Compound Pattern

Create multiple components that work together to perform a single task


In our application, we often have components that belong to each other. They're dependent on each other through the shared state, and share logic together. You often see this with components like select, dropdown components, or menu items. The compound component pattern allows you to create components that all work together to perform a task.


Context API

Let's look at an example: we have a list of squirrel images! Besides just showing squirrel images, we want to add a button that makes it possible for the user to edit or delete the image. We can implement a FlyOut component that shows a list when the user toggles the component.

Within a FlyOut component, we essentially have three things:

  • The FlyOut wrapper, which contains the toggle button and the list
  • The Toggle button, which toggles the List
  • The List , which contains the list of menu items

Using the Compound component pattern with React's Context API is perfect for this example!

First, let's create the FlyOut component. This component keeps the state

, and returns a FlyOutProvider with the value of the toggle to all the children
it receives.

const FlyOutContext = createContext();

function FlyOut(props) {
  const [open, toggle] = useState(false);

  const providerValue = { open, toggle };

  return (
    <FlyOutContext.Provider value={providerValue}>
      {props.children}
    </FlyOutContext.Provider>
  );
}

We now have a stateful FlyOut component that can pass the value of open and toggle to its children!

Let's create the Toggle component. This component simply renders the component on which the user can click in order to toggle the menu.

function Toggle() {
  const { open, toggle } = useContext(FlyOutContext);

  return (
    <div onClick={() => toggle(!open)}>
      <Icon />
    </div>
  );
}

In order to actually give Toggle access to the FlyOutContext provider, we need to render it as a child component of FlyOut! We could just simply render this as a child component. However, we can also make the Toggle component a property of the FlyOut component!

const FlyOutContext = createContext();

function FlyOut(props) {
  const [open, toggle] = useState(false);

  return (
    <FlyOutContext.Provider value={{ open, toggle }}>
      {props.children}
    </FlyOutContext.Provider>
  );
}

function Toggle() {
  const { open, toggle } = useContext(FlyOutContext);

  return (
    <div onClick={() => toggle(!open)}>
      <Icon />
    </div>
  );
}

FlyOut.Toggle = Toggle;

This means that if we ever want to use the FlyOut component in any file, we only have to import FlyOut!

import React from "react";
import { FlyOut } from "./FlyOut";

export default function FlyoutMenu() {
  return (
    <FlyOut>
      <FlyOut.Toggle />
    </FlyOut>
  );
}

Just a toggle is not enough. We also need to have a List with list items, which open and close based on the value of open.

function List({ children }) {
  const { open } = React.useContext(FlyOutContext);
  return open && <ul>{children}</ul>;
}

function Item({ children }) {
  return <li>{children}</li>;
}

The List component renders its children based on whether the value of open is true or false. Let's make List and Item a property of the FlyOut component, just like we did with the Toggle component.

const FlyOutContext = createContext();

function FlyOut(props) {
  const [open, toggle] = useState(false);

  return (
    <FlyOutContext.Provider value={{ open, toggle }}>
      {props.children}
    </FlyOutContext.Provider>
  );
}

function Toggle() {
  const { open, toggle } = useContext(FlyOutContext);

  return (
    <div onClick={() => toggle(!open)}>
      <Icon />
    </div>
  );
}

function List({ children }) {
  const { open } = useContext(FlyOutContext);
  return open && <ul>{children}</ul>;
}

function Item({ children }) {
  return <li>{children}</li>;
}

FlyOut.Toggle = Toggle;
FlyOut.List = List;
FlyOut.Item = Item;

We can now use them as properties on the FlyOut component! In this case, we want to show two options to the user: Edit and Delete. Let's create a FlyOut.List that renders two FlyOut.Item components, one for the Edit option, and one for the Delete option.

import React from "react";
import { FlyOut } from "./FlyOut";

export default function FlyoutMenu() {
  return (
    <FlyOut>
      <FlyOut.Toggle />
      <FlyOut.List>
        <FlyOut.Item>Edit</FlyOut.Item>
        <FlyOut.Item>Delete</FlyOut.Item>
      </FlyOut.List>
    </FlyOut>
  );
}

Perfect! We just created an entire FlyOut component without adding any state in the FlyOutMenu itself!

index.js
FlyOut.js
FlyoutMenu.js
Images.js
import React from "react";
import "./styles.css";
import { FlyOut } from "./FlyOut";
export default function FlyoutMenu() {
return (
<FlyOut>
<FlyOut.Toggle />
<FlyOut.List>
<FlyOut.Item>Edit</FlyOut.Item>
<FlyOut.Item>Delete</FlyOut.Item>
</FlyOut.List>
</FlyOut>
);
}

The compound pattern is great when you're building a component library. You'll often see this pattern when using UI libraries like Semantic UI.


React.Children.map

We can also implement the Compound Component pattern by mapping over the children of the component. We can add the open and toggle properties to these elements, by cloning them with the additional props.

export function FlyOut(props) {
  const [open, toggle] = React.useState(false);

  return (
    <div>
      {React.Children.map(props.children, child =>
        React.cloneElement(child, { open, toggle })
      )}
    </div>
  );
}

All children components are cloned, and passed the value of open and toggle. Instead of having to use the Context API like in the previous example, we now have access to these two values through props.

index.js
FlyOut.js
FlyoutMenu.js
Images.js
import React from "react";
import Icon from "./Icon";
const FlyOutContext = React.createContext();
export function FlyOut(props) {
const [open, toggle] = React.useState(false);
return (
<div>
{React.Children.map(props.children, child =>
React.cloneElement(child, { open, toggle })
)}
</div>
);
}
function Toggle() {
const { open, toggle } = React.useContext(FlyOutContext);
return (
<div className="flyout-btn" onClick={() => toggle(!open)}>
<Icon />
</div>
);
}
function List({ children }) {
const { open } = React.useContext(FlyOutContext);
return open && <ul className="flyout-list">{children}</ul>;
}
function Item({ children }) {
return <li className="flyout-item">{children}</li>;
}
FlyOut.Toggle = Toggle;
FlyOut.List = List;
FlyOut.Item = Item;

Pros

Compound components manage their own internal state, which they share among the several child components. When implementing a compound component, we don't have to worry about managing the state ourselves.

When importing a compound component, we don't have to explicitly import the child components that are available on that component.

import { FlyOut } from "./FlyOut";

export default function FlyoutMenu() {
  return (
    <FlyOut>
      <FlyOut.Toggle />
      <FlyOut.List>
        <FlyOut.Item>Edit</FlyOut.Item>
        <FlyOut.Item>Delete</FlyOut.Item>
      </FlyOut.List>
    </FlyOut>
  );
}

Cons

When using the React.Children.map to provide the values, the component nesting is limited. Only direct children of the parent component will have access to the open and toggle props, meaning we can't wrap any of these components in another component.

export default function FlyoutMenu() {
  return (
    <FlyOut>
      {/* This breaks */}
      <div>
        <FlyOut.Toggle />
        <FlyOut.List>
          <FlyOut.Item>Edit</FlyOut.Item>
          <FlyOut.Item>Delete</FlyOut.Item>
        </FlyOut.List>
      </div>
    </FlyOut>
  );
}

Cloning an element with React.cloneElement performs a shallow merge

. Already existing props will be merged together with the new props that we pass. This could end up in a naming collision
, if an already existing prop has the same name as the props we're passing to the React.cloneElement method. As the props are shallowly merged, the value of that prop will be overwritten with the latest value that we pass.


References