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Reactivity

Alpine is "reactive" in the sense that when you change a piece of data, everything that depends on that data "reacts" automatically to that change.

Every bit of reactivity that takes place in Alpine, happens because of two very important reactive functions in Alpine's core: Alpine.reactive(), and Alpine.effect().

Alpine uses VueJS's reactivity engine under the hood to provide these functions.
→ Read more about @vue/reactivity

Understanding these two functions will give you super powers as an Alpine developer, but also just as a web developer in general.

Alpine.reactive()

Let's first look at Alpine.reactive(). This function accepts a JavaScript object as its parameter and returns a "reactive" version of that object. For example:

let data = { count: 1 }

let reactiveData = Alpine.reactive(data)

Under the hood, when Alpine.reactive receives data, it wraps it inside a custom JavaScript proxy.

A proxy is a special kind of object in JavaScript that can intercept "get" and "set" calls to a JavaScript object.

→ Read more about JavaScript proxies

At face value, reactiveData should behave exactly like data. For example:

console.log(data.count) // 1
console.log(reactiveData.count) // 1

reactiveData.count = 2

console.log(data.count) // 2
console.log(reactiveData.count) // 2

What you see here is that because reactiveData is a thin wrapper around data, any attempts to get or set a property will behave exactly as if you had interacted with data directly.

The main difference here is that any time you modify or retrieve (get or set) a value from reactiveData, Alpine is aware of it and can execute any other logic that depends on this data.

Alpine.reactive is only the first half of the story. Alpine.effect is the other half, let's dig in.

Alpine.effect()

Alpine.effect accepts a single callback function. As soon as Alpine.effect is called, it will run the provided function, but actively look for any interactions with reactive data. If it detects an interaction (a get or set from the aforementioned reactive proxy) it will keep track of it and make sure to re-run the callback if any of reactive data changes in the future. For example:

let data = Alpine.reactive({ count: 1 })

Alpine.effect(() => {
    console.log(data.count)
})

When this code is first run, "1" will be logged to the console. Any time data.count changes, it's value will be logged to the console again.

This is the mechanism that unlocks all of the reactivity at the core of Alpine.

To connect the dots further, let's look at a simple "counter" component example without using Alpine syntax at all, only using Alpine.reactive and Alpine.effect:

<button>Increment</button>

Count: <span></span>
let button = document.querySelector('button')
let span = document.querySelector('span')

let data = Alpine.reactive({ count: 1 })

Alpine.effect(() => {
    span.textContent = data.count
})

button.addEventListener('click', () => {
    data.count = data.count + 1
})
Count:

As you can see, you can make any data reactive, and you can also wrap any functionality in Alpine.effect.

This combination unlocks an incredibly powerful programming paradigm for web development. Run wild and free.