Reactivity

Keep on Learning!

If you liked what you've learned so far, dive in!
Subscribe to get access to this tutorial plus
video, code and script downloads.

Start your All-Access Pass
Buy just this tutorial for $12.00

With a Subscription, click any sentence in the script to jump to that part of the video!

Login Subscribe

We now understand that we pass Vue a set of options and it takes all the keys in data, props and methods and adds those onto the Vue instance. We can see this in our console thanks to the console.log(this) that we added: this has categories, collapsed and testProp properties plus a toggleCollapsed method. Vue effectively copies these onto the instance so that we can say things like this.collapsed.

But there's still a mystery: when we change a data key - like this.collapsed = !this.collapsed - Vue instantly re-renders the template. How does that happen? Think about it: if collapsed is just a simple property, then how is Vue aware that we changed it?

Data & Props are Getter Properties

The answer is... magic! Sorcery! Potions! Ok... really it's just clever JavaScript. Look back at the categories and collapsed properties on the console. Notice that, instead of showing the value, it shows (...) and says "invoke property getter" when I hover. If you click that, then it shows the value.

It turns out that categories, collapsed and also testProp are not real properties on the object! Scandal! They're "getter" properties. If you scroll near the bottom of the log, you see get categories and get collapsed. What you're seeing is a special feature of JavaScript where you can make an object look like it has a property, even if it really doesn't. There is no property called categories, but we are allowed to reference this.categories thanks to this get categories function. When we say this.categories or this.collapsed, it calls this proxyGetter, which is some low-level Vue function. And when we set that property - like this.collapsed = something, it will call this proxySetter function.

The point is: Vue makes our data accessible, but indirectly via these getter and setter functions. It does that so that it can hook into our calls and re-render. When we say this.collapsed =, that calls proxySetter, which updates the data and tell Vue that it needs to re-render any affected components.

And... this is great! We get to run around just saying this.collapsed = not even realizing that Vue is intercepting that call and intelligently re-rending.

Proxy Objects

By the way, in Vue 3, this magic is done by something called a Proxy. A Proxy is a native JavaScript object - it's a feature built into the language itself, not invented by Vue. With a Proxy, you can wrap another object and intercept all method calls, property gets and property sets. The result is the same... it's just a bit of a cleaner way to get the job done. By the way, this whole idea of hooking into us changing data and then automatically re-rendering any affected templates has a cool name: reactivity. Oooo.

Tracking Changes with the Observer

You see, when Vue renders a component, it keeps track of every data or prop that you access during that process, whether you access it directly in the template or reference it in a method. It's able to do that because when we access a property, it actually calls that reactiveGetter thing.

The point is: by the time Vue finishes rendering a component, it has a nice list of all of the data and props that this component depends on. Each component has an "observer" object internally that keeps track of this. Then, when any of those change, the observer is notified and it re-renders the component. All we need to do is focus on rendering our component. But behind-the-scenes, Vue is observing which properties we're using so that it knows exactly when it needs to re-render.

Reactivity in Arrays

Reactivity gets even more amazing when you look at the categories data. Back in created, let's also log this.categories for simplicity. Back on the console... find that log - it's on the right - and expand it.

... lines 1 - 43
<script>
export default {
... lines 46 - 67
created() {
console.log(this, this.categories);
},
... lines 71 - 75
};
</script>
... lines 78 - 92

Check it out: it's a normal Array with 0 and 1 keys. So... if we dynamically added a third item to this array, would Vue know to re-render? Yep!

In Vue 3, instead of an array, this would be a Proxy around an array, which would let Vue hook into the new item being added. How is it done in Vue 2? Check out this __proto__ key. This is a fancy place where we can see all the methods that exist on this Array, which is an object in JavaScript. So you can call .pop, .push() or any of these. But check it out: each is set to a function called mutator(). That is not a native JavaScript function: it comes from Vue!

Yea, Vue has replaced all of the Array functions with their own functions! If we push() a new item onto the array, it will call this mutator() function, which will push the item on the array and trigger any re-rendering. It's... pretty crazy. And actually, because of how this is done in Vue 2, there are a few edge case ways that you update an Array in a way that Vue cannot detect. The most common by far is if you set an item directly to a specific index. That's not a problem in Vue 3 thanks to the Proxy object.

Deep Reactivity

But wait, there's more! Check out one of the individual category objects. Remember, in data, each category has name and link properties. Guess what? Once Vue loads the data, these are not real properties anymore: it says "invoke getter". Vue creates an object that looks like the data we created, but instead of having real name and link properties, it adds getters and setters for them - the same reactiveGetter and reactiveSetter functions we saw earlier. So if we changed the name property of the 0 index category, that will update that property and trigger any re-rendering needed.

Phew! So this is the real magic of Vue, and one of the things that sets it apart from React. In React, you handle data - or state - a bit more manually, but with less magic. It's always a tradeoff. But if you can understand how Vue's magic works on a high level, it will go a long way to helping you do great stuff.

Before we keep going - remove the created and props options. Next, we know that props, data and methods are copied onto the Vue instance and so, made available in the template. Let's talk about the fourth and last thing that is added to the instance: computed properties.

Leave a comment!