React Higher-Order Components in TypeScript

February 09, 2018 0 Comments

React Higher-Order Components in TypeScript



Update (May 2018)— Rewritten with new, simplified examples that work with TypeScript 2.8.

Higher-order components (HOCs) in React are a powerful tool for code reuse between components. However, a common complaint of developers using TypeScript is that they are difficult to set types for.

This article assumes knowledge of HOCs, and will go through examples of increasing complexity, showing how they can be typed without turning to any. For the purposes of this article, higher order components will be divided into two basic patterns, which we’ll name enhancers and injectors:

  • Enhancers: Wrap a component with additional functionality/props.
  • Injectors: Inject props into a component.

A higher-order component can fall into one or both of these categories, as will be demonstrated in the coming examples.

Note that the examples in this article do not demonstrate best practices, such as adding a display name and hoisting statics; the main aim of this article is to show how HOCs can be typed effectively.

We will start with enhancers as these are the easiest to set types for. A basic example of this pattern is a HOC that adds loading prop to a component and displays a loading spinner if set to true. Here is an example without types:

… and with types:

There are a few things going on here, so we will break it down:

interface WithLoadingProps {
loading: boolean;

Here an interface is declared with the types of the props that will be added to (or enhance) the component when it is wrapped.

<P extends object>(Component: React.ComponentType<P>)

Here we are using a generic; P represents the props of the component that is passed into the HOC. React.ComponentType<P> is an alias for React.StatelessComponent<P> | React.ClassComponent<P>, meaning the component that is passed into the HOC can be either a stateless functional component or class component.

class WithLoading extends React.Component<P & WithLoadingProps>

Here we are defining a component to return from the HOC, and specifying that the component will include the passed in component’s props (P) and the HOC’s props (WithLoadingProps). These are combined via a type intersection operator (&).

const { loading, ...props } = this.props as WithLoadingProps;

Destructuring is used to strip the loading prop from the HOC’s props before the rest of the props are passed through to our component. You’ll notice here that we have to resort to type casting (as WithLoadingProps) — this is due to an issue with object rest/spread in TypeScript, which is currently being addressed in a long standing pull request. In general, type casting is bad practice, but here it’s a necessary evil, and as type casting goes, not the worst usage as we’re just passing the rest of the props through. Without the type cast, you will see the following error (as of TypeScript 2.8):

TypeScript error: “Rest types may only be created from object types”

Finally, we use the loading prop to conditionally display a loading spinner or our component with its own props passed in:

return loading ? <LoadingSpinner /> : <Component {...props} />;

Our withLoading HOC can also be rewritten to return a stateless functional component rather than a class:

Here, we have the same problem with object rest/spread, so it’s being worked around by setting an explicit return type React.SFC<P & WithLoadingProps>, but only using WithLoadingProps within the stateless functional component.

Note: React.SFC is shorthand for React.StatelessComponent.

Injectors are the more common form of HOC, but more difficult to set types for. Besides injecting props into a component, in most cases they also remove the injected props when it is wrapped so they can no longer be set from the outside. react-redux’s connect is an example of an injector HOC, but in this article we will use a simpler example — a HOC that injects a counter value and callbacks to increment and decrement the value:

There are a few key differences here:

export interface InjectedCounterProps {  
value: number;
onIncrement(): void;
onDecrement(): void;

An interface is being declared for the props that will be injected into the component; it is exported so they can be used by the component that the HOC wraps:

<P extends InjectedCounterProps>(Component: React.ComponentType<P>)

Again we use a generic, but this time it ensures that the component passed into the HOC includes the props that are going to be injected by it; if it doesn’t you will receive a compilation error.

class MakeCounter extends React.Component<
Subtract<P, InjectedCounterProps>,

The component returned by the HOC uses Subtract from Piotrek Witek’s utility-types package, which will subtract the injected props from the passed in component’s props, meaning that if they are set on the resulting wrapped component you will receive a compilation error:

TypeScript compilation error when attempting to set value on the wrapped component

In most cases, this is the behaviour you would want from an injector, though this will be discussed later in the article.

Note: Subtract can be written using TypeScript 2.8’s Exclude:

type Omit<T, K> = Pick<T, Exclude<keyof T, K>>;
type Subtract<T, K> = Omit<T, keyof K>;

Combining the two patterns, we will build on the counter example to allow for the minimum and maximum counter values to be passed into the HOC, which in turn are intercepted and used by it without passing them through to the component:

Here, Subtract is being combined with type intersection to combine the component’s own props with the HOCs own props, minus the props that are injected into the component:

Subtract<P, InjectedCounterProps> & MakeCounterProps

Other than that, there are no real differences over the other two patterns to highlight, but the example does bring to the fore a number of issues with higher-order components in general. These aren’t really TypeScript-specific, but are worth detailing so that we can talk about how to address them with TypeScript.

Firstly, minValue and maxValue are intercepted by the HOC and not passed through to the component. However, you may want them to be so you can disable the increment/decrement buttons based on the values, or display a message to the user. If you wrote the HOC you could simply modify it to inject these values too, though if you didn’t (e.g. it is from an npm package), then this is an issue.

Secondly, the value prop that is being injected by the HOC has a very generic name; if you want to use this for other purposes, or if you are injecting props from multiple HOCs, this name may conflict with other injected props. You can change the name to be something less generic as a solution, but far as solutions go, this is not a very good one!

recompose is an excellent library to fix both these issues, allowing you to rename props as you send them through a functional pipeline of higher order components. While this works well with vanilla JavaScript, it does not work well with TypeScript as types cannot be inferred correctly in most cases. If you are willing to use some type casts and explicitly set types, then this is your solution.

My personal recommendation would be to use render prop components for more complex scenarios such as these; in the next blog post we will explore how they can be typed with TypeScript and how to use them while retaining many of the benefits higher-order components provide.

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