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React Developer Tools: Top Techniques for Better Workflow

Building React applications can get exhausting sometimes. As a React developer, you have likely experienced the frustration of a buggy UI driven by complex state changes and props. Without the right tools, debugging React applications can feel like wandering in the dark. When the app breaks, where do you even start looking?

Fortunately, Meta’s React Developer Tools allows you to inspect, debug, and test the workings of your React components.

This article will help you to start using React DevTools to inspect and optimize your applications. You will also gain an understanding of what React DevTools are and how they integrate deeply into React to help you debug component hierarchies. You will then see examples of how you can leverage React DevTools capabilities like inspecting props and state, profiling components, and highlighting unnecessary re-renders.

If you are excited as much as I am writing about this tool, then let’s jump right in 🚀

What are React Developer Tools (Devtools)

React Developer Tools (also called React Devtools) is a debugging tool for inspecting and modifying React component hierarchies. The Devtools provide powerful capabilities for React developers to understand and optimize their applications.

The React Devtools come as a browser extension and integrate deeply into the React architecture. They allow inspecting the component tree, viewing props and state, debugging updates, and performing other debugging tasks.

Devtools

Some features of React Devtools include:

  • Inspecting the component hierarchy and filtering components

  • Viewing and editing state and props for components

  • Setting component breakpoints for debugging

  • Profiling components to measure render performance

  • Highlighting re-renders to optimize unnecessary updates

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Importance of Devtools in React Development

Debugging tools are essential software applications that developers use to analyze, identify, and repair errors in their computer programs and code.

React Devtools are an invaluable asset for React developers. Debugging complex UI driven by state is difficult without the right tools. React Devtools make inspecting and understanding component-based UIs much easier.

Key benefits of using React Devtools include:

  • Understanding how components are structured and passing data

  • Diagnosing why components re-render or behave incorrectly

  • Pinpointing performance bottlenecks in the UI

  • Testing state changes and prop values directly

  • Debugging React Hooks and other React features

With React’s declarative programming model, Devtools are essential for peeking inside the “black box” of components. They remove guesswork to build robust, optimized React applications.

Importance of Debugging in Modern Web Development

Debugging with purpose-built tools like React Devtools is a crucial discipline in web development today. As JavaScript applications grow more complex, debugging can no longer only rely on console logging and breakpoints.

Modern debugging tools for frameworks like React allow developers to reason about abstract layers like state and components. Features like component inspection and profiling accelerate debugging workflows.

Debugging tools like React Dev Tools, Chrome Dev Tools, and PyCharm Debugger, among others, enhance developer productivity and application quality. Tight integration with frameworks gives developers precise control over app execution and infrastructure. Powerful debugging improves developers’ ability to write high-quality code efficiently.

Understanding React DevTools

React Developer Tools is a set of developer tools with over 4 million installations. It has plenty of features that can make your workflow more efficient and help you debug and optimize your code. It is available as a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox. However, it is not available as an extension for Safari at the time of writing this article, however, there is a walk-around for Safari browsers.

As a React developer, you can take advantage of the React DevTools browser extension to debug and inspect your React applications. Below are some of the features of the React Dev Tools extensions:

  • Verifying a component’s props and state: React components frequently don’t render properly. This is frequently caused by missing props or incorrectly updated component states. In this case, React DevTools allows you to visualize the props passed to each of your components and verify their state changes in real-time as you interact with them in your app.

  • Addressing performance issues: Some React components in your app may be slow and underperforming. This is frequently seen with large lists and dropdowns, where unnecessary re-rendering may occur. React DevTools addresses this issue by providing information about when your components are rendering and which ones are taking too long to do so.

  • Inspecting the context values: Aside from a component state and prop, React DevTools displays the current context used in nested components, allowing you to ensure that your global state is correctly shared across them.

Building a ToDo Application with React

For this article, we will build a todo application to use and test with the React Dev Tools

Prerequisites

Before creating MUI tabs, you need to have the following:

  • NPM is installed on your machine.

  • Basic knowledge of JavaScript and React.

If you need help getting started with React, please check out the video tutorial below.

Setting up a React App

In your terminal, enter the following command to create a new React application:

npx create-react-app my-app && cd my-app

Once your app is set up, run the application by entering either of these commands in your terminal:

yarn start

Or using npm:

npm start

Your server should launch in your browser at http://localhost:3000/, as shown below:

In your App.jsx file, paste the following code snippet:

function App() {
  const [value, setValue] = useState("");
  const [todos, setToDos] = useState([]);
  const addTodo = (todo) => {
    if (!todo) {
      return;
    }
    const newTodos = [todo, ...todos];
    setToDos(newTodos);
    setValue("");
  };
  const handleSubmit = () => {
    addTodo(value);
  };
  return (
    <div className="todoApp">
      <h1>What do you want to do today?</h1>
      <TodoForm
         onChange={(newValue) => setValue(newValue)}
         onSubmit={handleSubmit}
         value={value}
      ></TodoForm>
      <TodoList todos={todos}></TodoList>
    </div>
  );
}

The App component maintains state using the useState hook for the ‘value’ and ‘todos‘ variables.

The ‘value’ state is the input value of a form, which is updated using the setValue function. The ‘todos’ state is an array containing the list of todos.

The addTodo function takes a todo item, adds it to the ‘todos’ array (if the input is not empty), and resets the input value to an empty string.

The handleSubmit function is called when the form is submitted and it adds the current ‘value’ to the ‘todos’ array using the addTodo function, effectively adding a new todo to the list.

The component renders a heading, a TodoForm component, and a TodoList component, passing down the necessary props to manage the state and display the list of todos.

Next, create another file named TodoList.jsx and paste the following code snippet:

function TodoList(props) {
  return (
    <>
      {props.todos.map((todo, i) => (
        <Todo todo={todo} key={i} />
      ))}
    </>
  );
}
export default React.memo(TodoList);

This code snippet above creates a React component called TodoList. It takes in a prop called “todos“, which is an array of to-do items. Inside the component, it maps over the “todos” array and renders a Todo component for each item in the array. The key prop is used to uniquely identify each Todo component. The React.memo() function is used to prevent unnecessary re-renders of the TodoList component if its props haven’t changed.

Integration with Chrome and Firefox

React Dev Tools allows you to inspect React components, view their properties, and interact with them while looking at the application in Google Chrome. You can add this functionality to Chrome by navigating to the extension page here, selecting “Add to Chrome“, and following the installation prompts.

Through the Components tab, you can explore the hierarchy of React components that have been rendered on the page. This allows you to understand the component structure and relationships.

To launch this tab, click the three dots icon in the top-right corner of your Chrome browser, then choose More Tools > Developer Tools. The Chrome dev tools window will pop up, and you should see two new React-specific tabs, Components and Profiler:

When using DevTools on a project, click the Components tab to view the app’s hierarchy tree:

The Elements tab in Chrome DevTools focuses on the rendered HTML, whereas the Components tab reveals the React components that are rendered on the page. These components are represented as a tree with hierarchies between them, allowing you to readily see which components are siblings or have a parent-child relationship.

Exploration of the React Component Hierarchy

You can inspect the selected component in detail, viewing the current props, state, and hooks. This grants you visibility into important data driving each component’s behavior and rendering.

For any component, you can also view its child components and parents to better understand the component tree. Furthermore, the Components tab allows you to mouse over a specific item on the screen to discover which component is rendering it.

To use this feature, click the cursor icon in the upper-left corner of the Components tab. Chrome DevTools also has a cursor icon in the same location, so hover over it to ensure you’re selecting the correct one. A tooltip should appear that says, “Select an element on the page to inspect it.

When you click this icon, it will hover over the selected element on the page. The component that renders this item will be highlighted in the hierarchy tree.

Inspection Capabilities for Props, State, Hooks, and Other Components

React DevTools is compatible with the developer tools in both Chrome and Firefox, providing a consistent debugging experience across browsers.

The Profiler Tab

The Profiler tab allows you to collect and evaluate data about your application’s performance.

You can see how the Profiler works by running the example React app. In the program, open DevTools and select the Profiler tab, then click the recording icon on the far left of the tab:

You can now use the app as you normally would. You can create as many to-do items as you want in the example to-do app.

When you are done, click the record button again to cease profiling. The obtained data will appear like this:

The Profiler records all commits made in your program. A commit occurs whenever React makes changes to the DOM, such as adding a node to the list or creating a new to-do item.

The information about your app’s commits is then organized into a chart. The graphic above depicts a flame chart. This view displays each of your app commits as a bar, with the bar’s length representing the time it takes to render the component. In this profiling example, the TodoForm took less time to render than the TodoList component.

The color of each bar shows a component’s rendering time about the app’s total rendering cycle, using a yellow-blue gradient:

  • Yellow indicates slow-loading components.

  • Blue signifies fast-loading components.

  • Gray indicates components that were not rendered.

The Profiler is useful since it rapidly identifies which components are taking longer to render and should be updated to improve performance.

If you want to see which component takes the longest to render, switch from flame chart to ranked chart view. Simply click the bars symbol inside the Profiler tab:

Your view will automatically switch to something similar to the following screenshot:

Compatibility with Firefox

React Dev Tools is compatible with the Firefox browser. To install it to the Firefox browser, download via the Firefox Add-ons.

If you further want to learn more about React Dev Tools, check out this introductory video on React Developer Tools by Net Ninja

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rb1GWqCJid4

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do you have some flaming questions? Find answers to some of them below:

What are React Developer Tools?

React Developer Tools are browser extensions that allow debugging, testing, and inspecting React components, props, state, and other data in Chrome or Firefox devtools.

How do I install React Developer Tools?

You can install the React Developer Tools extension for Chrome or Firefox through their browser extension stores.

How do I open React Developer Tools?

After installing the extension, React tabs will appear in your Chrome or Firefox devtools. You can access them by opening your devtools and selecting the React tab.

How do I inspect elements in React with Chrome Devtools?

Open Chrome devtools on your React app, then select the Components tab in the React Developer Tools. You can inspect React elements by hovering over components in the tree.

How Can I Debug React Code in the Chrome Devtools?

Use the React Developer Tools extension to debug React code. You can inspect component props, state, hooks, set breakpoints, and view stack traces for errors.

How do I Use React Developer Tools to Improve My Debugging Workflow?

Key features like inspecting state changes, component re-renders, mocking props, catching errors, and integrating with Redux DevTools can help debug React apps faster.

Is the React Developer Tools Extension Free?

Yes, React Developer Tools is a free and open-source extension maintained by Facebook.

Tabular Comparison of Key Features of the React Developer Tools Components and Profiler Tabs

FeatureComponents TabProfiler Tab
View component hierarchyDisplays component tree structure
Identify slow componentsThe Flame chart shows relative render times
See render causesCan view props, state, hooksShows reasons for component re-renders
Find unnecessary re-rendersHighlight updates feature shows unnecessary renders
Fix performance issuesCan modify props to test fixesIdentify bottlenecks to optimize
Debugging capabilitiesInspect component props and state
Context inspectionView context values used in components

The Components tab allows you to debug React apps by inspecting the component hierarchy, props, state, and context values.

The Profiler tab helps analyze and improve performance by showing you when and why components are re-rendering.

Together they provide advanced techniques to optimize your React development workflow. The Components tab focuses more on debugging capabilities while the Profiler tab focuses on performance.

What You Have Learned

The React DevTools browser extension is like an x-ray vision into your React app’s component structure, state, props, and other key internals. With the DevTools, you can inspect your UI as a component hierarchy, set up breakpoints, and pinpoint why components re-render incorrectly.

With its component-focused capabilities, the React Developer Tools browser extension equips you to debug even the most complex React applications with confidence.

Through reading this article, you have learned how to utilize the React Developer Tools browser extension to improve your debugging workflows for React applications. Specifically, you now know how to:

  • Install the React Developer Tools browser extension to integrate debugging capabilities into your development environment.

  • Activate the extension and access the React-specific Component and Profiler tabs in Chrome DevTools.

  • Inspect the component hierarchy and view component properties in the Component tab.

  • Use the search feature to quickly locate components by name.

  • Modify component state and props in real-time from within the Chrome DevTools UI.

  • Access and manipulate components directly via the browser console.

  • Leverage these techniques to debug issues, experiment with component state, and enhance your overall React development workflow.

If you wish to further broaden your knowledge of debugging React applications, check out this next section on resources and articles you can leverage to master React app debugging and troubleshooting.

We at Purecode AI have simplified the process of building web applications by leveraging the power of AI to quickly and effortlessly generate top-quality components for your CSS, Tailwind CSS, Material UI, and React applications. Check out our repository of over 10, 000 components ready to be integrated and x20 development your speed 🚀

Further Readings

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Emmanuel Uchenna

Emmanuel Uchenna

Emmanuel is an experienced and enthusiastic software developer and technical writer with 4+ proven years of professional experience. He focuses on full-stack web development. He is fluent in React, TypeScript, VueJS, and NodeJS and familiar with industry-standard technologies such as version control, headless CMS, and JAMstack. He is passionate about knowledge sharing.