Emmanuel Yusufu Aspiring Product Designer · Frontend & JS Developer · Certified Digital marketer

Navigating React Native apps using React Navigation

6 min read 1806

Navigating React Native Apps Using React Navigation

Introduction

Mobile apps are made up of multiple screens. When building mobile apps, of primary concern is how we handle a user’s navigation through the app — the presentation of the screens and the transitions between them. React Navigation is a standalone library that allows a developer to implement this functionality easily.

React Navigation vs. React Native Navigation

Of the several navigation libraries out there, React Navigation and React Native Navigation are two of the more well known.

React Navigation is written in JavaScript and does not directly use the native navigation APIs on iOS and Android; rather, it recreates some subset of those APIs. This allows for integration of third-party JS plugins, maximum customization, and easier debugging, with no need to learn Objective-C, Swift, Java, Kotlin, etc.

React Native Navigation differs slightly in that it directly uses native navigation APIs on iOS and Android, which allows for a more native look and feel.

For a more detailed exploration of their differences, check out this blog post.

Installation

Assuming you have Yarn installed, the first step is to set up a React Native app. The easiest way to get started with React Native is with Expo tools because they allow you to start a project without installing and configuring Xcode or Android Studio. Install Expo by running this:

npm install -g expo-cli

If you encounter any error on Mac, try running it this way:

sudo npm install --unsafe-perm -g expo-cli

Then run the following to create a new React Native project:

expo init ReactNavigationDemo

This will kickstart some downloads and ask you to enter some configuration variables. Select expo-template-blank and choose yarn for the dependency installation, as shown below:

Creating A React Native Project

Project's Initial Configuration Values

Choosing The Expo Template For Our Project

Next, cd into the project folder and open your code editor:

cd ReactNavigationDemo

If you are using VS Code, you can open the current folder in the editor using:

code .

Start up the app with:

yarn start

The next step is to install the react-navigation library in your React Native project:

yarn add react-navigation

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Navigation patterns

As we discussed earlier, React Navigation is built with JavaScript and lets you create components and navigation patterns that look and feel like truly native ones.

React Navigation uses what’s called a stack navigator to manage the navigation history and presentation of the appropriate screen based on the route taken by a user inside the app.

Only one screen is presented to a user at a given time. Imagine a stack of paper; navigating to a new screen places it on top of the stack, and navigating back removes it from the stack. The stack navigator also provides the transitions and gestures that feel like those of native iOS and Android.

Note that an app can have more than one stack navigator.

In this section, we’ll explore various navigation patterns used in mobile apps and how to achieve them using React Navigation library.

1. Using stack navigator to navigate between screen components

Let’s begin by first creating a /components folder in the root of our project. Then we create two files namely Homescreen.js and Aboutscreen.

// Homescreen.js
import React, { Component } from 'react';
import { Button, View, Text } from 'react-native';
import { createStackNavigator, createAppContainer } from 'react-navigation';

export default class Homescreen extends Component {
  render() {
    return (
      <View style={{ flex: 1, alignItems: 'center', justifyContent: 'center' }}>
        <Text>Home Screen</Text>
          <Button
          title="Go to About"
          onPress={() => this.props.navigation.navigate('About')}
/>
      </View>
    )
  }
}

Note the onPress prop of the button above — we’ll explain what it does later.

// Aboutscreen.js
import React, { Component } from 'react';
import { Button, View, Text } from 'react-native';
import { createStackNavigator, createAppContainer } from 'react-navigation';

export default class Aboutscreen extends Component {
  render() {
    return (
      <View style={{ flex: 1, alignItems: 'center', justifyContent: 'center' }}>
        <Text>About Screen</Text>
      </View>
    )
  }
}

Your project folder should look like what’s shown in the image below:

Our Project Folder's Contents

Let’s also make some changes to App.js. We’ll import what we need from react-navigation and implement our navigation there.

It is useful to implement our navigation in the root App.js file because the component exported from App.js is the entry point (or root component) for a React Native app, and every other component is a descendant.

As you will see, we will encapsulate every other component inside the navigation functions.

// App.js
import React from 'react';
import { StyleSheet, Text, View } from 'react-native';
import { createStackNavigator, createAppContainer } from "react-navigation";

import HomeScreen from './components/HomeScreen';
import AboutScreen from './components/AboutScreen';


export default class App extends React.Component {
  render() {
    return <AppContainer />;
  }
}

const AppNavigator = createStackNavigator({
  Home: {
    screen: HomeScreen
  },
  About: {
    screen: AboutScreen
  }
});

const AppContainer = createAppContainer(AppNavigator);

const styles = StyleSheet.create({
  container: {
    flex: 1,
    backgroundColor: '#fff',
    alignItems: 'center',
    justifyContent: 'center',
  },
});

In the code above, createStackNavigator provides a way for our app to transition between screens, where each new screen is placed on top of a stack. It is configured to have the familiar iOS and Android look and feel: new screens slide in from the right on iOS and fade in from the bottom on Android.

We pass in a route configuration object to the createStackNavigator function. The Home route corresponds to the HomeScreen, and the About route corresponds to AboutScreen.

Note that an optional, more concise way of writing the route configuration is the { screen: HomeScreen } configuration format.

Also, we can optionally add another options object, as specified by the API. If we wanted to indicate which is the initial route, we can add a separate object:

const AppNavigator = createStackNavigator({
  Home: {
    screen: HomeScreen
  },
  About: {
    screen: AboutScreen
  }
},{
        initialRouteName: "Home"
});

Note that the Home and About route name-value pairs are enclosed by an overall route object. The options object isn’t enclosed but is a separate object.

The createStackNavigator function passes behind the scenes, a navigate prop to the HomeScreen and AboutScreen components. The navigate prop allows for navigation to a specified screen component. This is why we are able to use it on a button at HomeScreen.js, which, when pressed, leads to the AboutScreen page, as shown below.

<Button title="Go to About" 
onPress={() => this.props.navigation.navigate('About')}
/>

In the App.js code, we finally created an app container using const AppContainer = createAppContainer(AppNavigator);. This container manages navigation state.

To run the app, you’ll need to download the Expo client app. You can get the ‎iOS and Android versions. Make sure your command line is pointed to the project folder and run the following command.

npm start

You should see a QR code displayed on the terminal. Scan the QR code with the Expo app on Android, and for the iOS app, you can scan using the normal iPhone camera, which will prompt you with a command to click to open the Expo app.

Scanning QR Code To Open The Stack Nav Example

2. Using tab navigation

Most mobile apps have more than one screen. A common style of navigation in such mobile apps is tab-based navigation. Here we will focus on how to implement tab navigation using createBottomTabNavigator.

Let’s add another screen in our app by creating a ContactScreen.js file under /components.

import React, { Component } from 'react'

export default class ContactScreen extends Component {
  render() {
    return (
      <View style={{ flex: 1, alignItems: 'center', justifyContent: 'center' }}>
        <Text>Contact Screen</Text>
      </View>
    )
  }
}

Now let’s add to the imports at the top of our App.js file:

import ContactScreen from './components/ContactScreen';

Recall that it is useful to implement our navigation in the root App.js component. Therefore, we will implement our tab navigation by importing createBottomTabNavigator in App.js. Let’s replace createStackNavigator:

import { createBottomTabNavigator, createAppContainer } from "react-navigation";

Also replace createStackNavigator with createBottomTabNavigator in the AppNavigator object:

const AppNavigator = createBottomTabNavigator({
  Home: {
    screen: HomeScreen
  },
  About: {
    screen: AboutScreen
  }
}, {
  initialRouteName: "Home"
});

Add the new screen to the navigator object:

const AppNavigator = createBottomTabNavigator({
  Home: {
    screen: HomeScreen
  },
  About: {
    screen: AboutScreen
  },
  Contact: {
    screen: ContactScreen
  }
}, {
  initialRouteName: "Home"
});

If you run the app with npm start and open it on your Expo client, you should see the bottom nav implemented.

Scanning QR Code To Open Bottom Nav Example

3. Using drawer navigation

To immediately begin implementing drawer navigation, replace createBottomTabNavigator in the code with createDrawerNavigator.

Let’s start at the import statements:

import { createDrawerNavigator, createAppContainer } from "react-navigation";

Let’s also update the AppNavigator variable:

const AppNavigator = createDrawerNavigator({
  Home: {
    screen: HomeScreen
  },
  About: {
    screen: AboutScreen
  },
  Contact: {
    screen: ContactScreen
  }
}, {
    initialRouteName: "Home"
  });

If you npm start, you should be able to see the changes right away. Swipe from the left to see the drawer navigation.

Scanning QR Code To Open Drawer Nav Example

You can customize your drawer navigation by adding icons beside the route names. In the assets folder of this project, there are currently three icons:

Icons In The Assets Folder

We can customize by adding navigationOptions to the following screen component files:

// in HomeScreen.js

import React, { Component } from 'react';
import { Button, View, Text, Image, StyleSheet } from 'react-native';
import { createStackNavigator, createAppContainer } from 'react-navigation';

export default class HomeScreen extends Component {

  static navigationOptions = {
    drawerLabel: 'Home',
    drawerIcon: ({ tintColor }) => (
      <Image
        source={require('../assets/home-icon.png')}
        style={[styles.icon, { tintColor: tintColor }]}
      />
    ),
  };

  render() {
    return (
      <View style={{ flex: 1, alignItems: 'center', justifyContent: 'center' }}>
        <Text>Home Screen</Text>
        <Button
          title="Go to About"
          onPress={() => this.props.navigation.navigate('About')}
        />
      </View>
    )
  }
}

const styles = StyleSheet.create({
  icon: {
    width: 24,
    height: 24,
  }
});
// in AboutScreen.js

import React, { Component } from 'react';
import { Button, View, Text, Image, StyleSheet } from 'react-native';
import { createStackNavigator, createAppContainer } from 'react-navigation';

export default class AboutScreen extends Component {

  static navigationOptions = {
    drawerLabel: 'About',
    drawerIcon: ({ tintColor }) => (
      
    ),
  };
  render() {
    return (
      
        About Screen
      
    )
  }
}

const styles = StyleSheet.create({
  icon: {
    width: 24,
    height: 24,
  }
});
// in ContactScreen.js

import React, { Component } from 'react';
import { Button, View, Text, Image, StyleSheet } from 'react-native';

export default class ContactScreen extends Component {

  static navigationOptions = {
    drawerLabel: 'Contact',
    drawerIcon: ({ tintColor }) => (
      
    ),
  };

  render() {
    return (
      
        Contact Screen
      
    )
  }
}

const styles = StyleSheet.create({
  icon: {
    width: 24,
    height: 24,
  }
});

Navigation Icons In The Drawer Nav

The tintColor prop lets you apply any color based on active or inactive states of navigation tabs and labels. For example, we can change the active state color for our nav drawer labels. Go to the AppNavigator variable and add to the options object:

const AppNavigator = createDrawerNavigator({
  Home: {
    screen: HomeScreen
  },
  About: {
    screen: AboutScreen
  },
  Contact: {
    screen: ContactScreen
  }
}, {
    initialRouteName: "Home",
      contentOptions: {
        activeTintColor: '#e91e63'
     }
  });

This results in a change of color:

Color Change In The Drawer Nav Example

Passing parameters to screens

There are two simple steps to pass params to routes:

  1. Pass params to a route by putting them in an object as a second parameter to the navigation.navigate function:
    this.props.navigation.navigate('RouteName', { /* params go here */ })
  2. Read the params in your screen component:
    this.props.navigation.getParam(paramName, defaultValue)

Conclusion

I hope that this article will jumpstart your use of the React Navigation package in your existing or future React Native projects. There’s a lot more that can be done; most of your needs will be met by this package. Feel free to explore more of the documentation and to grab the final code from my GitHub repo.

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Emmanuel Yusufu Aspiring Product Designer · Frontend & JS Developer · Certified Digital marketer

5 Replies to “Navigating React Native apps using React Navigation”

  1. i have tried many time Using stack navigator to navigate between screen components but this is not working.

    1. Hello Rama, I’m sorry about that. Can you share a snippet of your code at emmayusufu [at] gmail.com ? It works for me.

  2. Hello m y friend, thanks for you explain, but i can run my project with expo and react navigation. But i want to run react navigation without expo and can’t, i have followed the indicates of the main page react native https://reactnavigation.org/docs/en/getting-started.html but dont work for me. Do you something about this ? is compatible react native with react navigation without expo ?
    Thank in advance.

    Regards
    Juan.

  3. Hi Juan, react-native apps can be routed with react navigation without expo. Maybe a more clearer description of the error you are facing will really aid in fixing the error

  4. Thanks for you answer, i think i didnt explain you well,
    I Proceed to explain you. how you know, there are two forms of work with react navigation, one it normal form(react-native init [Name o aplication]) and the another form is using EXPO(expo init [name of project])
    My purpose is use the react navigation libary but happens that I can use react navigation with expo very well, but when i try use the react navigation with the normal form i have trouble. I followed the steps of the official page (https://reactnavigation.org/docs/en/getting-started.html) without succes.
    The error that i have are:

    PS E:\AplicacionesReact\easyReactNavigation> react-native run-android
    error React Native CLI uses autolinking for native dependencies, but the following modules are linked manually:
    – react-native-gesture-handler (to unlink run: “react-native unlink react-native-gesture-handler”)
    This is likely happening when upgrading React Native from below 0.60 to 0.60 or above. Going forward, you can unlink this dependency via “react-native unlink ” and it will be included in your app automatically. If a library isn’t compatible with autolinking, disregard this message and notify the library maintainers.
    Read more about autolinking: https://github.com/react-native-community/cli/blob/master/docs/autolinking.md
    info Running jetifier to migrate libraries to AndroidX. You can disable it using “–no-jetifier” flag.
    Jetifier found 913 file(s) to forward-jetify. Using 8 workers…
    info Starting JS server…
    info Installing the app…
    Starting a Gradle Daemon, 3 stopped Daemons could not be reused, use –status for details
    > Task :app:transformNativeLibsWithMergeJniLibsForDebug FAILED

    Deprecated Gradle features were used in this build, making it incompatible with Gradle 6.0.
    Use ‘–warning-mode all’ to show the individual deprecation warnings.
    See https://docs.gradle.org/5.5/userguide/command_line_interface.html#sec:command_line_warnings
    42 actionable tasks: 2 executed, 40 up-to-date

    FAILURE: Build failed with an exception.

    * What went wrong:
    Execution failed for task ‘:app:transformNativeLibsWithMergeJniLibsForDebug’.
    > Could not read path ‘E:\AplicacionesReact\easyReactNavigation\android\app\build\intermediates\transforms\mergeJniLibs\debug\0\lib\armeabi-v7a’.

    * Try:
    Run with –stacktrace option to get the stack trace. Run with –info or –debug option to get more log output. Run with –scan to get full insights.

    * Get more help at https://help.gradle.org

    BUILD FAILED in 26s

    error Failed to install the app. Make sure you have the Android development environment set up: https://facebook.github.io/react-native/docs/getting-started.html#android-development-environment. Run CLI with –verbose flag for more details.
    Error: Command failed: gradlew.bat app:installDebug -PreactNativeDevServerPort=8081

    FAILURE: Build failed with an exception.

    * What went wrong:
    Execution failed for task ‘:app:transformNativeLibsWithMergeJniLibsForDebug’.
    > Could not read path ‘E:\AplicacionesReact\easyReactNavigation\android\app\build\intermediates\transforms\mergeJniLibs\debug\0\lib\armeabi-v7a’.

    * Try:
    Run with –stacktrace option to get the stack trace. Run with –info or –debug option to get more log output. Run with –scan to get full insights.

    * Get more help at https://help.gradle.org

    BUILD FAILED in 26s

    at checkExecSyncError (child_process.js:623:11)
    at execFileSync (child_process.js:641:15)
    at runOnAllDevices (E:\AplicacionesReact\easyReactNavigation\node_modules\@react-native-community\cli-platform-android\build\commands\runAndroid\runOnAllDevices.js:94:39)
    at buildAndRun (E:\AplicacionesReact\easyReactNavigation\node_modules\@react-native-community\cli-platform-android\build\commands\runAndroid\index.js:158:41)
    at E:\AplicacionesReact\easyReactNavigation\node_modules\@react-native-community\cli-platform-android\build\commands\runAndroid\index.js:125:12
    at processTicksAndRejections (internal/process/task_queues.js:85:5)
    at async Command.handleAction (E:\AplicacionesReact\easyReactNavigation\node_modules\react-native\node_modules\@react-native-community\cli\build\index.js:164:9)
    PS E:\AplicacionesReact\easyReactNavigation>

    Please help me.
    Advance in thanks.

    Juan.

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