Data binding in Svelte

Scott Spence
Scott Spence

May 20, 2021

Data binding in Svelte

Over the last few weeks, I have been getting familiar with Svelte and SvelteKit in particular. Coming from a React background there are many similarities using Svelte and some that are not.

One thing that came up when using Svelte was passing values from a child to parent component and how that worked. I'm not going to go into detail on Svelte in particular, more some patterns to use.

As with many things in programming, there are several ways to do any one thing, in this post I'll go over some of the approaches I have used and when to use them.

I've created examples of these in the Svelte REPL so you can have a play around with them to familiarise yourself with them. I'd also recommend checking out the Svelte documentation; it's an awesome source of information.

First up, it might be important to talk about props (short for properties) and how they are passed between components.

Passing props down to a child

So here's a super simple App.svelte (parent) that is importing the child component and passing a value, (in this case) propValue down to a <Child /> component:

<!-- App.svelte -->
<script>
import Child from './Child.svelte'
</script>
<Child propValue="Pass this to the child!" />

Much the same way as you would want to define a variable in React if the variable is scoped to the component then it's defined there.

Svelte is a superset of HTML with the .svelte extension so whereas in React a prop would be brought in as a parameter in the case of Svelte it's defined in script tags and exported. This means that the variable can be wrapped in some curly boys {} in the markup (HTML) so it can be interpreted and read out by JavaScript.

<!-- Child.svelte -->
<script>
export let propValue
</script>
<p>I'm taking this from the parent: {propValue}</p>

But what's this export? I struggled with this initially, ultimately it's a way to make propValue available to the parent. If you think that's weird, just wait until I detail reactive declarations! More on that soon.

Passing props back to a parent

As a general rule data flow goes from the parent to the child but what if you want to pass a value back from the child to the parent?

Using bind:value

In Svelte using the bind:value directive (command) to, a'hem bind the value of the text input to a variable value, this is the shortest example:

<!-- Input.svelte -->
<script>
let value = ''
</script>
<input bind:value />
<p>{value}!</p>

Although value isn't a great variable name so it can be changed further:

<!-- Input.svelte -->
<script>
let descriptiveVariableName = ''
</script>
<input bind:value="{descriptiveVariableName}" />
<p>{descriptiveVariableName}</p>

There's a drawback with doing it this way which I'll come onto in a bit. For now, I have the data bound to that input, and changing the text will update the p tag with what is added to the text input.

Ok, now I'm treating that input as its own component so, say I want to access the input value from a parent? "How to pass the bound value back up to the parent?" I'm going to go back to the previous example with the less descriptive variable name now and remove the p tag as I want to display the value in the parent, I'm also going to rename it from Input.svelte to Child.svelte:

<!-- Child.svelte -->
<script>
export let value = ''
</script>
<input bind:value />

I can now access the bound value of Child.svelte by defining a variable in the parent (App.svelte) component, inputValue in this case and pass that to the child:

<!-- App.svelte -->
<script>
import Child from './Child.svelte'
let inputValue = ''
</script>
<Child bind:value="{inputValue}" />
<p>Input value is: {inputValue}</p>

I'm adding inputValue to a p tag on the parent now to get that value. Changing the input in the parent now updates the inputValue wrapped in the p tag in the parent.

So I'm updating the Child component on the parent and getting that value back in the inputValue variable.

Now, I'm going to go back to the input example with the descriptive variable and try the same:

<!-- Child.svelte -->
<script>
export let descriptiveVariableName = ''
</script>
<input bind:value="{descriptiveVariableName}" />

Now changing the value in the parent doesn't seem to trigger any changes, but if I add a <p> tag to the child and make some changes I can see that the changes are going from the parent to the child but aren't coming back to the parent:

<!-- Child.svelte -->
<script>
export let descriptiveVariableName = ''
</script>
<input bind:value="{descriptiveVariableName}" />
<p>Child received props: {descriptiveVariableName}</p>

In summary, you can pass down named props to components but if you want to pass the props back up to the parent then you'll need to use bind:value alone. Something to keep in mind when taking this approach.

Using a callback

This approach will be familiar if you are used to doing this in React with adding a callback function. Here an onChange is defined in the Child for the parent to use:

<!-- Child.svelte -->
<script>
export let onChange
let value = ''
$: onChange(value)
</script>
<input type="text" bind:value />

Wait! What's that $ doing there? That's a reactive declaration which I touched on earlier but didn't give any explanation. This is how Svelte can keep track of a component's state change, so whenever value is changed it updates onChange.

In the parent I can use the onChange from the child to update the parent:

<!-- App.svelte -->
<script>
import Child from './Child.svelte'
let inputBoxValue = ''
</script>
<Child onChange={newValue => inputBoxValue = newValue} />
<p>Input box value is: {inputBoxValue}</p>

This doesn't have to be bound to the value of an input though; another way to achieve this could be to do some validation on the input on:blur so that when the user comes out of the input some validation can happen.

<!-- Child.svelte -->
<script>
export let value = ''
export let onBlur
</script>
<input bind:value on:blur="{onBlur}" />

So as mentioned previously, with onBlur (or whatever you want to call this function) this can trigger a function in the parent. I've added a parentValidation function to be triggered in this example:

<!-- App.svelte -->
<script>
import Child from './Child.svelte'
let inputBoxValue = ''
const parentValidation = () => {
// validation here
alert(inputBoxValue)
}
</script>
<Child bind:value="{inputBoxValue}" onBlur="{parentValidation}" />
<p>Input box value is: {inputBoxValue}</p>

Event forwarding / dispatching an action

Last up is the event forwarding in Svelte because Svelte doesn't use a virtual DOM like Vue and React component events don't bubble.

In this instance, I'm using the createEventDispatcher from Svelte to create a dispatch function for use in the child component and giving it the label child-blur and passing the input value back with the dispatcher.

<!-- Child.svelte -->
<script>
import { createEventDispatcher } from 'svelte'
const dispatch = createEventDispatcher()
export let value = ''
</script>
<input bind:value on:blur={dispatch("child-blur", value)} />

In the parent much like with doing it with a callback but now in place of the onBlur callback I'm using the on:child-blur event to trigger the parentValidation:

<!-- App.svelte -->
<script>
import Child from './Child.svelte'
let inputBoxValue = ''
const parentValidation = ({ detail }) => {
// validation here
alert(detail)
}
</script>
<Child bind:value="{inputBoxValue}" on:child-blur="{parentValidation}" />
<p>Input box value is: {inputBoxValue}</p>

I'd say as a project grows then this method will be the goto with a little boilerplate and a lot of flexibility.

Conclusion

As I said at the beginning, there are a few ways to do this, and depending on your use case there may be a need to use any of these approaches.

I hope you found it useful and that I helped identify some of the bumps you may come across when doing this for yourself.

Resources

I've added all the example code here to the Svelte.dev REPL so you can play around with them if you're so inclined:


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