React

Passing Data Between Components

React Course

Introduction

By now you should be starting to understand just how powerful React and reusable components can be, but you may be left wondering ‘How can I share information between components?’ or ‘Am I able to customize the behavior of my components each time I use them?’. In this lesson, we will learn about React props (short for properties) and how to use props to pass data between components.

Lesson overview

This section contains a general overview of topics that you will learn in this lesson.

  • Passing data between components.
  • Using data to create customizable reusable components.

Data transfer in React

In React, data is transferred from parent components to child components via props. This data transfer is unidirectional, meaning it flows in only one direction. Any changes made to this data will only affect child components using the data, and not parent or sibling components. This restriction on the flow of data gives us more explicit control over it, resulting in fewer errors in our application.

Using props in React

Now that we know how data transfers between components, let’s explore why this might be a useful feature in React. Consider the following Button component, which then gets rendered multiple times within our App component.

function Button() {
  return (
    <button>Click Me!</button>
  );
}

export default function App() {
  return (
    <div>
      <Button />
      <Button />
      <Button />
    </div>
  );
}

So far so good right? We have a beautiful reusable button that we can use as many times as we like, there is just one small problem.

What if we wanted the text within our second button to be “Don’t Click Me!’? Right now, we would have to create a second button component with this different text.

function Button() {
  return (
    <button>Click Me!</button>
  );
}

function Button2() {
  return (
    <button>Don't Click Me!</button>
  );
}

export default function App() {
  return (
    <div>
      <Button />
      <Button2 />
      <Button />
    </div>
  );
}

This may not seem like a huge deal right now, but what if we had 10 buttons, each one having different text, fonts, colors, sizes, and any other variation you can think of. Creating a new component for each of these button variations would very quickly lead to a LOT of code duplication.

Let’s see how by using props, we can account for any number of variations with a single button component.

function Button(props) {
  const buttonStyle = {
    color: props.color,
    fontSize: props.fontSize + 'px'
  };

  return (
    <button style={buttonStyle}>{props.text}</button>
  );
}

export default function App() {
  return (
    <div>
      <Button text="Click Me!" color="blue" fontSize={12} />
      <Button text="Don't Click Me!" color="red" fontSize={12} />
      <Button text="Click Me!" color="blue" fontSize={20} />
    </div>
  );
}

There are a few things going on here.

  • The Button functional component now receives props as a function argument. The individual properties are then referenced within the component via props.propertyName.
  • When rendering the Button components within App, the prop values are defined on each component.
  • Inline styles are dynamically generated and then applied to the button element.

Prop destructuring

A very common pattern you will come across in React is prop destructuring. Unpacking your props in the component arguments allows for more concise and readable code. Check out prop destructuring in action in the example below.

function Button({ text, color, fontSize }) {
  const buttonStyle = {
    color: color,
    fontSize: fontSize + "px"
  };

  return <button style={buttonStyle}>{text}</button>;
}

export default function App() {
  return (
    <div>
      <Button text="Click Me!" color="blue" fontSize={12} />
      <Button text="Don't Click Me!" color="red" fontSize={12} />
      <Button text="Click Me!" color="blue" fontSize={20} />
    </div>
  );
}

Default props

You may have noticed in the above examples that there is some repetition when defining props on the Button components within App. In order to stop repeating ourselves re-defining these common values, and to protect our application from undefined values, we can define default props that will be used by the component in the absence of supplied values.

function Button({ text, color, fontSize }) {
  const buttonStyle = {
    color: color,
    fontSize: fontSize + "px"
  };

  return <button style={buttonStyle}>{text}</button>;
}

Button.defaultProps = {
  text: "Click Me!",
  color: "blue",
  fontSize: 12
};

export default function App() {
  return (
    <div>
      <Button />
      <Button text="Don't Click Me!" color="red" />
      <Button fontSize={20} />
    </div>
  );
}

As you can see, we now only need to supply prop values to Button when rendering within App if they differ from the default values defined on Button.defaultProps.

You can also combine default props and prop destructuring. Here’s how it looks in action.

function Button({ text = "Click Me!", color = "blue", fontSize = 12 }) {
  const buttonStyle = {
    color: color,
    fontSize: fontSize + "px"
  };

  return <button style={buttonStyle}>{text}</button>;
}

Functions as props

In addition to passing variables through to child components as props, you can also pass through functions. Consider the following example.

function Button({ text = "Click Me!", color = "blue", fontSize = 12, handleClick }) {
  const buttonStyle = {
    color: color,
    fontSize: fontSize + "px"
  };

  return (
    <button onClick={handleClick} style={buttonStyle}>
      {text}
    </button>
  );
}

export default function App() {
  const handleButtonClick = () => {
    window.location.href = "https://www.google.com";
  };

  return (
    <div>
      <Button handleClick={handleButtonClick} />
    </div>
  );
}
  • The function handleButtonClick is defined in the parent component.
  • A reference to this function is passed through as the value for the handleClick prop on the Button component.
  • The function is received in Button and is called on a click event.

There are a few things to note here.

  • We only pass through a reference to handleButtonClick, i.e. we do not include parenthesis when passing the function to Button. If we were to do something like handleClick={handleButtonClick()} then the function would be called as the button renders.

  • Every Button calling this function will navigate to the same page. We can refactor the function and supply an argument within Button to customize this functionality.

function Button({ text = "Click Me!", color = "blue", fontSize = 12, handleClick }) {
  const buttonStyle = {
    color: color,
    fontSize: fontSize + "px"
  };

  return (
    <button onClick={() => handleClick('https://www.theodinproject.com')} style={buttonStyle}>
      {text}
    </button>
  );
}

export default function App() {
  const handleButtonClick = (url) => {
    window.location.href = url;
  };

  return (
    <div>
      <Button handleClick={handleButtonClick} />
    </div>
  );
}

When supplying an argument to the function we can’t just write onClick={handleClick('www.theodinproject.com')}, and instead must attach a reference to an anonymous function which then calls the function with the argument. Like the previous example, this is to prevent the function being called during the render.

There are also other ways to implement this behavior. Hint: curried functions!

Hopefully you can now understand from the examples in this lesson, just how incredibly useful props are for writing reusable and customizable React components. However, we are still only scratching the surface of what React can offer us. Continue on to the next section to learn even more!

Assignment

  1. Read through the React docs on Passing Props to a Component. Make sure to edit the code examples and experiment with different prop values.

Knowledge check

The following questions are an opportunity to reflect on key topics in this lesson. If you can’t answer a question, click on it to review the material, but keep in mind you are not expected to memorize or master this knowledge.

Additional resources

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