Vue.js 3 — How to use Refs in Composition API

Vue’s template rendering abstracts most of the DOM operations. And yet you might run into a situation where you need to access a given DOM element. Vue uses “refs” to access DOM elements with the ref attribute on that element.

This tutorial shows you how to reference elements in your DOM in Vue’s composition API (using script setup).

Vue.js 3 Series Overview

Access a DOM Element Using Refs

You can use the ref attribute on an HTML element to reference it. Assign a value to the ref attribute to make it accessible in your script setup block. Inside your script you can then use Vue’s ref utility method to create a reference to the related DOM element by assigning the same variable name as used in the DOM element’s ref assignment:

<script setup>  
import { ref } from 'vue'

// the variable name must match the HTML attribute’s `ref` value
const accessor = ref()  

  <div ref="accessor"></div> 

Notice: the DOM element reference is undefined on the first render and only available after the component is mounted because the component doesn’t exist until the first rendering.

Typing a Template ref

In TypeScript you probably want to narrow the type of the referenced DOM element. You can assign the types as part of the ref<Type | OtherType | undefined>() setup. Remember to assign the undefined or null types, because the DOM element isn’t available until the first render.

For example, if you’re referencing an HTML input element and want to focus it on app start, use optional chaining to ensure the element is defined before calling the focus() method:

<script setup lang="ts">  
import { ref, onMounted } from 'vue'

const element = ref<HTMLInputElement | undefined>()

onMounted(() => {  

  <input ref="element" />


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