How to Get a React Component’s Element

By  on  

JSX is an amazing pseudo-language for React, and if I'm honest, it's what brought me to love React so much.  Using React without JSX is cumbersome and frustrating, while using JSX is such an easier way to express your code.  One drawback of JSX, however, is that it makes accessing component elements indirect, if not difficult.

The truth is that accessing a component's own elements is actually much easier than most think.  Let's look at how a component method can access its own DOM node with JavaScript:

Method 1:  react-dom

react-dom provides a findDomNode method for finding the component's node:

// Get ReactDOM
import ReactDOM from "react-dom";

// In your component method
class MyComponent extends Component {

    myMethod() {
        const node = ReactDOM.findDOMNode(this);
    }

}

With ReactDOM.findDOMNode(this), you can get the widget's main node, and from there you can use typical DOM methods:

const node = ReactDOM.findDOMNode(this);

// Get child nodes
if (node instanceof HTMLElement) {
    const child = node.querySelector('.someClass');
}

This mixes a bit of React and basic JavaScript DOM manipulation.

Method 2:  ref

Another method of getting DOM nodes is by using refs; an example usage is detailed in my React and autofocus post:

class MyComponent extends Component {

  // The element we want to retrieve
  _input: ?HTMLInputElement;

  // ....

  componentDidUpdate() {
    this._input.focus();
  }

  render() {
      return (
        <div>
            <input
              ref={c => (this._input = c)}
            />
        </div>
      );
    }
  }
}

Adding a ref attribute to the element you want a handle on is a more React-centric approach to getting a handle on an element.  Both strategies work well so choose whichever you prefer!

Recent Features

  • By
    Vibration API

    Many of the new APIs provided to us by browser vendors are more targeted toward the mobile user than the desktop user.  One of those simple APIs the Vibration API.  The Vibration API allows developers to direct the device, using JavaScript, to vibrate in...

  • By
    I&#8217;m an Impostor

    This is the hardest thing I've ever had to write, much less admit to myself.  I've written resignation letters from jobs I've loved, I've ended relationships, I've failed at a host of tasks, and let myself down in my life.  All of those feelings were very...

Incredible Demos

  • By
    Upload Photos to Flickr with PHP

    I have a bit of an obsession with uploading photos to different services thanks to Instagram. Instagram's iPhone app allows me to take photos and quickly filter them; once photo tinkering is complete, I can upload the photo to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and...

  • By
    dwClickable:  Entire Block Clickable Using MooTools 1.2

    I recently received an email from a reader who was really impressed with Block Clickable, a jQuery script that took the link within a list item and made the entire list item clickable. I thought it was a neat script so I...

Discussion

  1. If you’re on React 16.3 and up best to use React.createRef() (https://reactjs.org/docs/refs-and-the-dom.html#creating-refs)

  2. Rico

    There are new methods for creating a ref in React 16.3.

Wrap your code in <pre class="{language}"></pre> tags, link to a GitHub gist, JSFiddle fiddle, or CodePen pen to embed!