loading...
Cover image for A Quick Look at React's useContext() Hook

A Quick Look at React's useContext() Hook

vaibsgharge profile image Vaibhav Gharge 👨🏻‍💻 Updated on ・4 min read

This article was originally published on blog.vaibhavgharge.com

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of web application development. Building web apps was one of the reasons I wanted to learn how to code.
This fascination led me down many paths, from Java to JavaScript to Angular and now to React.

When it comes to React development, there are some things that are good to know and some things that we need to know to embark on our great journey.

One of the things that is good to know is hooks in React and specifically useContext() hook which makes using contexts in react a lot easier.

Hooks are functions that let you “hook into” React state and lifecycle features from function components. Hooks don’t work inside classes — they let you use React state and other features via functions, without classes

Let’s forget the hype around React and focus on what this post should do for you. My primary hope for this article is that it equips you to understand and work with React
useContext hook effectively.

Let's take a closer look at,

  • What and Why of React's Context API
  • Using Contexts before the Introduction of Hooks
  • Why using useContext() hook is a cleaner way of using contexts in React than Context APIs
  • Wrapping Up

What and Why of React's Context API

Context provides a way to pass data through the component tree without having to pass props down manually at every level.

In any typical react based application, data is passed from parent to child using props

Consider, a react application, which has many nested components. We have at root the AppComponent and nested within the AppComponent, at different levels we have several other components.

A Quick Look at React's useContext() Hook

At the first level, we have Component A, which in turn has nested Components B, C, D, and F. Furthermore, we have Component B which is nested within Components E
and G
.

Suppose, we have a requirement to display logged in User's ID inside Component G and F which is maintained as a property inside AppComponent.

To successfully able to display the userID in Component G and F, using traditional React approach, we will have to pass the property information all the way down
the Component tree as a prop.

So for Component G to display the userId, the prop has to be passed through Component A, B and E.

As you might have already noticed, even though components A, B, and E has do not need the userId prop, they still have to act as a mediator to pass the prop down to their children.

In typical real-world applications, components may be nested up to 5 or 10 levels deep. Cluttering those components is definitely not a good web development practice.

So to overcome such cross-cutting concerns so that data can be sent directly to the required component without the hassle of sending it through the tree, the team at react has released a new set of APIs called Context API in React v16.3.0.

Using Contexts Before the Introduction of Hooks

To use context before the release of hooks, we usually implemented it by following these 3 steps:

  1. We will create a Context, using React's createContext() method.
  2. We will use the Provider in the high-level component to provide the Context Value.
  3. We will then Consume the Context value using render props pattern.

app.js


import React from 'react'
import './App.css'
import ComponentA from './components/ComponentA'

export const UserContext = React.createContext()
export const StatusContext = React.createContext()

function App() {
    return (
        <div className="App">
            <UserContext.Provider value={'Vaibhav'}>
                <StatusContext.Provider value={'Focusing'}>
                    <ComponentA />
                </StatusContext.Provider>
            </UserContext.Provider>
        </div>
    )
}

export default App

ComponentA.js


import React from 'react'
import ComponentF from './ComponentF'

function ComponentA() {
    return <ComponentF />
}

export default ComponentA


ComponentF.js


import React from 'react'
import { UserContext, StatusContext } from '../App'

function ComponentF() {
    return (
        <div>
            <UserContext.Consumer>
                { userId => {
                    return (
                        <StatusContext.Consumer>
                            { status => {
                                return <div> User context value {userId}, 
                                             Status context value {status}
                                      </div>
                                }
                            }
                        </StatusContext.Consumer>
                    )
                  }
                }
            </UserContext.Consumer>
        </div>
    )
}

export default ComponentF

Using Contexts After the Introduction of Hooks. It's a cleaner way of using contexts in React than Context APIs

Now, as you have seen using Context API, makes the creation of context quite easier. However, we still needs to use Context.Consumer to consume the context value.

As you might think, having multiple contexts, going to difficult consuming those values.

In such scenarios, React's useContext() hook comes handy as it makes consumption of Context values a lot easier and clean.

There are 3 simple steps to consume context using useContext() hook:

  1. We need to import the useContext from react.
  2. Import the required contexts. In our example, UserContext and StatusContext.
  3. Finally, we call the useContext() function passing UserContext and StatusContext as arguments.

UserContext will return the context value that is nothing but userId. Whereas StatusContext will return the status of the user. So once fetched those values, we can straight away use it to display on the UI.

ComponentG.js


import React, { useContext } from 'react'
import { UserContext, StatusContext } from '../App'

function ComponentG() {

  const userId = useContext(UserContext)
  const status = useContext(StatusContext)
  return <div> User is {userId} and Status is {status}</div>
}

export default ComponentG

Wrapping Up

  • You have learned what a React context API is and with React, now you don't have to differentiate between "is it a class?" or "should I use a functional component?" Also, Hooks let us organize the logic inside a component into reusable isolated units.
  • Unlike patterns such as to render props and higher-order components, Hooks don’t introduce unnecessary nesting into your component tree. They also don’t suffer from the drawbacks of mixins.
  • You have also learned that using context hooks, makes consumption of the context much easier and giving you a lot of cleaner code. You'll end up using React's hook every single day of your React development, a great addition to the library.

Hope you find this article useful. Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

I’d be happy to talk! If you liked this post, please share, comment and give a few ❤️ 😊 Cheers. See you next time.

Posted on by:

vaibsgharge profile

Vaibhav Gharge 👨🏻‍💻

@vaibsgharge

SSE @Accenture Singapore. @CleanCode Evangelist. ❤️ System Design. Motto: “while I live, I grow”

Discussion

pic
Editor guide