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Beginner's Guide to React useCallback Hook

Learn about the useCallback Hook, its use cases and implementation.

Hook: useCallback#

In a similar fashion to the useMemo Hook, useCallback gives us a means to optimize our applications somewhat. It also provides a form of memoization.

However, the big difference between the two Hooks is that useMemo provides a way to memoize a value, whilst useCallback memoizes a function. It looks and feels almost identical to the implementation of useMemo too. You define and use the useCallback Hook like this:

Memoizing functions#

"Great", you’re thinking, "but why would anyone want to memoize a callback function?"

Well, the complicated answer is "it depends".

Let’s start with a little 101 on React components. Each time a component re-renders, React will create new versions of items like function objects. Take the following code snippet as an example:

Each time MyEpicComponent re-renders, handleButtonClick is recreated as a brand-new function object. For most components this isn’t a problem and is usually nothing that you need to concern yourself with; this re-creating of functions is inexpensive and not going to cause you any problems, performance-based or otherwise.

However, there are some situations you might face where you don’t want this behavior. One such example might be when the function is a dependency of other Hooks. In this situation, you’d want to have access to the same function object across different renderings, not some brand-new instance (or we’d be back in infinite looping territory again).

In essence, given the same dependency values, useCallback returns the same function instance between renders.

Further reading on useCallback#

You can discover more on the useCallback Hook at the official React docs website. Once you’ve checked those out, I’d also recommend the following articles:

Building the useCallback example#

The useCallback Hook is one of those tools that you may not use or come across a great deal, but when you do need to use it, the benefits are huge. Because of the rather infrequent need to use this Hook, our example is going to be a little more contrived, in order to highlight those benefits.

We’ll be building a message generator and some buttons that increment counters within the component. We will keep track of the functions that our component recreates across each render so you can see how useCallback comes into play.

Let’s start by opening the UseCallbackExample.jsx file and building it out.

Imports and external variables#

First things first, we’ll need to import React, useState and of course, the useCallback Hook.

Next, we need a couple of constants that will live outside of our main component:

We have a simple array of string messages that we’ll use within our component. With functionStore we’re creating a shiny new instance of a Set object. You can store lists or collections of anything you like in a Set object, but the key part here is that Set naturally keeps things unique for us. The importance of this will become apparent in a little while.

Defining the default exported component#


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