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Preact is an alternative to React with the same modern API.

Preact components are packaged using Webpacker and the Preact code is located in app/javascript.

Preact components get loaded via webpacker's helper function javascript_packs_with_chunks_tag.

How we use Preact​

Our approach to Preact follows the Islands Architecture pattern: a server-side rendered app that has pockets of interactivity. Think of it as multi mini-applications existing in the frontend.

We render as much as we can server-side, and then use Preact to enhance the parts of that server-rendered page that require richer interactivity. Preact is used to either render new content into a placeholder container in the HTML, or (preferably) to replace a server-rendered piece of UI with one that offers a richer experience

Example: Preact <ColorPicker />​

We have a Preact <ColorPicker /> component which offers both a popover color picker, and a plain text input for a color. When we use this component, we first render a plain text input server-side. This text input is fully functional, and if no JavaScript is loaded, a user can still complete the hex code of their choice. When the page loads, we asynchronously find these plain text inputs and dynamically replace them with the richer Preact experience.

Other examples include our Modal and Snackbar components where we load the components in to replace or enhance parts of a server-rendered view.

In some cases Preact "takes over" from a server-rendered, plainer, version of the same (e.g. articleForm.jsx and app/views/articles/_v2_form.html.erb) - try clicking 'Create Post' with JS disabled 😉

A note on dynamic imports

Unlike the backend, it's costly downloading frontend assets (HTML, CSS, JS), which is why we should only ever download what we need to render a page in a usable state. From there we can load enhanced interactivity, like the page feed, or modals. The general pattern is only load something when you need it.

This is why you’ll find dynamic imports in our code.

Here are some sections of code worth checking out:

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)​

Render the client-side component's initial markup server-side to avoid cumulative layout shift (CLS) entirely or as best as possible. Preact's virtual dom (VDOM) usage is smart enough to determine if the component needs to rerender markup, even from the initial server-side rendered markup.


Preact supports PropTypes. When creating Preact components, please ensure that you have defined your PropTypes.

Common PropTypes​

Using PropTypes can be repetitive. Some duplication is normal, like when a PropType is a string or a number. But for commonly-used PropTypes, like the user entity, you can use the provided common PropTypes, located in the /app/javascript/common-prop-types, as shown below.

import PropTypes from "prop-types";

export const userPropTypes = PropTypes.shape({
id: PropTypes.string.isRequired,
name: PropTypes.string.isRequired,
profile_image_url: PropTypes.string.isRequired,
summary: PropTypes.string.isRequired,

Using Common PropTypes​

Common PropTypes are imported just like any other JavaScript Module. For example, here are two scenarios where a component needs to use the tagPropTypes.

In the example below, our component SomeComponentUsingTags has a tags prop, which is an array of the tag entity. PropTypes have a built-in method called arrayOf that allows you to define a prop as an array of something. In our case, this is the tag entity, so we can use the tagPropTypes PropType.

import { h } from "preact";
import PropTypes from "prop-types";
import { tagPropTypes } from "../../../components/common-prop-types";

const SomeComponentUsingTags = ({ tags = [] }) => (
{ => (
<li key={}>{}</li>

SomeComponentUsingTags.displayName = "SomeComponentUsingTags";
SomeComponentUsingTags.propTypes = {
tags: PropTypes.arrayOf(tagPropTypes).isRequired,

In the following example, the SomeComponentUsingOneTag component has a tag prop representing a single tag. In this case, we can just the tagPropTypes on their own to represent the shape of the tag prop.

import { h } from "preact";
import { tagPropTypes } from "../../../components/common-prop-types";

const SomeComponentUsingOneTag = ({ tag }) => <li key={}>{}</li>;

SomeComponentUsingOneTag.displayName = "SomeComponentUsingTags";
SomeComponentUsingOneTag.propTypes = {
tag: tagPropTypes.isRequired,

Managing State​

One thing to note about our usage of Preact is that there are no state management libraries in play, only component state. The lack of a state management library is intentional and enforced by the nature of Islands architecture. There is no main root component where global state management can live.

Although there is no state management library in play, data attributes on DOM elements sometimes simulate it, e.g. user data.

For a more complex component state, use the useReducer hook. The multiselect autocomplete component (source code) is a great example of this.

It's a judgment call to use useReducer. If you notice you're juggling many useState hooks, it's time to consider useReducer.

Benefiting from the React Ecosystem​

Preact ships with a thin compatibility layer if you're consuming 3rd party components from the React ecosystem. The react and react-dom packages are already aliased for you in our webpack configuration for the application and the Webpack configuration for Storybook.

It also allows you to use functionality that is not in the core of Preact, e.g. forwardRef, createPortal, memo etc. To use those though, you need to explicitly import them from 'preact/compat'

Here are some examples of the compatibility layer in use: