Code & Sundry

Jon G Stødle

Solve for RxJS: Showing messages in sequence

942 words, 5 minutes to read

Solve for Rx

Solve for Rx is a series in which I solve different problems using Rx. I think this will not only help me push my skills, but I also believe that others will find it helpful to see some practical examples other than a type-ahead search box example.

If you have any suggestions on problems to solve with Rx, I'd love to hear them! Leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter.

Showing messages in sequence

A common feature in UIs is showing a message to the user. It might be that some background task has finished and you want to notify the user. In some cases you might get mulitiple messages in quick succession. What do you do in those situations?

You might build some kind of queue where you push new messages. You display the message immediately if there's no message being displayed. If there's a message that's being displayed you do nothing. When a message is done being displayed you check for new messages in the queue and display the next message. This might get quite complex very quickly.

What I want, is something like this:

Messages being shown sequentially

To demonstrate I've put together this simple HTML and styled it a bit:

<div id="container">
  <input type="text" id="message-input">

  <h1 id="message-container"></h1>

In the JavaScript I've made a reference to the two elements I'm interested in:

const messageInput = document.querySelector("#message-input");
const messageContainer = document.querySelector("#message-container");

I'm interested to know when the user presses the Enter key when typing in the input. This will submit the current message. I create an observable for the keydown event and let signals through when the Enter key has been pressed:

Rx.Observable.fromEvent(messageInput, "keydown")
  .filter(event => event.keyCode === 13)

Next I create an observable that represents the lifetime of displaying a message. It sets the new text inside the #message-container, displays #message-container, waits for a little while and then hides #message-container again.

I start by mapping the event into an observable which sends a single next signal containing the message:

.map(event =>

Set the text of #message-container:

.do(message => messageContainer.innerText = message)

To display and hide #message-container, I use a CSS class that overrides #message-container opacity from 0 to 1. I've also added a transition that lasts for half a second.

.do(_ => messageContainer.classList.add("visible"))

By switchMaping to an observable that produces a signal in three seconds, I effectively halt the "execution" of the observable chain for three seconds. This lets the user have time to read our message:

.switchMap(_ => Rx.Observable.timer(3000))

Remove the CSS class that overrides the opacity of #message-container:

.do(_ => messageContainer.classList.remove("visible"))

Again I switchMap to an observable that will produce a signal in the future. While the transition only takes 500 milliseconds, I wait for 750 milliseconds to have a little room between showing the messages:

.switchMap(_ => Rx.Observable.timer(750)))

After having mapped the event to an observable describing the lifetime of the display of the message, I no longer need the value of #message-input:

.do(_ => messageInput.value = "")

concatAll works on an observable that contains observables. It will subscribe to each of the inner observables in turn. This means it won't subscribe to a new observable until the previous one has finished:


As each of our inner observables describe the entire lifecycle of displaying a single message and concatAll will not subscribe to a new observable until the previous one has finished, message will be displayed in sequence after each other.

At the end I subscribe to make the whole thing work:


You can see it in action in this CodePen:

See the Pen Showing messages in sequence 01 by Jon Stødle (@jonstodle) on CodePen.

Taking it a step further

Wouldn't it be nice if it was possible to dismiss messages by clicking them? Something like this:

Message displays in sequence, but can also be dismissed

After the switchMap that waits for three seconds I add a takeUntil which will make the observable finish when I click #message-container:

.switchMap(message => Rx.Observable.timer(3000).map(_ => message))
.takeUntil(Rx.Observable.fromEvent(messageContainer, "click"))

I put the part that removes the CSS class and waits for the message to hide inside a concat:

    .do(_ => messageContainer.classList.remove("visible"))
    .switchMap(_ => Rx.Observable.timer(750))))

concat will append the given observable to observable concat is called on. When the first observable finishes, the appended one starts. To the subscriber it looks like one observable.

This concat makes sure the hiding of #message-container is done whether the three second timer finishes normally, or it finishes early by takeUntil firing.

You can see it in action in this CodePen:

See the Pen Showing messages in sequence DONE by Jon Stødle (@jonstodle) on CodePen.

Happy coding!