Understanding State Management in React: From Confusion to Clarity

A beginner’s guide on React State Management. State management in React is crucial to building dynamic and interactive user interfaces.

By Lokesh Dudhat

Last updated on: November 3, 2023

Understanding State Management in React - From Confusion to Clarity

State management in React is crucial to building dynamic and interactive user interfaces. In this blog post, we will explore the different ways to manage state in a React application and the use cases of each approach.

First, let’s define what state is in the context of a React application development.

In React, state refers to the data or variables that determine a component’s behaviour and render information to the user. The state is managed within a component, and changes can trigger a re-render of the component. React provides a setState() method to update the state, which causes the component to re-render with the new state. In addition to managing state within a single component, React also provides a way to share state between components through context and state management libraries like Redux.

Why do you need React state management?

React state management is needed for several reasons:

  1. Managing component state: As a component’s state changes, it can cause the component to re-render, updating the user interface. State management libraries like Redux and MobX provide a way to manage the state of multiple components and share data between them, making it easier to keep track of and update the state of the application.
  2. Improving scalability: As applications grow and become more complex, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage their state without a centralized state management system. State management libraries provide a way to handle larger applications’ state and make sharing data between different components easier.
  3. Improving performance: Libraries like Recoil provide ways to handle the state efficiently, such as avoiding unnecessary re-rendering of components, which can improve the application’s performance.
  4. Enhancing developer productivity: State management libraries provide a clear and consistent pattern for managing application state, making it easier for ReactJs developers to understand and work with the codebase.

In summary, React state management is needed to improve a React application’s organization, scalability, performance, and developer productivity.

Pros and Cons of state management in React

Some pros of using state management in a React application include the following:

Pros and Cons of State Management in React

  1. Improved organization: State management libraries like Redux and MobX provide a centralized place to store application state, making it easier to keep track of and update the application’s state.
  2. Better scalability: State management libraries make it easier to handle the state of larger applications, as they provide a way to manage the state of multiple components and share data between them.
  3. Improved performance: State management libraries like Recoil provide ways to handle the state in an efficient way, such as avoiding unnecessary re-rendering of the component

Some cons of using state management in a React application include the following:

  1. Additional complexity: Using a state management library can add complexity to an application, as developers need to learn and implement the concepts and principles of the library.
  2. Overhead: Implementing state management can add a layer of abstraction, which can increase the complexity of the codebase and make it harder to debug.
  3. Boilerplate Code: Some libraries like Redux require much boilerplate code to set up and manage state, making it difficult to understand the codebase for new React developers.

Ultimately, whether to use state management in a React application will depend on the application’s specific needs and the developer’s preferences.

Different state management ways in React

Different ways of State management in React

There are several ways to manage state in React, including:

  • Local state: This is the most basic way to manage the state in React. Each component has its state, and changes to the state trigger a re-render of that component. The local state can be managed using React’s setState() method.
  • Context: React’s context API allows you to pass data through a component tree without having to pass props down manually at every level. This can be useful for sharing state between components that are not directly related.
  • State management libraries: Libraries like Redux and MobX provide a centralized way to manage the state in large-scale applications. These libraries provide a way to store the application’s state in a single store and a set of rules for updating the state.
  • Hooks: React Hooks allow you to use state and other React features in functional components. The useState Hook allows you to add a state to functional components and use the setState method to update the state.
  • GraphQL: Using a GraphQL server as a middleware to manage your application’s state, it can handle the state of the data coming from the server and the state of the different user interactions.

Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice of which one to use depends on the application’s specific needs.

State management libraries

State management libraries are a popular way to manage the state in large-scale React applications. The most popular state management libraries for React are:

List of most popular State Management Libraries

  • Redux: Redux is a library that provides a centralized way to manage the state in a React application. It uses a single store to hold the application’s state and a set of rules for updating the state, called reducers. Redux also provides a way to easily handle side effects, such as making API calls and using middleware.
  • MobX: MobX is another popular state management library for React. It provides a way to store the application’s state in a single store and a set of rules for how the state can be updated, called actions. MobX uses a concept called observables to re-render components when the state changes automatically.
  • Recoil: Recoil is a lightweight state management library for React; it is built and maintained by Facebook. It provides a way to manage and handle async state using hooks.
  • Apollo Client: It is a popular library that allows developers to easily manage the state of data retrieved from a GraphQL API.

Redux and MobX are widely used in the React community and have many tutorials and resources available. Recoil is a relatively new library, but it’s gaining popularity because of its simplicity and ease of use.

It’s important to note that these libraries are not the only way to manage a state in React, and in many cases, it’s unnecessary to use a state management library. Whether or not to use a state management library depends on the needs of the specific application and the developer’s preferences.

When to use Redux state management in React?

Redux is a popular state management library for React based on a centralized store and unidirectional data flow principles. It can be used in a React application development when:

  1. The application has a complex state: Redux provides a centralized place to store it, making it easier to keep track of and update the state of the application as it changes.
  2. The application has multiple components that need to share the state: Redux allows for the state to be easily shared between different components, reducing the need for props drilling.
  3. The application needs to handle asynchronous actions: Redux provides a way to handle async actions through middleware, making it easier to manage and update the application’s state in response to async events.
  4. The application needs to maintain the state’s history: Redux’s store is designed to be immutable, which means that it keeps track of the history of state changes, providing a way to undo or redo actions.
  5. The application needs to handle the side effects: Redux’s middleware capability makes it easy to handle side effects like API calls, logging, or analytics.

It’s worth noting that Redux is not always the best fit for every application, and in some cases, it may add unnecessary complexity. It’s a good idea to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of using Redux in relation to the application’s specific needs and the developer’s preferences.

When to use MobX state management in React?

MobX is a library for state management that utilizes a more intuitive approach based on observable properties and reactions. It can be used in a React application when:

  1. The application needs a simpler and more intuitive approach to state management: MobX provides a more intuitive way to handle the application’s state, focusing on observable properties and reactions.
  2. The application has a complex state that needs to be derived from another state: MobX provides a way to automatically derive a new state based on the existing state, which can simplify the code and improve performance.
  3. The application needs to handle async actions: MobX provides a way to handle async actions by using the async-action utility, which can simplify the management and update of the application’s state in response to async events.
  4. The developer prefers a more “reactive” approach: MobX’s approach is based on “reactivity,” which means that the state is automatically updated in response to changes without requiring explicit calls to setState.
  5. The developer wants to avoid boilerplate code: MobX’s approach is less verbose and does not require as much boilerplate code as Redux.

It’s worth noting that MobX is not always the best fit for every application, and in some cases, it may add unnecessary complexity. It’s a good idea to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of using MobX about the application’s specific needs and the developer’s preferences.


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When to use Recoil State management in React?

Recoil is a lightweight state management library for React that utilizes hooks and provides a more flexible and efficient way to handle the state of your application. It can be used in a React application when:

  1. The application needs a more efficient way to handle state: Recoil is designed to be more efficient than other state management libraries by avoiding unnecessary re-renders of components.
  2. The application needs to share the state between components: Recoil provides a way to easily share the state between different components, reducing the need for props drilling.
  3. The application needs to handle complex states: Recoil allows the developer to select a specific part of the state to be used in a component without the need to pass the entire state.
  4. The developer wants to avoid boilerplate code: Recoil’s approach is less verbose and does not require as much boilerplate code as Redux.
  5. The developer wants to use the newest and experimental feature of React: Recoil is built on top of hooks, which is the newest and experimental feature of React; it also uses the latest JavaScript features like an atom, selector, etc.

It’s worth noting that Recoil is relatively new and not widely adopted yet, so it’s important to test it before using it in a production environment. Also, it may not be the best fit for every application, but it’s a good idea to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of using Recoil about the application’s specific needs and the developer’s preferences.

Conclusion

Each of these approaches has its advantages and disadvantages. React’s built-in state management is straightforward and easy to use but can become unwieldy in large-scale applications. Redux provides a centralized store for the state but can add complexity to the application. The Context API is a simpler alternative, but it may not be suitable for large-scale applications.

In conclusion, state management is crucial to building dynamic and interactive user interfaces in React. The approach you choose will depend on the application’s specific needs and the developer’s preferences. It’s always a good idea to consider the pros and cons of each approach before making a decision.

Continue your reading on React …

  1. A How-to Guide for Businesses on Hiring MERN Stack Developers
  2. Top React Frameworks and Component Libraries
  3. Top Front-end and Back-end JavaScript Frameworks

FAQs

What is state management in React?

State refers to the data or variables that determine a component's behavior and render information to the user. State management in React refers to the process of managing and updating the state of a React application.

Why do I need state management in React?

State management is needed in React to improve a React application's organization, scalability, performance, and developer productivity. It also allows for easy data sharing between components and can help improve the codebase's overall maintainability.

What are the different types of state in React?

There are mainly two types of state in React: Local state, which is specific to a single component, and global state, which is shared across multiple components.

What are the popular state management libraries for React?

Popular state management libraries for React include Redux, MobX, React-Redux, Recoil, and react-context.

When should I use a state management library in React?

You should use a state management library in React when your application has a complex state, multiple components that need to share a state, needs to handle asynchronous actions, needs to maintain the history of the state, and needs to handle side effects.

Is it necessary to use a state management library in React?

Using a state management library in React is not necessary, but it can make it easier to manage the state of larger applications and improve the scalability, performance, and developer productivity of a React application.

How do I decide which state management library to use in React?

The choice of state management library will depend on the specific application's needs and the developer's preferences. It's important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each library in relation to the application's specific needs and the developer's preferences.

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Written by

Lokesh Dudhat

Lokesh is a Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at SolGuruz, a senior technical consultant with over 10 years of experience in exploring the horizon of the software development industry. He has worked closely with startups and enterprises, mentoring them in engineering their tech solutions. With a hands-on experience of 10+ years as a developer, he has delivered solutions using a wide range of technologies such as iOS, Android, Angular, Node, RTC, React, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, Python, and many more. At SolGuruz, we believe in delivering a combination of technology and management. Our commitment to quality engineering is unwavering, and we never want to waste your time or ours. So when you work with us, you can rest assured that we will deliver on our promises, no matter what.

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