Subverting Angular using F# and Elmish

Published on Thursday, March 25, 2021

Edit: 2021-10-22

The original code in this article was extracted from an Angular 8 application that I maintain. While trying to create a sample project to share for the next article, I ran into issues with the original way I was unmounting Elmish/React. Either something changed between Angular 8 and Angular 12, or there is something unique about my particular application. The code in this article has been updated to reflect the working sample project available on GitHub.

End Edit.

Over the past year I've been wanting to experiment with F#, Fable 2, and Elmish. Only one thing was standing in my way. The application that I currently maintain is written in Angular. I needed to figure out how to make Angular play nice with F# and Elmish. This is how I infected an Angular project with Elmish and began replacing it from the inside.

Luckily for me, someone had already explored how to make Angular play nice with other frameworks before me. I found a handy guide on using React Components in Angular 2+ that gave me an idea of where to start. However, there were several things I still needed to work out.

  • How do I get Angular to build a Fable project?
  • How do I get Angular to render an Elmish application?
  • How do I handle routing between Angular and the Elmish runtime?

Getting Angular to build a Fable project

The first thing I needed to decide was where to place my Fable project files. For convenience, I decided to keep it in a subfolder within the Angular source tree and treat it as a library. This would allow me to utilize the existing webpack infrastructure from Angular without having to muck about with a multistage build process.

|-- dist/
|-- e2e/
|-- node_modules/
|-- projects/
|-- src/
|   |-- app/
|   |-- assets/
|   |-- elmish/
|   |   |-- ElmishApplication.fsproj
|   |   `-- App.fs
|   `-- environments/
|-- angular.json
|-- browserslist
|-- build.js
|-- package-lock.json
|-- package.json
|-- tsconfig.json
`-- tslint.json

Several new dependencies were required to allow tapping into the Angular build process and actual transpile the Fable application to Javascript.

To enable Angular to build the F# project, the @angular-builders/custom-webpack package is added as a dev dependency to package.json. This package adds a new Angular CLI builder that allows customizing the webpack build configuration, which Angular normally keeps internal and inaccessible.

The fable-loader package allows webpack to properly handle F# files and projects, while the fable-compiler package does the actual transpiling from F# to JavaScript. (Note: This is for Fable2. Fable3 has removed the webpack requirement and has transitioned to being a dotnet CLI tool.)

The Elmish runtime provides the plumbing for the MVU architecture, but does not itself render the view. In fact, it's not even limited to building only web applications. The following are just some of the template engines you can use:

  • Elmish.WPF for WPF
  • Fabulous for Xamarin forms
  • Elmish.Snabbdom for Snabbdom
  • Fable.React for React
  • FuncUI for Avalonia

I went with React as it is the predominate template engine used for the Elmish runtime on the web. It also allowed me to use the React Material-UI component libraries to remain visually consistent with the Angular application's usage of @angular/material.


  "dependencies": {
    "@types/uuid": "^8.3.1",
    "react": "^16.12.0",
    "react-dom": "^16.12.0"
  "devDependencies": {
    "@angular-builders/custom-webpack": "^12.1.3",
    "fable-compiler": "^2.13.0",
    "fable-loader": "^2.1.9"

With the dependencies downloaded, I then needed to plug into Angular's build pipeline. This was done by modifying the angular.json file to replace the builder property on the build and serve targets to be @angular-builders/custom-webpack. The location of the custom webpack config is passed to the new builder via the customWebpackConfig option.


  "projects": {
    "angular-client": {
      "architect": {
        "build": {
          "builder": "@angular-builders/custom-webpack:browser",
          "options": {
            "customWebpackConfig": { "path": "src/webpack.config.js" },
            "allowedCommonJsDependencies": [
        "serve": {
          "builder": "@angular-builders/custom-webpack:dev-server"

The webpack config to build the Fable project is very minimal. It consists of a rule to match on .fs, .fsx, and .fsproj files and pass them to the Fable compiler via the fable-loader.


module.exports = {
    module: {
        rules: [{
            test: /\.fs(x|proj)?$/,
            use: "fable-loader"

Getting Angular to render an Elmish application

I started off with the smallest application possible in order to test that everything would work. Typically, an Elmish application is started on page load by calling the function. Since Angular is running the show, I needed a way to:

  • Control the lifetime of the application
  • Support multiple instances of the application
  • Pass data in from Angular

This was accomplished by wrapping the Elmish runtime initialization within a function. I was able to start the application when I wanted, and pass data into the application using the function parameters. Combined with Program.runWith, I was able to pass that data into the the Elmish init function.

To support multiple instances of the application running at the same time, the Angular component that calls the Elmish application creates a <div> with a randomly generated Id. This Id is the first parameter to the function and is used by React as it's attachment point to the DOM. The second parameter that is passed in is the user's auth token, allowing the Elmish application to make calls to the backend REST API.


module App

open Browser
open Elmish
open Elmish.React
open Fable.React
open Feliz

type State =
        AuthToken : string

let init props =
    props, Cmd.none

let update msg state =
    state, Cmd.none

let view model dispatch =
    Html.h1 "Hello Elmish"

let appInit htmlId authToken =
    let props = {
        AuthToken = authToken
    Program.mkProgram init update view
    |> Program.withReactSynchronous htmlId
    |> Program.withConsoleTrace
    |> Program.runWith props

let killApp domNode =
    ReactDom.unmountComponentAtNode domNode

The TypeScript compiler cannot directly import the F# code as it doesn't understand it. To solve this problem I had to create a TypeScript Declaration File to provide a mapping to what the shape of the appInit F# function would be after it is transpiled to JavaScript.


declare module "*App.fs" {
    function appInit(htmlId: string, authToken: string): void;
    function killApp (domNode: Element): void;

Since I am treating the Fable project as a library adjacent to the Angular application, I needed a way to import the Elmish application that didn't involve spamming relative import paths everywhere. The tsconfig.json for the TypeScript compiler handled this requirement nicely with its paths property. This allows me to use import {appInit} from '@elmish/App.fs' to access functions from the Elmish application.


  "compilerOptions": {
    "baseUrl": "./",
    "paths": {
      "@elmish": [
      "@elmish/*": [

The final piece of the solution is the Angular component that brings all the parts together. After the view is initialized, the user's access token is retrieved, a unique Id is generated for the <div> that React will attach to, and the Elmish application is started. When the component is destroyed, the underlying React application is terminated to prevent leaking memory.


import {
} from '@angular/core';
import { v4 as uuid } from 'uuid';
import { appInit, killApp } from '@elmish/App.fs';
import { Router } from '@angular/router';

    selector: 'elmish-page',
    `<div class="page">
        <div #elmishApp></div>
export class ElmishPageComponent implements
    AfterViewInit, OnDestroy {

    @ViewChild("elmishApp") elmishApp!: ElementRef;

    constructor() { }

    ngAfterViewInit() {
        // a production app should grab this from an OIDC client
        const authToken = "FAKE AUTH TOKEN";

        let domNodeId = uuid(); = domNodeId;
        appInit(domNodeId, authToken);

    ngOnDestroy() {
        // unmounts the react component to prevent leaking memory


The solution above is just the beginning. It can support a small contained widget or be expanded to handle multiple pages with automatic route detection. In a future post I will expand on how I added multiple sub pages and implemented routing between Angular and Elmish.