Reasons to use prop-types


  Hey there! This article is being published a "work in progress," which means that it is not done. So take everything with a grain of salt.

I may or may not come back and finish this article. Regardless, I hope that it's helpful in its current state.

I work in an environment where we have dozens of developers across multiple locations and countries working on a few central applications. This requires a level of organization and coordination to ensure that the team is working collaboratively and efficiently.

One of the ways we can encourage efficient collaboration is by type checking in our React applications with the prop-types library.

Here are two reasons why you should be using prop-types in your React applications.

Catch errors #

The most immediate benefit to using prop-types is that you can catch and diagnose errors quickly while working on your application. If you instantiate a component and pass invalid props or forget to pass required props, the library will send you a console warning that details each mistake.

Let’s say you have a OrderedList component that renders children based on an array of items passed as a prop. It might look like this:

import React from 'react'

function OrderedList(props) {
return (
<ol>
{props.items.map(item => (
<Item key={item.meta.id}>{item.value}</Item>
))}
</ol>
)
}

export default OrderedList

Now what would happen if instantiated this component without passing it an array of items? React will throw an error:

TypeError

props.items is undefined

We could probably resolve the issue from that message, but what would happen if OrderedList was passed an array, but the items were strings, or numbers, or objects with different properties?

TypeError

item.meta is undefined

Document components #

When you are working on a larger code base with multiple users, it is easy to lose track of the available components. When you want to use a component that you didn’t create or haven’t look at in a while, it can be difficult to determine what props that component requires.

Take for example the this LoginForm component using Formik. Try to quickly determine what props this component requires:

const LoginForm = props => {
const Heading = `h${props.headingLevel}`
return (
<div>
<Heading>Login</Heading>
<Formik
initialValues={{ email: '', password: '' }}
onSubmit={async (values, actions) => {
await props.login(values)
actions.resetForm()
}}

render={props => (
<form onSubmit={props.handleSubmit}>
<Input name="email" label="Email" />
<Input name="password" label="Password" type="password" />
<Button type="submit">Login</Button>
</form>
)}

/>

</div>
)
}

You could do it, but it is time consuming and can be a nightmare for larger class components. Now imagine we had the same component above with the following prop-types declared below:

const LoginForm = props => {
// ...
}

LoginForm.propTypes = {
login: PropTypes.func.isRequired,
headingLevel: PropTypes.oneOf([1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]).isRequired
}

Now at a glance we can determine that this component needs two props, level and login, and what their types and restrictions are. When I want to use LoginForm, I know I need to pass it a headingLevel (from 1-6) and a login function. Nice and easy.

About

My name is Sean McPherson (SeanMcP), and I am a software engineer based in Pittsburgh, PA. Here I write articles about programming for developers of all levels.