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Reactive Map with Rails, Stimulus Reflex and Mapbox

ilrock__ profile image Andrea Rocca πŸ‘¨β€πŸ³ Originally published at meetandrearocca.com on ・9 min read

Hello folks.

In the last couple of weeks I've seen more and more content being posted about Rails (possibly because Hey officially launched) as well as Stimulus and Stimulus Reflex.

I've used Stimulus in the past and thought that it was a very good solution to wiring up the HTML with your javascript, however, that still didn't take care of the infamous reactivity that frontend frameworks like Vue and React offer.

Stimulus reflex is supposed to help with that. The route that Stimulus reflex takes, however, is very different. It doesn't rely on you having to add any more JavaScript to your project as the reactivity is made possible thanks to some ruby files called reflexes.

Let's see how it works. I chose again to use a very common "feature" often implemented by my students: a map that you can add markers onto.

Project Setup

Let's start by creating a new Rails project using Stimulus.

rails new mapbox_reflex --webpack=stimulus

Then we can add the Stimulus reflex gem

bundle add stimulus_reflex

And finally we can run the installer

rails stimulus_reflex:install

The installer will do a couple of things:

  • It will create a app/reflexes directory and populate it with an application_reflex.rb and example_reflex.rb files
  • Update the javascript dependencies as well as the stimulus controller files to support Stimuls reflex

To make things slightly easier on the eye let's also add bootstrap using a CDN (I know, not the best practice but this is about Stimulus reflex after all, no need to further complicate things). Let's go in our application.html.erb and add the link tag

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
  <head>
    <title>MapboxReflex</title>
    <%= csrf_meta_tags %>
    <%= csp_meta_tag %>

    <%= stylesheet_link_tag 'application', media: 'all', 'data-turbolinks-track': 'reload' %>
    <link rel="stylesheet" href="https://stackpath.bootstrapcdn.com/bootstrap/4.3.1/css/bootstrap.min.css" integrity="sha384-ggOyR0iXCbMQv3Xipma34MD+dH/1fQ784/j6cY/iJTQUOhcWr7x9JvoRxT2MZw1T" crossorigin="anonymous">
    <%= javascript_pack_tag 'application', 'data-turbolinks-track': 'reload' %>
  </head>

  <body>
    <%= yield %>
  </body>
</html>

Mapbox Setup

Before moving forward, let's create the db

rails db:create

To generate the sqlite3 db file and, before migrating the thing let's quickly scaffold a new table and migrate the database.

rails g scaffold Poi name latitude:float longitude:float

rails db:migrate

This is going to create a new migration/model/controller/views for the Pois table (short for Points Of Interest).

As you can see we added a latitude and longitude columns that we'll need to populate when creating a new POI. We can easily do that using the geocoder gem.

Let's add the gem to the gemfile bundle add geocoder and wire it up with the Poi model.

class Poi < ApplicationRecord
  geocoded_by :name
  after_validation :geocode, if: :will_save_change_to_name?
end

This will make sure that every time a certain POI gets an update to the name, we geocode it with the right latitude and logitude.

Of course, we'll need to display this POI on a map and to do that, we'll use Mapbox. First of all let's install it yarn add mapbox-gl then, you'll need to generate a new API token after creating a new account.

To use this token, let's create a new .env file and add this line

MAPBOX_API_KEY=pk. ***********************************

This is not really going to work unless we first add the dotenv gem to our Gemfile.

...
group :development, :test do
  gem 'byebug', platforms: [:mri, :mingw, :x64_mingw]
  gem 'dotenv-rails'
end
...

and install the dependency bundle.

Let's now add the map to the page. First of all, let's add some code to the pois_controller.rb

class PoisController < ApplicationController
  def index
    @pois = Poi.geocoded
    @markers = @pois.map do |poi|
      { lat: poi.latitude, lng: poi.longitude}
    end
  end
end

Here we're simply getting the Pois along with their coordinates and we're creating a simple hash with their latitute and longitude.

Next, let's edit the views/pois/index.html.erb

  <div
    id="map"
    style="width: 100%; height: 600px;"
    data-controller="mapbox"
    data-markers="<%= @markers.to_json %>"
    data-mapbox-api-key="<%= ENV['MAPBOX_API_KEY'] %>"
  ></div>

As you can see, I also added a bunch of data properties that will be used by Stimulus. The first one data-controller will create a new instance of the class defined in mapbox_controller.js. This file doesn't exist yet, let's create it

touch touch app/javascript/controllers/mapbox_controller.js

And add this code

import { Controller } from 'stimulus'
import mapboxgl from 'mapbox-gl'
export default class extends Controller {
  connect() {
    this.map = null
    this.initMapbox()
  }

  initMapbox() {
    const mapElement = document.getElementById('map')
    const markers = JSON.parse(mapElement.dataset.markers)

    if (mapElement) {
      mapboxgl.accessToken = mapElement.dataset.mapboxApiKey
      this.map = new mapboxgl.Map({
        container: 'map',
        style: 'mapbox://styles/mapbox/streets-v10',
        zoom: 5,
        center: ['12.4964', '41.9028']
      })

      markers.forEach((marker) => {
        this.addMarker(marker)
      })
    }
  }

  addMarker(marker) {
    new mapboxgl.Marker().setLngLat([marker.lng, marker.lat]).addTo(this.map)
  }
}

Let's see what is happening in here.

  1. The connect method is called whenever the a new instance of the class is created (this is what the data-controller is for). In this method we set the map to null and we call another method called initMapbox.
  2. In this method we grab the markers from the data-markers property (that is mapped to the instance variable @markers) and create a new map using mapbox-gl. Then, we add each one of those markers to the map using the addMarker method

Let's set the root of the app to the pois index page, start the rails server and test this out.

Rails.application.routes.draw do
  root 'pois#index'
  resources :pois
end

This is what you should be greeted with. Beautiful Italy.

As you can see, the style is a bit off. Simply importing the mabox scss file inside our app/assets/stylesheets/application.scss will make things look a lot better:

 @import 'mapbox-gl/dist/mapbox-gl';

There may be a chance that your map is gray and you have js errors in your console. If that is the case add this line to your environment.js

environment.loaders.delete('nodeModules')

Just before exporting the module.

All good for now. There are still no markers, though. Let's take care of that.

Adding markers with Stimulus Reflex

Let's add some more code to the pois index view

<div
  id="map"
  style="width: 100%; height: 600px;"
  data-controller="mapbox"
  data-markers="<%= @markers.to_json %>"
  data-mapbox-api-key="<%= ENV['MAPBOX_API_KEY'] %>"
></div>

<form data-controller="pois" class="mt-5 container">
  <div class="form-group">
    <label for="poi_name">POI Name</label>
    <input
      class="form-control"
      type="text"
      data-target="pois.address"
      name="poi_name"
      id="poi_name"
    >
  </div>
  <button
    data-action="click->pois#add"
    type="submit"
    class="btn btn-primary"
  >Submit</button>
</form>

This is simply going to add a new form to the view. As you can see, we're also instantiating another stimulus controller called pois_controller and we're wiring up the button click event to a method inside that controller called add.

This controller doesn't exist yet. Let's create it

touch app/javascript/controllers/pois_controller.js

And add this stuff in there

import ApplicationController from './application_controller'
import Rails from '@rails/ujs'

export default class extends ApplicationController {
  static targets = ['address']

  add(e) {
    Rails.stopEverything(e)

    this.stimulate('PoisReflex#add', this.addressTarget.value)
  }

  afterAdd() {
    this.addressTarget.value = ''
  }
}

Let's see what is happening in here:

  • We're declaring a target called address. This is directly connected to the input tag where we used the data property data-target. This will make it easier for us to access that element using javascript
  • In the add method we're first stopping any Rails default behavior and then, we're calling the stimulate method that was made available by Stimulus reflex (inside the application_controller.js connect method). The stimulate method will now call the PoisReflex add method passing through the input value of the address text field

We haven't created yet the PoisReflex.rb file. We can do so by using a rails generator rails g stimulus_reflex Pois. This will create the PoisReflex.rb file inside app/reflexes.

In this file we now need to define a method add that gets called by the stimulus controller

class PoisReflex < ApplicationReflex
  def add(name)
    Poi.create(name: name)
  end
end

As you can see, this method is pretty simple. We simply grab the POI name and create a new POI with it. And this is it. Stimulus Reflex is now connected.

Lets test restart our server and test this out. Go to the web page and type a POI, for instance Colosseum and hit the submit button.

You will see that the map suddenly disappears

This is because behind the scenes, Stimulus Reflex refreshes the bits of the page that are impacted by whatever happened in the reflex. In this case, in the reflex we created a new POI, which means that inside the index method of the pois_controller.rb a new POI was added to the @markers instance variables that the map depends on and thus the whole map element got re-rendered.

This means that now all we need to do is initialize the map back every time a new reflex has completed. Luckily, this is pretty easy to do thanks to the Stimulus Reflex hooks. Let's go in application_controller.js and add the afterReflex hook to reinitialize mapbox.

import { Controller } from 'stimulus'
import StimulusReflex from 'stimulus_reflex'
import MapboxController from './mapbox_controller'

export default class extends Controller {
  connect() {
    StimulusReflex.register(this)
  }

  afterReflex() {
    const map = new MapboxController()

    map.initMapbox()
  }
}

As you can see here we're importing MapboxController and in the afterReflex hook we are initializing mapbox again using an instance of the controller class.

Now if we test things out again we'll see something like this

Pretty awesome if you ask me. With just a couple of lines of code Stimulus Reflex allowed us to create a fully reactive map.

I've just started to play around with it so I'm sure things can be also further improved. If you want to get access to the code, you can find it here, if you want to get it touch, you can tweet me @ilrock__ or email me @ andrearocca [at] hey [dot] com.

Update

The awesome StimulusReflex community came to the rescue after posting this and shared with me an improvement that I could have worked on. At the moment, every time a new POI is added, the whole map gets re-initialized. It works, but that is not ideal. To tackle this issue, I've changed pois/index.html.erb to this

<div
  data-controller="pois"
>
  <div
    style="width: 100%; height: 600px;"
    data-controller="mapbox"
    data-target="mapbox.wrapper"
    data-markers="<%= @pois.to_json %>"
    data-mapbox-api-key="<%= ENV['MAPBOX_API_KEY'] %>"
  >
    <div
      data-target="mapbox.map"
      data-reflex-permanent
      class="w-100 h-100"
    >
    </div>
  </div>

  <form
    data-target="pois.form"
    class="mt-5 container"
  >
    <div class="form-group">
      <label for="poi_name">POI Name</label>
      <input
        class="form-control"
        type="text"
        data-target="pois.address"
        name="poi_name"
        id="poi_name"
      >
    </div>
    <button
      data-action="click->pois#add"
      type="submit"
      class="btn btn-primary"
    >Submit</button>
  </form>
</div>

The main changes here are:

  • I nested the div that holds the map inside a wrapper. The wrapper has access to all the needed data (markers and api key)
  • I marked the nested div with the data attribute data-reflex-permanent. This is a nifty StimulusReflex utility that will skip this div when reloading the interface (do you remember the blank div we were getting before re-initializing the map?)

I then made some changes to the mapbox_controller.js file

import { Controller } from 'stimulus'
import mapboxgl from 'mapbox-gl'

let currentInstance = null

export default class extends Controller {
  static targets = ['map', 'wrapper']

  connect() {
    this.map = null
    this.markers = null
    this.initMapbox()
  }

  initMapbox() {
    this.markers = JSON.parse(this.wrapperTarget.dataset.markers)

    mapboxgl.accessToken = this.wrapperTarget.dataset.mapboxApiKey

    this.map = new mapboxgl.Map({
      container: this.mapTarget,
      style: 'mapbox://styles/mapbox/streets-v10',
      zoom: 5,
      center: ['12.4964', '41.9028']
    })

    currentInstance = this

    this.markers.forEach((marker) => {
      this.addMarker(marker)
    })
  }

  showNewMarkers() {
    const allMarkers = JSON.parse(this.wrapperTarget.dataset.markers)

    const newMarkers = allMarkers
      .filter((marker1) => !this.markers.some((marker2) => marker1.name == marker2.name))

    this.showNewMarkers()
  }

  addMarker(marker) {
    new mapboxgl.Marker().setLngLat([marker.longitude, marker.latitude]).addTo(this.map)
  }
}

export {
  currentInstance
}

The changes here are:

  • I added a variable currentInstance that is assigned to this when Stimulus instantiate an object with this class. This is then exported as it will be used at a later stage
  • I added a new method showNewMarkers that gets the difference between the markers that had already been added to the map (this.markers) and the ones coming from the data property of the now-reloaded wrapper (because it was reloaded it will also include the newly added marker)

Last but not least, I moved the afterReflex code to pois_controller.js that now looks like so:

import ApplicationController from './application_controller'
import Rails from '@rails/ujs'
import { currentInstance } from './mapbox_controller'

export default class extends ApplicationController {
  static targets = ['address', 'form']

  add(e) {
    Rails.stopEverything(e)
    this.stimulate('PoisReflex#add', this.addressTarget.value)
  }

  afterAdd() {
    this.addressTarget.value = ''
  }

  afterReflex() {
    currentInstance.showNewMarkers()
  }
}

Here now we're simply importing the currentInstance that we exported earlier and calling the showNewMarkers method.

These small changes now yield this result

final result

Let me know if the changes do make sense! Thanks again a lot to @leastbad for the help.

Posted on Mar 9 by:

ilrock__ profile

Andrea Rocca πŸ‘¨β€πŸ³

@ilrock__

Javascript and Ruby on Rails developer and instructor

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