TinyBase And The Local First Movement
Written by Nikos Vaggalis   
Thursday, 18 January 2024

TinyBase is a Javascript library that enables you to create an in-browser, local-first, reactive data store. Too much terminology in one sentence - let's dissect it.

With Tinybase you can store structured tabular data locally on your device. If you want a hyped headline it would "in-memory reactive tabular data store". What's the deal with that kind of Store?

  • It can be used when offline and sync with a remote service when going online
  • It is effective in scenarios that continuous data connectivity is not guaranteed-don't assume that there's a Cloud always on the backend
  • perfect if you need to use structured data but don't want to go full relational database
  • Memory reactivity - need to update the UI immediately when data changes
  • Local first - own your data and do not deposit them on a Cloud provider

That last property, makes TinyBase part of the data sovereignty movement, which goes like :

Unless you own the data or it doesn't reside on your own devices then it's not yours.

Of course the implications of not owning your data are well known and local first tries to be the answer to it, by making applications which are agile and satisfactory to the users' needs but at the same time run offline, respecting their privacy.

That is the exact case with TinyBase which allows the user to store tabular data locally and acting upon them alike a relational database but not being a relational database. This means that you can do aggregations on numerical data, index textual data, do relationships between tables and other operations expected by a relational product, and all that with Javascript and in-memory.

It's not just in memory though as you can persist the store to local or session storage in the browser, to a file or to a remote server.

'Reactivity' wise, it goes from low level like listening and reacting to changes in a table or even as granular as in a cell , to opening a new browser tab and making changes which would be reflected back.

A high level overview of TinyBase's features includes:

  • Manage key-value data, tabular data - or both - with optional schematization to model your app's data structures.
  • Flexibly reactive to reconciled updates, so you only spend rendering cycles on things that change.
  • Powerful query engine to select, join, filter, group, sort and paginate data - reactively - and without SQL.
  • Built-in indexing, metric aggregation, tabular relationships - and even an undo stack for your app state.
  • Create type definitions & ORM-like APIs, from schema or inference. Inspect your data directly in the browser.
  • Easily sync your data to browser storage, IndexedDB, SQLite, CRDTs, PartyKit and ElectricSQL.
  • Optional bindings to React and pre-built components that let you easily build fully reactive user interfaces.
  • Tiny by name, tiny by nature: 5. 0kB - 9. 4kB, no dependencies.
  • Fully documented

and of course, open source!

To get started with TinyBase you can install it in three ways:

1.From a Vite template with the following steps:

  1. npx degit tinyplex/vite-tinybase my-tinybase-app
  2. cd my-tinybase-app
  3. npm install
  4. npm run dev

2.Include it as a UMD script from a CDN in a web page:

script src="/https://unpkg.com/tinybase/lib/umd/tinybase.js"

3.Install it as a dependency for your application with the TinyBase NPM package

After that go on with creating your first Store and write to it, which is as easy as :

const store = createStore();
store.setTables({pets: {fido: {species: 'dog'}}});

You can then read from it, listen to it, do Transactions (not in the relational database sense), do validation by adding Schemas, define Relationships that connect Rows together between Table objects, and add Checkpoints that allow you to build undo and redo functionality.

Of course, a data store would not be complete without being able to run queries on it. So TinyBase does that too by utilizing the using the Queries module.

The main entry point to using the queries module is the createQueries function, which returns a new Queries object. That object in turn has methods that let you create new query definitions, access their results directly, and register listeners for when those results change.

Here's a simple example to show a Queries object in action. The pets Table has three Row objects, each with two Cells. We create a query definition called dogColors which selects just one of those, and filters the Rows based on the value in the other:

tinybase1

To get an idea of what TinyBase can do, you can look at the in real-world application Demos. Link below.

2023 was a big year for TinyBase, thanks to a lot of interest in local-first app development, and plenty of new features and integrations. TinyBase v3. 0 added key-value support and v3. 1 added an inference-based type system for schematized data. The v4. x series of releases focused on integrations with other storage and CRDT solutions, including Yjs, Automerge, PartyKit, Expo, and various other flavors of SQLite. And in 2024, the focus will be on supporting more flexible data types, other integrations, first-party CRDT support.

To conclude, there might be many state management solutions for React and JavaScript applications but TinBase combines structure, reactivity, small footprint, and functionality under one package. Of course it won't replace applications that should solely live on the web , like Facebook , but for any local needs it provides a solid option.

 tinybaselogo

 

More Information

TinyBase

TinyBase Demos

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