Larry Price

And The Endless Cup Of Coffee

How to ReactJS

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ReactJS is a component-based Javascript library for creating user interfaces. I used it extensively on recent side project Refer Madness (source code). It’s pretty neat. Let’s build some demos!

We’ll start small. We can start with the ReactJS sample and figure out what’s going on:

We create a React component Hello and we tell it what to render. When we create a Hello component, we take in an attribute called name which we then access in our component with When the page loads, React will render the Hello component in the element with ID “container”.

Components can have other components.

I’ve created a Name component to show the name. This component uses its children to display any content it needs to. Obviously, this is a bit contrived.

Things get more exciting when we add events. Let’s add an event to our Name component: when a user clicks this component, we’ll reverse the name.

I’ve introduced state to the component. When I want a React component to use state, I need to implement the getInitialState method to tell React what the state is when the component is created. In this case, I set the name field of the component’s state to this.props.children. When I render the component, I use the name variable I set in my state object. I add an onClick event and call a method on the component called clickme. In clickme I call the built-in setState method and update the name variable on my state object. Any other state variables on the component would remain unchanged. Any time setState is called, render is called again for this component and any children which need to be updated will also rerender.

Sometimes something happens on a child component that the parent cares about. This time, I want the parent component to know when the Name component gets a click event.

I’ve told my child component to call the method goodbye on the parent element using the property name onClicked. When the method is called Ichange the state of the Hello component and update the greeting; in this case, the Name component will be reused since it hasn’t changed.

Just a reminder that you can have multiple of any component; just be sure to not duplicate IDs!

I dynamically create as many Name components as I need. I take my list of names and map them all to React components, each of which has a different value. As above, all of these can have events or can call events on the parent component. When we create a list of components, React prefers it when we give them all key attributes. This allows React to cache the components and recreate the appropriate component when states change.

Of course this is just scratching the surface. I used ReactJS because it was fast, stable, and easy to get started learning. It gave me a different way to think about the relationship between my Javascript and the DOM. For a little bit more React you should check out the tutorials. If you hadn’t noticed, React uses a twist on the Javascript syntax called JSX. If you’re into that kind of thing, I’ve written about using Docker to compile your JSX whenever you update your JSX files - very handy IMO.