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Bradley Dirheimer
Bradley Dirheimer

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Mastering Next.js Navigation Hooks: An In-Depth Review

Next.js, a versatile framework for React applications, has a suite of Client Component hooks that significantly enhance web app navigation. This article takes an in-depth look at four of these hooks: useSelectedLayoutSegment, usePathname, useParams, and useSelectedLayoutSegments. Understanding these hooks' functionalities and nuances can profoundly enrich the navigational dynamics of your Next.js apps.


useSelectedLayoutSegment is a Client Component hook that gives you access to the active route segment one level below the Layout from which it is invoked. This function is valuable for creating navigation UI components, like tabs within a parent layout, which change their style based on the active child segment.

Notably, useSelectedLayoutSegment does not accept any parameters and returns a string of the active segment or null if one doesn't exist. It's typically utilized within a Client Component that is then imported into a Layout, providing an efficient way to handle specific navigational changes at the granular segment level.


The usePathname hook offers a straightforward way to read the current URL's pathname, allowing for dynamic adjustments based on the URL. It can be effectively used within Client Components to conditionally render components or adjust styles based on the current pathname.

Crucially, the usePathname hook returns null in instances when a fallback route is being rendered or when a pages directory page has been automatically statically optimized by Next.js and the router isn't ready. This capability demonstrates the hook's flexibility and usefulness in various scenarios, including handling route changes and responding to dynamic path changes.


useParams shines in scenarios where you need to access a route's dynamic parameters filled in by the current URL. This hook is especially useful when working with dynamic routes, as it provides an object containing the current route's dynamic parameters.

Each property in the object corresponds to an active dynamic segment. The property's name is the segment's name, and the property's value is what the segment is filled in with. It can either be a string or an array of strings, depending on the type of dynamic segment. If the route contains no dynamic parameters, useParams returns an empty object, providing a fail-safe mechanism for dealing with diverse routing scenarios.


Lastly, useSelectedLayoutSegments offers a solution for accessing the active route segments from the Layout where it's called. This functionality is vital for creating complex UI elements, such as breadcrumbs, where the context of active child segments is essential.

This hook does not accept any parameters and returns an array of strings containing the active segments one level down from the layout the hook was called from, or an empty array if none exist. Additionally, the returned segments can include Route Groups which, if not desired, can be filtered out using JavaScript's filter() array method.

Key Takeaways

Each of these hooks brings its own unique advantages to Next.js development. useSelectedLayoutSegment allows for granular segment-level navigational changes, while usePathname provides a convenient way to read the current URL's pathname. useParams simplifies access to dynamic route parameters, and useSelectedLayoutSegments offers a means of generating context-aware UI elements like breadcrumbs.

By understanding these hooks and their differences, you can create more sophisticated, dynamic, and user-friendly navigational structures in your Next.js applications. Mastering these hooks equips you to take full advantage of the power and flexibility of the Next.js framework, enhancing your web development process.

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