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How to Build Drag and Drop Components in React

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Have you ever wanted to add drag-and-drop functionality to your React components? It’s not as difficult as you might think.


Drag and drop is a way of moving or manipulating elements on a screen using a mouse or touchpad. It’s perfect for reordering a list of items or moving items from one list to another.

You can build drag-and-drop components in React using either of two methods: built-in features or a third-party module.


Different Ways to Implement Drag and Drop in React

There are two ways to implement drag and drop in React: using the built-in features of React, or using a third-party module. Start by creating a React application, then pick your preferred method.

Method 1: Using Built-In Features

In React, you can use the onDrag event to track when the user is dragging an element, and the onDrop event to track when they drop it. You can also use the onDragStart and onDragEnd events to track when the dragging starts and stops.

To make an element draggable, you can set the draggable attribute to true. For example:

import React, { Component } from 'react';

class MyComponent extends Component {
render() {
return (
<div
draggable
onDragStart={this.handleDragStart}
onDrag={this.handleDrag}
onDragEnd={this.handleDragEnd}
>
Drag me!
</div>
);
}
}

export default MyComponent;

To make an element droppable, you can create the handleDragStart, handleDrag, and handleDragEnd methods. These methods will run when a user drags the element and when they drop it. For example:

import React, { Component } from 'react';

class MyComponent extends Component {
handleDragStart(event) {
console.log("Started")
}

handleDrag(event) {
console.log("Dragging...")
}

handleDragEnd(event) {
console.log("Ended")
}

render() {
return (
<div
draggable
onDragStart={this.handleDragStart}
onDrag={this.handleDrag}
onDragEnd={this.handleDragEnd}
>
Drag me!
</div>
);
}
}

export default MyComponent;

In the above code, there are three methods to handle the dragging of an element: handleDragStart, handleDrag, and handleDragEnd. The div has a draggable attribute and sets the onDragStart, onDrag, and onDragEnd properties to their corresponding functions.

When you drag the element, the handleDragStart method will run first. This is where you can do any setup that you need to do, such as setting the data to transfer.

Then, the handleDrag method runs repeatedly while you drag the element. This is where you can do any updates like adjusting the position of the element.

Finally, when you drop the element, the handleDragEnd method runs. This is where you can do any cleanup that you need to do, such as resetting the data that you transferred.

You can also move the component around the screen in onDragEnd(). To do this, you will need to set the style property of the component. For example:

import React, { Component, useState } from 'react';

function MyComponent() {
const [x, setX] = useState(0);
const [y, setY] = useState(0);

const handleDragEnd = (event) => {
setX(event.clientX);
setY(event.clientY);
};

return (
<div
draggable
onDragEnd={handleDragEnd}
style={{
position: "absolute",
left: x,
top: y
}}
>
Drag me!
</div>
);
}

export default MyComponent;

The code calls the useState hook to track the x and y position of the component. Then, in the handleDragEnd method, it updates the x and y position. Finally, you can set the style property of the component to position it at the new x and y positions.

Method 2: Using a Third-Party Module

If you don’t want to use the built-in features of React, you can use a third-party module such as react-drag-and-drop. This module provides a React-specific wrapper around the HTML5 drag-and-drop API.

To use this module, you first need to install it using npm:

npm install react-drag-and-drop 

Then, you can use it in your React components:

import React, { Component } from 'react';
import { Draggable, Droppable } from 'react-drag-and-drop';

class MyComponent extends Component {
render() {
return (
<div>
<Draggable type="foo" data="bar">
<div>Drag me!</div>
</Draggable>

<Droppable types={['foo']} onDrop={this.handleDrop}>
<div>Drop here!</div>
</Droppable>
</div>
);
}

handleDrop(data, event) {
console.log(data);
}
}

export default MyComponent;

Start by importing the Draggable and Droppable components from the react-drag-and-drop module. Then, use these components to create a draggable element and a droppable element.

The Draggable component accepts a type prop, which specifies the type of data the component represents, and a data prop which specifies the data to transfer. Note that the type is a custom name you can choose to keep track of which component is which in a multi-component interface.

The Droppable component uses a types prop to specify the types of data that you can drop on it. It also has an onDrop prop, which specifies the callback function that will run when you drop a component on it.

When you drop the draggable component on the droppable, the handleDrop method will run. This is where you can do any processing that you need to do with the data.

Tips for Building User-Friendly DnD Components

There are a few things that you can do to make your drag-and-drop components more user-friendly.

First, you should provide visual feedback when an element is being dragged. For example, you could change the opacity of the element, or add a border. To add visual effects you can use normal CSS or tailwind CSS in your React application.

Second, you should make sure that your users can only drag the element to a valid drop target. For example, you could add the types attribute to the element, which specifies the types of component that it will accept.

Third, you should provide a way for the user to cancel the drag-and-drop operation. For example, you could add a button that allows the user to cancel the operation.

Improve User Experience With Drag and Drop

The drag-and-drop feature not only helps improve the user experience but can also help with the overall performance of your web application. A user can now easily rearrange the order of some data without having to refresh the page or go through multiple steps.

You can also add other animations in your React app to make the drag-and-drop feature more interactive and user-friendly.



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