Ethan Mick
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Passing data with properties

In the last section, you updated your App component to show off a list of hardcoded to-do items. This component now feels like it does something. To bring it to the next level, it's time to start passing data around.

You will build out two new components, a List and a ListItem. The list will hold all of the to-dos, and the item will be responsible for displaying the details about any single to-do. This will allow both to focus on their core responsibilities and pass the necessary data to the children.

Passing data down

In React you will often pass data down to components that are within your current component. These sub-components are called children. These children, in turn, may have more children. This continues until you reach a component that has no further children. That's where the chain stops.

React uses this component tree to logically pass information down. Each component in the tree should only pass only the required information along to the children.

For your app, the List will hold all the to-dos, and pass only the single item to the ListItem The ListItem, for now, won't have any children, so the chain will stop there.

Passing data with properties

To pass data between components, React uses a syntax that works similarly to HTML.

const ComponentA = (props: any) => {
return <div>{}</div>
const ComponentB = (props: any) => {
return <ComponentA name="Ethan" />

Every component in React accepts a single parameter. This can be named anything, but by convention, it's named props, which is short for properties.

props value is a plain old JavaScript object. In TypeScript it can be given a type. This object has all the key-value pairs that are passed to it.

Every time you pass a parameter you use the key=value syntax. This is true for native HTML elements like <input type="text" /> or custom components like above.

This works a lot better than having multiple function parameters. HTML elements can have a lot of different parameters and many of them are optional. Imagine if you had to list them out:

function img(src, alt, title, style, className, height, width, ...) {}

This breaks down for custom components since you could pass any number of parameters. Instead of listing things out, React passes properties in an object.

The child component (the one being called), can reference all of these key-value pairs by looking up the key on the props object. This can be done with dot notation, props.key or bracket notation, props["key"].

Properties are read-only.

A very important core tenant of React is that the data passed into a component is immutable.

This includes things like strings and numbers, but also more complex data like objects and arrays. You can make a copy of these values and change those, but the actual values passed in should never be changed by your component. Props are immutable.

With types

Because you're coding this with TypeScript, you can effortlessly add type checking to your components. Instead of using any like above, you can define and use a type:

type Props = {
name: string
const ComponentA = (props: Props) => {
return <div>{}</div>
const ComponentB = (props: any) => {
return <ComponentA name="Ethan" />

Above, ComponentA defines the type for its props. By convention, if there is no need for a different name, the type name should be Props. Therefore, when ComponentB calls it below, if it does not pass a name that is a string, you will get a compile-time error. This allows you to code faster and write more correct code. You can use TypeScript's optional types to allow for powerful and flexible types.

With destructuring

Lastly, when referencing the properties you want, it can be tiresome to reference props.key each time. JavaScript offers an elegant solution to destructure the parameters in the function definition. The syntax is:

({ key1, key2 }: TypeDefinition)

So the above example changes to:

type Props = {
name: string
const ComponentA = ({ name }: Props) => {
return <div>{name}</div>

This takes the props and destructures them into the named key-value pairs. In this case, the props object will take and put the value into the name variable in the function definition. This allows you to reference the value you want with just the short name.

You can read more about destructuring on MDN.

Building real components

Now that you know how to pass data down to your components, you can build out some smarter components for your to-do app.

The two responsible components in your app are the to-do list itself, and each item. As these grow with complexity it will be good to have them as separate entities.

To-Do List

It's often easier to think from the top of the tree to the bottom. That is, start with the big components and work your way through their children. If you know all the components you need upfront, you can also start with the smallest and work your way up.

To just get going, you'll start with the list itself. You can take your App component and copy it as the base:

const TodoList = () => (
{ => (

This just copies the App and renames it. Since you moved the logic out of App, go ahead and just have App call your new component:

const App = () => <TodoList />

Great! Although the new component though is using a globally scoped todos reference. While that works, it's not ideal. A component can use global constants, but you want this list to change eventually. That todos array was just convenience, and you're beyond that now. No, instead, you should pass the to-dos into this component as a property!

Add a TypeScript definition for the props you expect. In this case, a list of Todos.

interface TodoListProps {
todos: Todo[]

Remember, even though you are only interested in a single property, the props are passed as an object. You cannot get a single property from them. Here, you are defining the object passed should have a single key, todos, with a value that is an array of Todo.

Add the definition to the list:

const TodoList = ({ todos }: TodoListProps) => (...)

And when you do that, you should have a TypeScript compiler error! The App component is not passing this new property yet. The default property object passed to a component is an empty object, {} so the error looks like this:

Property 'todos' is missing in type '{}' but required in type 'TodoListProps'. ts(2741)

Alright, fair enough. We declared todos to be required in the interface and didn't pass it. Update the App component to pass it:

const App = () => <TodoList todos={todos} />

With all this moving around of code, your app should look blissfully the same.

Adding the TodoListItem

The TodoList above doesn't use a custom component, it just creates an li HTML element. You have big plans for this app, so a custom component is necessary. It's time to create the TodoListItem. This item will be responsible for displaying the <li> and the text. What data is going to be passed to this? Just the text of a Todo. The good news is you already have an interface that defines that exact thing, the Todo interface itself!

You can reuse that and create:

const TodoListItem = ({ text }: Todo) => <li>{text}</li>

This single line component takes in text and displays it in an li. You aren't calling it yet though, so return to your TodoList component and update it.

Instead of:

{ => (

Replace it with:

{{ text }, index) => (
<TodoListItem key={index} text={text} />

Boom! This destructures the todo in the map function call since there is just a single key to work with. It also pulls in the index param to use as the key below. It calls the new TodoListItem component and passes key and text to the item.

So uh, what the heck is key.

Special props, key, and children.

React has two magical properties. The first is key. The official docs explain it well:

Keys help React identify which items [in a list] have changed, are added, or are removed. Keys should be given to the elements inside the array to give the elements a stable identity.

The best way to pick a key is to use a string that uniquely identifies a list item among its siblings. Most often you would use IDs from your data as keys. When you don't have stable IDs for rendered items, you may use the item index as a key as a last resort:

When creating any elements from a list you must give those elements a unique key.

Here, you don't have anything other than the index to use. Any to-do may have the same text as another to-do. Since they are not unique, the index will have to do for now.


The other special property is children. This is used to access children elements that are passed to a component. For example, imagine a component whose responsibility is to be a card.

const Card => ({ children }) => (
<div className="box-shadow rounded-corners background-white">

This component wants to take any content and wrap it in a card like diagram. It doesn't accept those children as regular props, the children are the elements inside the card. Called like this:

<p>lots of text</p>

To refer to the div and elements passed into the card, the special name children is used. The Card component then just “passes through” the children and renders them using {children}.

This does bring up an interesting point of “what's correct?” Both of these are indentical:

// Option A
const TodoListItem = ({ text }: Todo) => <li>{text}</li>
// Option B
const TodoListItem = ({ children }: Todo) => <li>{children}</li>

However they are called differently:

// Option A
<TodoListItem text={text} />
// Optionn B

Which is correct? It mostly depends on the situation and the contents of text. If text ends up being a lot of DOM and other components, it's acting more like part of the DOM tree than just a string. If text is a simple string, then passing it as a property named text is simple.

Wrapping up

You have refactored your to-do application to use more components. These components are separated by responsibility. They don't do a ton yet, but there is room for growth. Importantly these components can be reused and they separate concerns.

You can now pass data down through your application. This lets you pass the to-dos down to the list item, which displays the information.

Of course, it's still a static list. You can't change anything. While properties are read-only and immutable, state is not. And to change up your list, you will need to remove the constant todos and step into the world of managing state, something that changes:

const [todos, setTodos] = useState<Todo[]>([])

This will turn your demo into a fully functioning app. Ready to learn how?

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