why does @form[:field].value changes from atom to string when other form fields change

At work we started a project and it’s the first time we use elixir phoenix (Live View) for backend and front-end. We have used Elixir Phoenix before but only as backend (json api) with a separate react front-end.

Mostly it’s going well, but we have some “issues” on they way. One of them is the following:

When you have a form (see below for some example code snippets) with a select and the options come from an enum with atoms ([:default, :admin]). We wanted to do some conditional rendering based on the select value.

So for example we have the following html form:

        <%= @title %>
        <:subtitle>Use this form to manage user records in your database.</:subtitle>

        <.input field={@form[:name]} type="text" label="Name" />
        <.input field={@form[:age]} type="number" label="Age" />
          prompt="choose role"
          options={Ecto.Enum.values(User, :role)}
        <p :if={@form[:role].value === :admin}>Only admins can see this</p>
          <.button phx-disable-with="Saving...">Save User</.button>

We are checking the form value role, when it’s admin we show some the <p>.
When creating an user above will just work fine.

When you have created an user and want to edit it, that’s where the if statement above will stop working. When changing another field than role or change role and and after that change it back to the initial value it the check will break. Because the following happens:
the role value (@form[:role].value) will change from atom to string (:admin will become “admin”).

I know you can easily change the options to strings and do change the role to a string and that is what we are currently doing. But I don’t understand why it behaves like this. I tried to find my answers in the documentation (Phoenix, Live View, Phoenix.HTML, Ecto docs) but could not find out why it behaves like this and if this is intendent behavior.

So my questions are:

  • Should we handle conditional rendering differently than this approach (like using assign or something else)?
  • Why does it behave like this?


This is my first post, so sorry if it’s not conform the guidelines.
Let me know if it isn’t so I can change it accordingly!

I ran into the same issue recently, but instead of atom : string I had integer : string.

What I noticed was that the initial value is coming from the query, which is the value on the database, but if there are changes on the form the value will become an string since all params are strings coming from an HTML form

For example, you might have a field <.input type="float" field={@form[:my_float]>
The initial value if you render from the database would be a float like:

but if any changes are made to the form then the new value is the changed value, which is “2.49” (it will be converted again when saving).

A simple approach is to verify if any values matches, for example, in your case you could have

<% if @form[:role] in [:admin, "admin"], do: something() %>

you could also assign the value to a new assign and change the assign value in the validation handle_event to ensure you’ll always have an atom

it would be like

def handle_event("validate" params, socket) do
params_role = params["role"]
role = String.to_atom(params_role)

|> assing(:role, role)

This is because inputs don’t submit native elixir terms and the abstraction needs to support invalid inputs as well.

For changeset based forms the :value key returns in order:

  1. changeset.changes[field] – elixir term, when the form submitted a valid value for the field
  2. changeset.params[field] – raw value as submitted, when the form submitted a invalid value for the field
  3. changeset.data[field] - initial elixir term, when there’s no change submitted (yet)

So at least in the second case you by definition need to deal with the shape the form inputs submit. In case of html forms strings. Also the other directions the abstraction doesn’t know how to convert an elixir value to what would be a “raw value submitted by an input” causing the eventual elixir term to be casted – at least it doesn’t explicitly do so.


Thanks for the suggestions!

I do indeed see the following when I do a to_form on the changeset, after the name is changed (validation):

params: %{"name" => "test2", "role" => "admin"},

I understand the behavior now, thanks for the explanation!