How to dispatch a Redux action with a timeout?

How to dispatch a Redux action with a timeout?

I have an action that updates notification state of my application. Usually, this notification will be an error or info of some sort. I need to then dispatch another action after 5 seconds that will return the notification state to initial one, so no notification. The main reason behind this is to provide functionality where notifications disappear automatically after 5 seconds.
I had no luck with using setTimeout and returning another action and can’t find how this is done online. So any advice is welcome.

Solutions/Answers:

Solution 1:

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking a library should prescribe how to do everything. If you want to do something with a timeout in JavaScript, you need to use setTimeout. There is no reason why Redux actions should be any different.

Redux does offer some alternative ways of dealing with asynchronous stuff, but you should only use those when you realize you are repeating too much code. Unless you have this problem, use what the language offers and go for the simplest solution.

Writing Async Code Inline

This is by far the simplest way. And there’s nothing specific to Redux here.

store.dispatch({ type: 'SHOW_NOTIFICATION', text: 'You logged in.' })
setTimeout(() => {
  store.dispatch({ type: 'HIDE_NOTIFICATION' })
}, 5000)

Similarly, from inside a connected component:

this.props.dispatch({ type: 'SHOW_NOTIFICATION', text: 'You logged in.' })
setTimeout(() => {
  this.props.dispatch({ type: 'HIDE_NOTIFICATION' })
}, 5000)

The only difference is that in a connected component you usually don’t have access to the store itself, but get either dispatch() or specific action creators injected as props. However this doesn’t make any difference for us.

If you don’t like making typos when dispatching the same actions from different components, you might want to extract action creators instead of dispatching action objects inline:

// actions.js
export function showNotification(text) {
  return { type: 'SHOW_NOTIFICATION', text }
}
export function hideNotification() {
  return { type: 'HIDE_NOTIFICATION' }
}

// component.js
import { showNotification, hideNotification } from '../actions'

this.props.dispatch(showNotification('You just logged in.'))
setTimeout(() => {
  this.props.dispatch(hideNotification())
}, 5000)

Or, if you have previously bound them with connect():

this.props.showNotification('You just logged in.')
setTimeout(() => {
  this.props.hideNotification()
}, 5000)

So far we have not used any middleware or other advanced concept.

Extracting Async Action Creator

The approach above works fine in simple cases but you might find that it has a few problems:

  • It forces you to duplicate this logic anywhere you want to show a notification.
  • The notifications have no IDs so you’ll have a race condition if you show two notifications fast enough. When the first timeout finishes, it will dispatch HIDE_NOTIFICATION, erroneously hiding the second notification sooner than after the timeout.

To solve these problems, you would need to extract a function that centralizes the timeout logic and dispatches those two actions. It might look like this:

// actions.js
function showNotification(id, text) {
  return { type: 'SHOW_NOTIFICATION', id, text }
}
function hideNotification(id) {
  return { type: 'HIDE_NOTIFICATION', id }
}

let nextNotificationId = 0
export function showNotificationWithTimeout(dispatch, text) {
  // Assigning IDs to notifications lets reducer ignore HIDE_NOTIFICATION
  // for the notification that is not currently visible.
  // Alternatively, we could store the timeout ID and call
  // clearTimeout(), but we’d still want to do it in a single place.
  const id = nextNotificationId++
  dispatch(showNotification(id, text))

  setTimeout(() => {
    dispatch(hideNotification(id))
  }, 5000)
}

Now components can use showNotificationWithTimeout without duplicating this logic or having race conditions with different notifications:

// component.js
showNotificationWithTimeout(this.props.dispatch, 'You just logged in.')

// otherComponent.js
showNotificationWithTimeout(this.props.dispatch, 'You just logged out.')    

Why does showNotificationWithTimeout() accept dispatch as the first argument? Because it needs to dispatch actions to the store. Normally a component has access to dispatch but since we want an external function to take control over dispatching, we need to give it control over dispatching.

If you had a singleton store exported from some module, you could just import it and dispatch directly on it instead:

// store.js
export default createStore(reducer)

// actions.js
import store from './store'

// ...

let nextNotificationId = 0
export function showNotificationWithTimeout(text) {
  const id = nextNotificationId++
  store.dispatch(showNotification(id, text))

  setTimeout(() => {
    store.dispatch(hideNotification(id))
  }, 5000)
}

// component.js
showNotificationWithTimeout('You just logged in.')

// otherComponent.js
showNotificationWithTimeout('You just logged out.')    

This looks simpler but we don’t recommend this approach. The main reason we dislike it is because it forces store to be a singleton. This makes it very hard to implement server rendering. On the server, you will want each request to have its own store, so that different users get different preloaded data.

A singleton store also makes testing harder. You can no longer mock a store when testing action creators because they reference a specific real store exported from a specific module. You can’t even reset its state from outside.

So while you technically can export a singleton store from a module, we discourage it. Don’t do this unless you are sure that your app will never add server rendering.

Getting back to the previous version:

// actions.js

// ...

let nextNotificationId = 0
export function showNotificationWithTimeout(dispatch, text) {
  const id = nextNotificationId++
  dispatch(showNotification(id, text))

  setTimeout(() => {
    dispatch(hideNotification(id))
  }, 5000)
}

// component.js
showNotificationWithTimeout(this.props.dispatch, 'You just logged in.')

// otherComponent.js
showNotificationWithTimeout(this.props.dispatch, 'You just logged out.')    

This solves the problems with duplication of logic and saves us from race conditions.

Thunk Middleware

For simple apps, the approach should suffice. Don’t worry about middleware if you’re happy with it.

In larger apps, however, you might find certain inconveniences around it.

For example, it seems unfortunate that we have to pass dispatch around. This makes it trickier to separate container and presentational components because any component that dispatches Redux actions asynchronously in the manner above has to accept dispatch as a prop so it can pass it further. You can’t just bind action creators with connect() anymore because showNotificationWithTimeout() is not really an action creator. It does not return a Redux action.

In addition, it can be awkward to remember which functions are synchronous action creators like showNotification() and which are asynchronous helpers like showNotificationWithTimeout(). You have to use them differently and be careful not to mistake them with each other.

This was the motivation for finding a way to “legitimize” this pattern of providing dispatch to a helper function, and help Redux “see” such asynchronous action creators as a special case of normal action creators rather than totally different functions.

If you’re still with us and you also recognize as a problem in your app, you are welcome to use the Redux Thunk middleware.

In a gist, Redux Thunk teaches Redux to recognize special kinds of actions that are in fact functions:

import { createStore, applyMiddleware } from 'redux'
import thunk from 'redux-thunk'

const store = createStore(
  reducer,
  applyMiddleware(thunk)
)

// It still recognizes plain object actions
store.dispatch({ type: 'INCREMENT' })

// But with thunk middleware, it also recognizes functions
store.dispatch(function (dispatch) {
  // ... which themselves may dispatch many times
  dispatch({ type: 'INCREMENT' })
  dispatch({ type: 'INCREMENT' })
  dispatch({ type: 'INCREMENT' })

  setTimeout(() => {
    // ... even asynchronously!
    dispatch({ type: 'DECREMENT' })
  }, 1000)
})

When this middleware is enabled, if you dispatch a function, Redux Thunk middleware will give it dispatch as an argument. It will also “swallow” such actions so don’t worry about your reducers receiving weird function arguments. Your reducers will only receive plain object actions—either emitted directly, or emitted by the functions as we just described.

This does not look very useful, does it? Not in this particular situation. However it lets us declare showNotificationWithTimeout() as a regular Redux action creator:

// actions.js
function showNotification(id, text) {
  return { type: 'SHOW_NOTIFICATION', id, text }
}
function hideNotification(id) {
  return { type: 'HIDE_NOTIFICATION', id }
}

let nextNotificationId = 0
export function showNotificationWithTimeout(text) {
  return function (dispatch) {
    const id = nextNotificationId++
    dispatch(showNotification(id, text))

    setTimeout(() => {
      dispatch(hideNotification(id))
    }, 5000)
  }
}

Note how the function is almost identical to the one we wrote in the previous section. However it doesn’t accept dispatch as the first argument. Instead it returns a function that accepts dispatch as the first argument.

How would we use it in our component? Definitely, we could write this:

// component.js
showNotificationWithTimeout('You just logged in.')(this.props.dispatch)

We are calling the async action creator to get the inner function that wants just dispatch, and then we pass dispatch.

However this is even more awkward than the original version! Why did we even go that way?

Because of what I told you before. If Redux Thunk middleware is enabled, any time you attempt to dispatch a function instead of an action object, the middleware will call that function with dispatch method itself as the first argument.

So we can do this instead:

// component.js
this.props.dispatch(showNotificationWithTimeout('You just logged in.'))

Finally, dispatching an asynchronous action (really, a series of actions) looks no different than dispatching a single action synchronously to the component. Which is good because components shouldn’t care whether something happens synchronously or asynchronously. We just abstracted that away.

Notice that since we “taught” Redux to recognize such “special” action creators (we call them thunk action creators), we can now use them in any place where we would use regular action creators. For example, we can use them with connect():

// actions.js

function showNotification(id, text) {
  return { type: 'SHOW_NOTIFICATION', id, text }
}
function hideNotification(id) {
  return { type: 'HIDE_NOTIFICATION', id }
}

let nextNotificationId = 0
export function showNotificationWithTimeout(text) {
  return function (dispatch) {
    const id = nextNotificationId++
    dispatch(showNotification(id, text))

    setTimeout(() => {
      dispatch(hideNotification(id))
    }, 5000)
  }
}

// component.js

import { connect } from 'react-redux'

// ...

this.props.showNotificationWithTimeout('You just logged in.')

// ...

export default connect(
  mapStateToProps,
  { showNotificationWithTimeout }
)(MyComponent)

Reading State in Thunks

Usually your reducers contain the business logic for determining the next state. However, reducers only kick in after the actions are dispatched. What if you have a side effect (such as calling an API) in a thunk action creator, and you want to prevent it under some condition?

Without using the thunk middleware, you’d just do this check inside the component:

// component.js
if (this.props.areNotificationsEnabled) {
  showNotificationWithTimeout(this.props.dispatch, 'You just logged in.')
}

However, the point of extracting an action creator was to centralize this repetitive logic across many components. Fortunately, Redux Thunk offers you a way to read the current state of the Redux store. In addition to dispatch, it also passes getState as the second argument to the function you return from your thunk action creator. This lets the thunk read the current state of the store.

let nextNotificationId = 0
export function showNotificationWithTimeout(text) {
  return function (dispatch, getState) {
    // Unlike in a regular action creator, we can exit early in a thunk
    // Redux doesn’t care about its return value (or lack of it)
    if (!getState().areNotificationsEnabled) {
      return
    }

    const id = nextNotificationId++
    dispatch(showNotification(id, text))

    setTimeout(() => {
      dispatch(hideNotification(id))
    }, 5000)
  }
}

Don’t abuse this pattern. It is good for bailing out of API calls when there is cached data available, but it is not a very good foundation to build your business logic upon. If you use getState() only to conditionally dispatch different actions, consider putting the business logic into the reducers instead.

Next Steps

Now that you have a basic intuition about how thunks work, check out Redux async example which uses them.

You may find many examples in which thunks return Promises. This is not required but can be very convenient. Redux doesn’t care what you return from a thunk, but it gives you its return value from dispatch(). This is why you can return a Promise from a thunk and wait for it to complete by calling dispatch(someThunkReturningPromise()).then(...).

You may also split complex thunk action creators into several smaller thunk action creators. The dispatch method provided by thunks can accept thunks itself, so you can apply the pattern recursively. Again, this works best with Promises because you can implement asynchronous control flow on top of that.

For some apps, you may find yourself in a situation where your asynchronous control flow requirements are too complex to be expressed with thunks. For example, retrying failed requests, reauthorization flow with tokens, or a step-by-step onboarding can be too verbose and error-prone when written this way. In this case, you might want to look at more advanced asynchronous control flow solutions such as Redux Saga or Redux Loop. Evaluate them, compare the examples relevant to your needs, and pick the one you like the most.

Finally, don’t use anything (including thunks) if you don’t have the genuine need for them. Remember that, depending on the requirements, your solution might look as simple as

store.dispatch({ type: 'SHOW_NOTIFICATION', text: 'You logged in.' })
setTimeout(() => {
  store.dispatch({ type: 'HIDE_NOTIFICATION' })
}, 5000)

Don’t sweat it unless you know why you’re doing this.

Solution 2:

Using Redux-saga

As Dan Abramov said, if you want more advanced control over your async code, you might take a look at redux-saga.

This answer is a simple example, if you want better explanations on why redux-saga can be useful for your application, check this other answer.

The general idea is that Redux-saga offers an ES6 generators interpreter that permits you to easily write async code that looks like synchronous code (this is why you’ll often find infinite while loops in Redux-saga). Somehow, Redux-saga is building its own language directly inside Javascript. Redux-saga can feel a bit difficult to learn at first, because you need basic understanding of generators, but also understand the language offered by Redux-saga.

I’ll try here to describe here the notification system I built on top of redux-saga. This example currently runs in production.

Advanced notification system specification

  • You can request a notification to be displayed
  • You can request a notification to hide
  • A notification should not be displayed more than 4 seconds
  • Multiple notifications can be displayed at the same time
  • No more than 3 notifications can be displayed at the same time
  • If a notification is requested while there are already 3 displayed notifications, then queue/postpone it.

Result

Screenshot of my production app Stample.co

toasts

Code

Here I named the notification a toast but this is a naming detail.

function* toastSaga() {

    // Some config constants
    const MaxToasts = 3;
    const ToastDisplayTime = 4000;


    // Local generator state: you can put this state in Redux store
    // if it's really important to you, in my case it's not really
    let pendingToasts = []; // A queue of toasts waiting to be displayed
    let activeToasts = []; // Toasts currently displayed


    // Trigger the display of a toast for 4 seconds
    function* displayToast(toast) {
        if ( activeToasts.length >= MaxToasts ) {
            throw new Error("can't display more than " + MaxToasts + " at the same time");
        }
        activeToasts = [...activeToasts,toast]; // Add to active toasts
        yield put(events.toastDisplayed(toast)); // Display the toast (put means dispatch)
        yield call(delay,ToastDisplayTime); // Wait 4 seconds
        yield put(events.toastHidden(toast)); // Hide the toast
        activeToasts = _.without(activeToasts,toast); // Remove from active toasts
    }

    // Everytime we receive a toast display request, we put that request in the queue
    function* toastRequestsWatcher() {
        while ( true ) {
            // Take means the saga will block until TOAST_DISPLAY_REQUESTED action is dispatched
            const event = yield take(Names.TOAST_DISPLAY_REQUESTED);
            const newToast = event.data.toastData;
            pendingToasts = [...pendingToasts,newToast];
        }
    }


    // We try to read the queued toasts periodically and display a toast if it's a good time to do so...
    function* toastScheduler() {
        while ( true ) {
            const canDisplayToast = activeToasts.length < MaxToasts && pendingToasts.length > 0;
            if ( canDisplayToast ) {
                // We display the first pending toast of the queue
                const [firstToast,...remainingToasts] = pendingToasts;
                pendingToasts = remainingToasts;
                // Fork means we are creating a subprocess that will handle the display of a single toast
                yield fork(displayToast,firstToast);
                // Add little delay so that 2 concurrent toast requests aren't display at the same time
                yield call(delay,300);
            }
            else {
                yield call(delay,50);
            }
        }
    }

    // This toast saga is a composition of 2 smaller "sub-sagas" (we could also have used fork/spawn effects here, the difference is quite subtile: it depends if you want toastSaga to block)
    yield [
        call(toastRequestsWatcher),
        call(toastScheduler)
    ]
}

And the reducer:

const reducer = (state = [],event) => {
    switch (event.name) {
        case Names.TOAST_DISPLAYED:
            return [...state,event.data.toastData];
        case Names.TOAST_HIDDEN:
            return _.without(state,event.data.toastData);
        default:
            return state;
    }
};

Usage

You can simply dispatch TOAST_DISPLAY_REQUESTED events. If you dispatch 4 requests, only 3 notifications will be displayed, and the 4th one will appear a bit later once the 1st notification disappears.

Note that I don’t specifically recommend dispatching TOAST_DISPLAY_REQUESTED from JSX. You’d rather add another saga that listens to your already-existing app events, and then dispatch the TOAST_DISPLAY_REQUESTED: your component that triggers the notification, does not have to be tightly coupled to the notification system.

Conclusion

My code is not perfect but runs in production with 0 bugs for months. Redux-saga and generators are a bit hard initially but once you understand them this kind of system is pretty easy to build.

It’s even quite easy to implement more complex rules, like:

  • when too many notifications are “queued”, give less display-time for each notification so that the queue size can decrease faster.
  • detect window size changes, and change the maximum number of displayed notifications accordingly (for example, desktop=3, phone portrait = 2, phone landscape = 1)

Honnestly, good luck implementing this kind of stuff properly with thunks.

Note you can do exactly the same kind of thing with redux-observable which is very similar to redux-saga. It’s almost the same and is a matter of taste between generators and RxJS.

Solution 3:

I would recommend also taking a look at the SAM pattern.

The SAM pattern advocates for including a “next-action-predicate” where (automatic) actions such as “notifications disappear automatically after 5 seconds” are triggered once the model has been updated (SAM model ~ reducer state + store).

The pattern advocates for sequencing actions and model mutations one at a time, because the “control state” of the model “controls” which actions are enabled and/or automatically executed by the next-action predicate. You simply cannot predict (in general) what state the system will be prior to processing an action and hence whether your next expected action will be allowed/possible.

So for instance the code,

export function showNotificationWithTimeout(dispatch, text) {
  const id = nextNotificationId++
  dispatch(showNotification(id, text))

  setTimeout(() => {
    dispatch(hideNotification(id))
  }, 5000)
}

would not be allowed with SAM, because the fact that a hideNotification action can be dispatched is dependent on the model successfully accepting the value “showNotication: true”. There could be other parts of the model that prevents it from accepting it and therefore, there would be no reason to trigger the hideNotification action.

I would highly recommend that implement a proper next-action predicate after the store updates and the new control state of the model can be known. That’s the safest way to implement the behavior you are looking for.

You can join us on Gitter if you’d like. There is also a SAM getting started guide available here.

Solution 4:

You can do this with redux-thunk. There is a guide in redux document for async actions like setTimeout.

Solution 5:

A repository with sample projects

Current there are four sample projects:

  1. Writing Async Code Inline
  2. Extracting Async Action Creator
  3. Use Redux Thunk
  4. Use Redux Saga

The accepted answer is awesome.

But there is something missing:

  1. No runnable sample projects, just some code snippets.
  2. No sample code for other alternatives, such as:
    1. Redux Saga

So I created the Hello Async repository to add the missing things:

  1. Runnable projects. You can download and run them without modification.
  2. Provide sample code for more alternatives:

Redux Saga

The accepted answer already provides sample code snippets for Async Code Inline, Async Action Generator and Redux Thunk. For the sake of completeness, I provide code snippets for Redux Saga:

// actions.js

export const showNotification = (id, text) => {
  return { type: 'SHOW_NOTIFICATION', id, text }
}

export const hideNotification = (id) => {
  return { type: 'HIDE_NOTIFICATION', id }
}

export const showNotificationWithTimeout = (text) => {
  return { type: 'SHOW_NOTIFICATION_WITH_TIMEOUT', text }
}

Actions are simple and pure.

// component.js

import { connect } from 'react-redux'

// ...

this.props.showNotificationWithTimeout('You just logged in.')

// ...

export default connect(
  mapStateToProps,
  { showNotificationWithTimeout }
)(MyComponent)

Nothing is special with component.

// sagas.js

import { takeEvery, delay } from 'redux-saga'
import { put } from 'redux-saga/effects'
import { showNotification, hideNotification } from './actions'

// Worker saga
let nextNotificationId = 0
function* showNotificationWithTimeout (action) {
  const id = nextNotificationId++
  yield put(showNotification(id, action.text))
  yield delay(5000)
  yield put(hideNotification(id))
}

// Watcher saga, will invoke worker saga above upon action 'SHOW_NOTIFICATION_WITH_TIMEOUT'
function* notificationSaga () {
  yield takeEvery('SHOW_NOTIFICATION_WITH_TIMEOUT', showNotificationWithTimeout)
}

export default notificationSaga

Sagas are based on ES6 Generators

// index.js

import createSagaMiddleware from 'redux-saga'
import saga from './sagas'

const sagaMiddleware = createSagaMiddleware()

const store = createStore(
  reducer,
  applyMiddleware(sagaMiddleware)
)

sagaMiddleware.run(saga)

Compared to Redux Thunk

Pros

  • You don’t end up in callback hell.
  • You can test your asynchronous flows easily.
  • Your actions stay pure.

Cons

  • It depends on ES6 Generators which is relatively new.

Please refer to the runnable project if the code snippets above don’t answer all of your questions.

Solution 6:

After trying the various popular approaches (action creators, thunks, sagas, epics, effects, custom middleware), I still felt that maybe there was room for improvement so I documented my journey in this blog article, Where do I put my business logic in a React/Redux application?

Much like the discussions here, I tried to contrast and compare the various approaches. Eventually it led me to introducing a new library redux-logic which takes inspiration from epics, sagas, custom middleware.

It allows you to intercept actions to validate, verify, authorize, as well as providing a way to perform async IO.

Some common functionality can simply be declared like debouncing, throttling, cancellation, and only using the response from the latest request (takeLatest). redux-logic wraps your code providing this functionality for you.

That frees you to implement your core business logic however you like. You don’t have to use observables or generators unless you want to. Use functions and callbacks, promises, async functions (async/await), etc.

The code for doing a simple 5s notification would be something like:

const notificationHide = createLogic({
  // the action type that will trigger this logic
  type: 'NOTIFICATION_DISPLAY',
  
  // your business logic can be applied in several
  // execution hooks: validate, transform, process
  // We are defining our code in the process hook below
  // so it runs after the action hit reducers, hide 5s later
  process({ getState, action }, dispatch) {
    setTimeout(() => {
      dispatch({ type: 'NOTIFICATION_CLEAR' });
    }, 5000);
  }
});
    

I have a more advanced notification example in my repo that works similar to what Sebastian Lorber described where you could limit the display to N items and rotate through any that queued up. redux-logic notification example

I have a variety of redux-logic jsfiddle live examples as well as full examples. I’m continuing to work on docs and examples.

I’d love to hear your feedback.