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Computed Properties


What are Computed Properties?

In a nutshell, computed properties let you declare functions as properties. You create one by defining a computed property as a function, which Ember will automatically call when you ask for the property. You can then use it the same way you would any normal, static property.

It's super handy for taking one or more normal properties and transforming or manipulating their data to create a new value.

Computed properties in action

We'll start with a simple example. We have a Person object with firstName and lastName properties, but we also want a fullName property that joins the two names when either of them changes:

import EmberObject, { computed } from '@ember/object';

Person = EmberObject.extend({
  // these will be supplied by `create`
  firstName: null,
  lastName: null,

  fullName: computed('firstName', 'lastName', function() {
    let firstName = this.get('firstName');
    let lastName = this.get('lastName');

    return `${firstName} ${lastName}`;
  })
});

let ironMan = Person.create({
  firstName: 'Tony',
  lastName:  'Stark'
});

ironMan.get('fullName'); // "Tony Stark"

This declares fullName to be a computed property, with firstName and lastName as the properties it depends on. The first time you access the fullName property, the function will be called and the results will be cached. Subsequent access of fullName will read from the cache without calling the function. Changing any of the dependent properties causes the cache to invalidate, so that the computed function runs again on the next access.

Computed properties only recompute when they are consumed

A computed property will only recompute its value when it is consumed. Properties are consumed in two ways:

  1. By a get, for example ironMan.get('fullName')
  2. By being referenced in a handlebars template that is currently being rendered, for example {{ironMan.fullName}}

Outside of those two circumstances the code in the property will not run, even if one of the property's dependencies are changed.

We'll modify the fullName property from the previous example to log to the console:

import Ember from 'ember':

…
  fullName: computed('firstName', 'lastName', function() {
    console.log('compute fullName'); // track when the property recomputes
    let firstName = this.get('firstName');
    let lastName = this.get('lastName');

    return `${firstName} ${lastName}`;
  })
…

Using the new property, it will only log after a get, and then only if either the firstName or lastName has been previously changed:

let ironMan = Person.create({
  firstName: 'Tony',
  lastName:  'Stark'
});

ironMan.get('fullName'); // 'compute fullName'
ironMan.set('firstName', 'Bruce') // no console output

ironMan.get('fullName'); // 'compute fullName'
ironMan.get('fullName'); // no console output since dependencies have not changed

Multiple dependents on the same object

In the previous example, the fullName computed property depends on two other properties of the same object.
However, you may find that you have to observe properties a different object. For example, look at this computed property:

import EmberObject, { computed } from '@ember/object';

let obj = EmberObject.extend({
  baz: { foo: 'BLAMMO', bar: 'BLAZORZ' },

  something: computed('baz.foo', 'baz.bar', function() {
    return `${this.get('baz.foo')} ${this.get('baz.bar')}`;
  })
});

Since both foo and bar are properties on the baz object, we can use a short-hand syntax called brace expansion to declare the dependents keys. You surround the dependent properties with braces ({}), and separate with commas, like so:

import EmberObject, { computed } from '@ember/object';

let obj = EmberObject.extend({
  baz: { foo: 'BLAMMO', bar: 'BLAZORZ' },

  something: computed('baz.{foo,bar}', function() {
    return `${this.get('baz.foo')} ${this.get('baz.bar')}`;
  })
});

Chaining computed properties

You can use computed properties as values to create new computed properties. Let's add a description computed property to the previous example, and use the existing fullName property and add in some other properties:

import EmberObject, { computed } from '@ember/object';

Person = EmberObject.extend({
  firstName: null,
  lastName: null,
  age: null,
  country: null,

  fullName: computed('firstName', 'lastName', function() {
    return `${this.get('firstName')} ${this.get('lastName')}`;
  }),

  description: computed('fullName', 'age', 'country', function() {
    return `${this.get('fullName')}; Age: ${this.get('age')}; Country: ${this.get('country')}`;
  })
});

let captainAmerica = Person.create({
  firstName: 'Steve',
  lastName: 'Rogers',
  age: 80,
  country: 'USA'
});

captainAmerica.get('description'); // "Steve Rogers; Age: 80; Country: USA"

Dynamic updating

Computed properties, by default, observe any changes made to the properties they depend on and are dynamically updated when they're called. Let's use computed properties to dynamically update.

captainAmerica.set('firstName', 'William');

captainAmerica.get('description'); // "William Rogers; Age: 80; Country: USA"

So this change to firstName was observed by fullName computed property, which was itself observed by the description property.

Setting any dependent property will propagate changes through any computed properties that depend on them, all the way down the chain of computed properties you've created.

Setting Computed Properties

You can also define what Ember should do when setting a computed property. If you try to set a computed property, it will be invoked with the key (property name), and the value you want to set it to. You must return the new intended value of the computed property from the setter function.

import EmberObject, { computed } from '@ember/object';

Person = EmberObject.extend({
  firstName: null,
  lastName: null,

  fullName: computed('firstName', 'lastName', {
    get(key) {
      return `${this.get('firstName')} ${this.get('lastName')}`;
    },
    set(key, value) {
      let [firstName, lastName] = value.split(/\s+/);
      this.set('firstName', firstName);
      this.set('lastName',  lastName);
      return value;
    }
  })
});


let captainAmerica = Person.create();
captainAmerica.set('fullName', 'William Burnside');
captainAmerica.get('firstName'); // William
captainAmerica.get('lastName'); // Burnside

Computed property macros

Some types of computed properties are very common. Ember provides a number of computed property macros, which are shorter ways of expressing certain types of computed property.

In this example, the two computed properties are equivalent:

import EmberObject, { computed } from '@ember/object';
import { equal } from '@ember/object/computed';

Person = EmberObject.extend({
  fullName: 'Tony Stark',

  isIronManLongWay: computed('fullName', function() {
    return this.get('fullName') === 'Tony Stark';
  }),

  isIronManShortWay: equal('fullName', 'Tony Stark')
});

To see the full list of computed property macros, have a look at the API documentation