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Kexuan (Michael) Huang
Kexuan (Michael) Huang

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React `UseMemo`

What is useMemo?

useMemo is a React Hook that lets you cache the result of a calculation between re-renders.

Typically, useMemo reduces the amount of work that needs to be done in a given render. useMemo can memoize the function and its result, meaning that if the inputs of the function do not change, React will return the memoized value instead of recomputing it, which will potentially speed up your render process.

A Simple Explanation

Let's say we have a really slow function which takes up huge amount of time to computer in the render process:

// a really slow function...
const slowFunction = (num) => {
  for (let i = 0; i < 1000000000; i++) { }
  return num * 2;
}
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And we need the result of this slowFunction for rendering the webpage, for example, the complexResult variable:

const complexResult = slowFunction(input);
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<p> { complexResult } </p>
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In this case, calling slowFunction in every render will significantly slow down your application. This is where useMemo comes in handy.

We can wrap the slowFunction inside useMemo and provide an array of dependencies. The array of dependencies is used to determine whether or not the memoized value should be recalculated. If any of the dependencies change, useMemo will recalculate the memoized value, or it will just use the previous "memoized" value.

A simple metaphor would be:

  • if I'm solving the puzzle for the first time, I have to take time to go through every steps until I solve it and give the answer.
  • If you ask me to solve the same puzzle the second time, I don't have to go through all the steps once again. Instead, I just give you the answer directly because it's already in my brain.
  • If you ask me to solve another different puzzle, I still have to take time to go through every steps.

Here:

  • the process of solving the puzzle is the slowFunction
  • the answer is the complexResult
  • the puzzle problem is the dependency.

How to use useMemo?

The prototype is given as follows:

const cachedValue = useMemo(calculateValue, dependencies);
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where

  • calculateValue: The function calculating the value that you want to cache. (typically slow functions)
  • dependencies: The list of all reactive values referenced inside of the calculateValue code
  • cachedValue: the same result of calling calculateValue

Back to our example, previously we have:

const complexResult = slowFunction(input);
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And with useMemo, this line could be changed into:

const complexResult = useMemo(() => {
  return slowFunction(input)
}, [input])
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In the example above, complexResult will only be recalculated if the input dependency changes. If input stays the same, React will return the previously memoized value, which saves us from calling slowFunction again and again.

A Complete Example

In case you still find this concept abstract or just need some contexts to think over. A slightly more complex example is provided below.

Without useMemo

import { useState } from "react";

const slowFunction = (num) => {
  console.log("running slow double calculation...");
  for (let i = 0; i < 1000000000; i++) {}
  return num * 2;
};

const Demo = () => {
  const [number, setNumber] = useState(0);
  const [color, setColor] = useState("black");

  const doubledNumber = slowFunction(number);

  return (
    <div>
      <input
        type="number"
        value={number}
        onChange={(e) => setNumber(e.target.value)}
      />
      <button onClick={() => setColor(color === "black" ? "green" : "black")}>
        Change Color!
      </button>
      <p style={{ color: color }}>{doubledNumber}</p>
    </div>
  );
};

export default Demo;
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What just happened after clicking the change color button?

  1. setColor triggered re-render
  2. Recalculate doubledNumber takes lots of time
  3. Lead to slow render of doubledNumber

With useMemo

import { useState, useMemo } from "react";

const slowFunction = (num) => {
  console.log("running slow double calculation...");
  for (let i = 0; i < 1000000000; i++) {}
  return num * 2;
};

const Demo = () => {
  const [number, setNumber] = useState(0);
  const [color, setColor] = useState("black");

  const doubledNumber = useMemo(() => {
    return slowFunction(number);
  }, [number]);

  return (
    <div>
      <input
        type="number"
        value={number}
        onChange={(e) => setNumber(e.target.value)}
      />
      <button onClick={() => setColor(color === "black" ? "green" : "black")}>
        Change Color!
      </button>
      <p style={{ color: color }}>{doubledNumber}</p>
    </div>
  );
};

export default Demo;
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Thanks to useMemo, we no longer have to wait for a long time for setting color after changing the number.

Reminder: Donโ€™t use useMemo everywhere!

The reasons are:

  • Overusing useMemo can hurt performance and introduce unnecessary overhead.
  • Memoization is most effective for expensive computations that produce the same output for the same inputs.
  • Overusing useMemo can make your code harder to read and maintain.

Reference

  1. useMemo. React. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://react.dev/reference/react/useMemo

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