React Hooks: Introduction – Part 1

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React hooks were introduced at React Conf October 2018 to introduce state management and side-effects in functional components. They have become a game-changer for a lot of developers. These hooks change the fundamental mindset because of switching from class-based components to functional components with hooks. In this blog post, we will get an overview of these hooks, with the look of how the same logic would be implemented in class-based components.

Why React Hooks?

  1. Unnecessary Component Refactoring: Previously, only class-based components were used for local state management and lifecycle methods. But later on, class-based components became essential for introducing side-effects such as API requests. If you don’t need a lifecycle hook or state, functional components are used as they are lightweight and elegant. A lot of code is developed using functional-based components. Without hooks, a lot of refactoring is required to use the state or lifecycle method.

With Hooks, there is no need for refactoring. Side-effects and state are directly available in functional components. 

2. Complex Components are Hard to Understand: Complex components contain a mix of unrelated code. For example, components might perform some data fetching in componentDidMount and componentDidUpdate. However, the same componentDidMount method might also contain some unrelated logic that sets up event listeners, with cleanup performed in componentWillUnmount. This makes it too easy to introduce bugs and inconsistencies.

Hooks are introduced to solve this by split one component into smaller functions based on what pieces are related (such as setting up a subscription or fetching data), rather than forcing a split based on lifecycle methods

3. Javascript Classes Confusion: JavaScript mixes Object-oriented programming (OOP) and functional programming pretty well. On the one side, React (and Redux) introduced people to functional programming (FP) with function compositions, general programming concepts with functions (e.g. higher-order functions, JavaScript built-in methods like map, reduce, filter) and other terms such as immutability and side-effects. On the other side, React uses JavaScript classes as one way to define React components.

However, classes come with a steeper learning curve for React beginners who are not coming from an OOP background. Hooks are introduced to make this learning curve smoother for beginners while writing React components without Javascript ES6 classes.

Rules of Hooks

Hooks are javascript functions but there are two rules a developer needs to follow while implementing hooks:

  1. Only Call Hooks at the top level: Always use hooks at the top level of your React function. Don’t call hooks inside loops, conditions, or functions. This ensures that all the hooks are called in the same order each time when the functional component renders.
  2. Only Call Hooks from React Functional Component: Don’t call hooks from regular Javascript functions. Instead, call hooks from React functional components or from custom hooks.

By following these rules, you ensure that all stateful logic in a component is clearly visible from its source code.

List of Hooks

Basic Hooks:

  • useState
  • useEffect
  • useContext

Additional Hooks:

  • useReducer
  • useCallback
  • useMemo
  • useRef
  • useImperativeHandle
  • useLayoutEffect
  • useDebugValue

Building Your Own Hooks

Sometimes, we want to reuse some stateful logic between components. Traditionally, there were two popular solutions to this problem: Higher-order components (HOC) and render props. Custom hooks let you do this without adding more components to your tree.

Custom Hooks are more of a convention than a feature. If a function’s name starts with use and it calls other Hooks, we say it is a custom Hook. The useSomething naming convention is how our linter plugin is able to find bugs in the code using Hooks. You can write custom Hooks that cover a wide range of use cases like form handling, animation, declarative subscriptions, timers, and many more.

Further in the series of React Hooks, we will talk in detail about each Hook.

Also, you can visit React Docs to study more about hooks.

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Written by 

Rudar Daman Singla is the Trainee Software Consultant at Knoldus Software LLP. He has done B.Tech. from Jaypee University of Information technology, Waknaghat(Solan). He has good knowledge of languages C, C++, Java, Scala, HTML, CSS, PHP, Node and Angular. He is also interested in VFX. As a fresher, he always tries to explore the different type of software and tools.