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A Short Introduction to the React Javascript Library

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Web development is the task of building a practical website that can be browsed using any web browser that has been installed in a computing device such as a personal computer (PC) or mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, or iPad.

In most responsive websites, there are interactive elements that are used to display dynamic web content.

Dynamic web content is the customized content that the website displays to the viewer depending on his/her search requests or any other (user-made) request. It ensures that the viewer has a personalized web experience.

It also requires the user request (as set by the viewer) to be processed by a query program, and then be further processed by a report generator application so that custom (personalized) web content is generated for the viewer.

The programming language used to build the components that process and handle this dynamic website content is JavaScript, a scripting language.

The dynamic website content that can be created using JavaScript (JS) is any content that automatically refreshes, moves, or changes without the user manually requesting a web-page reload.

This content includes interactive forms, animated graphics, and photo slideshows. Relatedly, automatically loading this dynamic content can require JS to perform repetitive tasks, and re-coding the scripts used to fetch and display this content is cumbersome and time-consuming.

To minimize these repetitive tasks of re-coding, JavaScript libraries were developed. As expected, the JS library is basically a set of codes written in JavaScript that can perform specific (and usually repetitive) common tasks.

There are JavaScript libraries used for building interactive elements used for optimizing the user interface (UI), as well as enhancing user experience (UX).

The JavaScript library used to help/aid build website UI elements such as search bars, buttons, and navigation menus are called React JS.

React JS

React JS is the JavaScript library used for building on-screen UI elements and is thus used for front-end, client-side programming.

On-screen basically means anything that the viewer can see on a webpage. React JS was developed in 2011 by Jordan Walke, a Facebook engineer.

This front-end JS library also comes with Virtual Document Object Model (DOM) and JavaScript eXtension (JSX). To date, React JS is maintained by Facebook. ReactJS is sometimes simply referred to as React.

JSX, DOM, and Virtual DOM

When the web browser processes an HTML (HyperText Markup Language) document so that it can display it as a webpage, it creates a representational tree of how the HTML elements and information in the webpage need to be arranged.

This representational tree is called the Document Object Model (DOM), and React JS allows a developer to add dynamic content to the webpage through modification of this DOM.

The React JS extension that allows the developer to make this modification using an HTML-style code is called JavaScript eXtension (JSX).

JSX is compatible with modern web browsers. When JSX is used to modify, update, and manipulate the DOM, React JS creates a virtual DOM which is a copy of the DOM that React JS uses to identify what parts of the real/actual DOM need to be modified when a specific event happens, for example (e.g) when the viewer clicks a button or submits a form.

This makes React JS declarative as it supports declarative views.

React Ecosystem and React Native

React JS is made up of small pieces of isolated JavaScript codes called components. These components are the building blocks of React JS.

Even so, React JS is not a JavaScript framework akin to the likes of Angular, but it is just a library with a robust ecosystem due to its vast repository of components, add-ons, React JS templates, and support for use of JSX and Virtual DOM.

Moreover, React JS is open source which allows a developer to download the source codes of individual components and modify them to suit his/her needs. This ecosystem can allow a developer to build the website UI from scratch using React JS.

If one wants to use JavaScript to build a mobile app, then React Native is used.

React Native is a mobile application framework that is open source and uses JavaScript to build an app from scratch and then deploy it to be used on an iOS or Android platform.

Facebook maintains React Native, and its use of JS allows for code sharing across different mobile platforms, but it also carries the disadvantage that should one not find a native component, then (s)he needs to code for this component from scratch.

Even so, the React Native community of users and developers is large, and thus one can seek help and support from this community when troubleshooting or building a React Native app, or coding for a novel native component.

So, where can an aspiring React developer learn how to code in React JS? Also, where can a React developer get more skills so as to hone his/her coding skills and knowledge on how to use React JS when managing full-stack projects?

The answer is that one can use any of the available education technology platforms. Even so, for a serious learner, the best choice of EdTech platform for learning React is Udemy.

Head here for our recent review of some of the best React JS courses currently being offered on Udemy.

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