React Basics: How and When to Use React Context

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React has become the go-to library for web developers when creating dynamic and interactive user interfaces. The complexity of React applications has increased along with the increasing demands of consumers. This has led to difficulty in passing data between components and managing state.

React Context comes to the rescue to solve this problem. We will dive into the details of React Context in this article, explaining what it is, how it works, and—above all—why and when to use React Context.  We will explore React Context by gaining a basic grasp of its nature and functions.

After that, we will discuss when to use React Context. We’ll list the situations in which React Context excels, including foreignization, application routing, dynamic data fetching, theming and styling, global state management, and avoiding prop drilling. We will also cover when you should refrain from using react context.

Let’s begin by heading out on this exploratory journey to understand React Context’s potential fully. Knowing when to use React Context effectively will improve your ability to build adaptable and maintainable applications.

Whether you are a well-trained developer or an amateur, just starting a career in this field is fine. So fasten your seatbelts and join us as we explore the realm of React Context.

What is React Context?

Before knowing when to use React Context, we should know a little about the basics of React Context. Data can be shared between components using React Context, eliminating the need to pass props down the component tree manually.

It offers a way to send data through the component tree without requiring manual mounting passes at each level. This can significantly streamline the state management process and improve the maintainability of your code.

The two main elements of the context system in React are The Provider and the Consumer:

  • The Consumer component lets you access shared data from any child component that falls under its scope. 
  • The Provider component encapsulates the portions of your component tree that require access.

React Context plays a crucial role when prop drilling becomes laborious and tricky. Prop drilling is the practice of sending data from a top-level component to a component that is deeply nested. This can result in code that is challenging to read and maintain. An elegant solution to this issue is offered by context.

Functionality of React Context

It’s essential to comprehend React Context’s operation before delving into when to use React Context. It uses a tree structure as its foundation. Any component located further down the tree can use the data supplied at its base.

React Context removes the need for manually passing props down the component tree by establishing a shared data container that any component within its scope can access. It comprises two parts: a consumer that accesses the data and a provider that supplies it.

All components that consume data automatically update when changes are made to the Provider’s data.

When to use React Context?

Now, coming to the main section of the article that you have been waiting for – when to use React Context? After learning about React Context and its functions, it is important to know its proper usage to implement in your applications and projects.

Although React Context is a robust tool, it can be better for data sharing and state management. React Context excels in the following situations:

Global State Management

The best tool for managing the global state is React Context. State management can be made simpler using context if your application contains data required by multiple components. Language preferences, themes, and user authentication are common use cases for the global state.

Global State Management 

Consider the following scenario: you want to manage the user’s shopping cart as a global state in your e-commerce application. To provide the shopping cart data to any area of your application that requires it, you can create a Provider component and a context for it.

With this configuration, any component within your app can access and modify the shopping cart data, making it globally available. This illustrates how to use React Context for global state management, which offers a tidy and effective means of exchanging data throughout your application.

Avoiding Prop Drilling

React Context is excellent for avoiding prop drilling, as was previously mentioned. Use context instead of props when you pass them down several levels of nested components. This improves the maintainability of your codebase and streamlines your component structure.

Consider a situation where a deeply nested component requires access to a configuration object or user data. Putting this data through multiple processing tiers can lead to mistakes and complicate your code reading. You can get around this complexity by using React Context.

Themes and Styling

React Context can be a great option if your application allows theming and styling customizations. Constructing a theme context that contains details about the current theme, like fonts and colors, is possible. This context is easily accessible to any app component that needs to apply the theme.

Dynamic Data Fetching

React Context can assist with managing data loading and caching if you’re developing a sophisticated application with dynamic data fetching requirements.

Dynamic Data Fetching 

Context can store and distribute data from APIs so multiple components can efficiently access it without requiring repeated network requests.


Multilingual applications frequently require localization and internationalization. Various components that need to display text or messages in the user’s chosen language can access information about the current language or locale that React Context stores.

User Preferences

You can give users a consistent experience across your application by storing user preferences and accessibility settings in context.

User Preferences

For instance, you can apply context-specific settings for text size, contrast, and screen reader compatibility to all your components.

Application Routing

Another excellent use case for React Context is managing the routing state of the application. It is possible to store context-relevant data, such as navigation history and the current route, and make it available to various sections of your application.

When not to use React Context?

Following are some of the scenarios where you should not use the react context: –


Component-Specific State

React Context may be overkill if the data is specific to a single component and does not need to be shared with other areas of your application. 

Simple Prop Passing

You can continue using explicit prop passing when there is little to no prop drilling, and it doesn’t cause code complexity or performance problems. React Context is best suited for scenarios in which your codebase would benefit from significant simplification.

Performance-Critical Applications

React Context might be a better option in applications where performance is a top priority, particularly in cases where data updates frequently. Updates in context may cause components to render again needlessly, which could result in performance snags. 

See Also: What Are Dependency Arrays In React?

Limited Data Sharing

Using React Context can add needless complexity. If your application doesn’t require much data sharing, do not use react context.

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Incompatibility with Server-Side Rendering (SSR)

React Context may not be ideal in server-side rendering situations. When rendering on the server and then on the client, context data may not be automatically serialized, which may cause hydration problems.

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Not Suitable for Dynamic Data Loading

React Context might need to be more sufficient if your application uses caching and dynamic data loading techniques. In these situations, a more complex data management system is required.

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When should I consider integrating React Context with my state management application?

If you need to simplify complicated prop-drilling scenarios, manage a global state, or share data across multiple components, React Context is a good option.

Are there any circumstances in which React Context might not be suitable?

React Context might not be ideal for sharing unrelated or performance-critical data or for situations where only a small amount of data needs to be shared. Prop-passing or alternative state management strategies might be more appropriate in certain situations.

How should React Context be used to its fullest potential?

The best practices are to use context providers sparingly to wrap only the necessary parts of your application, to keep context sizes manageable, to create distinct contexts for different concerns, and to optimize context updates for performance.


To sum up, React Context is an effective tool for managing theming, data fetching, user preferences, and sharing global state—all while avoiding prop drilling. It is excellent at improving user experience and code maintainability.

It should be applied sparingly, avoiding scenarios crucial to performance and irrelevant data. React Context becomes a valuable tool for React developers when best practices are adhered to, as it streamlines development and enhances application structure.

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