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Render Functions & JSX

Vue recommends using templates to build applications in the vast majority of cases. However, there are situations where we need the full programmatic power of JavaScript. That's where we can use the render function.

If you are new to the concept of virtual DOM and render functions, make sure to read the Rendering Mechanism chapter first.

Basic Usage

Creating Vnodes

Vue provides an h() function for creating vnodes:

import { h } from 'vue'

const vnode = h(
  'div', // type
  { id: 'foo', class: 'bar' }, // props
  [
    /* children */
  ]
)

h() is short for hyperscript - which means "JavaScript that produces HTML (hypertext markup language)". This name is inherited from conventions shared by many virtual DOM implementations. A more descriptive name could be createVnode(), but a shorter name helps when you have to call this function many times in a render function.

The h() function is designed to be very flexible:

// all arguments except the type are optional
h('div')
h('div', { id: 'foo' })

// both attributes and properties can be used in props
// Vue automatically picks the right way to assign it
h('div', { class: 'bar', innerHTML: 'hello' })

// props modifiers such as .prop and .attr can be added
// with '.' and `^' prefixes respectively
h('div', { '.name': 'some-name', '^width': '100' })

// class and style have the same object / array
// value support that they have in templates
h('div', { class: [foo, { bar }], style: { color: 'red' } })

// event listeners should be passed as onXxx
h('div', { onClick: () => {} })

// children can be a string
h('div', { id: 'foo' }, 'hello')

// props can be omitted when there are no props
h('div', 'hello')
h('div', [h('span', 'hello')])

// children array can contain mixed vnodes and strings
h('div', ['hello', h('span', 'hello')])

The resulting vnode has the following shape:

const vnode = h('div', { id: 'foo' }, [])

vnode.type // 'div'
vnode.props // { id: 'foo' }
vnode.children // []
vnode.key // null

Note

The full VNode interface contains many other internal properties, but it is strongly recommended to avoid relying on any properties other than the ones listed here. This avoids unintended breakage in case the internal properties are changed.

Declaring Render Functions

When using templates with Composition API, the return value of the setup() hook is used to expose data to the template. When using render functions, however, we can directly return the render function instead:

import { ref, h } from 'vue'

export default {
  props: {
    /* ... */
  },
  setup(props) {
    const count = ref(1)

    // return the render function
    return () => h('div', props.msg + count.value)
  }
}

The render function is declared inside setup() so it naturally has access to the props and any reactive state declared in the same scope.

In addition to returning a single vnode, you can also return strings or arrays:

export default {
  setup() {
    return () => 'hello world!'
  }
}
import { h } from 'vue'

export default {
  setup() {
    // use an array to return multiple root nodes
    return () => [
      h('div'),
      h('div'),
      h('div')
    ]
  }
}

TIP

Make sure to return a function instead of directly returning values! The setup() function is called only once per component, while the returned render function will be called multiple times.

We can declare render functions using the render option:

import { h } from 'vue'

export default {
  data() {
    return {
      msg: 'hello'
    }
  },
  render() {
    return h('div', this.msg)
  }
}

The render() function has access to the component instance via this.

In addition to returning a single vnode, you can also return strings or arrays:

export default {
  render() {
    return 'hello world!'
  }
}
import { h } from 'vue'

export default {
  render() {
    // use an array to return multiple root nodes
    return [
      h('div'),
      h('div'),
      h('div')
    ]
  }
}

If a render function component doesn't need any instance state, they can also be declared directly as a function for brevity:

function Hello() {
  return 'hello world!'
}

That's right, this is a valid Vue component! See Functional Components for more details on this syntax.

Vnodes Must Be Unique

All vnodes in the component tree must be unique. That means the following render function is invalid:

function render() {
  const p = h('p', 'hi')
  return h('div', [
    // Yikes - duplicate vnodes!
    p,
    p
  ])
}

If you really want to duplicate the same element/component many times, you can do so with a factory function. For example, the following render function is a perfectly valid way of rendering 20 identical paragraphs:

function render() {
  return h(
    'div',
    Array.from({ length: 20 }).map(() => {
      return h('p', 'hi')
    })
  )
}

JSX / TSX

JSX is an XML-like extension to JavaScript that allows us to write code like this:

const vnode = <div>hello</div>

Inside JSX expressions, use curly braces to embed dynamic values:

const vnode = <div id={dynamicId}>hello, {userName}</div>

create-vue and Vue CLI both have options for scaffolding projects with pre-configured JSX support. If you are configuring JSX manually, please refer to the documentation of @vue/babel-plugin-jsx for details.

Although first introduced by React, JSX actually has no defined runtime semantics and can be compiled into various different outputs. If you have worked with JSX before, do note that Vue JSX transform is different from React's JSX transform, so you can't use React's JSX transform in Vue applications. Some notable differences from React JSX include:

  • You can use HTML attributes such as class and for as props - no need to use className or htmlFor.
  • Passing children to components (i.e. slots) works differently.

Vue's type definition also provides type inference for TSX usage. When using TSX, make sure to specify "jsx": "preserve" in tsconfig.json so that TypeScript leaves the JSX syntax intact for Vue JSX transform to process.

Render Function Recipes

Below we will provide some common recipes for implementing template features as their equivalent render functions / JSX.

v-if

Template:

<div>
  <div v-if="ok">yes</div>
  <span v-else>no</span>
</div>

Equivalent render function / JSX:

h('div', [ok.value ? h('div', 'yes') : h('span', 'no')])
<div>{ok.value ? <div>yes</div> : <span>no</span>}</div>
h('div', [this.ok ? h('div', 'yes') : h('span', 'no')])
<div>{this.ok ? <div>yes</div> : <span>no</span>}</div>

v-for

Template:

<ul>
  <li v-for="{ id, text } in items" :key="id">
    {{ text }}
  </li>
</ul>

Equivalent render function / JSX:

h(
  'ul',
  // assuming `items` is a ref with array value
  items.value.map(({ id, text }) => {
    return h('li', { key: id }, text)
  })
)
<ul>
  {items.value.map(({ id, text }) => {
    return <li key={id}>{text}</li>
  })}
</ul>
h(
  'ul',
  this.items.map(({ id, text }) => {
    return h('li', { key: id }, text)
  })
)
<ul>
  {this.items.map(({ id, text }) => {
    return <li key={id}>{text}</li>
  })}
</ul>

v-on

Props with names that start with on followed by an uppercase letter are treated as event listeners. For example, onClick is the equivalent of @click in templates.

h(
  'button',
  {
    onClick(event) {
      /* ... */
    }
  },
  'click me'
)
<button
  onClick={(event) => {
    /* ... */
  }}
>
  click me
</button>

Event Modifiers

For the .passive, .capture, and .once event modifiers, they can be concatenated after the event name using camelCase.

For example:

h('input', {
  onClickCapture() {
    /* listener in capture mode */
  },
  onKeyupOnce() {
    /* triggers only once */
  },
  onMouseoverOnceCapture() {
    /* once + capture */
  }
})
<input
  onClickCapture={() => {}}
  onKeyupOnce={() => {}}
  onMouseoverOnceCapture={() => {}}
/>

For other event and key modifiers, the withModifiers helper can be used:

import { withModifiers } from 'vue'

h('div', {
  onClick: withModifiers(() => {}, ['self'])
})
<div onClick={withModifiers(() => {}, ['self'])} />

Components

To create a vnode for a component, the first argument passed to h() should be the component definition. This means when using render functions, it is unnecessary to register components - you can just use the imported components directly:

import Foo from './Foo.vue'
import Bar from './Bar.jsx'

function render() {
  return h('div', [h(Foo), h(Bar)])
}
function render() {
  return (
    <div>
      <Foo />
      <Bar />
    </div>
  )
}

As we can see, h can work with components imported from any file format as long as it's a valid Vue component.

Dynamic components are straightforward with render functions:

import Foo from './Foo.vue'
import Bar from './Bar.jsx'

function render() {
  return ok.value ? h(Foo) : h(Bar)
}
function render() {
  return ok.value ? <Foo /> : <Bar />
}

If a component is registered by name and cannot be imported directly (for example, globally registered by a library), it can be programmatically resolved by using the resolveComponent() helper.

Rendering Slots

In render functions, slots can be accessed from the setup() context. Each slot on the slots object is a function that returns an array of vnodes:

export default {
  props: ['message'],
  setup(props, { slots }) {
    return () => [
      // default slot:
      // <div><slot /></div>
      h('div', slots.default()),

      // named slot:
      // <div><slot name="footer" :text="message" /></div>
      h(
        'div',
        slots.footer({
          text: props.message
        })
      )
    ]
  }
}

JSX equivalent:

// default
<div>{slots.default()}</div>

// named
<div>{slots.footer({ text: props.message })}</div>

In render functions, slots can be accessed from this.$slots:

export default {
  props: ['message'],
  render() {
    return [
      // <div><slot /></div>
      h('div', this.$slots.default()),

      // <div><slot name="footer" :text="message" /></div>
      h(
        'div',
        this.$slots.footer({
          text: this.message
        })
      )
    ]
  }
}

JSX equivalent:

// <div><slot /></div>
<div>{this.$slots.default()}</div>

// <div><slot name="footer" :text="message" /></div>
<div>{this.$slots.footer({ text: this.message })}</div>

Passing Slots

Passing children to components works a bit differently from passing children to elements. Instead of an array, we need to pass either a slot function, or an object of slot functions. Slot functions can return anything a normal render function can return - which will always be normalized to arrays of vnodes when accessed in the child component.

// single default slot
h(MyComponent, () => 'hello')

// named slots
// notice the `null` is required to avoid
// the slots object being treated as props
h(MyComponent, null, {
  default: () => 'default slot',
  foo: () => h('div', 'foo'),
  bar: () => [h('span', 'one'), h('span', 'two')]
})

JSX equivalent:

// default
<MyComponent>{() => 'hello'}</MyComponent>

// named
<MyComponent>{{
  default: () => 'default slot',
  foo: () => <div>foo</div>,
  bar: () => [<span>one</span>, <span>two</span>]
}}</MyComponent>

Passing slots as functions allows them to be invoked lazily by the child component. This leads to the slot's dependencies being tracked by the child instead of the parent, which results in more accurate and efficient updates.

Built-in Components

Built-in components such as <KeepAlive>, <Transition>, <TransitionGroup>, <Teleport> and <Suspense> must be imported for use in render functions:

import { h, KeepAlive, Teleport, Transition, TransitionGroup } from 'vue'

export default {
  setup () {
    return () => h(Transition, { mode: 'out-in' }, /* ... */)
  }
}
import { h, KeepAlive, Teleport, Transition, TransitionGroup } from 'vue'

export default {
  render () {
    return h(Transition, { mode: 'out-in' }, /* ... */)
  }
}

v-model

The v-model directive is expanded to modelValue and onUpdate:modelValue props during template compilation—we will have to provide these props ourselves:

export default {
  props: ['modelValue'],
  emits: ['update:modelValue'],
  setup(props, { emit }) {
    return () =>
      h(SomeComponent, {
        modelValue: props.modelValue,
        'onUpdate:modelValue': (value) => emit('update:modelValue', value)
      })
  }
}
export default {
  props: ['modelValue'],
  emits: ['update:modelValue'],
  render() {
    return h(SomeComponent, {
      modelValue: this.modelValue,
      'onUpdate:modelValue': (value) => this.$emit('update:modelValue', value)
    })
  }
}

Custom Directives

Custom directives can be applied to a vnode using withDirectives:

import { h, withDirectives } from 'vue'

// a custom directive
const pin = {
  mounted() { /* ... */ },
  updated() { /* ... */ }
}

// <div v-pin:top.animate="200"></div>
const vnode = withDirectives(h('div'), [
  [pin, 200, 'top', { animate: true }]
])

If the directive is registered by name and cannot be imported directly, it can be resolved using the resolveDirective helper.

Functional Components

Functional components are an alternative form of component that don't have any state of their own. They are rendered without creating a component instance, bypassing the usual component lifecycle.

To create a functional component we use a plain function, rather than an options object. The function is effectively the render function for the component.

The signature of a functional component is the same as the setup() hook:

function MyComponent(props, { slots, emit, attrs }) {
  // ...
}

As there is no this reference for a functional component, Vue will pass in the props as the first argument:

function MyComponent(props, context) {
  // ...
}

The second argument, context, contains three properties: attrs, emit, and slots. These are equivalent to the instance properties $attrs, $emit, and $slots respectively.

Most of the usual configuration options for components are not available for functional components. However, it is possible to define props and emits by adding them as properties:

MyComponent.props = ['value']
MyComponent.emits = ['click']

If the props option is not specified, then the props object passed to the function will contain all attributes, the same as attrs. The prop names will not be normalized to camelCase unless the props option is specified.

Functional components can be registered and consumed just like normal components. If you pass a function as the first argument to h(), it will be treated as a functional component.

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