react-redux reactjs redux

How to model transient events in React/Redux?

While React with Redux is excellent at modeling UI state, there are occasionally situations where something just happens, the UI needs to handle that event in a discrete procedural way, and it doesn’t make sense to think of that transient event as a piece of state that would persist for any period of time.

Two examples, from a JS Bin-like code editor application:

  • A user exports their code to a GitHub gist. When the export is complete, we want to open a new browser window displaying the gist. Thus, the React component hierarchy needs to know the ID of the gist, but only at a single moment in time, at which point it will open the window and stop caring about the gist export altogether.
  • A user clicks on an error message, which causes the editor to bring the line where the error occurred into focus in the editor. Again, the UI only cares about which line needs to be focused for a single moment in time, at which point the (non-React-based) editor is told to focus the line, and the whole thing is forgotten about.

The least unsatisfying solution I’ve come up with is:

  • When the triggering event occurs, dispatch an action to update the Redux state with the needed information (gist ID, line to focus)
  • The React component that’s interested in that information will monitor the appropriate props in a lifecycle hook (componentWillReceiveProps etc.). When the information appears in its props, it takes the appropriate action (loads the gist window, focuses the editor on the line)
  • The component then immediately dispatches another event to the Redux store essentially saying, “I’ve handled this”. The transient event data is removed from Redux state.

Is there a better pattern for this sort of situation? I think one perhaps fundamental part of the picture is that the UI’s response to the action always breaks out of the React component structure—opening a new window, calling a method on the editor’s API, etc.