Jeremy Kithome Software Developer #MUFC To infinity and beyond! Fortune favours the bold. From tomato farmer to API farmer.

How to implement scroll with React-gridlist

4 min read 1259

Introduction

React-gridlist is a virtual-scrolling GridList component based on CSS Grids. The repo lists some of its features and advantages as:

  • It can render items of a known width/height
  • You can display items with different heights on the same row
  • Highly performant virtual scrolling (aka windowing) for buttery smoothness
  • Customizable & responsive
  • Small bundle size(4.7kB minified, 1.6kB minified and gzipped according to bundlephobia)

If you are not familiar with virtual scrolling, it is showing a user only a subset of items. If you are trying to display a large dataset and don’t want to paginate the items, rendering all the items at the same can lead to negative app performance. You might be asking yourself how virtual scrolling is different from infinite scroll? In infinite scroll, more items are loaded as you scroll while in virtual scrolling, when the user scrolls past a given list of items, new items are displayed and the old ones are removed. If you would like to learn more, you can take a look at this excellent article about virtual scrolling. React-gridlist enables you to implement virtual scrolling easily and fast.

Prerequisites

  • This tutorial assumes that you have working knowledge of React
  • Before we get started, ensure that you have Node, Yarn, or npm installed in your environment. You can follow the links for instructions on how to install them if you haven’t done so yet
  • Even though it is a bit of an overkill for this tutorial, we will be using create-react-app to bootstrap our project

Getting started

Let’s go ahead and create our project. You can use any of the three available options highlighted below to create your project.

npx:

$ npx create-react-app gridlist

npm (npm init <initializer is available in npm 6+):

$ npm init react-app gridlist

yarn ( yarn create is available in Yarn 0.25+) :

$ yarn create react-app gridlist

Once you have finished creating the project folder you can open it and run it:

cd gridlistnpm start //or
yarn start

This will run the app in development mode and you can view it in the browser using the link http://localhost:3000/.

Install react-gridlist by running the following command:

$ yarn add react-gridlist

When you run the app, you should see the following view:

run the gridlist app

Let’s change this to display a scrollable list of images.

Component setup

Our GridList app will be fully contained within the app component in src/app.js. The first step is to replace the existing code with our own. Replace the contents of the file with the code below. This will be the skeleton of our app:

We made a custom demo for .
No really. Click here to check it out.

import React, { Fragment } from "react";
import GridList from "react-gridlist";

const App = () => {
  return (
    <GridList></div>
  )
}
export default App

Getting images

Before we can begin working on our scrolling component, we will need images to display. We will be getting our images from Lorem Picsum, the Lorem Ipsum for photos. Since we want to showcase one of the features of this library, displaying images with variable height on the same row, we will want to retrieve images with different heights and widths. You can do this by adding your desired image width and height to the Lorem Piscusm URL to get an image with the defined dimensions:

// Get a random picture of a given width and heigh
https://picsum.photos/200/300

// Get a random square image
https://picsum.photos/200

// Get a given image(append /id/{image} to the start of the url)
https://picsum.photos/id/237/200/300

The GridList component takes an array of images with the following format:

{
  url,
  width,
  height,
}

Create a function to build an array of images in the format above. I am generating 50 images. You can change this to any number you prefer:

const images = Array.from({ length: 50 }, (_, i) => {
  let width = 300
  let height = Math.floor(Math.random() * 300) + 200;
  return {
    url: `https://i.picsum.photos/id/${Math.floor(Math.random() * 100) + 100}/${width}/${height}.jpg`,
    width,
    height,
  }
})

This will create an array of 50 images with a width of 300, variable height, and an ID between 0 and 200.

The GridList component

The GridList component is responsible for doing the actual rendering of the items. It takes the props listed before:

  • items – receives an array of data to be rendered
  • getGridGap – function that generates the spacing between grid items
  • getColumnCount – function to calculate how many columns/Items to render per row depending on the width of the items. In our case, this will be 300
  • getWindowMargin – function to determine the height of the container containing items
  • getItemData – function to get adjusted item height to fit within the row
  • renderItem – function to render individual items

Add the functions to be passed as props to the GridList component:

import React, { Fragment } from "react";
....

const getGridGap = (elementWidth, windowHeight) => (elementWidth > 720 && windowHeight > 480) ? 10 : 5;

const getColumnCount = (elementWidth) => Math.floor(elementWidth / 300);

const getWindowMargin = (windowHeight) => Math.round(windowHeight * 1.5);

const getItemData = (image, columnWidth) => {
  let imageRatio = image.height / image.width
  let adjustedHeight = Math.round(columnWidth * imageRatio)
  return {
    key: image.url,
    height: adjustedHeight,
  }
}
const App = () => {
  ...
}
export default App

Now that we have our images and the prop functions required we can render the images using the GridList component.

Add the following code to your App component:

const App = () => {
  return (
    <div>
      <GridList
        items={images}
        getGridGap={getGridGap}
        getColumnCount={getColumnCount}
        getWindowMargin={getWindowMargin}
        getItemData={getItemData}
        renderItem={(image) => {
          return (
            <img
              src={image.url}
              width={image.width}
              height={image.height}
            />
          )
        }}
      />
    </div>
  )
}

When the app reloads, it should look something like this:

stock images in react gridlist

We will need a few styles to make it look a little better. The React-gridlist example has some styles that will make this look fantastic. However, the hover styles will require CSSinJS libraries for selector support:

let styles = {
  container: {
    margin: "20px auto",
    padding: "0 20px"
  },
  image: {
    position: "relative",
    width: "100%",
    height: "auto",
    verticalAlign: "top",
    background: "hsl(0, 0%, 98%)"
  }
}

When we apply the styles to the respective elements, our final code should look something like this:

import React from "react";
import GridList from "react-gridlist";
const images = Array.from({ length: 50 }, (_, i) => {
  let width = 300
  let height = Math.floor(Math.random() * 300) + 200;
  return {
    url: `https://i.picsum.photos/id/${Math.floor(Math.random() * 100) + 100}/${width}/${height}.jpg`,
    width,
    height,
  }
})
let styles = {
  container: {
    margin: "20px auto",
    padding: "0 20px"
  },
  image: {
    position: "relative",
    width: "100%",
    height: "auto",
    verticalAlign: "top",
    background: "hsl(0, 0%, 98%)"
  }
}
const getGridGap = (elementWidth, windowHeight) => (elementWidth > 720 && windowHeight > 480) ? 10 : 5;
const getColumnCount = (elementWidth) => Math.floor(elementWidth / 300);
const getWindowMargin = (windowHeight) => Math.round(windowHeight * 1.5);
const getItemData = (image, columnWidth) => {
  let imageRatio = image.height / image.width
  let adjustedHeight = Math.round(columnWidth * imageRatio)
  return {
    key: image.url,
    height: adjustedHeight,
  }
}
const App = () => {
  return (
    <div style={styles.container}>
      <GridList
        items={images}
        getGridGap={getGridGap}
        getColumnCount={getColumnCount}
        getWindowMargin={getWindowMargin}
        getItemData={getItemData}
        renderItem={(image) => {
          return (
            <img
              src={image.url}
              width={image.width}
              height={image.height}
              style={styles.image}
            />
          )
        }}
      />
    </div>
  )
}
export default App

Our complete app should look like this now:
final gridlist app with images from unsplash

And that’s it. We have built a simple scrollable component using React-gridlist:

final gridlist app

Conclusion

Scrollable elements are an integral part of most web applications these days. Getting scroll to work perfectly can often require a significant amount of trial and error to get the CSS just right. This can be especially daunting for people without a lot of experience. React-gridlist provides a painless and fast way to implement scroll in your application. If you would like to take a look at the code for this article, you can find it on GitHub. If you like the library, don’t forget to star it and show some appreciation to the author on Twitter.

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Jeremy Kithome Software Developer #MUFC To infinity and beyond! Fortune favours the bold. From tomato farmer to API farmer.

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