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Async Computed Properties

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Our search is cool and fast... but it won't work if we start paginating the products... and the logic used in the search is super basic: we're just comparing the product name. In most cases, I'll want my search to be smarter than this: like via a more complex database query or by using something like Elasticsearch.

For both of these reasons, I want to refactor our search to fetch the data from the server, instead of doing it all in JavaScript.

Open a new tab and go to /api/products.jsonld: our shortcut to see what our API looks like. I've already added a basic filter to the API: you can add ?name= and a term, and it will filter the results. This actually only filters on the name property. But you can make the search in your API as rich as you need. The important part is that our API has a way for us to send a search query and get a sub-set of results.

Adding Search to the Product Service

Back in our code, open up services/products-service.js. This function is responsible for making the Ajax request for products and it can already filter by category. Now, add a second argument called searchTerm. Then, very simply, if we have a searchTerm, say params.name = searchTerm to add the query parameter. I'll even document the new param: it will be a string or null and it's called searchTerm.

... lines 1 - 2
* @param {string|null} categoryIri
* @param {string|null} searchTerm
* @returns {Promise}
export function fetchProducts(categoryIri, searchTerm) {
... lines 9 - 13
if (searchTerm) {
params.name = searchTerm;
... lines 17 - 20

Very nice!

Ajax inside a Computed Property?

Let's use this in catalog.vue. I'm going to do this in the simplest way possible first... and it's totally not going to work! We currently have a filteredProducts computed property, which computes the correct array of Products to use based on the searchTerm and products.

So the easiest thing to do is: if there is no searchTerm, return this.products. Else, if there is a searchTerm, let's make our API call! I'll copy the fetchProducts() line from below and say const response = await fetchProducts(). And, of course, Webpack is mad because this method now needs to be async.

... lines 1 - 32
export default {
... lines 34 - 58
computed: {
async filteredProducts() {
... lines 61 - 64
const response = await fetchProducts(this.currentCategoryId, this.searchTerm)
... lines 66 - 67
... lines 70 - 90
... lines 92 - 93

Much better! To finish the function, I'll go steal some more code and say return response.data['hydra:member'].

... lines 1 - 58
computed: {
async filteredProducts() {
... lines 61 - 66
return response.data['hydra:member'];
... lines 70 - 93

So... this makes sense, right? When we reference filteredProducts in the template, that will call our function, we make the Ajax call, wait for it to finish and then return the new array of products. Genius!

But... you can already see that we have an angry underline below await. Bah... let's ignore that and try it! I'll refresh and... oh... we are broken. And we have an error:

Invalid prop: type check failed for prop "products". Expected Array got Promise.

This is coming from ProductList and that prop is passed by Catalog. Yep, when we render <product-list, the filteredProducts is no longer an Array. It's a Promise!

And... yea. That makes sense. When you make a function async, when someone calls that function, it finishes immediately and returns a Promise: it does not actually wait for your code to run. Then, later, when your function does finally finish its work, that promise resolves.

So this is a long way of saying that computed properties can only do synchronous work: they must return a value immediately. If you try to do something async, then you'll end up returning a Promise instead of the real value.

Nope, if you need to do something asynchronous, then you can't use a computed property. So, computed properties are "yay!" for calculating synchronous stuff but are "boo!" for async stuff.

Adding a new Data

The solution is to abandon your project and take up a peaceful career herding sheep. Or, you'll need to convert the computed property into a piece of data. And then, whenever that data needs to change - like whenever the searchTerm changes - you'll call a method that will make the Ajax call and update that data once its done.

So... let's do this! The first step is to add a piece of data that can hold the filtered products. But, actually, now that we're not trying to keep all the products in the products data so that we can filter based off of it, whenever our Ajax call finishes, it's now ok to change that products array directly. So instead of adding a new piece of data - we'll just change products.

Sweet! This means that, up in the template, we should change filteredProducts back to products. And back down, we can remove the computed section entirely.

... lines 3 - 14
... lines 19 - 22
... lines 25 - 86

Updating products on searchTerm Change

Here's the plan then: whenever the searchTerm changes, we basically want to re-run all of the code that makes the Ajax call and updates the products data... but with a minor addition to also include the search query.

To help re-use this, create a new method called loadProducts() with a searchTerm argument.

... lines 1 - 32
export default {
... lines 34 - 61
methods: {
... lines 63 - 66
async loadProducts(searchTerm) {
... lines 68 - 82
... lines 85 - 86

Now, copy the entire created() function... and paste. To include the searchTerm, pass that as a second arg to fetchProducts(). Oh and, of course, make this method async.

... lines 1 - 61
methods: {
... lines 63 - 66
async loadProducts(searchTerm) {
this.loading = true;
let response;
try {
response = await fetchProducts(this.currentCategoryId, searchTerm);
this.loading = false;
} catch (e) {
this.loading = false;
this.products = response.data['hydra:member'];
... lines 84 - 86

Up in created, we only need this.loadProducts(null). I'm using null because when we first load, there will be no search term. We could pass this.searchTerm... but I'm going to delete that data in a minute.

... lines 1 - 32
export default {
... lines 34 - 58
async created() {
... lines 62 - 83
... lines 85 - 86

This was just a simple refactoring. And... if we reload the page! Yay, our refactoring did not make the site catch on fire. A win!

Back in the editor, the last step is to call this.loadProducts() whenever the search changes... which is exactly when onSearchProducts() is called! Add this.loadProducts() and pass event.term.

... lines 1 - 60
methods: {
onSearchProducts(event) {
... lines 65 - 81
... lines 83 - 85

Thanks to this, when onSearchProducts() is called, this will start the Ajax call. Later, when it finishes, the products data will get updated and the component will re-render.

And hmm. If you think about it: we don't even need the searchTerm data anymore. I'll look for it: we're setting it here... and initializing it in data. The loadProducts() method doesn't need it because we pass it as an argument.

So celebrate by removing the searchTerm data.

Moment of truth! Let's refresh the page to be safe and... type. Yes! This matches 2 products and disk matches one. In Symfony's web debug toolbar, you can see the Ajax calls. We now have the ability to make our search as powerful as our heart desires.

Destructured Event Arg

Oh, but there's one tiny other thing I want to show you. In onSearchProducts, we get the term with event.term. And... that's actually the only part of the event object that we're using. In the JavaScript world, you'll often see a method like this written as { term }.

This is object destructuring: it grabs the term property from the event argument that's being passed and sets it as a term variable. It allows us to just say term below. We can even document this: the term param is a string. Extra credit if you describe the function above.

... lines 1 - 60
methods: {
* Handles a change in the searchTerm provided by the search bar and fetches new products
* @param {string} term
onSearchProducts({ term }) {
... lines 70 - 86
... lines 88 - 90

After this change... the search still works. But... wow! This is making a lot of Ajax calls! Even if we type really fast, it makes one Ajax call per letter! Let's fix that next by adding debouncing.

Oh, but before we do, it's not hurting anything, but since the created() function does not directly use await anymore, it doesn't need to be async.

Ok, onto the debouncing!

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What JavaScript libraries does this tutorial use?

// package.json
    "devDependencies": {
        "@symfony/webpack-encore": "^0.30.0", // 0.30.2
        "axios": "^0.19.2", // 0.19.2
        "bootstrap": "^4.4.1", // 4.5.0
        "core-js": "^3.0.0", // 3.6.5
        "eslint": "^6.7.2", // 6.8.0
        "eslint-config-airbnb-base": "^14.0.0", // 14.1.0
        "eslint-plugin-import": "^2.19.1", // 2.20.2
        "eslint-plugin-vue": "^6.0.1", // 6.2.2
        "regenerator-runtime": "^0.13.2", // 0.13.5
        "sass": "^1.29.0", // 1.29.0
        "sass-loader": "^8.0.0", // 8.0.2
        "vue": "^2.6.11", // 2.6.11
        "vue-loader": "^15.9.1", // 15.9.2
        "vue-template-compiler": "^2.6.11", // 2.6.11
        "webpack-notifier": "^1.6.0" // 1.8.0