Redux Basics

Redux Basics

In this post, the simplest React Redux tutorial I wish I had when I started learning. ... Having seen the basics let's now talk about what problem Redux tries to solve.

Throughout last week, I had my first taste of Redux. During this time, we implemented Redux with React but, it does not need to be used exclusively with React. However, this has been my only experience with it thus far, so I will explain it the way it is used with React.

Upon introduction to Redux, you may be left feeling instantly confused. Initially learning React, most days are spent getting comfortable with the idea of passing props from one component, to another, to another... to another.... to.... another.

While this is an easy concept to understand, it's not necessarily the most efficient. There are a variety of state management systems used within React, but I want to discuss Redux and what has helped me wrap my mind around it!

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What is Redux?

Redux has one main advantage, and that's the efficiency it provides. Redux allows you to store your state in what is called a "Redux Store" and uses actions to call _reducers_, which in turn manipulate your state however you see fit.

Let's keep this simple and straight to the point. Redux is Uber Eats.

I know what you may be thinking... What are you are talking about? Let me explain.

In traditional prop passing, relate each component to a neighbor. If you needed something from the grocery store, imagine that you have to ask neighbor E, to ask neighbor D, to ask neighbor C, to ask neighbor B, to ask neighbor A, if you can use some of their bread. It works... but, it's pretty inconvenient

What if there was a way to just have the bread delivered straight to you?!

AH, this is where Redux shines. With the use of the Redux store, that bread (AKA state), is always available whenever you need it. No passing props, no talking to neighbors, just simply call up the store and get what you need!

The Redux Store

The Redux Store takes about 3.87 seconds to build, and is one of the easiest things to do in React. After installing Redux with your package manager of choice, simply import the function into your main component (usually index.js).

import { createStore } from 'redux'

Boom! Now you have the power, just create a store really quick! Be sure to export your reducer from it's proper file, and import it into your index.js file.

const store = createStore(yourReducerGoesHere)

Simple enough? Now your store exists in a variable called store. It takes in a reducer as well.(This is how it will manipulate the state that's held within the store. Now, let's talk about the Provider.

Providing state to your components

Provider is simple enough to remember, because it provides access the state from the store to your components. I say access, because it doesn't necessarily give your components the state just yet (this is what we have connect() for).

In that same component, you'll want to import Provider.

import { Provider } from 'react-redux' Booyah!

After that, you want to wrap your App component in that provider. Think of this as granting your application the ability to use the store. It typically looks something like this:

<Provider store={store}>
    <App />
, document.getElementById("root"));

See that sneaky little prop pass, right there? It almost forms a sentence! In the Provider we passed in the store. It can almost be read as, "Providing the store to the component". Well, that's how I read it at least! :)

Awesome, now we created a store, passed the store to the provider, which is providing that store to our application. Before seeing how we grab the state, we need to have state first! On to the reducer!

Reducing The Stress

Reducers! This is one of the powerful aspects of Redux. Essentially, I call them the execution guidelines. The reducer file will typically consist of two things: the initial state, and the reducer itself.

For example, for simplicity sake, let's say our initial state has an array of names.

const initialState = {
   names: ['Bob', 'Susan']

Woo! They are looking great. Now the reducer comes into play. This section can get messy, so we'll keep it extremely simple. Reducers are functions full of if...else conditions. The easier way to write this is with switch cases. To prevent confusion, I'll provide an example of both, if...else and a switch case, if you happen to be familiar with both!

Our case that modifies state will be called, 'Add Name'. However, in Redux cases, it's common practice to use all capital letters for this (kind of similar to just screaming at the reducer to do its job), so it would look like 'ADD_NAME'.

If none of the cases do match, you want to be sure to return the initialState. I know this is a lot of words, so let's see an example!

export const reducer = (state = initialState, action) {
    if (action.type === 'ADD_NAME') {
        return {
            names: [...names, action.payload]
    } else {
        return state

What's happening here is the reducer takes in state, and an action. State will be undefined if you don't provide it an initial state, so in this example, we assign state to initialState. The action will be an object containing a type and sometimes a payload property. For example, this action object for this example may look like:

{ type: 'ADD_NAME', payload: newNameGoesHere }

The type specifies what reducer case to trigger, like instructions! The payload is just data, it can be called anything. In this case, we have a new name we want to add to the users array. So we spread the whole state object first, then spread the users array into a new array, and add the new name on to the end, this name is being referenced by the action.payload.

So back to my point, reducers are the execution guidelines. They take instruction from the action, and perform based on what action.type is called. This will make more sense in a second when we discuss actions. The payload property is just a common way of passing in the data you want to incorporate into state, it can be called anything - beanChili if you want! :D

Like I said, reducers are typically written in a switch case format, so they may look like this when you come across them:

export const reducer = (state = initialState, action) {
        case 'ADD_NAME':
            return {
                names: [...names, action.payload]
            return state

This achieves the same result, just tends to be less words, the longer your code gets!

Okay, so we've covered the store, the provider, initial state, and the reducer. Now let's take a peek at actions!

Lights, Camera, ACTIONS

As I stated earlier, actions are the instructions for the reducer. Action creators are functions, that return actions. These actions are objects similar to the one I referenced above, with a type and a payload property.

The way these work, is your action creator function is called within your component, which returns an object of "instructions". In this case, you call the action, and it will return an object that looks like:

{ type: 'ADD_NAME', payload: newName }

This function could be represented by:

export const addName = (newName) => {
   return { type: 'ADD_NAME', payload: newName }

In this case, when the addName function is invoked, we will pass in the name we want to add, as newName!

Now, this returned object gets passed into the reducer. Can you tell what's going to happen?

The reducer enters the switch case, and checks the action.type. OH! The type is 'ADD_NAME', so hop into that return statement.

Okay, so it is returning state, and then attaching action.payload onto the enter of the array... what is action.payload?

Well, referencing our object above, we see action.payload is the newName. Let's say that we passed in the name 'Chris' as the newName argument. What happens now, is Chris is tacked onto the end of the array. Now our users array in state looks like:

['Bob', 'Susan', 'Chris'] Awesome!

So essentially we just called a function (an action creator), which said, "Hey Reducer... add a new name, the new name is Chris!"

The reducer responds, "Cool, added the name, here's your new state!"

Simple enough, right? They definitely get more complex as more functionality is incorporated into your application, but these are the basics.

However, there is one final question:

How do the components actually access this state?

Simple! By connect! Let's take a look.

Connecting the store state to our components becomes a bit of extra work, but essentially we have our state, and provide access to the main component (App.js). However, now we need to accept access, via the connect() method.

Connect is a higher-order component, which is a different topic itself, but essentially this gets invoked twice in a row. It is called during the export of your component.

First, let's import connect into our component:

import { connect } from 'react-redux';

Say we have a <List /> component being rendered in App.js, and we want to connect List.js. In that component, on the export line we could do something like:

export default connect(null, {})(List);

The first invocation takes in two items, the state you're receiving, and the actions you want to use (in that order). Let's touch on the state.

Remember, connecting only accepts access, it doesn't actually provide the state, that's what we have mapStateToProps for. :D

mapStateToProps says, "Oh, you connected your component? You granted access? Well here is the state you asked for!"

Okay... Maybe the component doesn't talk, but if they did, they'd probably say something along those lines.

This mapStateToProps example, is a function that receives the state, and is then passed into the connect method. Like this:

const mapStateToProps = state => {
   return {
      names: state.names 

This function takes in state, which is the entire state object from the reducer. In this case, our state object only has one array inside of it, but these state objects are typically 10x as long, so we have to specify what information we want!

In this return line, we say, "Return an object with a names property." How do we know what names is? Well, we access it off of the state object, by state.names.

Our returned property doesn't need to be called names, we could do something like:

const mapStateToProps = state => {
   return {
      gummyBears: state.names

But, that's not very semantic is it? We want to understand that names is an array of names. So it's common practice to keep the same property name, in your returned state object!

We're almost finished, so hang in there! Let's recap where we're at.

We have our component accessing state from the store, through mapStateToProps. The state exists in the component now, but the component can't access it just yet.

First, we need to pass it to the connect function. The connect functions says, "Access to the store granted! Now... what state am I granting access to?"

So we pass in the function returning state, mapStateToProps, like this:

export default connect(mapStateToProps, {})(List) Radical!

We're almost there!

Now the component is capable of receiving that state as props, like it traditionally would from a parent component. Maybe we are mapping over it, and displaying each name on the screen in a div. Here's what this may look like!

const List = props => {
    return (
       => {
                    return <div>{name}</div>

Awesome! But there is one final problem... Where does the action get called?

Typically there would be an input, so you could input a new name, and add it to the array - but, for simplicity sake, let's just add a button that adds the name Chris, when clicked! (Not very functional, but you see my point! :D)

We need to access that action creator function. Well, earlier we exported that function so we could import it where we need it, like in our List.js component!

import { addName } from "../actions"

The file location will depend on your directory structure, but it is common to have all actions exported from an index.js file in your actions directory, and then import from that directory. Don't worry too much about that now though!

Great, we have our function, but we can't just pass this function as props to our component just yet. This action is related to Redux, and with Redux we need to connect the action through the connect higher-order component, so when we return our action object, our reducer can accept it and perform accordingly!

Remember that extra space in the connect at the bottom of our List.js component? Let's fill that in with our addName function.

export default connect(mapStateToProps, {addName})(List);

Now, we can pass in our function as props (similar to our state), and use the function as we need!

const List = props => {
    return (
            <button onClick={() => props.addName('Chris')}></button>
       => {
                    return <div>{name}</div>

I simply created a button, and added an onClick event listener, which triggers the addName function, and passing in 'Chris', like we set out to achieve!

Geez! that was a mission... but we made it! So, let's recap what is happening exactly.

The Redux Recap

We started with creating our store, and passed access to it through the provider_, which wrapped our application. Then we created our initial state to use, and formed our _reducer which manipulates the state. We built an action creator, addName which is a function that returns instructions for the reducer. These specific instructions said, "We want to add the name Chris to the names array!"

The reducer then takes that information and adds the name to the state. Our component accesses the state through connect, and receives the state through the mapStateToPropsfunction. We also import our action creator, addName, and pass it to connect as well.

The result? We can access our action creator, and our state, as props! However, we aren't passing this information through any other components, just pulling it directly from the store. Delivery straight to your door! Uber eats roc- I mean, Redux rocks!

I understand there is so much more to Redux, and many other things you can change to make everything easier and simpler to use, I just wanted to cover some of the basic foundations of it, and what has helped me understand it a bit better!

I would love to hear your thoughts/opinions on Redux. Thank you for reading !

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