Cache Updates

As we've learned on the page on "Normalized Caching", when Graphcache receives an API result it will traverse and store all its data to its cache in a normalised structure. Each entity that is found in a result will be stored under the entity's key.

A query's result is represented as a graph, which can also be understood as a tree structure, starting from the root Query entity, which then connects to other entities via links, which are relations stored as keys, where each entity has records that store scalar values, which are the tree's leafs. On the previous page, on "Local Resolvers", we've seen how resolvers can be attached to fields to manually resolve other entities (or transform record fields). Local Resolvers passively compute results and change how Graphcache traverses and sees its locally cached data, however, for mutations and subscriptions we cannot passively compute data.

When Graphcache receives a mutation or subscription result it still traverses it using the query document as we've learned when reading about how Graphcache stores normalized data, quote:

Any mutation or subscription can also be written to this data structure. Once Graphcache finds a keyable entity in their results it's written to its relational table, which may update other queries in our application.

This means that mutations and subscriptions still write and update entities in the cache. These updates are then reflected on all active queries that our app uses. However, there are limitations to this. While resolvers can be used to passively change data for queries, for mutations and subscriptions we sometimes have to write updaters to update links and relations. This is often necessary when a given mutation or subscription deliver a result that is more granular than the cache needs to update all affected entities.

Previously, we've learned about cache updates on the "Normalized Caching" page.

The updates option on cacheExchange accepts a map for Mutation or Subscription keys on which we can add "updater functions" to react to mutation or subscription results. These updates functions look similar to "Local Resolvers" that we've seen in the last section and similar to GraphQL.js' resolvers on the server-side.

cacheExchange({
updates: {
Mutation: {
mutationField: (result, args, cache, info) => {
// ...
},
},
Subscription: {
subscriptionField: (result, args, cache, info) => {
// ...
},
},
},
});

An "updater" may be attached to a Mutation or Subscription field and accepts four positional arguments, which are the same as the resolvers' arguments:

  • result: The full API result that's being written to the cache. Typically we'd want to avoid coupling by only looking at the current field that the updater is attached to, but it's worth noting that we can access any part of the result.
  • args: The arguments that the field has been called with, which will be replaced with an empty object if the field hasn't been called with any arguments.
  • cache: The cache instance, which gives us access to methods allowing us to interact with the local cache. Its full API can be found in the API docs. On this page we use it frequently to read from and write to the cache.
  • info: This argument shouldn't be used frequently, but it contains running information about the traversal of the query document. It allows us to make resolvers reusable or to retrieve information about the entire query. Its full API can be found in the API docs.

The cache updaters return value is disregarded (and typed as void in TypeScript), which makes any method that they call on the cache instance a side effect, which may trigger additional cache changes and updates all affected queries as we modify them.

Manually updating entities

If a mutation field's result isn't returning the full entity it updates then it becomes impossible for Graphcache to update said entity automatically. For instance, we may have a mutation like the following:

mutation UpdateTodo($todoId: ID!, $date: String!) {
updateTodoDate(id: $todoId, date: $date)
}

In this hypothetical case instead of Mutation.updateDate resolving to the full Todo object type it instead results in a scalar. This could be fixed by changing the Mutation in our API's schema to instead return the full Todo entity, which would allow us to run the mutation as such, which updates the Todo in our cache automatically:

mutation UpdateTodo($todoId: ID!, $date: String!) {
updateTodoDate(id: $todoId, date: $date) {
...Todo_date
}
}
fragment Todo_date on Todo {
id
updatedAt
}

However, if this isn't possible we can instead write an updater that updates our Todo entity manually by using the cache.writeFragment method:

import { gql } from '@urql/core';
cacheExchange({
updates: {
Mutation: {
updateTodoDate(_result, args, cache, _info) {
const fragment = gql`
fragment _ on Todo {
id
updatedAt
}
`;
cache.writeFragment(fragment, { id: args.id, updatedAt: args.date });
},
},
},
});

The cache.writeFragment method is similar to the cache.readFragment method that we've seen on the "Local Resolvers" page before. Instead of reading data for a given fragment it instead writes data to the cache.

Note: In the above example, we've used the gql tag function because writeFragment only accepts GraphQL DocumentNodes as inputs, and not strings.

Cache Updates outside updaters

Cache updates are not possible outside updates's functions. If we attempt to store the cache in a variable and call its methods outside any updates functions (or functions, like resolvers) then Graphcache will throw an error.

Methods like these cannot be called outside the cacheExchange's updates functions, because all updates are isolated to be reactive to mutations and subscription events. In Graphcache, out-of-band updates aren't permitted because the cache attempts to only represent the server's state. This limitation keeps the data of the cache true to the server data we receive from API results and makes its behaviour much more predictable.

If we still manage to call any of the cache's methods outside its callbacks in its configuration, we will receive a "(2) Invalid Cache Call" error.

Mutations that create new entities are pretty common, and it's not uncommon to attempt to update the cache when a mutation result for these "creation" mutations come back, since this avoids an additional roundtrip to our APIs.

While it's possible for these mutations to return any affected entities that carry the lists as well, often these lists live on fields on or below the Query root type, which means that we'd be sending a rather large API result. For large amounts of pages this is especially infeasible. Instead, most schemas opt to instead just return the entity that's just been created:

mutation NewTodo($text: String!) {
createTodo(id: $todoId, text: $text) {
id
text
}
}

If we have a corresponding field on Query.todos that contains all of our Todo entities then this means that we'll need to create an updater that automatically adds the Todo to our list:

cacheExchange({
updates: {
Mutation: {
updateTodoDate(result, _args, cache, _info) {
const TodoList = gql`
{
todos {
id
}
}
`;
cache.updateQuery({ query: TodoList }, data => {
data.todos.push(result.createTodo);
return data;
});
},
},
},
});

Here we use the cache.updateQuery method, which is similar to the cache.readQuery method that we've seen on the "Local Resolvers" page before.

This method accepts a callback, which will give us the data of the query, as read from the locally cached data, and we may return an updated version of this data. While we may want to instinctively opt for immutably copying and modifying this data, we're actually allowed to mutate it directly, since it's just a copy of the data that's been read by the cache.

This data may also be null if the cache doesn't actually have enough locally cached information to fulfil the query. This is important because resolvers aren't actually applied to cache methods in updaters. All resolvers are ignored, so it becomes impossible to accidentally commit transformed data to our cache. We could safely add a resolver for Todo.createdAt and wouldn't have to worry about an updater accidentally writing it to the cache's internal data structure.

As long as we're only updating links (as in 'relations') then we may also use the cache.link method. This method is the "write equivalent" of the cache.resolve method, as seen on the "Local Resolvers" page before.

We can use this method to update any relation in our cache, so the example above could also be rewritten to use cache.link and cache.resolve rather than cache.updateQuery.

cacheExchange({
updates: {
Mutation: {
updateTodoDate(result, _args, cache, _info) {
const todos = cache.resolve('Query', 'todos');
if (Array.isArray(todos)) {
todos.push(result.createTodo);
cache.link('Query', 'todos', todos);
}
},
},
},
});

This method can be combined with more than just cache.resolve, for instance, it's a good fit with cache.inspectFields. However, when you're writing records (as in 'scalar' values) cache.writeFragment and cache.updateQuery are still the only methods that you can use. But since this kind of data is often written automatically by the normalized cache, often updating a link is the only modification we may want to make.

In the previous section we've seen how to update data, like a list, when a mutation result enters the cache. However, we've used a rather simple example when we've looked at a single list on a known field.

In many schemas pagination is quite common, and when we for instance delete a todo then knowing the lists to update becomes unknowable. We cannot know ahead of time how many pages (and its variables) we've already accessed. This knowledge in fact shouldn't be available to Graphcache. Querying the Client is an entirely separate concern that's often colocated with some part of our UI code.

mutation RemoveTodo($id: ID!) {
removeTodo(id: $id)
}

Suppose we have the above mutation, which deletes a Todo entity by its ID. Our app may query a list of these items over many pages with separate queries being sent to our API, which makes it hard to know the fields that should be checked:

query PaginatedTodos($skip: Int) {
todos(skip: $skip) {
id
text
}
}

Instead, we can introspect an entity's fields to find the fields we may want to update dynamically. This is possible thanks to the cache.inspectFields method. This method accepts a key, or a keyable entity like the cache.keyOfEntity method that we've seen on the "Local Resolvers" page or the cache.resolve method's first argument.

cacheExchange({
updates: {
Mutation: {
removeTodo(_result, args, cache, _info) {
const TodoList = gql`
query (skip: $skip) {
todos(skip: $skip) { id }
}
`;
const fields = cache
.inspectFields('Query')
.filter(field => field.fieldName === 'todos')
.forEach(field => {
cache.updateQuery(
{
query: TodoList,
variables: { skip: field.arguments.skip },
},
data => {
data.todos = data.todos.filter(todo => todo.id !== args.id);
return data;
}
);
});
},
},
},
});

To implement an updater for our example's removeTodo mutation field we may use the cache.inspectFields('Query') method to retrieve a list of all fields on the Query root entity. This list will contain all known fields on the "Query" entity. Each field is described as an object with three properties:

  • fieldName: The field's name; in this case we're filtering for all todos listing fields.
  • arguments: The arguments for the given field, since each field that accepts arguments can be accessed multiple times with different arguments. In this example we're looking at arguments.skip to find all unique pages.
  • fieldKey: This is the field's key, which can come in useful to retrieve a field using cache.resolve(entityKey, fieldKey) to prevent the arguments from having to be stringified repeatedly.

To summarise, we filter the list of fields in our example down to only the todos fields and iterate over each of our arguments for the todos field to filter all lists to remove the Todo from them.

Inspecting arbitary entities

We're not required to only inspecting fields on the Query root entity. Instead, we can inspect fields on any entity by passing a different partial, keyable entity or key to cache.inspectFields.

For instance, if we had a Todo entity and wanted to get all of its known fields then we could pass in a partial Todo entity just as well:

cache.inspectFields({
__typename: 'Todo',
id: args.id,
});

Invalidating Entities

Admittedly, it's sometimes almost impossible to write updaters for all mutations. It's often even hard to predict what our APIs may do when they receive a mutation. An update of an entity may change the sorting of a list, or remove an item from a list in a way we can't predict, since we don't have access to a full database to run the API locally.

In cases like these it may be advisable to trigger a refetch instead and let the cache update itself by sending queries that have invalidated data associated to them to our API again. This process is called invalidation since it removes data from Graphcache's locally cached data.

We may use the cache's cache.invalidate method to either invalidate entire entities or individual fields. It has the same signature as the cache.resolve method, which we've already seen on the "Local Resolvers" page as well. We can simplify the previous update we've written with a call to cache.invalidate:

cacheExchange({
updates: {
Mutation: {
removeTodo(_result, args, cache, _info) {
cache.invalidate({
__typename: 'Todo',
id: args.id,
});
},
},
},
});

Like any other cache update, this will cause all queries that use this Todo entity to be updated against the cache. Since we've invalidated the Todo item they're using these queries will be refetched and sent to our API.

If we're using "Schema Awareness" then these queries' results may actually be temporarily updated with a partial result, but in general we should observe that queries with data that has been invalidated will be refetched as some of their data isn't cached anymore.

Invalidating individual fields

We may also want to only invalidate individual fields, since maybe not all queries have to be immediately updated. We can pass a field (and optional arguments) to the cache.invalidate method as well to only invalidate a single field.

For instance, we can use this to invalidate our lists instead of invalidating the entity itself. This can be useful if we know that modifying an entity will cause our list to be sorted differently, for instance.

cacheExchange({
updates: {
Mutation: {
updateTodo(_result, args, cache, _info) {
const key = 'Query';
const fields = cache
.inspectFields(key)
.filter(field => field.fieldName === 'todos')
.forEach(field => {
cache.invalidate(key, field.fieldKey);
// or alternatively:
cache.invalidate(key, field.fieldName, field.arguments);
});
},
},
},
});

In this example we've attached an updater to a Mutation.updateTodo field. We react to this mutation by enumerating all todos listing fields using cache.inspectFields and targetedly invalidate only these fields, which causes all queries using these listing fields to be refetched.

Optimistic updates

If we know what result a mutation may return, why wait for the GraphQL API to fulfill our mutations?

Additionally to the updates configuration we may also pass an optimistic option to the cacheExchange which is a factory function using, which we can create a "virtual" result for a mutation. This temporary result can be applied immediately to the cache to give our users the illusion that mutations were executed immediately, which is a great method to reduce waiting time and to make our apps feel snappier. This technique is often used with one-off mutations that are assumed to succeed, like starring a repository, or liking a tweet. In such cases it's often desirable to make the interaction feel as instant as possible.

The optimistic configuration is similar to our resolvers or updates configuration, except that it only receives a single map for mutation fields. We can attach optimistic functions to any mutation field to make it generate an optimistic that is applied to the cache while the Client waits for a response from our API. An "optimistic" function accepts three positional arguments, which are the same as the resolvers' or updaters' arguments, except for the first one:

The optimistic functions receive the same arguments as updates functions, except for parent, since we don't have any server data to work with:

  • args: The arguments that the field has been called with, which will be replaced with an empty object if the field hasn't been called with any arguments.
  • cache: The cache instance, which gives us access to methods allowing us to interact with the local cache. Its full API can be found in the API docs. On this page we use it frequently to read from and write to the cache.
  • info: This argument shouldn't be used frequently, but it contains running information about the traversal of the query document. It allows us to make resolvers reusable or to retrieve information about the entire query. Its full API can be found in the API docs.

The usual parent argument isn't present since optimistic functions don't have any server data to handle or deal with and instead create this data. When a mutation is run that contains one or more optimistic mutation fields, Graphcache picks these up and generates immediate changes, which it applies to the cache. The resolvers functions also trigger as if the results were real server results.

This modification is temporary. Once a result from the API comes back it's reverted, which leaves us in a state where the cache can apply the "real" result to the cache.

Note: While optimistic mutations are waiting for results from the API all queries that may alter our optimistic data are paused (or rather queued up) and all optimistic mutations will be reverted at the same time. This means that optimistic results can stack but will never accidentally be confused with "real" data in your configuration.

In the following example we assume that we'd like to implement an optimistic result for a favoriteTodo mutation. The mutation is rather simple and all we have to do is create a function that imitates the result that the API is assumed to send back:

const cache = cacheExchange({
optimistic: {
favoriteTodo: (variables, cache, info) => ({
__typename: 'Todo',
id: variables.id,
favorite: true,
}),
},
});

This optimistic mutation will be applied to the cache. If any updates configuration exists for Mutation.favoriteTodo then it will be executed using the optimistic result. Once the mutation result comes back from our API this temporary change will be rolled back and discarded.

It's important to ensure that our optimistic mutations return all data that the real mutation may return. If our mutations request a field in their selection sets that our optimistic mutation doesn't contain then we'll see a warning, since this is a common mistake. To work around not having enough data we may use methods like cache.readFragment and cache.resolve to retrieve more data from our cache.

Variables for Optimistic Updates

Sometimes it's not possible for us to retrieve all data that an optimistic update requires to create a "fake result" from the cache or from all existing variables.

This is why Graphcache allows for a small escape hatch for these scenarios, which allows us to access additional variables, which we may want to pass from our UI code to the mutation. For instance, given a mutation like the following we may add more variables than the mutation specifies:

mutation UpdateTodo($id: ID!, $text: ID!) {
updateTodo(id: $id, text: $text) {
id
text
}
}

In the above mutation we've only defined an $id and $text variable. Graphcache typically filters variables using our query document definitions, which means that our API will never receive any variables other than the ones we've defined.

However, we're able to pass additional variables to our mutation, e.g. { extra }, and since $extra isn't defined it will be filtered once the mutation is sent to the API. An optimistic mutation however will still be able to access this variable.

Reading on

On the next page we'll learn about "Schema Awareness".