Eric Escalante Blogging gingerly

Isomorphic React apps in PHP via dnode - 3

Part 3 - Server and client-side rendering

Now the plot begins to thicken. It’s time to work a little bit on the backend, behind the courtains.

Node.js server

 1 var React = require('react');
 2 var Router = require('react-router');
 3 var routes = require('./routes');
 4 var dnode = require('dnode');
 5 var express = require('express');
 6 var app = express();
 7 var gutil = require('gulp-util');
 9 regularPort = 3000;
10 dnodePort = 3001;
12 app.get('/developers/page/*', function(req, res) {
13   var router = Router.create({
14     location: req.url,
15     routes: routes
16   });
17   return, state) {
18     gutil.log("Serving to browser via " + regularPort);
19     var component = state.routes[1].handler;
20     return component.fetchData(state.params, function(err, data) {
21       var reactOutput = React.renderToString(React.createElement(Handler, {
22         data: data,
23         params: state.params
24       }));
25       return res.send(getHtml(reactOutput, data, state));
26     });
27   });
28 });
30 app.use(express["static"](__dirname + '/public'));
32 server = app.listen(regularPort, function() {
33   return gutil.log("HTTP: Listening on port " + regularPort);
34 });
36 getHtml = function(reactOutput, data, state) {
37   var response;
38   response = '<link rel="stylesheet" href="">';
39   response += "<script>window.reactData = " + (JSON.stringify(data)) + "</script>";
40   response += "<script>window.initialPage = " + + "</script>";
41   response += '<div id="app" class="container">';
42   response += reactOutput;
43   response += '</div>';
44   return response += "<script src='http://localhost:" + regularPort + "/js/bundle.js'></script>";
45 };

Feeble attempt at an explanation: Ok, let’s take this one step at a time. We start first by including our routes definition and setting up a simple Express app. Finally we declare two variables that will tell node and dnode on which ports they should listen for connections.

On our Express app instance, we will define a function to handle GET requests to /developers/page/*. This function returns a react-router instance created using the current req.url and our routes configuration (line 12). Next we invoke the run function on our router instance and obtain the react component that will handle the route and the current route state (params).

On line 22 we invoke the static function we coded into our DeveloperList component (FetchData, remember?) and pass a callback function to act upon the resulting data from the request to Github’s API.

On line 24 we invoke React’s renderToString method passing our DeveloperList component (represented by the Handler variable), the resulting data from fetchData, and finally the state.params provided by react router (page: 1 in this case). The resulting HTML we pass to a custom function called getHtml that will set the data as JSON object in the page so react can use it the first time. This function also includes bootstrap and more importantly, the bundle.js file generated by browserify. All this unwholesome HTML concatenatin’ can be replaced with a jade template for example, but just wanted to keep it all server stuff on a single file for this post :)

We wrap things up on line 28 by sending the output of our getHtml function as the response from our express app back to the browser.

Browser logic

We now have a working server and router to handle the initial request of a user. But we also need to configure our router to handle requests done once the page has been served, and do this without bothering the server script. We need now a browser script!

 1 var React = require('react');
 2 var Router = require('react-router');
 3 var routes = require('./routes');
 5, Router.HistoryLocation, function(Handler, state) {
 6   if (window.initialPage === parseInt( {
 7     return React.render(
 8       <Handler data={window.reactData} params={state.params}/>, document.getElementById('app')
 9     );
10   } else {
11     var component = state.routes[1].handler;
12     return component.fetchData(state.params, function(err, data) {
13       React.render(
14       <Handler data={data} params={state.params}/>, document.getElementById('app')
15       );
16     });
17   }
18 });

Explanation: Thanks Cthulhu and all the Great Old Ones, things get more simple from now on. Ish. The first three lines should look familiar by now, so we can move along. On line 5 we create once again a router instance but this time we pass the browser url provided by Router.HistoryLocation together with our routes definition.

We need to tell react to render the resulting Handler (our trusty developers list) using either the JSON data that comes already hardcoded on the page thanks to node, or to do a new call to Github’s API, in order to avoid doing an unnecessary request the first time. That little if on line 6 makes sure of just that. So, when it’s the first render of the page, we just invoke React.render with the data present, otherwise we make a call to the fetchData function of our Handler and use the result of that as the data to be rendered. I still feel there must be a better way to handle this scenario. Looking forward to improving on that!

That’s it! We have a this point an isomorphic/universal/$nextTrendyName node app, that makes use of the same react components on both the server and the client! It’s Sunday and it’s sunny outside, so time to head out and walk a bit in the sun. But first, let’s hook all of this up to PHP.

Because you only live once.