The Context API was introduced to allow you to pass state (and allow to update the state) across the app, without having to use props for it.

The React team suggests to stick to props if you have just a few levels of children to pass, because it’s still a much less complicated API than the Context API.

In many cases, it enables us to avoid using Redux, simplifying a lot our apps, and also learning how to use React.

How does it work?

You create a context using React.createContext(), which returns a Context object.:

const {Provider, Consumer} = React.createContext()

Then you create a wrapper component that returns a Provider component, and you add as children all the components from which you want to access the context:

class Container extends React.Component {
  constructor(props) {
    super(props)
    this.state = {
      something: 'hey'
    }
  }

  render() {
    return (
      <Provider value={{state: this.state}}>
        {this.props.children}
      </Provider>
    )
  }
}

class HelloWorld extends React.Component {
  render() {
    return (
      <Container>
        <Button />
      </Container>
    )
  }
}

I used Container as the name of this component because this will be a global provider. You can also create smaller contexts.

Inside a component that’s wrapped in a Provider, you use a Consumer component can make use of the context:

class Button extends React.Component {
  render() {
    return (
      <Consumer>
        {(context) => (
          <button>{context.state.something}</button>
        )}
      </Consumer>
    )
  }
}

You can also pass functions into a Provider value, and those functions will be used by the Consumer to update the context state:

<Provider value={{
  state: this.state,
  updateSomething: () => this.setState({something: 'ho!'})
  {this.props.children}
</Provider>

/* ... */
<Consumer>
  {(context) => (
    <button onClick={context.updateSomething}>{context.state.something}</button>
  )}
</Consumer>

You can see this in action in this Glitch.

You can create multiple contexts, to make your state distributed across components, yet expose it and make it reachable by any component you want.

When using multiple files, you create the content in one file, and import it in all the places you use it:

//context.js
import React from 'react'
export default React.createContext()


//component1.js
import Context from './context'
//... use Context.Provider

//component2.js
import Context from './context'
//... use Context.Consumer