useReducer and useContext

React Hooks: Lift up / pass down state using useContext and useReducer

Long post alert!

I’ve ran into a situation where I had many child and sibling components trying to share the state between them. Earlier, I used prop to send a method to share the updated states between the components. At one point of time, the number of props kept increasing and I hated that.

Then came a context based approach to store the state in a global store and share it across. But even with the context API, you had to have a render props to consume the stored state from the global context. You will soon realise that your component becomes a nested, non-maintainable and haunting to look back.

Now this post talks about how we can leverage the latest React’s hooks concepts to achieve the same with a cleaner code.

Let’s first build the sample UI with some child & sibling components.

Let’s UI

Head on to the CodeSandbox to quickly experiment. Make sure that you create a React code sandbox.

Replace the index.js with the following:

import React from "react";
import ReactDOM from "react-dom";

function App() {
  return (
    <div className="App">
      <h1>Lift up / Pass down state</h1>

      <UserList />
      <AddGenderToUser />
      <AddAgeToUser />
    </div>
  );
}

function UserList() {
  return (
    <ul>
      <li>
        <span>Vimalraj Selvam</span>
        <button type="button">Edit</button>
      </li>

      <li>
        <span>Bhuvaneswari Vimalraj</span>
        <button type="button">Edit</button>
      </li>
    </ul>
  );
}

function AddGenderToUser({ username }) {
  return (
    <div>
      <h2>Add gender to {username}</h2>
      <button type="button">Add Age</button>
    </div>
  );
}

function AddAgeToUser({ username }) {
  return (
    <div>
      <h2>Add Age to {username}</h2>
      <button type="button">Submit</button>
    </div>
  );
}

const rootElement = document.getElementById("root");
ReactDOM.render(<App />, rootElement);

Here I’ve 3 child components to parent App component: UserList, AddGenderToUser and AddAgeToUser.

This is very simple example. So don’t think much about the usecase of this application.

I wanted to show the AddGenderToUser component only when the Edit button for a particular user is clicked and update the title of the of the component with selected username.

The same thing goes for AddAgeToUser component, upon clicking the Add Age button from the AddGenderToUser component.

First, let create a initial state of the application when no user is selected.

const initialState = {
  username: null,
  gender: null,
  age: null
};

Then create our reducer method to perform different actions. The actions which I can think of are:

  • Update the user
  • Set the gender for the current user
  • Set the age for the current user

Let’s put this in a reducer function:

const UPDATE_USER = "UPDATE_USER";
const SET_GENDER = "SET_GENDER";
const SET_AGE = "SET_AGE";

function reducer(state, action) {
  switch (action.type) {
    case UPDATE_USER:
      return {
        username: action.username,
        gender: null,
        age: null
      };
    case SET_GENDER:
      return {
        username: state.username,
        gender: action.gender,
        age: null
      };
    case SET_AGE:
      return {
        username: state.username,
        gender: state.gender,
        age: action.age
      };
    default:
      return initialState;
  }
}

Our reducer method is very simple. It takes values from the action parameter and sets it to current state.

Now let’s use this reducer function in our parent App component using useReducer hook from the react. So that we can consume the properties of reducer through the context.

Let’s add the below line just before the return statement of App component.

const [user, dispatch] = React.useReducer(reducer, initialState);

Here user is the current state and dispatch is the method through which we trigger various actions defined on the reducer. To do that, we have to pass the dispatch method to down the line and also if any updates happens at the state object, the parent / other children of parent should also be aware about.

To achieve the above objective, we have to leverage context API from react to store our state and dispatch.

Let’s initialize the context with the following line. This line should be before your App function (it really doesn’t matter).

const MyContext = React.createContext(null);

I’ve initialized the context with null. We’ve to put our state and dispatch into the context. To do that, let’s edit our App component by wrapping all the childrens with context's provider. The updated App component should look like below:

<MyContext.Provider value={{ user, dispatch }}>
  <UserList />
  {user.username && <AddGenderToUser />}
  {user.gender && <AddAgeToUser />}
</MyContext.Provider>

Great, now we can access the user state and the corresponding dispatch method down the line. Also, I’ve added a conditional rendering of few child elements based on the user state properties username & gender.

Let’s update our UserList component to trigger the UPDATE_USER action upon clicking on Edit button for a particular user. To do that, we’ve to get the dispatch method from the context using useContext hook from React.

The rewritten UserList component:

function UserList() {
  const { dispatch } = useContext(MyContext);
  return (
    <ul>
      <li>
        <span>Vimalraj Selvam</span>
        <button
          type="button"
          onClick={() => dispatch({ type: UPDATE_USER, username: "Vimalraj" })}
        >
          Edit
        </button>
      </li>

      {/* Removed for brevity */}
    </ul>
  );
}

We’re dispatching UPDATE_USER action and sending the username along with to update the property of the state. Now when you click on the Edit button for a particular user, you can see the AddGenderToUser component appears. But we still don’t see the username in the appeared component. Let’s fix that!

function AddGenderToUser() {
  const { user, dispatch } = useContext(MyContext);

  return (
    <div>
      <h2>Add gender to {user.username}</h2>
      <button
        type="button"
        onClick={() => dispatch({ type: SET_GENDER, gender: "??" })}
      >
        Add Age
      </button>
    </div>
  );
}

We’re getting the current user state and dispatch method. We extract the username property to display in a title and trigger SET_GENDER action upon clicking on Add Age button.

You can repeat the same for the AddAgeToUser function as well.

The completed version is available in the code sandbox, please feel free to view here.

Edit Lift up / pass down state

In the code sandbox, I’ve slightly updated the App component to show the details once the age is updated.

If this post helped you, please hit like and share.

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