Controlled Forms in React

React makes it easy to manipulate data using forms.

Form input values can be set to state values and then updated via React events. Defining a form’s input value via state is considered a controlled component.

For controlled inputs you will need a corresponding state and then a class method to update that state with changes.

Let’s walk through a quick example with CodePen. If you don’t know how to set up CodePen with React, you can check out this story.

Let’s also add Boostrap 4 to our CodePen so our forms aren’t so plain.

Add this to your JS file:

class App extends React.Component {
constructor(props) {
super(props);
}

render() {
return (
<div className="form-group container">
<label>Controlled Form Input</label>
<input type="text"
className="form-control"
aria-describedby="emailHelp"
placeholder="Update input here" />
<large className="form-text text-muted">
Form Output
</large>
</div>
);
}
}
ReactDOM.render(
<App />,
document.getElementById('root')
);

Now your CodePen should look like this:

Right now our form input is not controlled- meaning that the value of the form input is not determined by the state. Let’s add a state value for the form making it a controlled form.

Declare the state value in your constructor.

constructor(props) {
super(props);
this.state({input: ''});
}

Then let’s pass the state input value down to the value of the email form and as the value of our output text.

<input type="text" 
className="form-control"
aria-describedby="emailHelp"
placeholder="Update input here"
value={this.state.input}/>
<large className="form-text text-muted">
{this.state.input}
</large>

Now notice how the value of the form reflects the state, but the form value doesn’t update. That’s because we don’t have a method that will update state. Let’s add a method to update state, and pass it down using the onChange event handler.

Add the method to your constructor.

constructor(props) {
super(props);
this.state = ({input: ''});
this.formUpdate = this.formUpdate.bind(this);
}

Now define the formUpdate method.

formUpdate(event) {
this.setState({input: event.target.value});
}

The formUpdate function needs to be called whenever a change is made to the form input. Use the onChange react event to trigger the formUpdate method.

<input type="text" 
className="form-control"
aria-describedby="emailHelp"
placeholder="Update input here"
value={this.state.input}
onChange={this.formUpdate}/>

Every time a change happens to the form the formUpdate method will be called with the event object. From the event object we can pull the form value using event.target.value.

Now your form should be functioning like this:

Let’s take a look at what is going on here:

Here’s the functioning CodePen:

In our next story we’ll pull some data from an API using Axios.


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