Working With the Browser Back

Sometimes, we need to access the underlying API, perhaps to work with a third-party library or existing code.

The Virtual DOM

React is very fast because it never talks to the DOM directly. React maintains a fast in-memory representation of the DOM. render() methods actually return a description of the DOM, and React can compare this description with the in-memory representation to compute the fastest way to update the browser.

Additionally, React implements a full synthetic event system such that all event objects are guaranteed to conform to the W3C spec despite browser quirks, and everything bubbles consistently and efficiently across browsers.

However, sometimes you simply need to access the underlying API, perhaps to work with a third-party library like a jQuery plugin. React provides escape hatches(門徑) for you to use the underlying DOM API directly.

Refs and findDOMNode()

To interact with the browser, you'll need a reference to a DOM node. You can attach a ref to any element, which allows you to reference the backing instance of the component.

React has provided findDOMNode() function for you to catch this element like:

var MyComponent = React.createClass({
    handleClick: function () {

    render: function () {
        return (
            <input type="text" ref="myTextInput" />
            <input type="button" value="Focus the text input" onClick={} />

    <MyComponent />,

Component Lifecycle

Components have 3 parts of their lifecycle:

  • Mounting: a component has been inserted into the DOM
  • Updating: a component is re-rendered to determine if the DOM should be updated
  • Unmounting: a component has been removed from the DOM

React has provided some methods to hook components' lifecycles. will method is called before somethig happens, and did method is called right after something happens.


  • getInitialState(): object is invoked before a component is mounted. Stateful compoenents should implement this and return the initial state data.
  • componentWillMount() is invoked immediately before mounting occurs.
  • componentDidMount() is invoked immediately after mounting occurs.


  • componentWillReceiveProps(object nextProps) is invoked when a mounted component receives new props. (This method should be used to compare this.props and nextProps to perform state transitions using this.setState())
  • shouldComponentUpdate(object nextProps, object nextState): boolean is invoked when a component decides whether any changes render an update to the DOM. (return false if React should skip updating.)
  • componentWillUpdate(object nextProps, object nextState) is invoked immediately before updating occurs. (this.setState() is forbidden to use here, or it will fall into a endless loop)
  • componentDidUpdate(object prevProps, object prevState) is invoked immediately after updating occurs.


  • componentWillUnmount() is invoked immediately before a component is unmounted and destroyed. (Cleanup should go here)

Mounted Methods

  • component.forceUpdate() can be invoked on any mounted component when you know that some depper aspect of the component's state has changed without using this.setState()

Browser Support

React supports most popular browsers, including Internet Explorer 9 and above.

(We don't support older browsers that don't support ES5 methods, but you may find that your apps do work in older browsers if polyfills such as es5-shim and es5-sham are included in the page. You're on your own if you choose to take this path.)

kriskowal's es5-shim es5-shim.js has provided following APIs for React:

  • Array.isArray
  • Array.prototype.every
  • Array.prototype.forEach
  • Array.prototype.indexOf
  • Function.prototype.bind
  • Object.keys
  • String.prototype.split
  • String.prototype.trim

kriskowal's es5-shim es5-sham.js has also provided some APIs:

  • Object.create
  • Object.freeze

Uncompressed React need paulmillr's console-polyfill:

  • console.*


onScroll is not allowed for IE8, becuase IE8 doesn't have an API to define handlers to the capturing phase of an event.

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