Performance Optimization with Zone-Flags. A Close Look at Zone-Flags in RxAngular. Part 2

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Angular Performance - Full Masterclass

High-Speed Angular applications on any device

This is the second post in a three-part series unveiling the secret capabilities of Zone-Flags and the hidden pitfalls of disabling Zone, configuring it statically, or migrating it. In the previous article, we discussed how Angular's change detection mechanism worked, and the last part of this series will go into more detail on the Zone-Flags debugging and risks related to configuring Zone over Zone-Flags.

Zone-Flags prove helpful indeed when it comes to configuring Zone. You can use them to substantially improve the performance of your Angular app and better orchestrate the change detection process.

So, let's get a first glance at what Zone-Flags are, what opportunities they offer, and what to expect configuring them in your project.

⚠️ Notice

Zone-Flags are a static way to partially disable zone.js.

This means configuration has to happen statically before zone.js is imported. We will discuss later in the article what consequences doing otherwise might have.

Zone-Flags are Symbols on the window object, so we can use the direct window properties to set them up. Accordingly, upon initialization, Zone starts looking for specific flags in the window object to see if certain APIs should be patched or not.

Besides the global window object, zone-flags can also configure other objects like WebSockets. To that end, they accept booleans for global static APIs like animationFrame along with an array of parameters for a specific target.

Internal interfaces of zone.js

How to use Zone-Flags properly

To use Zone-Flags, first, you should create a file in your src folder named zone-flags.ts and insert the following code there:

(window as any).__Zone_disable_requestAnimationFrame = true; 

When zone.js is initialized on the page, it takes on the values of the flags that are already located in the window object. Therefore, it is so crucial to import your zone-flags.ts file before importing zone.js. In order to do that, open your polyfills.ts file and inject zone-flags.ts code above your zone import: 

//            👇                     👇
import './zone-flags'; // Included before zone.js
import 'zone.js/dist/zone';

Then, you can easily test it and see what happens if flags are not imported. Start your Angular application with the flags file commented out and run a measurement:

//            👇                     👇 
// import './zone-flags'; // Included before zone.js 
import 'zone.js/dist/zone';

Zone Flags importCode compilation

At this point, there are two more things that we need to keep in mind.

First, all flags’ configurations should be imported from a separate file (window as any – in zone-flags.ts; zone-flags and zone.js – in polyfills.ts.)

Second, files must be imported before any executable code. The reason behind it is that all imports normally get hoisted by webpack, and thus the imported code is injected into a bundle before any meaningful JS in the file. Here is an example of what happens if you neglect this rule.

The input:

console.log('Run something before import');
import './zone-flags'; // Included before zone.js
import 'zone.js/dist/zone';

console.log('Zone flags init');
window.__Zone_disable_XHR = true;

The output produced by webpack compilation:

var _zone_flags__WEBPACK_IMPORTED_MODULE_0__ = 
__webpack_require__(/*! ./zone-flags */ "o3nU";

var zone_js_dist_zone__WEBPACK_IMPORTED_MODULE_1__ = 
__webpack_require__(/*! ./zone.js/dist/zone */ "pDpN";
console.log('Run something before import');

It is inefficient to do so, and I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to learn to do things the right way.

How to set up Zone-Flags: a default approach vs. RxAngular

We already know from the previous article that it is preferable to configure zone.js instead of fully disabling it. This way, you can gain more control over your app – which is especially important when the application is big and complex – but this will only work out if the configuration is applied gradually. This is where Zone-Flags should come into action.

A default approach to setting up Zone-Flags

The default approach allows setting up Zone-Flags in three steps. 

1. First, you need to create zone-flags.ts and polyfills.ts files.

2. Then, in your zone-flags.ts file, insert the following code:

(window as any).__Zone_disable_requestAnimationFrame = true;
(window as any).__Zone_disable_timers = true;
(window as any).__zone_symbol__UNPATCHED_EVENTS = [
(window as any).__Zone_disable_XHR = true;

3. Finally, import zone-flags.ts above the zone in polyfills.ts:

// 👇 Make sure zone-flags are imported before zone.js.
import './zone-flags';
// Zone JS is required by default for Angular itself.
import 'zone.js/dist/zone';

This way of setting up zone-flags might seem quick and nice. However, it adds neither flexibility nor efficiency to the process and tends to be rather error-prone. Instead, your go-to strategy should focus on using the RxAngular helper.

Set up Zone-Flags using RxAngular helpers

With RxAngular helpers in place, it is easier and more convenient to set up zone-flags and debug them. The benefits that stipulate this convenience are:

  • Comprehensive and well-maintained documentation

  • Typed methods

  • Autocompletion

  • Inline documentation

  • Predefined event names

  • Convenience methods

  • Assertions for checking if zone-flags are correctly used

Keeping them in mind, let’s see how zone-flags are set up using RxAngular helpers and how it is more efficient than the default approach.

The first and last steps in the setup process will basically be the same. You begin your zone-flags setup by creating zone-flags.ts and polyfills.ts files and finish by importing zone-flags.ts above your zone import in polyfills.ts.

That said, the big change that makes all the difference here is the content you insert into your zone-flags.ts file:

import { zoneConfig } from '@rx-angular/cdk/zone-flags';;;[  

In this file, we are disabling some global APIs and several DOM events by adding typed and extra convenience methods.

Zone configuration helper

As you type, you will see zoneConfig providing autocompletion for sections like global, events, runtime, and test, as well as for convenience methods:

IDE documentation zoneConfig API

Every API has a speaking name chained with dot-notation to specify its type – e.g., Disable or Unpatched events:

IDE documentation flags

As I previously pointed out, autocompletion is one of the perks you can expect when setting up zone-flags using RxAngular. But there are more. For instance, you can also view the inline documentation of scopes, methods, and configuration details in the IDE:

IDE documentation zoneConfigIDE documentation zoneConfig.globalIDE documentation zoneConfig global-flags timers

Configure Zone runtime settings using RxAngular helpers

After Zone-Flags are set up, their default runtime configuration can also be changed. First, you need to create a zone-runtime.ts file alongside your polyfills.ts file and add the following code:

import { zoneConfig } from '@rx-angular/cdk/zone-flags';

Then, open your polyfills.ts file and add the import statements there:

// Zone JS is required by default for Angular itself.
import 'zone.js/dist/zone';
// ☝️ Make sure zone-flags are imported before zone.js
import './zone-runtime';

⚠️ Notice

@rx-angular/cdk/zone-configuration errors if it is used incorrectly. If you used zone-runtime configurations wrong (not executing it after zone.js runs) you should see the following error in the console:

Zone configuration error

Now your zone-flags are set up and configured. However, to be all set to use them in your Angular app, we need to address one more topic: debugging.

As you’ve already seen, there are certain risks to be aware of when working with zone.js. Therefore, in the next article, we will find out how to mitigate them and effectively debug zone-flags. Keep an eye out for the next part coming soon!