Machinist

CI Hex.pm Version

This is a small library that allows you to implement finite state machines with Elixir in a simple way. It provides a simple DSL to write combinations of transitions based on events.

Installation

You can install machinist by adding it to your list of dependencies in mix.exs:

def deps do
  [
    {:machinist, "~> 0.4.0"}
  ]
end

Usage

A good example is how we would implement the behaviour of a door. With machinist would be this way:

defmodule Door do
  defstruct [state: :locked]

  use Machinist

  transitions do
    from :locked,   to: :unlocked, event: "unlock"
    from :unlocked, to: :locked,   event: "lock"
    from :unlocked, to: :opened,   event: "open"
    from :opened,   to: :closed,   event: "close"
    from :closed,   to: :opened,   event: "open"
    from :closed,   to: :locked,   event: "lock"
  end
end

By defining this rules with transitions and from macros, machinist generates and inject into the module Door transit/2 functions like this one:

def transit(%Door{state: :locked} = struct, event: "unlock") do
  {:ok, %Door{struct | state: :unlocked}}
end

The functions transit/2 implements the behaviour Machinist.Transition

So that we can transit between states by relying on the state + event pattern matching.

Let's see this in practice:

By default our Door is locked

iex> door_locked = %Door{}
%Door{state: :locked}

So let's change its state to unlocked and opened

iex> {:ok, door_unlocked} = Door.transit(door_locked, event: "unlock")
{:ok, %Door{state: :unlocked}}
iex> {:ok, door_opened} = Door.transit(door_unlocked, event: "open")
{:ok, %Door{state: :opened}}

If we try to make a transition that not follow the rules, we got an error:

iex> Door.transit(door_opened, event: "lock")
{:error, :not_allowed}

Group same-state from definitions

In the example above we could group the from :unlocked definitions like this:

# ...
transitions do
  from :locked, to: :unlocked, event: "unlock"
  from :unlocked do
    to :locked, event: "lock"
    to :opened, event: "open"
  end
  from :opened, to: :closed,   event: "close"
  from :closed, to: :opened,   event: "open"
  from :closed, to: :locked,   event: "lock"
end
# ...

This is an option for a better organization and an increase of readability when having a large number of from definitions with a same state.

Setting different attribute name that holds the state

By default machinist expects the struct being updated holds a state attribute, if you hold state in a different attribute, just pass the name as an atom, as follows:

transitions attr: :door_state do
  # ...
end

And then machinist will set state in that attribute

iex> Door.transit(door, event: "unlock")
{:ok, %Door{door_state: :unlocked}}

Implementing different versions of a state machine

Let's suppose we want to build a selection process app that handles applications of candidates and they may possibly going through different versions of the process. For example:

A Selection Process V1 with the following sequence of stages: [Registration] -> [Code test] -> [Enrollment]

And a Selection Process V2 with these ones: [Registration] -> [Interview] -> [Enrollment]

The difference here is in V1 candidates must take a Code Test and V2 an Interview.

So, we could have a %Candidate{} struct that holds these attributes:

defmodule SelectionProcess.Candidate do
  defstruct [:name, :state, test_score: 0]
end

And a SelectionProcess module that implements the state machine. Notice this time we don't want to implement the rules in the module that holds the state, in this case it makes more sense the SelectionProcess keep the rules, also because we want more than one state machine version handling candidates as mentioned before. This is our V1 of the process:

defmodule SelectionProcess.V1 do
  use Machinist

  alias SelectionProcess.Candidate

  @minimum_score 100

  transitions Candidate do
    from :new,           to: :registered,    event: "register"
    from :registered,    to: :started_test,  event: "start_test"
    from :started_test,  to: &check_score/1, event: "send_test"
    from :approved,      to: :enrolled,      event: "enroll"
  end

  defp check_score(%Candidate{test_score: score}) do
    if score >= @minimum_score, do: :approved, else: :reproved
  end
end

In this code we pass the Candidate module as a parameter to transitions to tell machinist that we expect V1.transit/2 functions with a %Candidate{} struct as first argument and not the %SelectionProcess.V1{} which would be by default.

def transit(%Candidate{state: :new} = struct, event: "register") do
  {:ok, %Candidate{struct | state: :registered}}
end

Also notice we provided the function &check_score/1 to the option to: instead of an atom, in order to decide the state based on the candidate test_score value.

In the version 2, we replaced the Code Test stage by the Interview which has different state transitions:

defmodule SelectionProcess.V2 do
  use Machinist

  alias SelectionProcess.Candidate

  transitions Candidate do
    from :new,                 to: :registered,          event: "register"
    from :registered,          to: :interview_scheduled, event: "schedule_interview"
    from :interview_scheduled, to: :approved,            event: "approve_interview"
    from :interview_scheduled, to: :repproved,           event: "reprove_interview"
    from :approved,            to: :enrolled,            event: "enroll"
  end
end

Now let's see how this could be used:

V1: A registered candidate wants to start its test.

iex> candidate1 = %Candidate{name: "Ada", state: :registered}
iex> SelectionProcess.V1.transit(candidate1, event: "start_test")
%{:ok, %Candidate{state: :test_started}}

V2: A registered candidate wants to schedule the interview

iex> candidate2 = %Candidate{name: "Jose", state: :registered}
iex> SelectionProcess.V2.transit(candidate1, event: "schedule_interview")
%{:ok, %Candidate{state: :interview_scheduled}}

That's great because we also can implement many state machines for only one entity and test different scenarios, evaluate and collect data for deciding which one is better.

machinist gives us this flexibility since it's just pure Elixir.

Transiting from any state to another

Sometimes we need to define a from any state transition.

Still in the selection process example, a candidate can abandon the process in a given state and we want to be able to transit him/her to application_expired from any state. To do so we just define a from with an underscore variable in order the current state to be ignored.

defmodule SelectionProcess.V2 do
  use Machinist

  alias SelectionProcess.Candidate

  transitions Candidate do
    # ...
    from _state, to: :application_expired, event: "application_expired"
  end
end

How does the DSL works?

The use of transitions in combination with each from statement will be transformed in functions that will be injected into the module that is using machinist.

This implementation:

defmodule Door do
  defstruct state: :locked

  use Machinist

  transitions do
    from :locked,   to: :unlocked, event: "unlock"
    from :unlocked, to: :locked,   event: "lock"
    from :unlocked, to: :opened,   event: "open"
    from :opened,   to: :closed,   event: "close"
    from :closed,   to: :opened,   event: "open"
    from :closed,   to: :locked,   event: "lock"
  end
end

is the same as:

defmodule Door do
  defstruct state: :locked

  def transit(%__MODULE__{state: :locked} = struct, event: "unlock") do
    {:ok, %__MODULE__{struct | state: :unlocked}}
  end

  def transit(%__MODULE__{state: :unlocked} = struct, event: "lock") do
    {:ok, %__MODULE__{struct | state: :locked}}
  end

  def transit(%__MODULE__{state: :unlocked} = struct, event: "open") do
    {:ok, %__MODULE__{struct | state: :opened}}
  end

  def transit(%__MODULE__{state: :opened} = struct, event: "close") do
    {:ok, %__MODULE__{struct | state: :closed}}
  end

  def transit(%__MODULE__{state: :closed} = struct, event: "open") do
    {:ok, %__MODULE__{struct | state: :opened}}
  end

  def transit(%__MODULE__{state: :closed} = struct, event: "lock") do
    {:ok, %__MODULE__{struct | state: :locked}}
  end
  # a catchall function in case of unmatched clauses
  def transit(_, _), do: {:error, :not_allowed}
end

So, as we can see, we can eliminate a lot of boilerplate with machinist making it easier to maintain and less prone to errors.

Contributing

Feel free to contribute to this lib. If you have any suggestions or bug reports just open an issue or a PR.

License

MIT License