RxJs & React: Reactive State Management

27 November 2023
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In the ever-evolving realm of web development, the quest for efficient, scalable, and maintainable tools never ends. Two such tools, React and RxJS, have garnered significant attention in the recent past. React, the brainchild of Facebook focuses on crafting intuitive user interfaces by leveraging a component-based architecture. On the other hand, RxJS offers a fresh perspective on dealing with asynchronous operations and events through its reactive programming paradigm. Both tools in isolation bring substantial benefits, but what happens when they merge?

This article will delve into the intricate dance of React and RxJS, exploring their individual strengths and demonstrating the compounded power when they join forces.

A brief overview of React and RxJS

React: A highly popular front-end library developed by Facebook, React’s core philosophy is about building user interfaces using isolated components. These components maintain their own state and render logic, making it straightforward to build complex UIs from simple building blocks. With its virtual DOM and efficient diffing algorithm, React provides fast rendering capabilities, ensuring smooth user experiences in web applications. It revolves around the concept of react hooks, which are functions that let developers “hook into” React state and lifecycle features from function components.

RxJS: An abbreviation for Reactive Extensions for JavaScript, RxJS is a library that emphasizes reactive programming using observable sequences. At its core, RxJS is about handling asynchronous events and data streams. It offers a rich collection of operators inspired by array methods, making it easy to transform, filter, and combine data streams in a myriad of ways. With the ability to emit values over time and handle multiple values (unlike Promises), it provides developers with a powerful tool for handling asynchronous events and complex data flows in applications.

The Importance of Combining the Two

The modern web is dynamic. Today’s applications are not just about displaying static content but about interacting with users in real-time, reacting to user inputs, and presenting data as it becomes available. This is where the combination of React and RxJS shines.

State Management: React is excellent at rendering UIs and managing local component’s state, but when it comes to more complex state management across components, or handling streams of data, the built-in tools might not suffice. This is where RxJS complements React. With its rxjs observable sequences, developers can seamlessly manage state and react to data changes across different components, ensuring consistent state management in react applications.

Handling Asynchronous Events: RxJS provides an elegant solution for managing asynchronous data with its observables. By integrating RxJS with React, developers can easily bind asynchronous data streams to the UI. This means a react component can subscribe to an observable, rendering the current value and automatically updating when the value changes.

Efficient Side Effects: In React, the useEffect hook allows for side effects in function components. When combined with RxJS, it can be used to manage side effects more predictably. For instance, a component can subscribe to an observable within a useEffect, and automatically unsubscribe (or perform a cleanup function) when the component is unmounted, preventing potential memory leaks.

Reactive Programming in UI: The concept of reactive programming emphasizes the idea that data flows and the propagation of changes should be first-class citizens in code. React’s component-based model paired with RxJS’s observables means that your UI can truly react to data. It’s not just about reacting to user clicks or input events but reacting to any data source, from server updates to third-party data streams.

Simplifying Complex UI Interactions: Consider drag-and-drop interfaces, real-time charts, or any UI feature that involves multiple simultaneous interactions. Managing these with vanilla React might require callback-based code that’s hard to follow and prone to errors. With RxJS’s operators and observables, these interactions can be modeled as data streams, resulting in cleaner, more maintainable code.

Scalability and Maintainability: As applications grow, so does their complexity. Combining React with RxJS ensures that even as your application scales, the principles of reactive programming and component modularity remain central, promoting code that’s easier to debug, test, and maintain.

Background Information

What is React?

React, initially introduced by Facebook in 2013, is a popular JavaScript library explicitly crafted for building user interfaces. Over the years, it has cemented its position as a staple in the modern web developer’s toolkit. React’s strength lies in its simplicity, scalability, and performance.

Its Use Cases:

  1. Single Page Applications (SPAs): React is frequently used to develop SPAs where users can interact with a web application without continually reloading the page. Examples include many modern web apps such as Twitter and Airbnb.
  2. Mobile Applications: With the advent of React Native, developers can now build native mobile applications using the same React paradigms they know and love.
  3. Interactive UIs: Any website or application requiring dynamic content updates, such as real-time dashboards or interactive forms, can greatly benefit from React’s efficiency.
  4. Reusable Component Libraries: Organizations often use React to build internal UI component libraries, ensuring consistency and speed in their development processes.

Its Core Principles:

  1. Components: At the heart of React lies the component architecture. Components are self-contained units of code that represent a part of a user interface, like a button or a navbar. This modularity promotes reusability, simplifying the development process.
  2. State: Every React component has an associated “state,” representing data specific to that component. When the state changes, React smartly re-renders the component, ensuring the user interface reflects the most recent data.
  3. Virtual DOM: Unlike traditional methods that involve updating the entire page, React updates only the parts of the DOM that have changed. This is achieved using a virtual representation of the DOM, allowing for highly efficient updates and rendering.

What is RxJS?

RxJS, or Reactive Extensions for JavaScript, is a library specifically designed for composing asynchronous and event-based programs. It stems from the broader concept of reactive programming.

Definition of Reactive Programming

Reactive Programming is a declarative programming paradigm that deals with data streams and the propagation of changes. Instead of the traditional callback-based code, reactive programming allows developers to express complex operations like filtering, merging, or transformation on data streams with ease.

Explanation of Observables and Why They Matter

  1. What are Observables? At the crux of RxJS lies the concept of “Observables.” An Observable is akin to a stream: it emits values over time, and these values can be observed and reacted to.
  2. Multitude of Values: Unlike Promises, which can resolve or reject once, Observables can emit multiple values, making them suitable for continuous data sources like websockets or user interface events.
  3. Lazy Computation: Observables are lazy, meaning they don’t start emitting values until subscribed to. This offers granular control over when computations begin.
  4. Transformative Operators: RxJS comes bundled with numerous operators inspired by functional programming. These operators can be chained together, allowing developers to filter, transform, or combine data streams elegantly.

Why Combine React with RxJS?

The world of modern web development is rife with challenges that necessitate innovative solutions. While React provides a robust foundation for crafting UIs, it’s not always sufficient for handling more intricate real-time, asynchronous operations found in contemporary applications. Herein lies the value of RxJS. Let’s delve deeper into why one might want to marry these two powerhouses:

Handling Complex State and Side Effects

While React’s inbuilt state management is perfect for many applications, larger and more intricate projects often require more. With the increasing complexity of user interfaces and the prevalence of asynchronous events, managing state can become a daunting task. RxJS brings to the table a rich set of tools that simplify this process.

Side effects, like network requests or accessing browser APIs, are inherent to web applications. Combining React hooks with RxJS observables can make side effect management more predictable. For instance, using useEffect with RxJS can ensure that asynchronous operations are tied to the lifecycle of the component, preventing issues like memory leaks.

Reactive Programming in a UI-driven Environment

React is inherently reactive, with its UI updating in response to state changes. RxJS enhances this reactivity by providing a framework where data (in the form of streams) can be easily transformed, combined, or even debounced, offering more control over how and when the UI updates.

User interfaces are event-driven by nature, with actions like button clicks, form submissions, or even real-time interactions like chat. With RxJS’s Observables, these events can be treated as data streams, allowing developers to harness the full power of reactive programming paradigms in a UI context.

Data Flow Management in Larger Applications

  • Scalable State Management: In vast applications, state can be spread across many components and layers. RxJS offers patterns like Subjects and BehaviorSubjects, which can act as centralized data stores. These patterns can simplify state propagation and synchronization across the application.
  • Streamlined Asynchronous Operations: As applications grow, so does the intricacy of their asynchronous operations. Combining multiple data sources, handling errors gracefully, or even canceling ongoing operations becomes paramount. RxJS provides operators that make these tasks more manageable, ensuring a smooth data flow.
  • Custom Hooks with RxJS: By creating custom hooks that leverage RxJS observables, developers can abstract complex operations and make them reusable across different components. This not only fosters code reusability but also enforces a consistent data-handling strategy throughout the application.

Setting Up React with RxJS

Incorporating RxJS into a React project can significantly enhance your application’s ability to manage asynchronous events and handle state. Let’s walk through the steps to set up React with RxJS seamlessly.

Necessary Installations and Setups

  1. Starting with a React Project: If you don’t already have a React project set up, you can easily create one using the Create React App (CRA) tool. It provides a clean slate to start with:
npx create-react-app react-rxjs-app
cd react-rxjs-app
  1. Installing RxJS: With your React project ready, the next step is to install the RxJS library. This can be done using npm or yarn, depending on your preference:
npm install rxjs


yarn add rxjs
  1. (Optional) Additional Tooling: There are several tools and plugins available that can enhance your development experience with RxJS, such as rxjs-devtools. While not strictly necessary, they can provide additional insights and debugging capabilities.

Integrating the RxJS Library into a React Project

  1. Importing RxJS: Once installed, you can start using RxJS in your React components. To use any RxJS function or operator, you’d first need to import it. For instance, if you’re looking to use the of function and the map operator, your import would look something like:
import { of } from 'rxjs';
import { map } from 'rxjs/operators';
  1. Integrating Observables with React State: Observables are a core type of RxJS, emitting values that can be subscribed to. To use an observable with React’s state, you can set it up inside a useEffect hook and then update the component’s state whenever the observable emits a value. Here’s a basic example:
import React, { useState, useEffect } from 'react';
import { of } from 'rxjs';
function App() {
  const [data, setData] = useState(null);
  useEffect(() => {
    const dataObservable$ = of('Hello, RxJS!');
    const subscription = dataObservable$.subscribe(setData);
    return () => subscription.unsubscribe(); // Cleanup function to avoid memory leaks
  }, []);
  return <div>{data}</div>;
  1. Use of Operators: RxJS comes packed with a plethora of operators that allow you to manipulate data streams. These operators can filter, transform, combine, and much more, giving you granular control over your observables. When using these operators, make sure to chain them correctly and handle any potential errors.
  2. Creating Custom Hooks: One of the beauties of React is the ability to abstract logic into custom hooks. You can create custom hooks that utilize RxJS observables and operators, making it easier to reuse reactive logic across different parts of your application.

Best Practices

React and RxJS, when wielded together, can create immensely powerful applications. However, to ensure performance, stability, and maintainability, it’s vital to follow a set of best practices. Let’s dive into some of the most crucial ones:

Memory Management and Unsubscribing from Observables

  1. The Importance of Unsubscribing: Every time you subscribe to an Observable, a resource is allocated. Failing to release this resource (i.e., not unsubscribing) can lead to memory leaks. Memory leaks can degrade the performance of your application over time and are particularly concerning in long-lived single-page applications (SPAs).
  2. Using the takeUntil Operator: One common pattern to ensure unsubscription is by utilizing the takeUntil operator from RxJS. Typically, a new Subject is created and emitted once when a component is destroyed.
import { Subject } from 'rxjs';
import { takeUntil } from 'rxjs/operators';
const destroy$ = new Subject();
useEffect(() => {
return () => destroy$.next();
}, []);
  1. The Cleanup Function in useEffect: The cleanup function in React’s useEffect hook is a natural place to unsubscribe from Observables. This function is called when the component is about to unmount.
useEffect(() => {
const subscription = someObservable$.subscribe();
return () => subscription.unsubscribe();
}, []);

Handling Errors in RxJS within a React Application

  1. Utilizing the catchError Operator: It’s essential to handle errors gracefully to ensure a good user experience. The catchError operator can be used to catch errors in the Observable stream and provide a fallback value or strategy.
import { of } from 'rxjs';
import { catchError } from 'rxjs/operators';
  catchError(error => {
    return of([]);
  1. Displaying Feedback: Once an error is caught, it’s often necessary to notify users. Whether it’s a toast notification, a modal, or simply rendering an error message on the screen, feedback is crucial.
  2. Global Error Handling: Consider creating a global error handler, especially for larger applications, that captures RxJS errors and handles them in a consistent manner.

Testing React Components that use RxJS

  1. Marble Testing: RxJS comes with a testing framework known as “marble testing” that helps in visualizing and testing Observables through ASCII diagrams. This can be particularly useful when testing complex Observable chains.
  2. Mocking Observables: Utilize libraries like rxjs/testing/TestScheduler to create mock Observables. This can be useful to simulate different scenarios such as data emissions, completions, and errors.
  3. Testing React Components: When testing React components that use Observables, consider using libraries like @testing-library/react which offers utilities to work with components in a way that’s closer to how users would. Remember to mock any side effects, such as HTTP requests.
  4. Integration Tests: Given that RxJS often deals with asynchronous operations, integration tests can help ensure that different pieces (React components, RxJS logic, APIs) work harmoniously together.

Comparing React State Management with Other Libraries

As the realm of frontend development has evolved, so too has the variety of tools available for state management in React applications. One of these is RxJS, which brings the power of reactive programming to React. However, how does it stack up against more traditional state management libraries like Redux and MobX? Let’s dissect the pros and cons of each.



  • Reactive Programming: At its core, RxJS promotes reactive programming using Observables, which allows for handling asynchronous events and data streams in a more declarative and intuitive manner.
  • Fine-grained Control: With RxJS, developers have fine-grained control over side-effects, data streams, and can apply a variety of transformations using RxJS operators.
  • Dynamic Response to Data: Observables can be easily combined, split, transformed, and more, allowing developers to respond to data changes in real-time.
  • Versatility: Beyond just state management, RxJS can be used for a variety of other concerns, including form handling, routing, and animation, making it a multi-tool in a developer’s arsenal.


  • Learning Curve: Reactive programming, while powerful, introduces concepts that can be unfamiliar to many developers, leading to a steeper learning curve compared to other libraries.
  • Boilerplate: Setting up Observables and ensuring clean-up can introduce additional boilerplate.



  • Predictability: With its strict unidirectional data flow and emphasis on pure functions, Redux provides a predictable state management solution.
  • DevTools and Ecosystem: The Redux developer tools are renowned for their power, allowing for time-travel debugging. The ecosystem around Redux, with middleware like redux-thunk and redux-saga, is also extensive.
  • Community and Documentation: Being one of the earlier and most popular solutions, Redux has a large community and extensive documentation.


  • Boilerplate: Redux is often criticized for the amount of boilerplate required to set up actions, reducers, and store configurations.
  • Complexity: For simple applications, Redux might be an overkill, making simpler solutions preferable.



  • Simplicity and Less Boilerplate: MobX introduces a more straightforward way to manage state using observables (not to be confused with RxJS Observables), actions, and computed values, reducing boilerplate.
  • Reactive: MobX is reactive, meaning it can respond to changes in state automatically, leading to more concise code.
  • Flexibility: Unlike the strict patterns of Redux, MobX offers flexibility in structuring your state and actions.


  • Less Predictability: This flexibility can be a double-edged sword. Without disciplined best practices, it might lead to less predictable state updates.
  • Opaque Abstractions: Some developers find that the “magic” behind MobX’s reactivity can make it harder to debug and reason about.


The key takeaway is that while traditional state management libraries like Redux have their established place in the ecosystem, RxJS brings a unique blend of reactivity and versatility to the table. Its ability to handle complex asynchronous operations seamlessly, while also offering fine-grained control over data streams, positions it as a potent tool for modern web applications. However, as with all tools, its efficacy is contingent on the problem at hand and the developer’s comfort with reactive paradigms.

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