Interlude: Reactivity and Functions

One of our core contributors said to me recently: “I never used closures this often until I started using Leptos.” And it’s true. Closures are at the heart of any Leptos application. It sometimes looks a little silly:

// a signal holds a value, and can be updated
let (count, set_count) = create_signal(0);

// a derived signal is a function that accesses other signals
let double_count = move || count() * 2;
let count_is_odd = move || count() & 1 == 1;
let text = move || if count_is_odd() {
} else {

// an effect automatically tracks the signals it depends on
// and reruns when they change
create_effect(move |_| {
    logging::log!("text = {}", text());

view! {
    <p>{move || text().to_uppercase()}</p>

Closures, closures everywhere!

But why?

Functions and UI Frameworks

Functions are at the heart of every UI framework. And this makes perfect sense. Creating a user interface is basically divided into two phases:

  1. initial rendering
  2. updates

In a web framework, the framework does some kind of initial rendering. Then it hands control back over to the browser. When certain events fire (like a mouse click) or asynchronous tasks finish (like an HTTP request finishing), the browser wakes the framework back up to update something. The framework runs some kind of code to update your user interface, and goes back asleep until the browser wakes it up again.

The key phrase here is “runs some kind of code.” The natural way to “run some kind of code” at an arbitrary point in time—in Rust or in any other programming language—is to call a function. And in fact every UI framework is based on rerunning some kind of function over and over:

  1. virtual DOM (VDOM) frameworks like React, Yew, or Dioxus rerun a component or render function over and over, to generate a virtual DOM tree that can be reconciled with the previous result to patch the DOM
  2. compiled frameworks like Angular and Svelte divide your component templates into “create” and “update” functions, rerunning the update function when they detect a change to the component’s state
  3. in fine-grained reactive frameworks like SolidJS, Sycamore, or Leptos, you define the functions that rerun

That’s what all our components are doing.

Take our typical <SimpleCounter/> example in its simplest form:

pub fn SimpleCounter() -> impl IntoView {
    let (value, set_value) = create_signal(0);

    let increment = move |_| set_value.update(|value| *value += 1);

    view! {
        <button on:click=increment>

The SimpleCounter function itself runs once. The value signal is created once. The framework hands off the increment function to the browser as an event listener. When you click the button, the browser calls increment, which updates value via set_value. And that updates the single text node represented in our view by {value}.

Closures are key to reactivity. They provide the framework with the ability to rerun the smallest possible unit of your application in response to a change.

So remember two things:

  1. Your component function is a setup function, not a render function: it only runs once.
  2. For values in your view template to be reactive, they must be functions: either signals (which implement the Fn traits) or closures.