Glad Chinda Full-stack web developer learning new hacks one day at a time. Web technology enthusiast. Hacking stuffs @theflutterwave.

Validating React Component Props with prop-types

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Learn how to improve your React components by validating props with prop-types.

Props are a very important mechanism for passing read-only attributes to React components. These attributes are usually required to be of certain types or forms for them to be used properly in the component.

If a prop is passed to a component in a type or form other than is required, the component may not behave as expected. Hence, a great way of improving React components is props validation.

This guide assumes you already have some elementary knowledge of React and is meant for developers who have been using React for any amount of time.

However, if you are still new to React, you can learn more about React from this documentation.

Consider this code snippet:

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import React from 'react';
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom';

function PercentageStat({ label, score = 0, total = Math.max(1, score) }) {
  return (
    <div>
      <h6>{ label }</h6>
      <span>{ Math.round(score / total * 100) }%</span>
    </div>
  )
}

function App() {
  return (
    <div>
      <h1>Male Population</h1>
      <div>
        <PercentageStat label="Class 1" total={360} score={203} />
        <PercentageStat label="Class 2" total={206} />
        <PercentageStat label="Class 3" score={107} />
        <PercentageStat label="Class 4" />
      </div>
    </div>
  )
}

const rootElement = document.getElementById('root');
ReactDOM.render(<App />, rootElement);

In this code snippet, a component named PercentageStat is created, that requires 3 props for proper rendering, namely: label, score and total.

Default values are set for the score and total props in case they are not provided.

Finally, the PercentageStat is rendered 4 times in the App component, each with different props.

The following screenshot shows what the app will look like — with some Bootstrap styling:

App with PercentageStat components

Notice, based on usage, that the label prop is expected to be a string. In the same vein, score and total are required to be numeric values because they are used for computing percent. Also notice that total is expected to never be 0 since it is being used as a divisor.

Here is another code snippet showing a modified app that renders PercentageStat components with invalid props.

function App() {
  return (
    <div>
      <h1>Male Population</h1>
      <div>
        <PercentageStat label="Class 1" total="0" score={203} />
        <PercentageStat label="Class 2" total={0} />
        <PercentageStat label="Class 3" score={f => f} />
        <PercentageStat label="Class 4" total={{}} score="0" />
      </div>
    </div>
  )
}

The following screenshot shows what the app view now looks like:

PercentageStat components with invalid props

Validating props

As demonstrated in the previous section, the reasons for validating component props are very obvious. A couple of techniques can be employed to ensure proper type-checking and validation of your React application.

One very viable option would be to use JavaScript extensions such as Flow or TypeScript to add type-checking to your entire application.

propTypes

React provides an internal mechanism for adding type-checking to components. React components use a special property named propTypes to setup type-checking.

/**
 * FUNCTIONAL COMPONENTS
 */
function ReactComponent(props) {
  // ...implement render logic here
}

ReactComponent.propTypes = {
  // ...prop type definitions here
}


/**
 * CLASS COMPONENTS: METHOD 1
 */
class ReactComponent extends React.Component {
  // ...component class body here
}

ReactComponent.propTypes = {
  // ...prop type definitions here
}


/**
 * CLASS COMPONENTS: METHOD 2
 * Using the `static` class properties syntax
 */
class ReactComponent extends React.Component {
  // ...component class body here
  
  static propTypes = {
    // ...prop type definitions here
  }
}

When props are passed to a React component, they are checked against the type definitions configured in the propTypes property. When an invalid value is passed for a prop, a warning is displayed on the JavaScript console.

Invalid props warning

If default props are set for the React component, the values are first resolved before type-checking against propTypes. Therefore, default values are also subject to the prop type definitions.

Note that, propTypes type-checking only happens in development mode, enabling you to catch bugs in your React application while developing. For performance reasons, it is not triggered in production environment.

PropTypes

Prior to React 15.5.0, a utility named PropTypes was available as part of the React package, which provided a lot of validators for configuring type definitions for component props. It could be accessed with React.PropTypes.

However, in later versions of React, this utility has been moved to a separate package named prop-types. So, you need to add it as a dependency for your project in order to get access to the PropTypes utility.

npm install prop-types --save

It can be imported into your project files as follows:

import PropTypes from 'prop-types';

To learn more about how you can use prop-types, how it differs from using React.PropTypes and all the available validators, see this documentation.

Available validators

Basic Types

As stated in the previous section, the PropTypes utility exports a lot of validators for configuring type definitions. Here are the validators for the basic data types:

  • PropTypes.any — the prop can be of any data type
  • PropTypes.bool — the prop should be a boolean
  • PropTypes.number — the prop should be a number
  • PropTypes.string — the prop should be a string
  • PropTypes.func — the prop should be a function
  • PropTypes.array — the prop should be an array
  • PropTypes.object — the prop should be an object
  • PropTypes.symbol — the prop should be a symbol
Component.propTypes = {
  anyProp: PropTypes.any,
  booleanProp: PropTypes.bool,
  numberProp: PropTypes.number,
  stringProp: PropTypes.string,
  functionProp: PropTypes.func
}

Renderable Types

PropTypes also exports the following validators for ensuring that the value passed to a prop can be rendered by React.

  • PropTypes.node — the prop should be anything that can be rendered by React: number, string, element or an array (or fragment) containing these types
  • PropTypes.element — the prop should be a React element
Component.propTypes = {
  nodeProp: PropTypes.node,
  elementProp: PropTypes.element
}

One common usage of the PropTypes.element validator is in ensuring that a component has a single child. If the component has no children or multiple children, a warning is displayed on the JavaScript console.

Component.propTypes = {
  children: PropTypes.element.isRequired
}

Instance Types

In cases where you require a prop to be an instance of a particular JavaScript class, you can use the PropTypes.instanceOf validator. This leverages the underlying JavaScript instanceof operator.

Component.propTypes = {
  personProp: PropTypes.instanceOf(Person)
}

Multiple Types

PropTypes also exports validators that can allow a limited set of values or multiple sets of data types for a prop. Here they are:

  • PropTypes.oneOf — the prop is limited to a specified set of values, treating it like an enum
  • PropTypes.oneOfType — the prop should be one of a specified set of types, behaving like a union of types
Component.propTypes = {

  enumProp: PropTypes.oneOf([true, false, 0, 'Unknown']),
  
  unionProp: PropTypes.oneOfType([
    PropType.bool,
    PropType.number,
    PropType.string,
    PropType.instanceOf(Person)
  ])
  
}

Collection Types

Besides thePropTypes.array and PropTypes.object validators, PropTypes also provides some other validators for more fine-tuned validation of arrays and objects.

Here they are:

PropTypes.arrayOf can be used to ensure that the prop is an array in which all items match the specified type.

Component.propTypes = {

  peopleArrayProp: PropTypes.arrayOf(
    PropTypes.instanceOf(Person)
  ),
  
  multipleArrayProp: PropTypes.arrayOf(
    PropTypes.oneOfType([
      PropType.number,
      PropType.string
    ])
  )
  
}

PropTypes.objectOf can be used to ensure that the prop is an object in which all property values match the specified type.

Component.propTypes = {

  booleanObjectProp: PropTypes.objectOf(
    PropTypes.bool
  ),
  
  multipleObjectProp: PropTypes.objectOf(
    PropTypes.oneOfType([
      PropType.func,
      PropType.number,
      PropType.string,
      PropType.instanceOf(Person)
    ])
  )
  
}

PropTypes.shape can be used when a more detailed validation of an object prop is required. It ensures that the prop is an object that contains a set of specified keys with values of the specified types.

Component.propTypes = {
  profileProp: PropTypes.shape({
    id: PropTypes.number,
    fullname: PropTypes.string,
    gender: PropTypes.oneOf(['M', 'F']),
    birthdate: PropTypes.instanceOf(Date),
    isAuthor: PropTypes.bool
  })
}

For strict (or exact) object matching, you can use PropTypes.exact as follows:

Component.propTypes = {
  subjectScoreProp: PropTypes.exact({
    subject: PropTypes.oneOf(['Maths', 'Arts', 'Science']),
    score: PropTypes.number
  })
}

Required Types

The PropTypes validators seen so far all allow the prop to be optional. However, you can chain isRequired to any prop validator to ensure that a warning is shown whenever the prop is not provided.

Component.propTypes = {

  requiredAnyProp: PropTypes.any.isRequired,
  requiredFunctionProp: PropTypes.func.isRequired,
  requiredSingleElementProp: PropTypes.element.isRequired,
  requiredPersonProp: PropTypes.instanceOf(Person).isRequired,
  requiredEnumProp: PropTypes.oneOf(['Read', 'Write']).isRequired,
  
  requiredShapeObjectProp: PropTypes.shape({
    title: PropTypes.string.isRequired,
    date: PropTypes.instanceOf(Date).isRequired,
    isRecent: PropTypes.bool
  }).isRequired
  
}

Custom validators

Most times, you may need to define some custom validation logic for component props. For example, ensuring that a prop is passed a valid email address. prop-types allows you to define custom validation functions that can be used for type-checking props.

Basic custom validators

The custom validation function takes three arguments:

  1. props — An object containing all the props passed to the component

  2. propName — The name of the prop to be validated

  3. componentName — The name of the component

It should return an Error object if the validation fails. The error should not be thrown. Also, console.warn should not be used inside the custom validation function.

const isEmail = function(props, propName, componentName) {
  const regex = /^((([^<>()[]\.,;:s@"]+(.[^<>()[]\.,;:s@"]+)*)|(".+"))@(([[0-9]{1,3}.[0-9]{1,3}.[0-9]{1,3}.[0-9]{1,3}])|(([a-zA-Z-0-9]+.)+[a-zA-Z]{2,})))?$/;
  
  if (!regex.test(props[propName])) {
    return new Error(`Invalid prop `${propName}` passed to `${componentName}`. Expected a valid email address.`);
  }
}

Component.propTypes = {
  email: isEmail,
  fullname: PropTypes.string,
  date: PropTypes.instanceOf(Date)
}
Invalid email prop warning

Custom validation functions can also be used with PropTypes.oneOfType. Here is a simple example using the isEmail custom validation function in the previous code snippet:

Component.propTypes = {
  email: PropTypes.oneOfType([
    isEmail,
    PropTypes.shape({
      address: isEmail
    })
  ])
}

Component will be valid in both of these scenarios:

<Component email="glad@me.com" />
<Component email={{ address: 'glad@me.com' }} />

Custom validators and collections

Custom validation functions can also be used with PropTypes.arrayOf and PropTypes.objectOf. When used this way, the custom validation function will be called for each key in the array or object.

However, the custom validation function will take 5 arguments instead of 3.

  1. propValue — The array or object itself

  2. key — The key of the current item in the iteration

  3. componentName — The name of the component

  4. location — The location of the validated data. It is usually “prop”

  5. propFullName — The fully resolved name of the current item being validated. For an array, this will be array[index]. For an object, this will be object.key

Here is a modified version of the isEmail custom validation function for use with collection types:

const isEmail = function(propValue, key, componentName, location, propFullName) {
  const regex = /^((([^<>()[]\.,;:s@"]+(.[^<>()[]\.,;:s@"]+)*)|(".+"))@(([[0-9]{1,3}.[0-9]{1,3}.[0-9]{1,3}.[0-9]{1,3}])|(([a-zA-Z-0-9]+.)+[a-zA-Z]{2,})))?$/;
  
  if (!regex.test(propValue[key])) {
    return new Error(`Invalid prop `${propFullName}` passed to `${componentName}`. Expected a valid email address.`);
  }
}

Component.propTypes = {
  emails: PropTypes.arrayOf(isEmail)
}

All-purpose custom validators

Taking all that you’ve learned about custom validation functions into account, you can go ahead and create all-purpose custom validators that can be used as standalone validators and also with collection types.

A slight modification to the isEmail custom validation function will make it an all-purpose validator as shown in the following code snippet.

const isEmail = function(propValue, key, componentName, location, propFullName) {
  // Get the resolved prop name based on the validator usage
  const prop = (location && propFullName) ? propFullName : key;
  
  const regex = /^((([^<>()[]\.,;:s@"]+(.[^<>()[]\.,;:s@"]+)*)|(".+"))@(([[0-9]{1,3}.[0-9]{1,3}.[0-9]{1,3}.[0-9]{1,3}])|(([a-zA-Z-0-9]+.)+[a-zA-Z]{2,})))?$/;
  
  if (!regex.test(propValue[key])) {
    return new Error(`Invalid prop `${prop}` passed to `${componentName}`. Expected a valid email address.`);
  }
}

Component.propTypes = {
  email: PropTypes.oneOfType([
    isEmail,
    PropTypes.shape({
      address: isEmail
    })
  ]),
  emails: PropTypes.arrayOf(isEmail)
}

Validating PercentageStat

To wrap up this guide, the following code snippet adds prop types to the PercentageStat component that is in the beginning section.

import React from 'react';
import PropTypes from 'prop-types';

// The PercentageStat component
function PercentageStat({ label, score = 0, total = Math.max(1, score) }) {
  return (
    <div>
      <h6>{ label }</h6>
      <span>{ Math.round(score / total * 100) }%</span>
    </div>
  )
}

// Checks if a value is numeric
// Either a finite number or a numeric string
function isNumeric(value) {
  const regex = /^(\+|-)?((\d*\.?\d+)|(\d+\.?\d*))$/;
  return Number.isFinite(value) || ((typeof value === "string") && regex.test(value));
}


// Checks if value is non-zero
// Value is first converted to a number
function isNonZero(value) {
  return +value !== 0;
}


// Takes test functions as arguments and returns a custom validation function.
// Each function passed in as argument is expected to take a value argument is
// expected to accept a value and return a boolean if it passes the validation.
// All tests must pass for the custom validator to be marked as passed.
function validatedType(...validators) {
  return function(props, propName, componentName) {
  
    const value = props[propName];
    
    const valid = validators.every(validator => {
      if (typeof validator === "function") {
        const result = validator(value);
        return (typeof result === "boolean") && result;
      }
      
      return false;
    });
    
    if (!valid) {
      return new Error(`Invalid prop \`${propName}\` passed to \`${componentName}\`. Validation failed.`);
    }
    
  }
}

// Set the propTypes for the component
PercentageStat.propTypes = {
  label: PropTypes.string.isRequired,
  score: validatedType(isNumeric),
  total: validatedType(isNumeric, isNonZero)
}

Conclusion

In this guide, we have seen how prop types can be used to improve your React components and ensure that they are used as expected.

If you want to find out more about validating component props in React, you can check this guide.

Clap & Follow

Follow me on Medium (Glad Chinda) for more insightful articles you may find helpful. You can also follow me on Twitter (@gladchinda).

Enjoy coding…

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Glad Chinda Full-stack web developer learning new hacks one day at a time. Web technology enthusiast. Hacking stuffs @theflutterwave.

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