Eliasz Sawicki

Eliasz Sawicki

iOS developer from Gdansk

From React to React-Redux in a few steps

- 18 mins

image

In this post I’m going to focus on connecting React components with Redux. If you are just starting out with React + Redux or you have already worked with these before, but want to make this concept a bit clearer then feel invited to read this post till the end ;)

If you would like to get a bit more understanding of the flow in Redux, you can take a look at my previous post about how I understand the Redux architecture.

Before we introduce Redux

Before we dive into Redux let’s take a look at simple React component. What does it look like? Just to make it a bit clearer - let’s use TypeScript with interfaces to show what props (input data) do we expect in the component.

interface Props {
    title: string
    numbers: number[]
}

interface State {}

export class SimpleComponent extends React.Component<Props, State> {

  render() {
    return <div>
      <h1>{this.props.title}</h1>
      {this.props.numbers.map(number => <p>{number}</p>)}
    </div>
  }
}

This component takes two input parameters - title and numbers. If we want to display it in our application, we need to pass these manually. For example:

<SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={[1,2,3,4]}/>

Introducing Redux

I guess that in every developer’s life there comes a time when one wants to make something more complex for no reason, so let’s introduce Redux to our example. (Disclaimer: it was a joke).

Do we really need Redux? Let’s take a look at an example of an app without Redux first.

interface Props {}
interface State {}
export class FatComponent extends React.Component<Props, State> {
    render() {
        return <div>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={[1,2,3,4]}/>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={[1,2,3,4]}/>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={[1,2,3,4]}/>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={[1,2,3,4]}/>
        </div>
    }
}

The FatComponent displays 4 SimpleComponents with the same numbers. Let’s imagine that we would like to share the same numbers across all of our SimpleComponents. A good way to do it would be to move this data to one place (a parent). In this case our FatComponent is a good candidate for this.

interface Props {}
interface State {
    numbers: number[]
}
export class FatComponent extends React.Component<Props, State> {

    constructor(props) {
        super(props)
        this.state = { numbers: [1, 2, 3, 4] }
    }

    render() {
        const { numbers } = this.state
        return <div>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={numbers}/>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={numbers}/>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={numbers}/>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={numbers}/>
        </div>
    }
}

But what if our FatComponent does not have this data instantly and would need to download it? Let’s use a fetchNumbers method in componentDidMount.

interface Props {}
interface State {
    numbers: number[]
}
export class FatComponent extends React.Component<Props, State> {

    constructor(props) {
        super(props)
        this.state = { numbers: [] } // initially we have an empty numbers array
    }

    // async await - https://javascript.info/async-await
    async componentDidMount() {
        const numbers = await fetchNumbers() // this is my imaginary function that will provide me with numbers
        this.setState({ numbers })
    }

    render() {
        const { numbers } = this.state
        return <div>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={numbers}/>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={numbers}/>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={numbers}/>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={numbers}/>
        </div>
    }
}

Ok, so we have a component that knows how to fetch numbers and display them in SimpleComponents. Great! But what if we want to reuse our FatComponent and present numbers from different source? What if we do not want to fetch the data everytime our component mounts? - After all we can fetch this data once and we can use it in future. What if we want to use a different initial array? In order to do this we could add parameters to FatComponent and pass them from a parent that renders our FatComponent.


interface Props {
    // we moved numbers from State to Props as our FatComponent will not control the source of the numbers
    numbers: number[]
    // this is a method that FatComponent will call when it decides that it wants to refresh its numbers
    // we expect that if we call it, then FatComponent's parent will handle fetching the data and pass it to our component,
    // that's why we use "() => void" type
    refreshNumbers: () => void
}
interface State {
}
export class FatComponent extends React.Component<Props, State> {

    // async await is no longer needed here as we tell our parent to load data for us.
    componentDidMount() {
        this.props.refreshNumbers()
    }

    render() {
        const { numbers } = this.props // we no longer have numbers in state - we need to change it to props
        return <div>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={numbers}/>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={numbers}/>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={numbers}/>
            <SimpleComponent title='Test' numbers={numbers}/>
        </div>
    }
}

interface BigBossProps {}
interface BigBossState {
    numbers: number[]
}
export class BigBossParent extends React.Component<BigBossProps, BigBossState> {

    constructor(props) {
        super(props)
        this.state = { numbers: [] }
    }

    async onFetchNumbers() {
        // if we fetched numbers before, then we won't do it again
        const hasDataOrPendingRequest = // check pending request && data existence
        if (!hasDataOrPendingRequest) {
            const numbers = await fetchNumbers() // this is my imaginary function that will provide me with numbers
            this.setState({ numbers })
        }
    }

    render() {
        return <FatComponent numbers={this.state.numbers} // we present numbers from BigBossParent's state in FatComponent
            refreshNumbers={this.onFetchNumbers.bind(this)}/> // Bind with `this` in order to use BigBossParent component as `this` in `onFetchNumbers` method
    }
}

Now if render logic in our BigBossParent changes and it will conditionally render FatComponent we will run into a situation where onFetchNumbers will be called multiple times. The catch here is that our BigBossParent is pretty smart, so it won’t download any new data but reuse the old array. But then again. If at some point we decide to unmount BigBossParent, then we will lose the state that is kept there and we will have to fetch it once again. If we want to avoid this, we could move the state to… You guessed it! Another parent. And this is where Redux comes with help to us. Redux provides us with a way to keep our application’s state in one unified “parent” called Store that will provide it to the components that we render. With Redux you will be able to:

Keep in mind that Redux is not a must and you do not need to use it for your application if you don’t feel that you need it! - You Might Not Need Redux. But let’s assume that we would like to introduce Redux to our example and keep numbers in this unified Store. There are many approaches to how we can do it. The approach that is widely used and I personally like is connecting your main parent components with Store (in our case this would be BigBossParent) and then pass the required data to its children via their props. This way the rendered children are not aware of any Redux magic and if we decide to drop Redux at some point, then our all “dumber” (not connected to store) components would not require any changes.

How would we approach connecting our BigBossParent to store (Place in Redux where data is kept)? First of all, we need to specify the input props of BigBossParent just as we did with FatComponent. Just as before, we move the things that we do not want to control to BigBossProps and we hope that a thing that renders this component will take care of them and give it to use.


interface BigBossProps {
    numbers: number[] // numbers will be provided to BigBossParent
    refreshNumbers: () => void // BigBossProps will not fetch the data on its own (just as FatComponent)
}
interface BigBossState {}
// we do not export this method anymore
// Please remember that we COULD do it and use this component as any other React component
class BigBossParent extends React.Component<BigBossProps, BigBossState> {

    render() {
        // If FatComponent decides to refreshNumbers, our BigBossParent will pass this request to its parent.
        return <FatComponent numbers={this.props.numbers}
            refreshNumbers={this.props.refreshNumbers()}/>
    }
}

export const connectedComponent = ... // we will get to this later

But what will be in charge of rendering our BigBossParent? We will render it in our applications “root” which will be connected to Redux. Let’s imagine that this div here is the root of our app. The first thing that will be presented here is Provider. Provider, createStore is available through react-redux package and it will be responsible for providing components rendered inside it with a way to connect with the main application store. We will be able to get the state from it and apply changes to it (Let’s focus on “getting” the state now). Provider will receive one parameter - a store which will be created with a reducer (let’s not focus on them right now).

    <div>
        <Provider store={createStore(reducer)}>
            <BigBossParent /> // Where are the props that we normally would pass here?
            // Why don't we do it in as before?
            // <BigBossParent numbers={} refreshNumbers={}/>
        </Provider>
    </div>

Just before we move to our BigBossParent component, let’s define an interface for our state in the application. What I mean is that every time that we get the state from the store (that we created with createStore(reducers)), we expect that it will be of ApplicationState type.

interface ApplicationState {
    numbers: number[]
}

Instead of passing the props to BigBossParent in a usual way, we will use the connect that is available from react-redux package.


interface BigBossProps {
    numbers: number[] // numbers will be provided to BigBossParent
    refreshNumbers: () => void // BigBossProps will not fetch the data on its own (just as FatComponent)
}
interface BigBossState {}
// we will not export the old component
class BigBossParent extends React.Component<BigBossProps, BigBossState> {

    render() {
        // If FatComponent decides to refreshNumbers, our BigBossParent will pass this request to its parent.
        return <FatComponent numbers={this.props.numbers}
            refreshNumbers={this.props.refreshNumbers()}/>
    }
}

// This method will receive the application state in a first parameter
// its job is to take the part of the application state that BigBossParent is interested in and return it
// In this method we would like to exactly match the props that BigBossParent expects, however, we will not care about
// methods. (We will not provide refreshNumbers method through mapStateToPros)
function mapStateToProps(state: ApplicationState) {
    // this method will return object has "numbers" with a value of numbers that are kept in our application state
    return {
        numbers: state.numbers
    }
}

// This method will receive dispatch method as a first parameter
// The dispatch will allow us to send actions to the store.
// (if this concept is unfamiliar to you, please take a look at Redux documentation or my previous post - http://eliaszsawicki.com/story-of-redux/ )
function mapDispatchToProps(dispatch: Redux.Dispatch) {
    return {
        refreshNumbers: () => dispatch({
            type: 'UPDATE_NUMBERS',
            payload: { numbers: [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]}
        })
    }
}
// instead we will export the component that is connected to our application store.
// this means that the props that the BigBossParent component needed will be provided via our mapping functions
// functions through mapDispatchToProps and variables through mapStateToProps
export const connectedComponent = connect(mapStateToProps, mapDispatchToProps)(BigBossParent)

Let’s take a quick look at Reducer. Do you remember that we have passed it as our createStore parameter? Reducer is a function that takes in two parameters - state and action and returns a new state.

const DefaultState = { numbers: [] } // if we do not have a state yet (start of the app), we need to provide a default one
function reducer(state: ApplicationState = DefaultState, action: Action): ApplicationState {
    switch (action.type) {
        case 'UPDATE_NUMBERS': // This is the action type that we sent from our BigBossParent component.
            const newState = { numbers: action.payload.numbers }
            return newState
    }
    return state
}

In really simplified case we will have one reducer that handles our whole state, but in bigger apps we will have combined reducers that only take a part of the application state as a first parameter. The part that they know how to handle. UPDATE_NUMBERS is the action type that we sent from our BigBossParent component. Let’s take a look at mapDispatchToProps once again:

//the dispatch parameter is in fact way to call `store.dispatch()`.
function mapDispatchToProps(dispatch: Redux.Dispatch<ApplicationState>) {
    return {
        refreshNumbers: () => dispatch({
            type: 'UPDATE_NUMBERS',
            payload: { numbers: [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]}
        })
    }
}

What does this map do? At the time that we call refreshNumbers from BigBossParent component. What in fact happens is:

store.dispatch({
            type: 'UPDATE_NUMBERS',
            payload: { numbers: [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]}
        })
    }

This way we send an action to our store. Store receives the action and then passes both application state and this action to reducers (In our case this is a reducer mentioned above). It sees that the action type matches the one it handles - UPDATE_NUMBERS and creates a new state accordingly. In our case it will apply the numbers sent as an action’s payload. After it’s done, the new state is returned and applied to the store. This will now be the new state of our application. At the time that we receive this new state, our BigBossParent will be updated (mapping functions will be invoked again).

And this is how you go from a React to React-Redux ;) If you have any comments, please share them below!

This article is cross-posted with my company blog

comments powered by Disqus
rss facebook twitter github youtube mail spotify lastfm instagram linkedin google google-plus pinterest medium vimeo stackoverflow reddit quora