Dzhavat Ushev

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Union types in RxJS v6.4.0

A few days ago I published a short tiny new feature of RxJS. In today’s post, I’m going to take a look at some of the bug fixes, how they made RxJS more flexible and the integration with TypeScript a little better.

If you open the changelog, you’ll see some bug fixes that are very similar. Here’s a couple of them:

from: support passing union types (eb1d596)
switchMap: support union type returns (32d35fd)

There are two things you might notice about those messages:

So I thought that by understanding how the fix applied to one type, I could understand the rest as well. I was also curious to find out what was the behaviour before the fix and whether the fix was going to impact my code in some way going forward.

One place to look for this kind of information is in a related PR. Already in the very first comment, I found what I needed to know  —  what was the bug, how to reproduce it and what is the solution.

As it turned out, the bug appeared in cases where an Observable creation function (like from) was called with a union typed parameter or when a union type was being returned from the projection function of a flattening operator. (Yeah, it sounds complicated)

(If you are not sure what “union types” means, check out TypeScript docs)

So, let’s have a look at both cases.

Passing union types to Observable creation function

An example of would be (StackBlitz):

import { from } from 'rxjs';

const arg = Math.random() > 0.5 ? [3, 2, 1] : ['Time to learn!'];

const source$ = from(arg);

source$.subscribe(value => console.log(value));

The problem here is that arg is of type number[] | string[] but from expects a single type.

Code example
The compiler is not happy :(

How to go around this?

One way to trick the compiler would be to make org of type any. But that eliminates the benefits of having types in first place.

// Don't do this ↓
const arg: any = ...;
Code example
value of type { } doesn’t say much

Returning union types from a flattening operator

An example of would be (StackBlitz):

import { from, of } from 'rxjs';
import { switchMap } from 'rxjs/operators';

const source = from([3, 2, 1, 'Time to learn!']).pipe(
  switchMap(x => {
    if (typeof x === 'string') {
      return of(`${x} And it's fun!`);
    return of(x);

source.subscribe(x => console.log(x));

The problem here is that the projection function returns a union type Observable<string> | Observable<number> but it expects a single type.

Code example
The compiler is not happy :(

How to go around this?

Again, one way would be to type x as any. But you’ll lose valuable type information. Another way would be to manually specify the function’s return type but that can get complicated depending on what you want to return.

  // No need to do this ↓
  switchMap((x: any) => {
Code example
What is any anyway…

There’s a fix for that! 🎉

In v.6.4.0 there’s no need to rely on any tricks! Observable creation functions got smart enough to recognize union types. The same for the projection functions of flattening operators.

So after updating to this new version, removing any any and running the code again… Ta-da! 🐣

Observable creation function (StackBlitz):

Code example
Types are back :)

Flattening operator (StackBlitz):

Code example
Types are back :)

Voilà! The expected types are back.

But that’s not all! Remember the list of similar looking bug fixes from the changelog?

The same fix has been applied to all those functions/operators as well. So combineLatest, from, withLatestFrom, zip, multicast, exhaustMap, merge, catchError, switchMap, and defer will, from now on, properly support union types.

Hope you enjoyed this short exploration and learned something new. I certainly did.

Until next time.

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