Avoiding Lifecycle in Components

This is mostly going to be about did-insert, did-update, etc, aka, the @ember/render-modifiers.

If you know of a pattern that you use the render-modifiers for and it feels awkward and is not covered here, let me know

I'm writing about this, because I don't think there has been any guidance published on what to do. A long time ago (10 months ago), a warning was added to the top of the @ember/render-modifiers README explaining:

The modifiers provided in this package are ideal for quickly migrating away from classic Ember components to Glimmer components, because they largely allow you to use the same lifecycle hook methods you've already written while attaching them to these modifiers. For example, a didInsertElement hook could be called by {{did-insert this.didInsertElement}} to ease your migration process.

However, we strongly encourage you to take this opportunity to rethink your functionality rather than use these modifiers as a crutch. In many cases, classic lifecycle hooks like didInsertElement can be rewritten as custom modifiers that internalize functionality manipulating or generating state from a DOM element. Other times, you may find that a modifier is not the right fit for that logic at all, in which case it's worth revisiting the design to find a better pattern.

Either way, we recommend using these modifiers with caution. They are very useful for quickly bridging the gap between classic components and Glimmer components, but they are still generally an anti-pattern. We recommend considering a custom modifier in most use-cases where you might want to reach for this package.

So yeah, there is kind of a lot to unpack there. Especially since we haven't really had an alternative to the data-side / non-dom-related-side of things for a long while. Throughout this post, there will be bulleted lists showing the benefits of each alternative -- because I usually skim long posts with code, and I'm sure others do as well -- bulleted lists stad out ;)

Using a custom modifier

A custom modifier is good solution for when your behavior is tied to a particular DOM node or DOM tree. It encapsulates the lifecycle of rendering in to one co-located space so that it's easy to understand what code is responsible for what.

❌ Bad - setup and teardown are not grouped together

  {{did-insert this.setupResize}}
  {{did-update this.updateResize}}
  {{will-destroy this.teardownResize}}></div>

In addition, this pattern also encourages components that have multiple responsibilities. The component that contains this setup/update/down for resize may also have other responsibilities, like maybe it's also managing a form, or a table, or something.

✔️ Good - behavior is grouped

<div {{resizable}}></div>

This pattern collects all the related behavior in to a semantically standalone thing, a custom modifier. There are built in modifiers, and you may be familiar with them, as they're the only two modifiers in ember right now (3.27 latest at the time of writing): {{on}} and {{action}}.

How would the JavaScript side of this look? In the first example, the code in a component may look something like this:

// app/components/my-component.js
export default class MyComponent extends Component {
  // ... component stuff ...

  @action setupResize() { /* ... */ }

  @action updateResize() {/* ... */}

  @action teardownResize() { /* ... */ }

  // ... component stuff ...

which looks fine in isolation, and if this were all a component did, it would not be cause for too much alarm. But as components grow, and folks add features to existing components, those 3 functions get crowded. Extracting them to a custom modifier is a great way to focus on a component's core responsibilities. That extracted JavaScript may look like this:

// app/modifiers/resizable.js
import Modifier from 'ember-modifier';

export default class Resizable extends Modifier {
  didInstall() { /* original setup code */ }
  didUpdateArguments() { /* original update code */ }
  willDestroy() { /* original teardown code */ }

Benefits of the custom modifier

  • all element tied to a behavior is encapsulated in a single class
  • easier to keep track of cleanup
  • can be render-tested outside of the component where it is used
  • shareable among other elements
  • reads better when parsing the template with your eyes

Using a local modifier

Sometimes you are not sure if your modifier needs to be globally accessible or you want to keep it to yourself while you work out the kinks before shareing it with your team. Since Ember 3.25, you can assign modifiers, helpers, and components to class properties on components to reference locally in your component.

For example, say you decided that the above resizable modifier wasn't ready to be shared with folks, you could rearrange your files like so:


Also note: we moved my-component.{js,hbs} to my-component/index.{js,hbs}, not because we had to, but because it (to me) feels nicer to have a folder contain our "private-to-the-component" stuff.

In the my-component/index.js, you'll need to import and assign the modifier

// app/components/my-component/index.js

import Resizable from './resizable';

export default class MyComponent extends Component {
  resizable = Resizable;

  // ... component stuff ...
<div {{this.resizable}}></div>

It'll work the exact same is the previously globally available version.

Benefits of a local modifier

  • most of the benefits of a custom modifier
  • additionally, modifiers that are "specific to a thing", can be kept private~ish (as private as JS allows anyway)
  • allows for easier prototyping without interfering with the global pool of modifiers

More information on modifiers

Modifier abstractions aren't yet adopted into the framework, but you can learn more here

Fetching data

❌ Bad - Modifier has nothing to do with the element.

<div {{did-insert this.fetchData}} {{did-update this.fetchData @someArg}}></div>

This also requires that your component have a template -- provider components, for example, do not need a template. Additionally, this means that data is eagerly fetched, so even if your component doesn't need the data right away, that data-fetching slows down your time-to-settled.

✔️ Good - Data is reactively and lazyily fetched as it is needed via a Resource.

import { trackedFunction } from 'ember-resources/util/function';
export default class MyComponent extends Component {
  data = trackedFunction(this, async () => {
    let response = await fetch(`url/${this.args.someArg}`);
    let json = await response.json();

    return json;
{{!-- when ready for use --}}
{{this.data.value}} will be the fetch's json

With this approach, no modifier is used and no element is needed. data will call your function when the .value property is accessed, and it will "eventually" resolve to the returned json in the inner function.

There are a number of utilities in ember-resources for dealing with "Reactive async~ish" data a little nicer. See the README over there for more details.

Benefits of using a Resource:

  • lazy, only runs when accessed
  • reactive, changes to tracked data will re-invoke the resource
  • everything is encapsulated, no need to worry about template <-> javascript communication
  • easily unit testable
  • can be used in vanilla JavaScript classes

✔️ Good - Data is lazily fetched after a user action

This is probably the best case scenario for data loading, even though it is non-reactive.

export default class MyComponent extends Component {
  async loadData() {
    let response = await fetch(`url/${this.args.someArg}`);
    let json = await response.json();

    return json;

  @tracked data;

  async handleClick() {
    this.data = await loadData();
    /* ... do something with data */
{{!-- when ready for use --}}
{{this.data}} will be the fetch's json

This is the most optimized that you can make a network request, and aligns with ember-data's new request manager usage recommendations. Most notably, however, if this.args.someArg changes, the data will not update, because data fetching was triggered by the user, not the autotracking system.

Handling destruction

For this example, assume we have a class constructor that we've bound some events to the window. Maybe beforeunload (to protect against accidental refreshes while editing a form).

❌ Bad - Modifier has nothing to do with the element.

<div {{will-destroy this.removeWindowListeners}}></div>

This sometimes has caused folks to add an invisible element just so that they can use the modifier hook. We should not add more DOM than we absolutely need, and behavior setup in JS should be torn down in JS.

✔️ Good -- no modifiers needed

{{!-- No element --}}
import { registerDestructor } from '@ember/destroyable';

class MyComponent extends Component {
  constructor(owner, args) {
    super(owner, args);


  @action setupWindowListener() {
    /* setup */
    window.addEventListener('beforeunload', this.handleUnload)

    registerDestructor(this, () => {
      /* teardown */
      window.removeEventListener('beforeunload', this.handleUnload)

  @action setupScrollListener() {
    /* setup */

    registerDestructor(this, () => { /* teardown */ });

For @glimmer/component, there is also the willDestroy hook, but I'd argue that co-locating setup and teardown is better long-term, because in each setup-teardown pair, you know exactly what conditions are needed to safely teardown. Keeping that grouped together can make maintenance easier if or when you need several teardown steps for various things (maybe you setup a few listeners, a Mutation Observer, other stuff).

Benefits of @ember/destroyable

  • co-locates setup+teardown
  • can be used anywhere, not just in ember constructs
  • eliminates the need for "willDestroy" hooks provided by a framework
  • can easily share combined sets of setup+teardown functions

Docs on @ember/destroyable

Related, if you find the registerDestructor setup/teardown dance a bit tiring, there is a utility library, ember-lifecycle-utils which provides a utility to allow you to eventually create concise apis like:

class Hello {
  constructor() {
    useWindowEvent(this, 'click', this.handleClick);
    useWindowEvent(this, 'mouseenter', this.handleClick);

More info on Resources

  • Introducing @use by pzuraq

  • ember-could-get-used-to-this

  • ember-resources

  • note that ember-resources is inspired by pzuraq's work, and solves some of the common challenges that the ember-could-get-used-to-this' implementation faces:

    • Typescript support without wrapper no-op methods
    • No need for decorator (typescript can't augment types with decorators)
    • Custom Resources no longer need a magic 'value' property
    • Built in support for (async) functions and concurrency tasks

    Much thanks to pzuraq, because without ember-could-get-used-to-this, ember-resources would not have existed.

  • RFC 567: @use and Resources

  • Discussion that lead to a bunch of smaller RFCs and the implementation of ember-could-get-used-to-this

Why even change how I write code at all?

You don't have to, that's up to you. One of the primary reasons @ember/render-modifiers was made as an addon was so that it didn't have to be part of the framework, and that individual projects and teams could decide if it was the right fit for them. It's a very small package, so if it's only used in a few places, bundle size isn't that much of a concern for the average app.