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New in v1.4

Basic Component Lifecycle

The basic component lifecycle (as per older versions of the framework) is described at Component Lifecycle. The information held there is still accurate and the techniques described there will continue to be supported at least until Infusion v2.0 and probably much beyond. However, new in the 1.4 version of Infusion is a new selection of directives and a wider lifecycle that accompanies the introduction of the new Inversion of Control (IoC) system. This wider lifecycle, which is activated by supplying the Grade name of autoInit, comprises the lifecycle described by fluid.initView, but as well as subdividing it more finely to allow more interception, extends it to comprise a call to fluid.initDependents and further interception points. The use of the call fluid.initSubcomponents to initialise subcomponents is discouraged, although since the IoC system which replaces it is not yet in full production status, it cannot be deprecated at this time.

The lifecycle enabled by autoInit

The following diagram shows the complete lifecycle which is followed during initialisation of a component which has its creator function automatically created through the use of autoInit:

The lifecycle proceeds from its beginning at the top of the diagram, where the component instance is first created, to the bottom, where it is fully initialised and ready to use, following the direction of the blue arrow. This diagram shows the "extended lifecycle" which is operated by the framework for a component created with the autoInit grade, enclosed in the large brace shown at the left. For "old-style" components which have a creator function manually invoked, the lifecycle which the framework takes charge of is only the smaller segment enclosed by the smaller brace shown in the centre, attached to the box labelled "initFunction".

Lifecycle listener functions

These functions are all free functions, either registered in the global namespace or supplied literally, and all have the same signature - they all accept a single argument, conventionally named that which is the component instance which is currently under construction.

Simple example of autoInit lifecycle component

Here is an illustration of a simple component which is defined using the autoInit grade:

fluid.defaults("fluid.myAutoComponent", {
    gradeNames: ["fluid.eventedComponent", "fluid.modelComponent", "autoInit"],
    preInitFunction: {
        priority: "last",
        listener: "fluid.myAutoComponent.preInit"
        },
    finalInitFunction: "fluid.myAutoComponent.finalInit",
    events: {
        componentReady: null
    }
};

fluid.myAutoComponent.preInit = function(that) {
    that.applier.requestChange("myPath", 3);
    };

fluid.myAutoComponent.finalInit = function(that) {
    that.events.componentReady.fire(that);
    };



...


var myComponent = fluid.myAutoComponent();

This block of defaults defines an automatically created component (that is, the component's creator function fluid.myAutoComponent is created by the framework rather than using user code) which configures two functions to intercept lifecycle points during creation, and one event named componentReady. This component inherits from both of the standard framework grades fluid.modelComponent which causes it to have a model initialised on startup (in fact, by use of a framework-contributed preInitFunction) and a set of event firers instantiated.

Since we specified the autoInit grade, this component has its creator function, named fluid.myAutoComponent created by the framework. This function is ready immediately after the call to fluid.defaults finishes for us to conveniently use a namespace to hang off our lifecycle listener functions. This is a helpful convention to follow if the listener functions are tightly bound to the identity of the component itself, but nothing prevents the use of a different naming convention and/or lifecycle listener functions being shared amongst multiple components. In fact, this kind of reusability is precisely one of the aims of the autoInit system.

The preInitFunction

In this case, we want to ensure that the preInitFunction we contribute is definitely called after the framework's standard preInitFunction attached to the model-bearing grade fluid.modelComponent. As a result, we use a slightly longer form of declaring the listener which supplies a priority field. The syntax and semantics of lifecycle listeners are exactly the same as those for standard event listeners - all of the directives, including listener, namespace and priority are supported in the same way, as well as the various forms for supplying listeners, and/or arrays of listeners. We want our preInitFunction to be called last during the lifecycle point since we want to make use of the component's ChangeApplier, which is created at the standard location applier attached to the component's model by the framework's own preInitFunction.

The finalInitFunction

The finalInitFunction that we configure here, we decide we are uninterested in expressing any preference for ordering amongst other finalInitFunction s - so it is just listed as a raw function name registered into the configuration. However, in real life, given the precise use we make of the lifecycle point (we fire a standard Infusion event to signal the component has finished constructing) we would be wise to register this lifecycle listener using the priority "last" to ensure that all constructional activity for the component really had completed before the event was fired.

Choice of lifecycle points

The choice of which lifecycle points to use is governed by how much of the component's functionality the listener needs to use - and conversely, which parts of the further construction lifecycle the component needs to contribute to. In this case, we used a preInitFunction so that we could guarantee that some initial material was set up in the component's model - this might be used by the component's subcomponents, or queried in listeners attached to later lifecycle points. Since the event firing listener has to execute last, the choice of finalInitFunction for that one is forced. The table below shows some discussion of the uses which these listeners might be put.

Lifecycle points and their possible uses

Lifecycle point

Description

Recommended Use

preInitFunction

Executes immediately after options merging

Set up material for core responsibilities of the component that needs to be visible throughout the early lifecycle - for example, a correct initial state of the model, also any functions or methods which will be used as event handlers

postInitFunction

Executes after event handlers have been initialised

Set up general methods on the component - the main purpose of this lifecycle point is to set up modifications to the component's options and members that need to be visible before the call to initDependents. Note that if methods will be used as event handlers, they must be attached during the preInit phase.

finalInitFunction

Executes just before the component is returned

No events should be fired until this phase, and in general no methods should be called until this phase, since the component until now has not been "generally ready for use". However, references to methods can be taken, if they exist, during the postInit phase for use during this phase.

Benefits of the autoInit and lifecycle system

The primary benefit of the autoInit system is that it reduces what would ordinarily have been literal and naturally error-prone user code to declarative form. For the first time, it is actually possible to define a complete functional component without one line of code at all - for example, the following code constructs a fully functional renderer component:

fluid.defaults("fluid.myRendererComponent", {
    gradeNames: ["fluid.rendererComponent", "autoInit"],
    selectors: {
        input: ".flc-rendererComponent-input"
    },
    protoTree: {
        input: "${value}"
    }
});

This defines a model-bound renderer component which renders a single input field. It could be constructed, for example, using a lines such as

    var model = {value: "My String"};
    var component = fluid.myRendererComponent(".flc-rendererComponent", {model: model});

The value in the supplied model would be automatically kept up to date with changes made by the user as a result of the autoBind facility of the renderer.

Other benefits include removing error-prone aspects of the component workflow. For example, having the component creator lifecycle in code creates the chance that no standard framework init function may be called, or these functions may be called in the wrong order or with inappropriate arguments - for example, a call to fluid.initDependents at an inappropriate time. Seeing that a component is registered with autoInit puts the reader's mind at rest that all of these aspects are taken care of automatically and that the component will behave in a standard way when combined with others. Special case uses remain for components with non-standard workflows but these can now be highlighted, warning readers to look more closely when seeing a manual creator function written out.

Finally, the use of lifecycle init functions of this kind increase the potential for reusability of code. Since these all enjoy a standard component signature (accepting that as a single argument) and are packaged as public functions out in the open, any common workflow that can be found between different component types is maximally likely to be reusable for the different components. In the "old world" where component initialisation material was typically kept in private scope functions in long streams of activity, this kind of reuse was unlikely to be realised.

Future of the lifecycle system

The system described here is stable but is not in the final form that we ultimately desire. Component writers still need to think about WHICH lifecycle point to attach their listeners to, based on their purpose - rather than having the framework be able to automatically infer the correct time to fire the listener based on an understanding of its purpose. This relies on an upcoming framework feature known as the globally ginger world that will interleave the two processes of {merge options} and {initDependents} shown in the diagram into a single unified instantiation process that will proceed across all instantiation activities in an order determined by their inter-dependencies. This is a tail for which the world is not yet ready.

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