Using React with Backbone

By Vivek Kumar Bansal on January 18th, 2015

Backbone is a very popular and minimal MVC framework for javascript by Jeremy Ashkenas. It gives a web application a nice structure and helps in seperation of concerns with Models, Collections and Views. But Backbone Views are very minimal and requires a lot of code to setup. This is where React steps in. It's a javascript library for building user interfaces by Facebook and people use React as the V in MVC as their website states. While researching for ways to use them together I came across many different solutions but none of them were satisfactory for me until I came across an answer by Dan Abramov on stackoverflow. I found it very helpful and wanted to share this.

###The Mixin Dan made a simple mixin which uses neither setProps nor forceUpdate which is what I was exactly looking for.

var BackboneStateMixin = {
    getInitialState: function () {
        return this.getBackboneState(this.props);
    },

    componentDidMount: function () {
        if (!_.isFunction(this.getBackboneState)) {
            throw new Error('You must provide getBackboneState(props).');
        }

        this._bindBackboneEvents(this.props);
    },

    componentWillReceiveProps: function (newProps) {
        this._unbindBackboneEvents();
        this._bindBackboneEvents(newProps);
    },

    componentWillUnmount: function () {
        this._unbindBackboneEvents();
    },

    _updateBackboneState: function () {
        var state = this.getBackboneState(this.props);
        this.setState(state);
    },

    _bindBackboneEvents: function (props) {
        if (!_.isFunction(this.watchBackboneProps)) {
            return;
        }

        if (this._backboneListener) {
            throw new Error('Listener already exists.');
        }

        if (!props) {
            throw new Error('Passed props are empty');
        }

        var listener = _.extend({}, Backbone.Events),
            listenTo = _.partial(listener.listenTo.bind(listener), _, _, this._updateBackboneState);

        this.watchBackboneProps(props, listenTo);
        this._backboneListener = listener;
    },

    _unbindBackboneEvents: function () {
        if (!_.isFunction(this.watchBackboneProps)) {
            return;
        }

        if (!this._backboneListener) {
            throw new Error('Listener does not exist.');
        }

        this._backboneListener.stopListening();
        delete this._backboneListener;
    }
};

The idea behind this mixin is that Backbone Models\Collections are set as props and their toJSON value is automatically put by mixin into state. One needs to override getBackboneState(props) for this to work, and optionally watchBackboneProps to tell the mixin when to call setState with fresh values.

###Usage Example The above mixin can be used with any React components as follows without having to worry about stale values in Backbone Model\Collection

var MyComponent = React.createClass({
    mixins: [BackboneStateMixin],
    getBackboneState: function(props) {
        return {
            model: props.model.toJSON(),
            collection: props.collection.toJSON()
        }
    },
    watchBackboneProps: function(props, listenTo) {
        listenTo(props.model, 'change:someValue');
        listenTo(props.collection, 'change reset add remove');
    },
    render: function() {
        //Use JSON values from this.state.model 
        //or this.state.collection
    }
});

###Conclusion I found this very helpful and hope you too can benefit from it.