Super performant global state with React context and hooks

Yet another Redux-like library

Daishi Kato
Jun 15 · 3 min read

Introduction

There are many libraries to provide global state in React. React itself doesn’t provide such a feature, probably because separation of concerns is important and having global state naively is not idiomatic. However, in certain cases, having global state is good as long as it’s properly implemented. It’s likely that performance drops down compared to using non-global state (incl. multiple contexts).

This post introduces a library for global state with performance.

Problem

Combining context and useReducer and develop a Redux-like feature is easy. One would say it’s enough if they don’t need Redux DevTools and Redux middleware.

But still, there is a problem if an app gets bigger. Technically, useContext doesn’t have mechanism to bail out, and all components that useContext re-render every time context value is changed. That is why react-redux gave up using context directly and move back to subscriptions.

Anyhow, this problem happens if you use context value for a single big state object. Unless your app is very small, this limitation can’t be ignored.

Another problem is how to specify which part of state a component needs to render. Selectors are often used in such a scenario, but it is not trivial to write proper selectors unless you have good knowledge of referential equality and memoization.

Solution

The first problem is solved by stopping context propagation when context value is changed. This is done by undocumented feature called “calculateChangedBits”. Because propagation is stopped, no updates are pushed to components, and now components need to pull changes. We use subscriptions for that. Some experienced developers might think why we still need to use context if we use subscriptions. This is an assumption, but using context is safer for concurrent mode and probably fits better for React developer tools.

The second problem is solved by tracking state usage in component rendering. This is done by Proxy. It’s a bit magical, but basically it’s only for performance optimization. It doesn’t change the semantics at all.

Library

I implemented these features as a library.

It’s still new as of writing, but it’s ready for review.

Example

import React, { useReducer } from 'react';
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom';
import { Provider, useTracked } from 'react-tracked';const initialState = {
counter: 0,
text: 'hello',
};
const reducer = (state, action) => {
switch (action.type) {
case 'increment': return { ...state, counter: state.counter + 1 };
case 'decrement': return { ...state, counter: state.counter - 1 };
case 'setText': return { ...state, text: action.text };
default: throw new Error(`unknown action type: ${action.type}`);
}
};
const useValue = () => useReducer(reducer, initialState);const Counter = () => {
const [state, dispatch] = useTracked();
return (
<div>
{Math.random()}
<div>
<span>Count:{state.counter}</span>
<button type="button" onClick={() => dispatch({ type: 'increment' })}>+1</button>
<button type="button" onClick={() => dispatch({ type: 'decrement' })}>-1</button>
</div>
</div>
);
};
const TextBox = () => {
const [state, dispatch] = useTracked();
return (
<div>
{Math.random()}
<div>
<span>Text:{state.text}</span>
<input value={state.text} onChange={event => dispatch({ type: 'setText', text: event.target.value })} />
</div>
</div>
);
};
const App = () => (
<Provider useValue={useValue}>
<h1>Counter</h1>
<Counter />
<Counter />
<h1>TextBox</h1>
<TextBox />
<TextBox />
</Provider>
);
ReactDOM.render(<App />, document.getElementById('app'));

Demo

Closing notes

I didn’t explain everything about the library. Most notably, this library is kind of a fork of reactive-react-redux, and actually the hooks API is identical, which is also similar to react-redux hooks. If you are a redux user and already convinced of DevTools and middleware, just use those libraries.


Originally published at https://blog.axlight.com on June 15, 2019.

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Daishi Kato

Written by

A freelance programmer. I’m interested in working remotely with people abroad: https://contact.axlight.com #apollographql #reactjs #meteorjs

Frontend Weekly

It's really hard to keep up with all the front-end development news out there. Let us help you. We hand-pick interesting articles related to front-end development. You can also subscribe to our weekly newsletter at http://frontendweekly.co