Outbound ports

In yesterday's post, we learned about inbound ports in Elm. Today, instead of receiving a message, we want to send a message from our Elm application to the outside world that is JavaScript.

2 min read



December 22, 2020

At some point when writing an Elm program we might have the need to communicate something from inside our application to JavaScript, and as we have learned that is exactly the function of ports in Elm. We use ports to be able to bridge the world between JavaScript and Elm.

The first thing we will need to do in accomplishing sending a message from our application is to define our outgoing port.

port sendButtonClickedMessage : String -> Cmd Msg

From the definition of the function we can see that this simple port will send out a String value. We will send messages through this port when a user clicks a button in our application.

So how do we connect this outgoing port to our code in the Elm lifecycle? We will start by writing the view code where this button resides.

view : Model -> Html Msg
view model =
    Html.button [ Events.onClick (SendOutgoingMessage "ButtonClicked!") ]
        [ Html.text "Click me to send a message to JavaScript!" ]

In this view we have a Html.button that when clicked, causes the update function to be called with the MsgSendOutgoingMessage.

type Msg
    = SomeOtherMessage
    | SendOutgoingMessage String

update : Msg -> Model -> ( Model, Cmd Msg )
update msg model =
    case msg of
        SomeOtherMessage ->

        SendOutgoingMessage messageToSend ->
            ( model, sendButtonClickedMessage messageToSend )

The update function proceeds to call the port and supply the String that will be received in JavaScript. On the Javascript side we will be receiving the messages in the index.html file that we learned about in yesterday's post.

<script type="text/javascript">
  var app = Elm.Main.init({
    node: document.getElementById("elm-app"),

  app.ports.sendButtonClickedMessage.subscribe(function (messageText) {

The message sent from Elm will be received in the above javascript function, and inside this code block we can proceed to do whatever we want to do with the information received from Elm.

We might want to send out a little more complicated messages than just a String type. In these other cases we can use Json-encoder to turn the desired Elm values into a json structure.