Introduction to React v2

Modern Frontend

In last section, we've used Create React App to create our React project and transfer our code into it.

Before we proceed further, let's take a step back and review what is the benefits tools like Create React App bring us and how we can utilize them.

Benefits of Modern Frontend Development Tools

Modern frontend development tools like Create React App enables us to:

  1. create a web server that will serve our local code and automatically refresh our page when code change (you can try to change the code in index.js and see the magic),
  2. compile our code with new JS syntax to older syntax (using Babel), so that we can support older browser (you can try open the previous code with IE, and it won't run due to syntax error; but if you open the URL http://localhost:3000 with IE now, it works!),
  3. creating optimized code to be used in production in which comments are stripped out and code are minified (run npm run build and you'll see the minified code in a build folder),
  4. integrate JS, CSS, and HTML file automatically (no more manual change the script tag),
  5. enable a module system that we can use to structure our code effectively but at the same time produce a single bundled JS file so it can be loaded easily (more on this later),
  6. make powerful tactics like code-splitting possible (explained in later section), and
  7. many more than could be possibly explained here, e.g. typechecking, Hot Reload.

The Module System

A module system allows us to specify what is the dependency of a piece of code and what functionality this code expose to others.

JS module system consists of the following rules:

  1. a file is a module
  2. you use import to states what is the dependency of this module (file).
  3. you use export to states what is accessible by others from this module (file).

Now looking at index.js file:

src/index.js
js
import React from 'react';
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom';
...
  • the two import statements states that this file depends on the two packages, react and react-dom. When the tools see the statement above, it will look into the node_modules folder for react and react-dom, which you should be able to see.
  • we no longer need to include the two unpkg script tags because now they are included as part of final bundled code.

Utilizing the Module System

If you realize, currently our index.js consists of 3 parts: the Movie component, the App component, and the rendering code. Let's split them up:

  1. create a components folder in src folder, and add a movie.js file in it with the following content:

    src/components/movie.js
    js
    import React from 'react';
    export const Movie = props =>
    React.createElement('div', { className: 'movie-container' }, [
    React.createElement('h1', {}, props.name),
    React.createElement('h2', {}, props.releaseDate),
    ]);
  2. create a app.js file next to index.js with the following content:

    src/app.js
    js
    import React from 'react';
    import { Movie } from './components/movie';
    function App() {
    return React.createElement('div', {}, [
    React.createElement(
    'div',
    { className: 'title-bar' },
    React.createElement('h1', {}, 'React Movie App')
    ),
    React.createElement(Movie, {
    name: 'Aquaman',
    releaseDate: '2018-12-07',
    }),
    React.createElement(Movie, {
    name: 'Bumblebee',
    releaseDate: '2018-12-15',
    }),
    React.createElement(Movie, {
    name: 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald',
    releaseDate: '2018-11-14',
    }),
    ]);
    }
    export default App;
  3. Lastly, modify index.js to following:

    src/index.js
    js
    import React from 'react';
    import ReactDOM from 'react-dom';
    import App from './app';
    ReactDOM.render(React.createElement(App), document.getElementById('root'));

The code should still works as before.

  • Our code is now split into smaller modules and the dependencies of each code is clearer while still produce a single bundled output.
  • There are two ways to use export:
    1. named export: we expose to code with a specific name. When other module import it, they need to use the name, e.g. Movie component.
      js
      // movie.js
      export const Movie = props =>
      ...
      // app.js
      import { Movie } from './components/movie';
    2. default export: we expose to code without a specific name. When other module import it, they can name it as they wish, e.g. App component.
      js
      // app.js
      export default App;
      ...
      // index.js
      import App from './app';
    3. Personally in my own project I always use named export (except due to limitation of library/tools, e.g. React.lazy only support default export), because I doesn't like to juggle between two syntax and named export works better for VS Code Intellisense. People use both out there, so you need to know both.
  • It is common practice to have a components folder which consists of reusable UI components without business logic.
  • Even though it's still not common practice in React projects, but I recommend to keep your file as kebab-case, consistent with Angular CLI defaults. This is because file resolution in Windows are case-insensitive, while in Unix is case-sensitive. When you mistype file name, it would works in Windows but breaks in Unix, so better to avoid that possibility with kebab-case convention.
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