React State With Class Properties

February 2, 2018
react javascript

Let’s take a look at how to define state inside of React components in order to motivate the usage of class properties. First, the most basic setting of any state: static values.

class Thing extends React.Component {
  constructor(props) {
    super(props);
    this.state = {
      job: "my job"
    };
  }
  render() {
    const { job } = this.state;
    return <span>{job}</span>;
  }
}

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but we can use class properties to clean up the super(props) boilerplate. The less code in the constructor function, the less time someone has to spend understanding the code I write. Here’s a class that is functionally the same, but uses class properties for defining the initial state.

class Thing extends React.Component {
  state = {
    job: "my job"
  };
  render() {
    const { job } = this.state;
    return <span>{job}</span>;
  }
}

We’ve eliminated the imperative setting of this.state in favor of a declarative class property. If we trim down the babel configuration to target node 9, we get a very clean compilation result that yields a key insight. repl link.

// compiled result
class Thing extends React.Component {
  constructor(...args) {
    var _temp;

    return (
      (_temp = super(...args)),
      (this.state = {
        job: "my job"
      }),
      _temp
    );
  }

  render() {
    const { job } = this.state;
    return React.createElement("span", null, job);
  }
}

The state we just declared in a class property is set in the constructor just like our original example! This is a great example of how babel lets you write code for humans instead of machines. With this key insight in mind, we can connect it to the usage of props to set initial state. Instead of populating the constructor function, we declare what we want state to be.

class Thing extends React.Component {
  state = {
    job: this.props.job || "my job"
  };
  render() {
    const { job } = this.state;
    return <span>{job}</span>;
  }
}

This compiles to essentially the same code we had before!

// compilation result
class Thing extends React.Component {
  constructor(...args) {
    var _temp;

    return (
      (_temp = super(...args)),
      (this.state = {
        job: this.props.job || "my job"
      }),
      _temp
    );
  }

  render() {
    const { job } = this.state;
    return React.createElement("span", null, job);
  }
}

Fin

Use class properties. Of course, you should also go play with the codesandbox for an easy testbed that includes state modification via a timer.

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