React Router Cheatsheet: Everything You Should Know

If you’re building React applications for the web, you’re going to need to use a dedicated router to display pages and navigate your user around them.

That’s why today we’re going to go over the most popular and most powerful router for React applications–React Router.

We’re going to go over 11 of the essential features you need to know if you’re using React Router in your projects today, specifically for the web using the package react-router-dom.

Want Your Own Copy?‬ 📄

Click here to download the cheatsheet in PDF format (it takes 5 seconds).

It includes all of the essential information here as a convenient PDF guide.

Install React Router

The very first step to using React Router is to install the appropriate package.

They are technically three different packages: React Router, React Router DOM, and React Router Native.

The primary difference between them lies in their usage. React Router DOM is for web applications and React Router Native is for mobile applications made with React Native.

The first thing that you’ll need to do is install React Router DOM using npm (or yarn):

npm install react-router-dom

Basic Router Setup

Once it’s installed, we can bring in our first component which is required to use React router and this is called BrowserRouter.

There are multiple types of routers that react-router-dom provides aside from BrowserRouter which we won’t go into. It’s a common practice to alias (rename) BrowserRoute as simply ‘Router’ when it is imported.

If we want to provide routes within our entire application it needs to be wrapped around our entire component tree. That’s why you will usually see it wrapped around or within the main app component:

import { BrowserRouter as Router } from 'react-router-dom';

export default function App() {
  return (
    <Router>
      {/* routes go here, as children */}
    </Router>
  );
}

This is the primary function of the BrowserRouter: to be able to declare individual routes within our application.

Note that any router-specific data cannot be accessed outside of the Router component. For example, we cannot access history data outside of the router (i.e. with the useHistory hook) and we cannot create a Route outside of a Router component.

Route Component

The next component is the Route component.

We declare routes within the Router component as children. We can declare as many routes as we like and we need to provide at least two props to each route, path and component (or render):

import { BrowserRouter as Router, Route } from 'react-router-dom';

export default function App() {
  return (
    <Router>
      <Route path="/about" component={About} />
    </Router>
  );
}

function About() {
  return <>about</>   
}

The path prop specifies on what path of our app a given route is located.

For an about page, for example, we might want that route to be accessible on the path ‘/about’.

The render or component prop are used to display a specific component for our path.

The component props can only receives a reference to a given component, whereas render is more typically used for applying some conditional logic to render one route one component or another. For render you can either use a reference to a component, or use a function:

import { BrowserRouter as Router, Route } from "react-router-dom";

export default function App() {
  return (
    <Router>
      <Route path="/" render={() => <Home />} />
      <Route path="/about" component={About} />
    </Router>
  );
}

function Home() {
  return <>home</>;
}

function About() {
  return <>about</>;
}

It’s worth noting that you can potentially drop the render or component prop entirely and use the component that you want to associate with a given route as a child of Route:

import { BrowserRouter as Router, Route } from "react-router-dom";

export default function App() {
  return (
    <Router>
      <Route path="/about">
        <About />
      </Route>
    </Router>
  );
}

Finally, if want a component (such as a navbar) to be visible on every page, put it still within the browser router, but above (or below) the declared routes:

import { BrowserRouter as Router, Route } from "react-router-dom";

export default function App() {
  return (
    <Router>
      <Navbar />
      <Route path="/" component={Home} />
      <Route path="/about" component={About} />
    </Router>
  );
}

function Navbar() {
  // visible on every page
  return <>navbar</>
}

function Home() {
  return <>home</>;
}

function About() {
  return <>about</>;
}

Switch Component

When we get begin to add multiple routes, we’ll notice something strange.

Let’s say we have a route for the home page and about page. Even though we specify two different paths, ‘/’ and ‘/about’, when I visit the about page we’ll see both the home and the about components.

We can fix this with the exact prop, on the home route to make sure that our router matches exactly the path ‘/’ instead of ‘/about’:

import { BrowserRouter as Router, Switch, Route } from "react-router-dom";

export default function App() {
  return (
    <Router>
      <Navbar />
      <Switch>
        <Route exact path="/" component={Home} />
        <Route path="/about" component={About} />
      </Switch>
    </Router>
  );
}

When it comes to switching between different routes that our router should show there is in fact a dedicated component that you should be using if you have multiple routes within your router and that is the Switch component.

The switch component should be included within the router and we can place all of our routes within it:

import { BrowserRouter as Router, Switch, Route } from "react-router-dom";

export default function App() {
  return (
    <Router>
      <Navbar />
      <Switch>
        <Route exact path="/" component={Home} />
        <Route path="/about" component={About} />
      </Switch>
    </Router>
  );
}

The switch component looks through all of its child routes and it displays the first one whose path matches the current url.

This component is what we want to use in most cases for most applications, because we have multiple routes and multiple plate pages in our app but we only want to show one page at a time.

If for some reason you do want multiple pages to be displayed at the same time, you might consider not using the switch component.

404 Route

If we attempt to go to a path that doesn’t exist in our application, what are we going to see?

We’re not going to see anything if we don’t have a route corresponding to that. How do we make a catch-all route?

If a user attempts to go to a page for which we don’t have a defined route, we can create a route and then set the path to an asterisk *:

import { BrowserRouter as Router, Switch, Route } from "react-router-dom";

export default function App() {
  return (
    <Router>
      <Navbar />
      <Switch>
        <Route path="/" component={Home} />
        <Route path="/about" component={About} />
        <Route path="*" component={NotFound} />
      </Switch>
    </Router>
  );
}

function NotFound() {
  return <>You have landed on a page that doesn't exist</>;
}

This will match any attempt to visit a page that doesn’t exist and we can connect it to a not found component to tell our users have “landed on a page that doesn’t exist.”

Let’s say that within our NavBar, we actually want to create some links so we can move around our application more easily instead of having to change the url manually in the browser.

We can do so with another special component from React Router DOM called the Link component. It accepts the to prop, which specifies where we want the link to navigate our user to. In our case, we might have a home and about link:

import { BrowserRouter as Router, Switch, Route, Link } from "react-router-dom";

export default function App() {
  return (
    <Router>
      <Navbar />
      <Switch>
        <Route path="/" component={Home} />
        <Route path="/about" component={About} />
      </Switch>
    </Router>
  );
}

function Navbar() {
  return (
    <nav>
      <Link to="/">Home</Link>
      <Link to="/about">About</Link>
    </nav>
  )
}

The link component allows us to provide some inline styles just like any standard React component. It also gives us a helpful component prop, so we can set our link as our own custom component for even easier styling.

Additionally, React Router DOM gives us a NavLink component which is helpful. in the event that we want to apply some special styles.

If we are on the current path that the link points to, this allows us to create some active link styles to tell our users, by looking at our link, what page they’re on.

For example, if our users are on the homepage, we could tell them as much by using the activeStyle prop to make our link bold and red when they’re on the homepage:

import {
  BrowserRouter as Router,
  Switch,
  Route,
  NavLink
} from "react-router-dom";

export default function App() {
  return (
    <Router>
      <Navbar />
      <Switch>
        <Route path="/" component={Home} />
        <Route path="/about" component={About} />
      </Switch>
    </Router>
  );
}

function Navbar() {
  return (
    <nav>
      <NavLink
        activeStyle={{
          fontWeight: "bold",
          color: "red"
        }}
        to="/"
      >
        Home
      </NavLink>
      <NavLink activeClassName="active" to="/about">
        About
      </NavLink>
    </nav>
  );
}

There is also an activeClassName prop which can be set as well if you do not want to include inline styles or want more reusable styles to perform the same function as activeStyle.

Redirect Component

Another very helpful component that React Router DOM gives us is the redirect component.

This may seem strange to have a component that performs a function of redirecting our user when it’s displayed, but this is very functional. Whenever we’re using something like a private route and we have a condition in which the user is not authenticated, we want to redirect them back to the login page.

Here is an example of an implementation of a private route component that ensures that a user is authenticated to show them a particular route has been declared with this component.

Otherwise, if they’re not authenticated, they will be redirected to a public route (presumably a route to login) once the redirect component is displayed:

import {
  BrowserRouter as Router,
  Switch,
  Route,
  Redirect
} from "react-router-dom";

export default function App() {
  return (
    <Router>
      <Switch>
        <Route exact path="/" component={Home} />
        <PrivateRoute path="/hidden" component={Hidden} />
      </Switch>
    </Router>
  );
}

function PrivateRoute({ component: Component, ...rest }) {
  // useAuth is some custom hook to get the current user's auth state
  const isAuth = useAuth();

  return (
    <Route
      {...rest}
      render={(props) =>
        isAuth ? <Component {...props} /> : <Redirect to="/" />
      }
    />
  );
}

function Home() {
  return <>home</>;
}

function Hidden() {
  return <>hidden</>;
}

The redirect component is very simple to use, very declarative and allows us to see the great benefit of React Router DOM being component based just like everything in React.

useHistory Hook

On top of all of these powerful components, we have some very useful hooks that React Router DOM gives us.

They are mainly helpful by supplying additional information that we can use within our components. They can be called as normal React hooks for which we can use their values exactly as we like.

Perhaps the most powerful hook is the useHistory hook. We can call it up at the top of any component that is declared within our router component and get back history data, which includes information such as the location associated with our component.

This tells us all about where the user currently is, such as the pathname that they’re on, as well as any query parameters that might be appended to our url. All of the location data is accessible from history.location:

import { useHistory } from "react-router-dom";


function About() {
  const history = useHistory();
    
  console.log(history.location.pathname); // '/about'

  return (
    <>
     <h1>The about page is on: {history.location.pathname}</h1>
    </>
  );
}

Additionally, the history object directly includes helpful methods that allows us to programmatically direct our user to different pages in our app.

This is very helpful in, for example, for redirecting our user after logging in, or in any situation where we need to take a user from one page to another.

We can push users from one page to another using history.push. When we use the push method, we just need to supply the path that we want to take our users to using this method adds this new page on to the stack (so to speak) of our history:

import { useHistory } from "react-router-dom";


function About() {
  const history = useHistory();
    
  console.log(history.location.pathname); // '/about'

  return (
    <>
     <h1>The about page is on: {history.location.pathname}</h1>
     <button onClick={() => history.push('/')}>Go to home page</button>
    </>
  );
}

We can also redirect our users with history.replace, which also accepts a path value, but clears out everything in history, after the navigation is performed. This is helpful for situations where going back in history is no longer needed, such as after users have been logged out.

useLocation Hook

The useLocation hook includes all of the same information that the useHistory hook does.

This is important to note that if you need both location data and to use history to programmatically navigate your user, make sure to useHistory. However, if you only want location data, all you need to do is call useLocation or get back all of the location data on an object that is identical to the data provided on history. location:

import { useLocation } from "react-router-dom";


function About() {
  const location = useLocation();
    
  console.log(location.pathname); // '/about'

  return (
    <>
     <h1>The about page is on: {location.pathname}</h1>
    </>
  );
}

useParams Hook + Dynamic Routes

One thing that we didn’t cover when it comes to routes is that we can naturally create dynamic routes, meaning routes that are not fixed and determined, but can be any number of characters.

Dynamic routes are helpful in situations where we have let’s say a blog post with a unique slug. How do we make sure that we display the appropriate data and appropriate components, given that our blog post slug can be completely different?

To declare a route parameter on a given route, it must be prefixed with a colon :. If I wanted to create a dynamic route, “/blog/:postSlug”, for a blog post component, it might look like the following:

import React from "react";
import { BrowserRouter as Router, Switch, Route } from "react-router-dom";

export default function App() {
  return (
    <Router>
      <Switch>
        <Route exact path="/" component={Home} />
        <Route path="/blog/:postSlug" component={BlogPost} />
      </Switch>
    </Router>
  );
}

function Home() {
  return <>home</>;
}

function BlogPost() {
  return <>blog post</>;
}

We’re now matching the appropriate component or whatever the slug is, but within our BlogPost component, how do we receive that post slug data?

We can access any route params of a declared route with its associated component using the useParams hook.

useParams will return an object which will contain properties that match our route params (in this case, postSlug). We can use object destructuring to immediately access and declare as a variable with the name postSlug:

import React from "react";
import { BrowserRouter as Router, Switch, Route, useParams } from "react-router-dom";

export default function App() {
  return (
    <Router>
      <Switch>
        <Route exact path="/" component={Home} />
        <Route path="/blog/:postSlug" component={BlogPost} />
      </Switch>
    </Router>
  );
}

function Home() {
  return <>home</>;
}

function BlogPost() {
  const [post, setPost] = React.useState(null);
  const { postSlug } = useParams();

  React.useEffect(() => {
    fetch(`https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/posts/${postSlug}`)
      .then((res) => res.json())
      .then((data) => setPost(data));
  }, [postSlug]);

  if (!post) return null;

  return (
    <>
      <h1>{post.title}</h1>
      <p>{post.description}</p>
    </>
  );
}

If we go to the route ‘/blog/my-blog-post’, I can access the string ‘my-blog-post’ on the postSlug variable and fetch that post’s associated data within useEffect.

useRouteMatch Hook

If we want to know whether the given component is on a certain page, we can use the useRouteMatch hook.

For example, within our blog post, to see the page that we’re on matches the route “/blog/:postSlug” can get back a boolean value that will tell us if the route that we’re on matches the pattern that we specified:

import { useRouteMatch } from "react-router-dom";

function BlogPost() {
  const isBlogPostRoute = useRouteMatch("/blog/:postSlug");
 
  // display, hide content, or do something else
}

This is helpful in conditions in which we want to show something specific, based off of whether we’re on a certain route or not.

Want to keep this guide for future reference?‬

Click here to download the cheatsheet as a helpful PDF.

Here are 3 quick wins you get when you grab the downloadable version:

  • You’ll get tons of copyable code snippets for easy reuse in your own projects.
  • It is a great reference guide to strengthen your skills as a React developer and for job interviews.
  • You can take, use, print, read, and re-read this guide literally anywhere that you like.
Total
1
Shares
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts