Recommended approach: using variable from server in UI conditional panel


#1

The topic of defining a variable in the server and using it in the UI is something I’ve had to do for years.

I discovered a way to make it work using the output list and setting its suspendWhenHidden to false. I thought it was a bit hacky but still blogged about it because I thought it was useful.

Today I saw an app by @barbara where she also used that trick, and it made me wonder if that’s the officially suggested method of achieving that, approved by RStudio’s shiny team? It still feels hacky to me because it’s not a visual output, so having to set the suspendWhenHidden just feels ao dirty! I wonder if perhaps there could be introduced a new way of doing it?


#2

I’d say it’s the officially suggested method in the sense that we describe it in our dynamic UI article, for the cases when you really need it (in the article itself, there’s also a small demo app using this mechanism):

The condition can also use output values; they work in the same way (output.foo gives you the value of the output foo). If you have a situation where you wish you could use an R expression as your condition argument, you can create a reactive expression in the server function and assign it to a new output, then refer to that output in your condition expression. If you do this, make sure to also set outputOptions(output, [newOutputName], suspendWhenHidden = FALSE). (This is necessary because Shiny normally doesn’t send values to the browser for outputs that are hidden or not present in the UI. In this case, however, the browser does need to know the most up-to-date output value in order to correctly evaluate the condition of the contitionalPanel function - suspendWhenHidden = FALSE ensures this will happen.)

I think this would still be the way to implement this functionality, but I guess we could create some syntactic sugar to “hide” the inelegant mechanism, instead of exposing it. But since it’s just one line anyway, I don’t think it’s a high priority trade-off. If you were thinking of an alternative that didn’t use the output list and the “hack,” that would mean introducing a new list (in addition to input and output) that would also travel between the server and the client (and also make the mental model and the reactlog potentially more complicated). Given that there is (so far, at least) only this use case, I don’t think we’re likely to do it. But this is mostly my opinion, I don’t recall ever discussing this with the team.


#3

Thanks Barbara, I didn’t realize rstudio already had an official article
describing this method. I agree with your assessment of the tradeoff, I
can’t think of a way shiny could automatically know that an output is not a
UI output (checking if it exists in the DOM doesn’t seem safe). I guess
we’ll continue using this!