make this better

  1. Reducing boilerplate for persistence strategies

Currently writing persistence strategies creates some boilerplate in our code. In each persistence strategy, we must declare error handling, serialization, deserialization and validation manually. However, you could easily create another abstraction (createAsyncPersistenceStrategy and createSyncPersistenceStrategy) which could be used as follows:

// Example API export const LocalStoragePersistenceStrategy = createSyncPersistenceStrategy({ get(key: string): string | undefined { return localStorage.getItem(key) ?? undefined; }, set(key: string, serial: string): void { localStorage.setItem(key, serial); }, clear(key: string): void { localStorage.removeItem(key); } });

Here createSyncPersistenceStrategy and createAsyncPersistenceStrategy simply take the implementations of fetching a serialized value, setting a serialized value and clearing the value and wrap them with validation, serialization, deserialization, correct get and getSync and supportsSync implementations and error handling. The implementations can be found in GitHub, together with example usage of them for creating LocalStoragePersistenceStrategy and ServerPersistenceStrategy with the functions.