What’s new in React 16.3(.0-alpha)
React 16.3-alpha just hit npmjs and can be downloaded and added to your project. What are the biggest, most interesting changes?
Update 05.02.2018 — I’ve previously made some wrong observation about the
createContextbehavior, this section was updated to reflect the actual behavior of the factory function.
New context API
Context API was always a thing of mystery — it’s an official, documented React API but at the same time developers warned us not to use it because the API might change with time, and it was missing some documentation on purpose. Well, that time is now — the RFC phase has passed and the new API is merged. It is definitely more “user friendly” and might make your life a bit easier when all you want is simple state management without the “overhead” of Redux or MobX.
The new API is accessible as
React.createContext() and creates two components for us:
Calling the factory function will return us an object that has a “Provider” and a “Consumer” in it.
The “Provider” is a special component which aims to provide data to all components in its sub-tree, so one example of usage would be:
Here we select a sub-tree (in this case, the whole tree) to which we want to pass our “theme” context, and set the value we want to pass. The value can of course be dynamic (e.g. based on
Next step is to use the Consumer:
If you happen to render the “Consumer” without embeding it in a corresponding “Provider”, the default value declared at
createContext call will be used.
Please notice some things:
- the consumer must have access to the same Context component — if you were to create a new context, with the same parameter as input, a new Context would be created and the data would not be passed. For this reason please consider Context a component — it should be created once and then exported + imported whenever needed
- the new syntax uses the function as child (sometime called render prop) pattern — if you’re not familiar with this pattern I recommend reading some articles on it
- it is no longer required to use
contextPropsif you want to make use of the new Context API
The data from the context passed to the function matches the
value prop set in the providers
Context.Provider component, and altering the data in the Provider will cause all consumers to re-render.
New life-cycle methods
The other RFC to make it into the alpha release concerns deprecation of some life-cycle methods and introduction of one (four) new.
This change aims to enforce best practices (you can read up on why those functions can be tricky in my article on life-cycle methods) which will be very crucial once the asynchronous rendering mode (which was one of React 16 “Fiber” main goals) will be fully activated.
The functions that will be in time considered deprecation are:
componentWillMount— please use
componentWillUpdate— please use
componentWillReceiveProps— a new function,
static getDerivedStateFromPropsis introduced
Do not be alarmed, you are still able to use those functions — the depracation notices are slotted for 16.4 and removal of them is planned in 17.0
You will only see the deprecation notices if you also opt in into the new
AsyncMode in which case you can still suppress them by using:
componentWillReceiveProps gets removed, we need some means of updating the state based on props change — the community decided to introduce a new — static — method to handle this.
What’s a static method? A static method is a method / function that exists on the class not its instance. The easiest difference to think about is that static method does not have access to
this and has the keyword
static in front of it.
Ok, but if the function has no access to
this how are we to call
this.setState? The answer is — we don’t. Instead the function should return the updated state data, or
null if no update is needed:
The returned value behaves similarly to current
setState value — you only need to return the part of state that changes, all other values will be preserved.
Things to keep in mind:
You still need to declare the initial state of the component (either in constructor or as a class field).
getDerivedStateFromProps is called both on initial mounting and on re-rendering of the component, so you can use it instead of creating state based on props in constructor.
If you declare both
getDerivedStateFromProps will be called, and you will see a warning in the console.
Usually, you would use a callback to make sure some code is called when the state was actually updated — in this case, please use
If you prefer not to use the
static keyword, you can use the alternative syntax:
Strict mode is a new way to make sure your code is following the best practices. It’s a component available under
React.StrictMode and can be added to your application tree or subtree:
If one of the children components, rendered in the
StrictMode subtree uses some of the method mentioned in previous paragraphs (like
componentWillMount) you will then see an error message in browser console when running an development build:
Currently the error message points to the RFC for the life-cycle methods removal.
The not-yet-active async Component support was renamed to be aligned with the
StrictMode and is now available under
React.unstable_AsyncMode. Using it will also activate
If you want to learn more about asynchronous components you might check some articles / examples at:
New version of React Developer Tools
Additionally, a new version of the Developer Tools was released to support debugging the new components.
If you’re using Chrome — you might need to wait a bit more, as it’s not updated yet in the store, and trying to debug results in … interesting results:
Firefox users should be able to make use of the new features already:
More to come?
Please keep in mind that this is an alpha release and the stable 16.3 might have more / fewer changes. That said, according to Dan, 16.3 should be released “sometime next week”: