Losing Reactivity

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Vue reactivity is magic. What I mean by "reactivity" is how Vue is smart enough to re-render whenever a piece of data changes. Or, even more impressive, if that piece of data is an object and you change just one property on it, Vue will still figure out that it needs to re-render any components that depend on that.

The Situations When Reactivity Fails

But there are a few limitations to Vue reactivity: a few edge cases where Vue can't work its magic and does not realize that it needs to re-render. Well, to be clear: Vue 2 has a few limitations... that Vue 3 solves. So if you're using Vue 3, feel free to skip ahead: it does not suffer from this issue.

Search for "Vue reactivity" to find a page on their docs. Scroll down to "change detection caveats".

There aren't many situations like this, but this first situation talks about what is currently happening to us: Vue cannot detect property addition or deletion. And a property must be present in the data object in order for Vue to convert it and make it reactive.

We talked about how reactivity works under the hood in part one of this series. The short explanation for Vue 2 is that when a piece of data is an object, Vue replaces each property on that object with a getter and setter method. This is invisible to us, but it allows Vue to be notified - via the setter method - whenever someone changes a property.

Our Reactivity Problem: Property Addition

Our problem starts in the checkout form component's data function. We initialize validationErrors to an empty object. And then, in the validateField() method, we add a new property to validationErrors. That's the "property addition" that Vue was talking about. Vue doesn't have a way to detect that the new property was added. And so, it can't add the getter and setter methods that are the key to making that property reactive. We can still read from and write to that property... but Vue isn't aware that we're doing that.

This is a long way of saying that if you have a piece of data that's an object like validationErrors, be sure to include all of its properties when you initialize it, even if some are null.

Head up to data and add all 6 properties to the object - setting each one to null. Thanks to this, from the very first moment the data is initialized, it will have all of its properties. Then, we're not creating a property down inside validateField(): we're just changing its value!

Oh, and now, instead of deleting the property, set it to null.

Ok! Let's test this! Go to checkout and... perfect! It instantly updates! But if we submit the form... funny things start to happen.

No validation error on Ryan. Right? That makes sense. But if I clear that out and hit tab... hey! Why didn't I get my validation error? This... is the same problem, but I want to show it to you in more detail.

Back in the component, at the top of validateField(), let's console.log(this.validationErrors).

Head back over: my page already refreshed. Go to checkout and open the console. Now notice: when I first blur, the entire object has a .... That's because the validationErrors data is wrapped in a getter method, which is Vue's way of adding reactivity to it. And if we click to open this, each property also has a ... next to it. That's an easy way for us to see that each property is reactive: Vue did have the opportunity to wrap it in a getter and setter.

Now submit the form, focus the name field... and hit tab again. Scroll down on the console to see the new log. The object does not have the ... anymore. And more importantly, each property under it also does not have .... The fact that those are gone means that each property lost reactivity. If we set the customerCity property, there is no setter, and so Vue would not be notified that it needs to re-render.

The reason this is happening is, up at the top of onSubmit(), we're resetting validationErrors back to an empty object. Then, when we set a key on validationErrors later, we are, once again, creating new properties.

Let's reinitialize just one field to start: set customerName to null.

Now go back, head to the checkout form and re-submit it. Click on the name field and blur it to get the log. Oooo: customerName now does still have its getter method! But the other fields do not. By including the customerName property when we replaced the validationErrors data, Vue was able to wrap it and make it reactive at that moment.

So the full solution is this. Either use Vue 3... and this will all just work, or whenever you set a full key on data that's an object, whether you're setting it inside the data function or somewhere else - be sure to include every property it needs. There are other work arounds the docs mention, but this is what I like.

To do this without repeating ourselves, let's add a new method called getEmptyValidationErrors() that will return an object. Go up to our initial data, steal those fields, head down and paste. Perfect.

We can use this up inside data(): validationErrors set to this.getEmptyValidationErrors(). Do the same thing down here in onSubmit(): this.getEmptyValidationErrors().

Let's check it! Go back to the checkout form, submit it... see the errors, type a name, hit tab and... it's gone! Reactivity is back!

Let's celebrate by removing the console.log().

Woh team, we're done! You did it! You are now massively dangerous in Vue. So go build something really cool and tell us about it. I would love to know.

In a future tutorial, we'll cover the Vue 3 composition API: that's the really big new, optional feature in Vue 3 that has the potential to make sharing code and data a lot nicer.

If there's something else that you want to know about, let us know down in the comments.

Alright friends, see you next time!

Leave a comment!

This course is also built to work with Vue 3!

What JavaScript libraries does this tutorial use?

// package.json
{
    "devDependencies": {
        "@fortawesome/fontawesome-free": "^5.15.1", // 5.15.1
        "@symfony/webpack-encore": "^0.30.0", // 0.30.2
        "axios": "^0.19.2", // 0.19.2
        "bootstrap": "^4.4.1", // 4.5.3
        "core-js": "^3.0.0", // 3.6.5
        "eslint": "^6.7.2", // 6.8.0
        "eslint-config-airbnb-base": "^14.0.0", // 14.2.0
        "eslint-plugin-import": "^2.19.1", // 2.22.1
        "eslint-plugin-vue": "^6.0.1", // 6.2.2
        "regenerator-runtime": "^0.13.2", // 0.13.7
        "sass": "^1.29.0", // 1.29.0
        "sass-loader": "^8.0.0", // 8.0.2
        "vue": "^2.6.11", // 2.6.12
        "vue-loader": "^15.9.1", // 15.9.4
        "vue-template-compiler": "^2.6.11", // 2.6.12
        "webpack-notifier": "^1.6.0" // 1.8.0
    }
}