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Render-Functions and the Rails Context


When you use a render-function to create react components (or renderedHtml on the server), or you used shared redux stores, you get two params passed to your function that creates a React component:

  1. props: Props that you pass in the view helper of either react_component or redux_store
  2. railsContext: Rails contextual information, such as the current pathname. You can customize this in your config file. Note: The railsContext is not related to the concept of a "context" for React components.

These parameters (props and railsContext) will be the same regardless of either client or server side rendering, except for the key serverSide based on whether or not you are server rendering.

While you could manually configure your Rails code to pass the "railsContext information" with the rest of your "props", the railsContext is a convenience because it's passed consistently to all invocations of Render-Functions.

For example, suppose you create a "render-function" called MyAppComponent.

import React from 'react';
const MyAppComponent = (props, railsContext) => (
  // NOTE: need to wrap in a function so this is proper React function component that can use
  // hooks
  // the props get passed again, but we ignore since we use a closure
  // or should we
  () =>
        <p>props are: {JSON.stringify(props)}</p>
        <p>railsContext is: {JSON.stringify(railsContext)}
export default MyAppComponent;

This would be alternate API where you have to call React.createElement and the React on Rails code doesn't do that.

import React from 'react';
const MyAppComponent = (props, railsContext) => (
  // NOTE: need to wrap in a function so this is proper React function component that can use
  // hooks
    () =>
        <p>props are: {JSON.stringify(props)}</p>
        <p>railsContext is: {JSON.stringify(railsContext)}
export default MyAppComponent;

Note: you will get a React browser console warning if you try to serverRender this since the value of serverSide will be different for server rendering.

So if you register your render-function MyAppComponent, it will get called like:

reactComponent = MyAppComponent(props, railsContext);

and, similarly, any redux store is always initialized with 2 parameters:

reduxStore = MyReduxStore(props, railsContext);

Note: you never make these calls. React on Rails makes these calls when it does either client or server rendering. You will define functions that take these 2 params and return a React component or a Redux Store. Naturally, you do not have to use second parameter of the railsContext if you do not need it. If you don't take a second parameter, then you're probably defining a React function component and you will simply return a React Element, often just JSX.

(Note: see below section on how to setup redux stores that allow multiple components to talk to the same store.)

The railsContext has: (see implementation in file ReactOnRails::Helper, method rails_context for the definitive list).

    railsEnv: Rails.env
    inMailer: in_mailer?,
    # Locale settings
    i18nLocale: I18n.locale,
    i18nDefaultLocale: I18n.default_locale,
    rorVersion: ReactOnRails::VERSION,
    rorPro: ReactOnRails::Utils.react_on_rails_pro?
    # URL settings
    href: request.original_url,
    location: "#{uri.path}#{uri.query.present? ? "?#{uri.query}": ""}",
    scheme: uri.scheme, # http
    host:, #
    port: uri.port,
    pathname: uri.path, # /posts
    search: uri.query, # id=30&limit=5
    httpAcceptLanguage: request.env["HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE"]

    # Other
    serverSide: boolean # Are we being called on the server or client? Note: if you conditionally
     # render something different on the server than the client, then React will only show the
     # server version!

Plus, you can add your customizations to this. See "rendering extension" below.

Rails Context

The railsContext is a second param passed to your render-functions for React components. This is in addition to the props that are passed from the react_component Rails helper. For example:

ERB view file:

  # Rails View
  <%= react_component("HelloWorld", props: { name: "Stranger" }) %>

This is what your HelloWorld.js file might contain. The railsContext is always available for any parameters that you always want available for your React components. It has nothing to do with the concept of the React Context.

import React from 'react';

export default (props, railsContext) => {
  // Note, wrap in a function so this is React function component
  return () => (
      Your locale is {railsContext.i18nLocale}.<br/>
      Hello, {}!

Why is the railsContext only passed to render-functions?

There's no reason that the railsContext would ever get passed to your React component unless the value is explicitly put into the props used for rendering. If you create a react component, rather than a render-function, for use by React on Rails, then you get whatever props are passed in from the view helper, which does not include the Rails Context. It's trivial to wrap your component in a "render-function" to return a new component that takes both:

import React from 'react';
import AppComponent from './AppComponent';
const AppComponentWithRailsContext = (props, railsContext) => (
  // Create a React Function Component so you can
  // use the React Hooks API in this React Function Component
  () => <AppComponent {...{...props, railsContext}}/>
export default AppComponentWithRailsContext;

Consider this line in depth:

  <AppComponent {...{ ...props, railsContext }}/>

The outer {... is for the JSX spread operator for attributes and the innner {... is for the Spread in object literals.

Use Cases

Heroku Preboot Considerations

Heroku Preboot is a feature on Heroku that allows for faster deploy times. When you promote your staging app to production, Preboot simply switches the production server to point at the staging app's container. This means it can deploy much faster since it doesn't have to rebuild anything. However, this means that if you use the Define Plugin to provide the rails environment to your client code as a variable, that variable will erroneously still have a value of Staging instead of Production. The Rails.env provided at runtime in the railsContext is, however, accurate.

Needing the current URL path for server rendering

Suppose you want to display a nav bar with the current navigation link highlighted by the URL. When you server-render the code, your code will need to know the current URL/path. The new railsContext has this information. Your application will apply something like an "active" class on the server rendering.

Configuring different code for server side rendering

Suppose you want to turn off animation when doing server side rendering. The serverSide value is just what you need.

Customization of the rails_context

You can customize the values passed in the railsContext in your config/initializers/react_on_rails.rb. Here's how.

Set the config value for the rendering_extension:

  config.rendering_extension = RenderingExtension

Implement it like this above in the same file. Create a class method on the module called custom_context that takes the view_context for a param.

See spec/dummy/config/initializers/react_on_rails.rb for a detailed example.

module RenderingExtension

  # Return a Hash that contains custom values from the view context that will get merged with
  # the standard rails_context values and passed to all calls to render-functions used by the
  # react_component and redux_store view helpers
  def self.custom_context(view_context)
     somethingUseful: view_context.session[:something_useful]

In this case, a prop and value for somethingUseful will go into the railsContext passed to all react_component and redux_store calls. You may set any values available in the view rendering context.