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Using Preact Signals with Fresh

Fresh is the Deno full-stack framework created by Luca Casonato of the Deno core team and now hosted in the Deno github repository.This blog post assume you have some familiarity with Fresh. If not, see the Fresh documentation to get up to speed.

Fresh uses Preact for the UI. Recently the Preact team has released a new library called Signals for reactive state management. Preact Signals are used for both global and local state management.

This post will demonstrate how to use Signals with Fresh. I created a basic Fresh Todo app to illustrate the use of Preact Signals. The source code can be found in this Github repo.

Global State Management with Preact Signals


As of Fresh version 1.1, when you create a new fresh project the signals libraries are automatically added to the import map file. If you are updating a Fresh project to use Signals, add the following lines to the imports section in your import map:

  "imports": {
    # other imports here
    "@preact/signals": "*@preact/signals@1.0.3",
    "@preact/signals-core": "*@preact/signals-core@1.0.1"

All the Signals functions we will be using are located in the @preact/signals module.

Creating global state

The Todo app encapsulates global state management inside a function called createAppState (in state.ts). The signal function is used to add a field to global state:

function createAppState(): AppStateType {
  // create signals for todo array and current todo
  const todos = signal<string[]>([]);
  const currentTodo = signal<string>("");
  // other stuff here...
  return {todos, currentTodo, /* Other function properties here...*/}
// function return value is the default export
export default createAppState();

In this case, the current todo (currentTodo) and a todos array (todos) are held in an object returned by createAppState. Each call to the signal function takes an object or primitive argument that represents the initial value of that signal.

Functions that update the signals are also contained in createAppState (addTodo and removeTodo) and made available to other modules in the return value of that function (also note the TypeScript type AppStateType defined in state.ts).

function createAppState(): AppStateType {
  // ... todos, current todos signals created here  as is todoCount ...

  const addTodo: AddTodoFunction = (e: Event): void => {
    todos.value = [...todos.value, currentTodo.value];
    currentTodo.value = "";

  const removeTodo: RemoveTodoFunction = (index: number): void => {
    todos.value = todos.value.filter((_todo: unknown, i: number) =>
      i !== index
  return { todos, currentTodo, addTodo, removeTodo, todoCount /* todoCount explained below */ };
export default createAppState();

We will be using the createAppState function to pass signals and functions to the app's components. Ths done through the Preact Context (similar to React Context). Application state -- including the signals previously created -- is added to the context in the root component App (see App.tsx) using a context provider:

import { createContext } from "preact";
import state, { type AppStateType } from "../state.ts";

// create the AppState context
export const AppState = createContext<AppStateType>({} as AppStateType);

export default function App() {
  return (
      <AppState.Provider value={state}>
      // Components that use the state here ...

The state field in the App module is the return value of the createAppState function (see state.ts). AppState.Provider is a Preact context provider which exposes state to the rest of the app enclosed within its component tree.

The state held in the context can be accessed by any of the app's components with the useContext function. Here it is used by the TodoList component to access the list of todos:

import { useContext } from "preact/hooks";
import { AppState } from "./App.tsx";
import Todo from "./Todo.tsx"

export default function TodoList() {
  // Destructure state to expose the todos signal
  const { todos } = useContext(AppState);
  return (
    <div className="todos">
    // use the value property to obtain the todos array
      {todos.value?.map((item: string, i: number) => {
        return (
          <Todo text={item} index={i} />

A Signal's value

The object returned from a call to signal always contains a value field which is the current value of the signal. In the Todo app there are signals for all todos (todos, an array of strings) and the current todo (currentTodo, a string). The value of todos is obtained from this expression: todos.value.

The value property can also be used to set the value of a signal. There is no built-in setter like there is in the useState hook. Signal value mutation is done in the addTodo and removeTodo functions. The same thing can be done outside the app state object returned from createAppState. This is what is done in the input's onChange handler in AddTodo.tsx:

    { /* other attrs missing here... */}
    onChange={(e) =>
      currentTodo.value = ( as HTMLInputElement).value}

Note that the type coercion of the event target is needed because of a bug in the current Preact TypeScript typings.

Using the computed function

The function computed is included in the Preact Signals module. Signals that are used within computed are subscribed to the signal and notified when the signal's value changes. That allows computed to derive values based on the value of one or more signals. When computed is notified of a signal value change, it automatically re-runs the callback function sent in as an argument. An example is found in the createAppState function in state.ts:

  const todoCount = computed(() => todos.value.length);

When todos.value changes, the callback function gets re-run and todoCount gets updated with the new count.

Local state with Signals

The use of local signals is illustrated with the Counter.tsx component that I've piggy-backed on to the Todo app for illustrative purposes.

The Counter component counts button clicks and stores the counts in local storage so the current count can be recovered when the page is reloaded. Preact Signals is used to hold local state in this component.

Using signals for local state requires use of the useSignal hook. There is also a useComputed function that can be used for local computed values.

This is how the Counter component holds component state:

export default function Counter() {
  const COUNT_KEY = "COUNT";
  const count = useSignal<number>(parseInt(localStorage.getItem(COUNT_KEY) ?? "0"));
  // other code here...

The count is stored in local storage, so when the count signal is instantiated using useSignal, it pulls the count from local storage if it exists. Note that useSignal is for local state, while signal is used for global state. Also note that useSignal does not return a setter function like useState. The state value can be obtained from the signal (count.value in this case) and that value can be mutated directly as occurs in this button's onClick handler (in Counter.tsx):

  <button onClick={() => {
    count.value = 0;
    localStorage.setItem(COUNT_KEY, "0");
    }}>Reset Count</button>

The useComputed function is used for computing new values based on one or more signal's value. It is used for local state calculations, while computed is used for global state calculations. Both variations are subscribed to any signal that is contained within its function argument, so when the signal is updated, both useComputed and computed function arguments are automatically invoked. In the case of the Counter component, useComputed is used to calculate the counter value squared. Any time that a signal changes, the useComputed function is re-run if it uses that signal (count in Counter.tsx).

  const square = useComputed(() => count.value * count.value);

The effect function

The effect function in the signals module is used to handle side effects like useEffect. However, effect does not have a dependency array like useEffect. Instead the effect is subscribed to signals contained within the callback function, so when a signal's value changes, the effect function is notified of that change and the callback is invoked. In Counter, the effect is used to update the count in local storage.

  const dispose = effect(() => {
      localStorage.setItem(COUNT_KEY, count.value.toString());
      console.log(`Double: ${square.value}`)
  useEffect(() => {
    return () => {
      // free-up effect's memory
  }, []);

The effect function returns a function (called dispose in this case) that can be used to invalidate the effect and free up memory that it uses. In this case we call dispose in the function returned by useEffect which gets called when the component is unmounted.

An effect can be nested inside another effect. Then you can make sure the signal only runs once like this:

// From Ryan Carniato stream:
let dispose;
effect(() => {
  // clean up signal after it runs once
  if (dispose) dispose();
  // outer side effect here
  dispose = effect(() => {
    // inner side effect here

In this code, the first time the outer effect callback is invoked, the dispose function is not run because it has not been assigned a value, but after the inner effect callback is invoked, then the outer effect disposes it.

The effect function can be used to work with both global and local state.

Other functions in the Signals module

The batch function

The batch function is used to update multiple signals at a time for performance optimization. For instance, the todo array and current todo could be updated together in this manner:

batch(() => {
  currentTodo.value = "Another thing I have to do";
  todos.value = todos.value.push(currentTodo.value)

The peek function

The peek function is attached to a signal's value. It is used to get the value of a signal without subscribing to the signal. Once peek is called on a signal, any updates to the signal's value are not passed along to the return value. For example:

const countNow = count.value.peek();

In this case, countNow will not be updated if count.value changes after the call to count.value.peak.


This post shows how to use the Preact signals module with Deno Fresh. Snippets from the post's source code Github repo have been used here, so make sure you check it out to get a complete picture of how everything fits together. Also see the file for details on how to run the app locally. Finally, you should review the Preact Signals documentation for more details on the Signals API and its use.