View Source Assigns and HEEx templates

All of the data in a LiveView is stored in the socket as assigns. The Phoenix.Component.assign/2 and Phoenix.Component.assign/3 functions help store those values. Those values can be accessed in the LiveView as but they are accessed inside LiveView templates as @name.

Phoenix template language is called HEEx (HTML+EEx). Those templates are either files with the .heex extension or they are created directly in source files via the ~H sigil. You can learn more about the HEEx syntax by checking the docs for the ~H sigil.

In this section, we are going to cover how LiveView minimizes the payload over the wire by understanding the interplay between assigns and templates.


Change tracking

When you first render a .heex template, it will send all of the static and dynamic parts of the template to the client. Imagine the following template:

<h1><%= expand_title(@title) %></h1>

It has two static parts, <h1> and </h1> and one dynamic part made of expand_title(@title). Further rendering of this template won't resend the static parts and it will only resend the dynamic part if it changes.

The tracking of changes is done via assigns. If the @title assign changes, then LiveView will execute expand_title(@title) and send the new content. If @title is the same, nothing is executed and nothing is sent.

Change tracking also works when accessing map/struct fields. Take this template:

<div id={"user_#{}"}>
  <%= %>

If the changes but doesn't, then LiveView will re-render only and it will not execute or resend at all.

The change tracking also works when rendering other templates as long as they are also .heex templates:

<%= render "child_template.html", assigns %>

Or when using function components:

<.show_name name={} />

The assign tracking feature also implies that you MUST avoid performing direct operations in the template. For example, if you perform a database query in your template:

<%= for user <- Repo.all(User) do %>
  <%= %>
<% end %>

Then Phoenix will never re-render the section above, even if the number of users in the database changes. Instead, you need to store the users as assigns in your LiveView before it renders the template:

assign(socket, :users, Repo.all(User))

Generally speaking, data loading should never happen inside the template, regardless if you are using LiveView or not. The difference is that LiveView enforces this best practice.



There are two common pitfalls to keep in mind when using the ~H sigil or .heex templates inside LiveViews.

When it comes to do/end blocks, change tracking is supported only on blocks given to Elixir's basic constructs, such as if, case, for, and similar. If the do/end block is given to a library function or user function, such as content_tag, change tracking won't work. For example, imagine the following template that renders a div:

<%= content_tag :div, id: "user_#{@id}" do %>
  <%= @name %>
  <%= @description %>
<% end %>

LiveView knows nothing about content_tag, which means the whole div will be sent whenever any of the assigns change. Luckily, HEEx templates provide a nice syntax for building tags, so there is rarely a need to use content_tag inside .heex templates:

<div id={"user_#{@id}"}>
  <%= @name %>
  <%= @description %>

The next pitfall is related to variables. Due to the scope of variables, LiveView has to disable change tracking whenever variables are used in the template, with the exception of variables introduced by Elixir basic case, for, and other block constructs. Therefore, you must avoid code like this in your LiveView templates:

<% some_var = @x + @y %>
<%= some_var %>

Instead, use a function:

<%= sum(@x, @y) %>

Similarly, do not define variables at the top of your render function:

def render(assigns) do
  sum = assigns.x + assigns.y

  <%= sum %>

Instead explicitly precompute the assign in your LiveView, outside of render:

assign(socket, sum: socket.assigns.x + socket.assigns.y)

Generally speaking, avoid accessing variables inside LiveViews, as code that access variables is always executed on every render. This also applies to the assigns variable. The exception are variables introduced by Elixir's block constructs. For example, accessing the post variable defined by the comprehension below works as expected:

<%= for post <- @posts do %>
<% end %>

To sum up:

  1. Avoid passing block expressions to library and custom functions, instead prefer to use the conveniences in HEEx templates

  2. Avoid defining local variables, except within Elixir's constructs