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Context-Aware Components: Mastering the React Context API and the Component Lifecycle

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July 11, 2023


July 11, 2023

Are you using React for your web development projects? 

Have you heard of the React Context API but not sure when and how to use it effectively? 

React's Context API is a powerful tool that can be used to share data between components in a tree. It is a great way to avoid prop drilling, which is the practice of passing data down through multiple levels of components.

In the article, we will discuss the React Context API, and how to use it for creating context-aware components. We will also cover React component lifecycle, the limitations of Context API and Redux benefits over Context API.

So let’s begin!

What is React Context?

React Context is a powerful feature in React that eliminates the need for manually passing props between components. It enables the sharing of state or data across the component tree without explicit prop passing. All this helps in improving code readability and maintainability.

React Context includes a Provider component to provide data and a Consumer component to access that data. It's particularly useful for managing global states in larger applications. The Context API  is relatively new and was introduced in React v16.3.

The Context API consists of two main components:

1. Provider: 

The Provider component is used to provide data to the context. It takes a value prop - The data that will be shared with the context.

2. Consumer: 

The Consumer component is used to consume data from the context. It takes a render prop - A function that will be called with the data from the context.

How to Use the React Context API?

To use the React Context API, you first need to create a context. You can do this by calling the React.createContext() function. This function takes a default value prop, which is the data that will be shared with the context by default.

Once you have created a context, you can use it to share data between components. To do this, you need to use the Provider component to provide the data to the context. You can then use the Consumer component to consume data from the context. 

Here is an example of how to use the React Context API:

In the above example, we create a context called ThemeContext. We then create a Provider component to provide the data to the context. The Provider component takes a value prop, which is the default theme.

We also create a Consumer component to consume data from the context. The Consumer component takes a render prop, a function that will be called with the data from the context. 

In the render prop, we get the current theme from the context, and we display it. We also have a button that allows us to change the theme.

What is the React Component Lifecycle and Context?

The component lifecycle is a series of events that happen to a component during its lifetime (From creation to its removal from the DOM).  Before React 16.3, the component lifecycle consisted of three main events that are mounting, updating, and unmounting.

However, with the introduction of React 16.3, the lifecycle methods have been divided into different categories based on their purpose. 

1. Mounting: 

  • constructor(): This method is called when the component is first created.
  • static getDerivedStateFromProps(props, state): This method is invoked right before rendering occurs, both on the initial mount and on subsequent updates. 
  • render(): This method is responsible for generating the JSX markup of the component.
  • componentDidMount(): This method is called immediately after the component is mounted to the DOM. 

2. Updating:

  • static getDerivedStateFromProps(props, state): This method is called when the component is receiving new props.
  • shouldComponentUpdate(nextProps, nextState): This method is invoked before rendering when new props or states are being received. 
  • render(): This method is called to re-render the component.
  • getSnapshotBeforeUpdate(prevProps, prevState): This method is invoked right before the changes from the virtual DOM are to be reflected in the actual DOM.
  • componentDidUpdate(prevProps, prevState, snapshot): This method is called after the component has been updated and the changes have been flushed to the DOM. 

3. Unmounting:

  • componentWillUnmount(): This method is called right before the component is unmounted and destroyed.

The usage of three lifecycle methods i.e. componentswillReceiveProps(), componentWillUpdate(), and componentWillMount() are discouraged. As these lifecycle methods were often misused, so using these methods might give some issues in the code.  

Moreover, the React team has been encouraging the use of function components with hooks instead of class components and lifecycle methods. Hooks provide a simpler and more flexible way to manage component state and side effects.

The React Context API can be used to listen to these lifecycle methods or hooks. This allows you to update the context with new data when a component is mounted, updated, or unmounted. 

When should you use React Context?

React Context is a suitable choice when -

  1. You want to share data between multiple components without using props extensively.
  2. You want to manage the global state in smaller to medium-sized applications that require straightforward state management.

So let's understand it in detail.

Avoiding prop drilling

Prop drilling can be a time-consuming and inefficient process, particularly in large React applications that have deeply nested components. It involves passing props through multiple layers of components solely to reach a specific component that requires the data. 

This approach can clutter your code, making it harder to manage and maintain. Fortunately, React Context offers a solution to this problem. This helps you to effortlessly provide the necessary data to any component in your app, eliminating the need for prop drilling.

However, it's crucial to use React Context selectively. It's best suited for managing global state or data that needs to be accessed by numerous components. While React Context is a powerful tool, it shouldn't be employed for every piece of shared data in your application. 

In such cases, it can introduce unnecessary complexity and impede code scalability. Therefore, carefully evaluate your use case to determine whether React Context is the ideal solution for avoiding prop drilling in your specific application.

Sharing global state

React Context provides an efficient and scalable solution for sharing global state in React applications. By using the Provider component and Consumer component, you can conveniently access and update the shared state without passing props manually. 

This reduces the burden of managing state in large applications and improves the overall efficiency of your code. React Context is a valuable tool for React developers looking to streamline their global state management. 

The Limitations of React Context API and the Role of Redux

The Context API in React is a powerful feature that allows you to manage and share state across components without explicitly passing props down the component tree. However, there are some limitations to consider when using the Context API:

1. Performance Concerns: 

The Context API can lead to performance issues when dealing with deeply nested component trees. Every time the context value changes, all components that are consuming that context will re-render, regardless of whether they actually depend on the changed value. This can cause unnecessary re-renders and impact performance.

2. Lack of Middleware: 

The Context API doesn't provide built-in middleware support. Middleware is a crucial aspect of managing complex state interactions in applications. Without middleware, handling tasks like logging, asynchronous actions, or caching becomes more challenging.

3. Debugging and Tooling: 

The debugging experience with the Context API might be more difficult compared to tools like Redux DevTools. Redux provides a browser extension that allows you to inspect the state changes, time-travel debugging, and monitor actions, making it easier to track and debug application state.

4. Testing: 

Testing components that consume context can be more complex compared to testing components that receive state via props. In some cases, mocking or providing the correct context for testing can become cumbersome.

This is where Redux comes in as a state management library. Redux addresses these limitations and provides additional benefits:

Benefits of Redux over Context API

1. Centralized and Predictable State Management: 

Redux follows a unidirectional data flow, where the entire application state is stored in a single store. This centralized approach makes it easier to understand and reason about the state changes in the application.

2. Middleware Support: 

Redux has excellent middleware support, allowing you to intercept and modify actions, perform asynchronous operations, or add logging functionality. Middleware like Redux Thunk or Redux Saga enables you to handle complex side effects more easily.

3. Developer Tools and Ecosystem: 

Redux provides a powerful set of developer tools, such as Redux DevTools, which allows you to inspect the state changes, time-travel through actions, and debug the application more efficiently. Additionally, Redux has a vast ecosystem with a wide range of plugins, integrations, and community support.

4. Testing: 

Redux promotes testability by separating the state management from the components. Testing actions, reducers, and selectors become straightforward as they are pure functions with clearly defined inputs and outputs.

5. Performance Optimization:

Redux integrates well with performance optimization techniques such as memoization and reselect. Selectors can be used to efficiently derive data from the Redux store and prevent unnecessary re-renders.

It's worth noting that the Context API can be a good choice for simple state sharing within small to medium-sized applications. However, when dealing with complex state management, middleware, performance optimization, and advanced debugging, Redux provides a robust solution and a well-established ecosystem.


The React Context API is a powerful tool that can be used to share data between components in a tree. It is a great way to avoid prop drilling, and it can be used to listen to the component lifecycle.

In the blog post, we discussed the React Context API, and how to use it to create context-aware components, React Component Lifecycle, when to use them, and their limitations. We have also covered the benefits of Redux over Context API.

I hope you found this blog post helpful. 

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