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Version: 3.0

Cells

Cells are a declarative approach to data fetching and one of Redwood's signature modes of abstraction. By providing conventions around data fetching, Redwood can get in between the request and the response to do things like query optimization and more, all without you ever having to change your code.

While it might seem like there's a lot of magic involved, all a Cell really does is execute a GraphQL query and manage its lifecycle. The idea is that, by exporting named constants that declare what you want your UI to look like throughout a query's lifecycle, Redwood can assemble these into a component template at build-time using a Babel plugin. All without you having to write a single line of imperative code!

Generating a Cell

You can generate a Cell with Redwood's Cell generator:

yarn rw generate cell <name>

This creates a directory named <name>Cell in web/src/components with four files:

~/redwood-app$ yarn rw generate cell user
yarn run v1.22.4
$ /redwood-app/node_modules/.bin/rw g cell user
✔ Generating cell files...
✔ Writing `./web/src/components/UserCell/UserCell.mock.js`...
✔ Writing `./web/src/components/UserCell/UserCell.stories.js`...
✔ Writing `./web/src/components/UserCell/UserCell.test.js`...
✔ Writing `./web/src/components/UserCell/UserCell.js`...
Done in 1.07s.

Single Item Cell vs List Cell

Sometimes you want a Cell that renders a single item, like the example above, and other times you want a Cell that renders a list. Redwood's Cell generator can do both.

First, it detects if <name> is singular or plural. For example, to generate a Cell that renders a list of users, run yarn rw generate cell users. Second, for irregular words whose singular and plural are identical, such as equipment or pokemon, you can specify the --list flag to tell Redwood to generate a list Cell explicitly:

yarn rw generate cell equipment --list

Cells in-depth

We'll go over each of these files in detail. But know that the file appended with just .js (in the example above, UserCell.js) contains all your Cell's logic.

Off the bat, this file exports five constants: QUERY, Loading , Empty , Failure and Success. The root query in QUERY is the same as <name> so that, if you're generating a cell based on a model in your schema.prisma, you can get something out of the database right away. But there's a good chance you won't generate your Cell this way, so if you need to, make sure to change the root query. See the Cells section of the Tutorial for a great example of this.

Usage

With Cells, you have a total of seven exports to work with:

NameTypeDescription
QUERYstring\|functionThe query to execute
beforeQueryfunctionLifecycle hook; prepares variables and options for the query
isEmptyfunctionLifecycle hook; decides if Cell should render Empty
afterQueryfunctionLifecycle hook; sanitizes data returned from the query
LoadingcomponentIf the request is in flight, render this component
EmptycomponentIf there's no data (null or []), render this component
FailurecomponentIf something went wrong, render this component
SuccesscomponentIf the data has loaded, render this component

Only QUERY and Success are required. If you don't export Empty, empty results are sent to Success, and if you don't export Failure, error is output to the console.

In addition to displaying the right component, Cells also make sure to funnel the right props to the right component. Loading, Empty, Failure, and Success all have access to the props passed down from the Cell in good ol' React fashion, and most of useQuery's return (more on that below). In addition to all those props, Empty and Success also get the data returned from the query and an updating boolean prop saying whether the Cell is currently fetching new data or not. Failure also gets updating and exclusive access to error and errorCode.

With this many props coming in, there's a risk of name clashing. A couple things to look out for are:

  • Your Cell has a prop with the same name as root-level data returned by your query.

    • In this case, the root-level data overrides your prop. But since props double as query variables, you can destructure the variables prop that useQuery returns to retrieve it. Or you can just rename the prop on the Cell!
  • Your Cell has props or query results with the same name as any of useQuery's returns.

    • In this case, useQuery's returns overwrite the props and results.

We mentioned above that Cells receive "most" of what's returned from useQuery. You can see exactly what useQuery returns in Apollo Client's API reference. Note that, as we just mentioned, error and data get some special treatment.

QUERY

QUERY can be a string or a function. Note that it's totally more than ok to have more than one root query. Here's an example of that:

export const QUERY = gql`{
query {
posts {
id
title
}
authors {
id
name
}
}
}

So in this case, both posts and authors would be available to Success:

export const Success = ({ posts, authors }) => {
// render logic with posts and authors
}

If QUERY is a function, it has to return a valid GraphQL document. Use a function if your queries need to be more dynamic:

But what about variables? Well, Cells are setup to use any props they receive from their parent as variables (things are setup this way in beforeQuery). For example, here BlogPostCell takes a prop, numberToShow, so numberToShow is just available to your QUERY:

import BlogPostsCell from 'src/components/BlogPostsCell'

const HomePage = () => {
return (
<div>
<h1>Home</h1>
<BlogPostsCell numberToShow={3} />
</div>
)
}

export default HomePage
export const QUERY = gql`
query($numberToShow: Int!) {
posts(numberToShow: $numberToShow) {
id
title
}
}
`

This means you can think backwards about your Cell's props from your SDL: whatever the variables in your SDL are, that's what your Cell's props should be.

beforeQuery

beforeQuery is a lifecycle hook. The best way to think about it is as an API for configuring Apollo Client's Query component (so you might want to check out Apollo's docs for it).

By default, beforeQuery gives any props passed from the parent component to Query so that they're available as variables for QUERY. It'll also set the fetch policy to 'cache-and-network' since we felt it matched the behavior users want most of the time.

export const beforeQuery = (props) => {
return {
variables: props,
fetchPolicy: 'cache-and-network'
}
}

For example, if you wanted to turn on Apollo's polling option, and prevent caching, you could export something like this (see Apollo's docs on polling and caching)

export const beforeQuery = (props) => {
return { variables: props, fetchPolicy: 'no-cache', pollInterval: 2500 }
}

You can also use beforeQuery to populate variables with data not included in the Cell's props (like from React's Context API or a global state management library). If you provide a beforeQuery function, the Cell will automatically change the type of its props to match the first argument of the function.

// The Cell will take no props: <Cell />
export const beforeQuery = () => {
const { currentUser } = useAuth()

return {
variables: { userId: currentUser.id }
}
}
// The cell will take 1 prop named "word" that is a string: <Cell word="abc">
export const beforeQuery = ({ word }: { word: string }) => {
return {
variables: { magicWord: word }
}
}

isEmpty

isEmpty is an optional lifecycle hook. It returns a boolean to indicate if Cell is empty. Use it to override the default check.

It receives the data, and the default check reference isDataEmpty, so it's possible to extend the default check with custom logic.

export const isEmpty = (data, { isDataEmpty }) =>
isDataEmpty(data) || data?.blog?.status === 'hidden'

afterQuery

afterQuery is a lifecycle hook. It runs just before data gets to Success. Use it to sanitize data returned from QUERY before it gets there.

By default, afterQuery just returns the data as it is:

export const afterQuery = (data) => ({...data})

Loading

If there's no cached data and the request is in flight, a Cell renders Loading.

When you're developing locally, you can catch your Cell waiting to hear back for a moment if set your speed in the Inspector's Network tab to something like "Slow 3G".

But why bother with Slow 3G when Redwood comes with Storybook? Storybook makes developing components like Loading (and Failure) a breeze. We don't have to put up with hacky workarounds like Slow 3G or intentionally breaking our app just to develop our components.

Empty

A Cell renders this component if there's no data.

What do we mean by no data? We mean if the response is 1) null or 2) an empty array ([]). There's actually four functions in createCell.tsx dedicated just to figuring this out:

createCell.tsx
const isDataNull = (data: DataObject) => {
return dataField(data) === null
}

const isDataEmptyArray = (data: DataObject) => {
const field = dataField(data)
return Array.isArray(field) && field.length === 0
}

const dataField = (data: DataObject) => {
return data[Object.keys(data)[0]]
}

const isEmpty = (data: DataObject) => {
return isDataNull(data) || isDataEmptyArray(data)
}

Failure

A Cell renders this component if something went wrong. You can quickly see this in action (it's easy to break things) if you add a nonsense field to your QUERY:

const QUERY = gql`
query {
posts {
id
title
nonsense
}
}
`

But, like Loading, Storybook is probably a better place to develop this.

In this example, we use the errorCode to conditionally render the error heading title, and we also use it for our translation string.

export const Failure = ({ error, errorCode }: CellFailureProps) => {
const { t } = useTranslation()
return (
<div style={{ color: 'red' }}>
{errorCode === 'NO_CONFIG' ? <h1>NO_CONFIG</h1> : <h1>ERROR</h1>}
Error: {error.message} - Code: {errorCode} - {t(`error.${errorCode}`)}
</div>
)
}

Success

If everything went well, a Cell renders Success.

As mentioned, Success gets exclusive access to the data prop. But if you try to destructure it from props, you'll notice that it doesn't exist. This is because Redwood adds another layer of convenience: in createCell.tsx, Redwood spreads data (using the spread operator, ...) into Success so that you can just destructure whatever data you were expecting from your QUERY directly.

So, if you're querying for posts and authors, instead of doing:

export const Success = ({ data }) => {
const { posts, authors } = data

// render logic with posts and authors
...
}

Redwood does:

export const Success = ({ posts, authors }) => {
// render logic with posts and authors
...
}

Note that you can still pass any other props to Success. After all, it's still just a React component.

tip

Looking for info on how TypeScript works with Cells? Check out the Utility Types doc

When should I use a Cell?

Whenever you want to fetch data. Let Redwood juggle what's displayed when. You just focus on what those things should look like.

While you can use a Cell whenever you want to fetch data, it's important to note that you don't have to. You can do anything you want! For example, for one-off queries, there's always useApolloClient. This hook returns the client, which you can use to execute queries, among other things:

// In a react component...

client = useApolloClient()

client.query({
query: gql`
...
`
})

Can I Perform a Mutation in a Cell?

Absolutely. We do so in our example todo app. We also don't think it's an anti-pattern to do so. Far from it—your cells might end up containing a lot of logic and really serve as the hub of your app in many ways.

It's also important to remember that, besides exporting certain things with certain names, there aren't many rules around Cellseverything you can do in a regular component still goes.

How Does Redwood Know a Cell is a Cell?

You just have to end a filename in "Cell" right? Well, while that's basically correct, there is one other thing you should know.

Redwood looks for all files ending in "Cell" (so if you want your component to be a Cell, its filename does have to end in "Cell"), but if the file 1) doesn't export a const named QUERY and 2) has a default export, then it'll be skipped.

When would you want to do this? If you just want a file to end in "Cell" for some reason. Otherwise, don't worry about it!

Advanced Example: Implementing a Cell Yourself

If we didn't do all that built-time stuff for you, how might you go about implementing a Cell yourself?

Consider the example from the Tutorial where we're fetching posts:

export const QUERY = gql`
query {
posts {
id
title
body
createdAt
}
}
`

export const Loading = () => <div>Loading...</div>

export const Empty = () => <div>No posts yet!</div>

export const Failure = ({ error }) => (
<div>Error loading posts: {error.message}</div>
)

export const Success = ({ posts }) => {
return posts.map((post) => (
<article>
<h2>{post.title}</h2>
<div>{post.body}</div>
</article>
))
}

And now let's say that Babel isn't going to come along and assemble our exports. What might we do?

We'd probably do something like this:

const QUERY = gql`
query {
posts {
id
title
body
createdAt
}
}
`

const Loading = () => <div>Loading...</div>

const Empty = () => <div>No posts yet!</div>

const Failure = ({ error }) => (
<div>Error loading posts: {error.message}</div>
)

const Success = ({ posts }) => {
return posts.map((post) => (
<article>
<h2>{post.title}</h2>
<div>{post.body}</div>
</article>
))
}

const isEmpty = (data) => {
return isDataNull(data) || isDataEmptyArray(data)
}

export const Cell = () => {
return (
<Query query={QUERY}>
{({ error, loading, data }) => {
if (error) {
if (Failure) {
return <Failure error={error} />
} else {
console.error(error)
}
} else if (loading) {
return <Loading />
} else if (data) {
if (typeof Empty !== 'undefined' && isEmpty(data)) {
return <Empty />
} else {
return <Success {...data} />
}
} else {
throw 'Cannot render Cell: graphQL success but `data` is null'
}
}}
</Query>
)
}

That's a lot of code. A lot of imperative code too.

We're basically just dumping the contents of createCell.tsx into this file. Can you imagine having to do this every time you wanted to fetch data that might be delayed in responding? Yikes.