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Tapajyoti Bose
Tapajyoti Bose

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Redux vs Context API: When to use them

The simplest way to pass data from a parent to a child in a React Application is by passing it on to the child's props. But an issue arises when a deeply nested child requires data from a component higher up in the tree. If we pass on the data through the props, every single one of the children would be required to accept the data and pass it on to its child, leading to prop drilling, a terrible practice in the world of React.

To solve the prop drilling issue, we have State Management Solutions like Context API and Redux. But which one of them is best suited for your application? Today we are going to answer this age-old question!

What is the Context API?

Let's check the official documentation:

In a typical React application, data is passed top-down (parent to child) via props, but such usage can be cumbersome for certain types of props (e.g. locale preference, UI theme) that are required by many components within an application. Context provides a way to share values like these between components without having to explicitly pass a prop through every level of the tree.

Context API is a built-in React tool that does not influence the final bundle size, and is integrated by design.

To use the Context API, you have to:

  1. Create the Context

    const Context = createContext(MockData);
    
  2. Create a Provider for the Context

    const Parent = () => {
        return (
            <Context.Provider value={initialValue}>
                <Children/>
            </Context.Provider>
        )
    }
    
  3. Consume the data in the Context

    const Child = () => {
        const contextData = useContext(Context);
        // use the data
        // ...
    }
    

So What is Redux?

Of course, let's head over to the documentation:

Redux is a predictable state container for JavaScript apps.

It helps you write applications that behave consistently, run in different environments (client, server, and native), and are easy to test. On top of that, it provides a great developer experience, such as live code editing combined with a time-traveling debugger.

You can use Redux together with React, or with any other view library. It is tiny (2kB, including dependencies), but has a large ecosystem of addons available.

Redux is an Open Source Library which provides a central store, and actions to modify the store. It can be used with any project using JavaScript or TypeScript, but since we are comparing it to Context API, so we will stick to React-based Applications.

To use Redux you need to:

  1. Create a Reducer

    import { createSlice } from "@reduxjs/toolkit";
    
    export const slice = createSlice({
        name: "slice-name",
        initialState: {
            // ...
        },
        reducers: {
            func01: (state) => {
                // ...
            },
        }
    });
    
    export const { func01 } = slice.actions;
    export default slice.reducer;
    
  2. Configure the Store

    import { configureStore } from "@reduxjs/toolkit";
    import reducer from "./reducer";
    
    export default configureStore({
        reducer: {
            reducer: reducer
        }
    });
    
  3. Make the Store available for data consumption

    import React from 'react';
    import ReactDOM from 'react-dom';
    import { Provider } from 'react-redux';
    import App from './App.jsx'
    import store from './store';
    
    ReactDOM.render(
        <Provider store={store}>
            <App />
        </Provider>,
        document.getElementById("root")
    );
    
  4. Use State or Dispatch Actions

    import { useSelector, useDispatch } from 'react-redux';
    import { func01 } from './redux/reducer';
    
    const Component = () => {
        const reducerState = useSelector((state) => state.reducer);
        const dispatch = useDispatch();
        const doSomething = () = > dispatch(func01)  
        return (
            <>
                {/* ... */}
            </>
        );
    }
    export default Component;
    

That's all Phew! As you can see, Redux requires way more work to get it set up.

Comparing Redux & Context API

Context API Redux
Built-in tool that ships with React Additional installation Required, driving up the final bundle size
Requires minimal Setup Requires extensive setup to integrate it with a React Application
Specifically designed for static data, that is not often refreshed or updated Works like a charm with both static and dynamic data
Adding new contexts requires creation from scratch Easily extendible due to the ease of adding new data/actions after the initial setup
Debugging can be hard in highly nested React Component Structure even with Dev Tool Incredibly powerful Redux Dev Tools to ease debugging
UI logic and State Management Logic are in the same component Better code organization with separate UI logic and State Management Logic

From the table, you must be able to comprehend where the popular opinion Redux is for large projects & Context API for small ones come from.

Both are excellent tools for their own specific niche, Redux is overkill just to pass data from parent to child & Context API truly shines in this case. When you have a lot of dynamic data Redux got your back!

So you no longer have to that guy who goes:

meme

Wrapping Up

In this article, we went through what is Redux and Context API and their differences. We learned, Context API is a light-weight solution which is more suited for passing data from a parent to a deeply nested child and Redux is a more robust State Management solution.

Happy Developing!

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Discussion (23)

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phryneas profile image
Lenz Weber

You are referring to a style of Redux there that is not the recommended style of writing Redux for over two years now. Modern Redux looks very differently and is about 1/4 of the code. It does not use switch..case reducers, ACTION_TYPES or createStore and is a lot easier to set up than what you are used to.

I'd highly recommend going through the official Redux tutorial and maybe updating this article afterwards.

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ruppysuppy profile image
Tapajyoti Bose Author • Edited on

Thanks for pointing it out, please take a look now

Its great to have one of the creators of Redux reviewing my article!

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phryneas profile image
Lenz Weber

Now the Redux portion looks okay for me - as for the comparison, I'd still say it doesn't 100% stand as the two examples just do very different things - the Context example only takes initialValue from somewhere and passes it down the tree, but you don't even have code to change that value ever in the future.

So if you add code for that (and also pass down an option to change that data), you will probably already here get to a point where the Context is already more code than the Redux solution.

Thread Thread
ruppysuppy profile image
Tapajyoti Bose Author

I'm not entirely sure whether I agree on this point. Using context with data update would only take 4 more lines:

  1. Function in Mock data
  2. useState in the Parent
  3. Update handler in initialValue
  4. Using the update handler in the Child
Thread Thread
phryneas profile image
Lenz Weber

In the end, it usually ends up as quite some more code - see kentcdodds.com/blog/how-to-use-rea... for example.

But just taking your examples side by side:

  • Usage in the component is pretty much the same amount of code.
  • In both cases you need to wrap the app in a Provider (you forgot that in the context examples above)
  • creating a slice and creating the Provider wrapper pretty much abstract the same logic - but in a slice, you can use mutating logic, so as soon as you get to more complex data manipulation, the slice will be significantly shorter

That in the end leaves the configureStore call - and that are three lines. You will probably save more code by using createSlice vs manually writing a Provider.

Thread Thread
ruppysuppy profile image
Tapajyoti Bose Author

But I had added the Provider in the Context example ๐Ÿ˜

You are talking about using useReducer hook with the Context API. I am suggesting that if one is required to modify the data, one should definitely opt for Redux. In case only sharing the data with the Child Components is required, Context would be a better solution

Thread Thread
phryneas profile image
Lenz Weber

Yeah, but you are not using the Parent anywhere, which is kinda equivalent to using the Provider in Redux, kinda making it look like one step less for Context ;)

As for the "not using useReducer" - seems like I read over that - in that case I 100% agree. :)

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mangor1no profile image
Mangor1no

I myself really don't like using redux toolkit. Feel like I have more control when using the old way

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phryneas profile image
Lenz Weber

Which part of it exactly is taking control away?

Oh, btw.: if it is only one of those "I need the control only 10% of the time" cases - you can always mix both styles. RTK is just Redux, there is absolutely no magic going on that would prevent a mix of RTK reducers and hand-written reducers.

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daaitch profile image
Philipp Renoth • Edited on

Referring to your example, I can write a blog post, too:

Context API vs. ES6 import

Context API is too complicated. I can simply import MockData from './mockData' and use it in any component. Context API has 10 lines, import only 1 line.


Then you can write another blog post Redux vs. ES6 import.

There are maybe projects which

  • need to mutate data
  • want smart component updates
  • want time-travel for debugging
  • want a solid plugin concept for global state management

And then there are devs reading blogs about using redux is too complicated and end up introducing their own concepts and ideas around the Context API without knowing one thing about immutable data optimizations and so on.

You can use a react context to solve problems that are also being solved by redux, but some features and optimizations are not that easy for homegrown solutions. I mean try it out - it's a great exercise to understand why you should maybe use redux in your production code or stick to a simpler solution that has less features at all.

I'm not saying, that you should use redux in every project, but redux is not just some stupid boilerplate around the Context API => if you need global state utils check out the libs built for it. There are also others than redux.

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andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

Redux used to be my first choice for large applications but these days I much prefer to use the Context API. Still good to know Redux though just in case and many projects and companies still require you to know it.

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niche_nt profile image
Nishant Tilve

Also, if you need to maintain some sort of complex state for any mid-level project, you can still create your own reducer using React's Context API itself, before reaching out for redux and adding external dependencies to your project initially.

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kayeeec profile image
Kayeeec • Edited on

But you might take a performance hit. Redux seems to be better performance-wise when you intend to update the shared data a lot - see stackoverflow.com/a/66972857/7677851.

If used correctly that is.

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l0h1t profile image
Lohit Peesapati

I found Redux to be easier to setup and work with than Context API. I migrated a library I was building in Redux to context API and reused most of the reducer logic, but the amount of optimization and debugging I had to do to make the same functionality work was a nightmare in Context. It made me appreciate Redux more and I switched back to save time. It was a good learning to know the specific use case and limitations of context.

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ruppysuppy profile image
Tapajyoti Bose Author

I too am a huge fan of redux for most projects!

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changtimwu profile image
Tim Wu

I compared the two 3 years ago. At that moment Context API was still new but obviously the winner IMO.

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nlaitan profile image
nlaitan

Context: Specifically designed for static data, that is not often refreshed or updated.
Redux: Works like a charm with both static and dynamic data.

I've working on a complex project only with context, I didn't see this point. Simply using getters and setters (it's the same thing that use useState) in context do all the work. Integrates very well with hooks and custom hooks and also easy to read.

Can you explain why redux it's better at this point?

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ruppysuppy profile image
Tapajyoti Bose Author

If you work on a huge project (where you are new to the codebase) with context, you will be running up & down the Dom to find the origin of the data

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air_choosy profile image
priolo

try to take a look at this
github.com/priolo/jon

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mohitm15 profile image
Mohit Maroliya
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sjanjan profile image
lijian

I hate redux, It is very complicated

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aralroca profile image
Aral Roca

Try Teaful github.com/teafuljs/teaful ๐Ÿ˜Š