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How to Use Drag and Drop in React with React DnD?

How to Use Drag and Drop in React with React DnD?

Drag and drop functionality is a handy feature in web development that enables users to move effortlessly and reposition elements on a webpage. React, a widely adopted JavaScript library offers a convenient solution for implementing drag-and-drop functionality through React DnD (Drag and Drop). 

Using React DnD, developers can streamline the process by abstracting complex tasks like drag event handling and state management. This empowers them to create engaging and interactive interfaces, greatly enhancing the user experience.

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What is Drag and Drop in React?

What is Drag and Drop in React

Drag and drop in React is a user interface (UI) interaction technique that allows users to seamlessly move objects or elements from one location to another on a digital platform. It involves clicking and holding onto an object, dragging it across the screen, and releasing it to drop it in a desired location. 

This intuitive and interactive feature enhances usability by simplifying complex tasks such as rearranging items, organizing data, or creating custom layouts. 

A drag-and-drop capability is frequently utilized in various applications to create a more fluid and user-friendly experience, including task management platforms, website builders, graphic design tools, and file management systems.

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What is React DnD?

What is React DnD

React DnD (Drag and Drop) is a popular JavaScript library designed to implement drag-and-drop functionality in React applications.

It provides a set of higher-order components and hooks that abstract away the complexities of managing drag sources (elements that can be dragged) and drop targets (areas where elements can be dropped). With React DnD, developers can define the drag sources and drop targets and handle the corresponding events and data flow easily.

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Advanced Features of React DnD

Advanced Features of React DnD

React DnD provides advanced features that elevate the drag-and-drop functionality in React applications, offering increased flexibility and control over the interactions. Here are some notable advanced features:

  • Custom Drag Previews
    React DnD empowers developers to create customized drag previews, allowing for visually appealing representations of the dragged item. This feature enables the design of unique drag previews that align with the application’s aesthetics and specific needs.
  • Multi-Target Dropping
    With React DnD, you can implement multi-target dropping, where a draggable item can be dropped onto multiple target components. This feature is particularly useful when you want to allow an item to be dropped into various destinations within your application.
  • Nested Drags
    React DnD supports nested drags, enabling you to have draggable components within other draggable components. This feature allows for more complex drag-and-drop interactions, such as dragging items within a nested list or a grid layout.
  • Drag Handles
    You can use drag handles in React DnD to define specific areas within a draggable component that users can click and drag to initiate the drag operation. This feature provides fine-grained control over the draggable behavior and helps prevent accidental dragging.
  • Custom Drag Layers
    React DnD allows you to create custom drag layers, components rendered above the rest of your application during the drag operation. This feature lets you display additional information, tooltips, or previews while dragging the item.
  • Dragging External Items
    With React DnD, you can also implement the dragging of external items into your application. This feature is useful when you want to support dragging items from other sources, such as files from the desktop or data from external websites.

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React DnD Pros and Cons

React DnD offers a powerful and efficient solution for implementing drag-and-drop functionality in React applications. Still, weighing the pros and cons is essential based on your specific project requirements and complexity.

Pros of React DnD

  • Simplified Implementation: React DnD abstracts the complexity of managing drag-and-drop interactions, providing a streamlined approach to implementing this functionality in React applications.
  • Flexible and Customizable: React DnD offers high flexibility, allowing developers to define custom drag sources and drop targets and easily customize the behavior and appearance of draggable components.
  • Performance Optimization: React DnD optimizes performance by reducing unnecessary re-renders, ensuring efficient updates only when needed.
  • Cross-Browser Compatibility: React DnD handles browser inconsistencies and provides consistent drag-and-drop behavior across browsers.
  • Community and Documentation: React DnD has a vibrant community and extensive documentation, making it easier for developers to find support, examples, and resources.

Cons of React DnD

  • Learning Curve: Mastering React DnD may require initial learning and understanding of its concepts and APIs.
  • Additional Dependency: React DnD is a different library and dependency to include in your project, which increases the overall bundle size.
  • Complexity for Simple Use Cases: React DnD might introduce unnecessary complexity for simple drag-and-drop scenarios, where a lightweight solution could be more suitable.
  • Potential Performance Impact: In specific complex scenarios with many draggable components, there might be a slight performance impact due to the internal mechanisms of React DnD.

Use Drag and Drop Interaction in React

To add drag-and-drop interaction in your React application with React DnD, you can follow these steps:

Step 1: Install React DnD

Begin by installing React DnD as a dependency in your project. Open your command line interface, navigate to your project’s directory, and execute the following command:

npm install react-dnd

Step 2: Import Required Components

In your React component file, import the necessary components from React DnD. For example, if you want to use the DragSource and DropTarget components, include the following lines:

import { DragSource, DropTarget } from 'react-dnd';

Step 3: Define Draggable and Droppable Components

Identify the components that should be draggable or droppable. Wrap the draggable component with the DragSource higher-order component and the droppable component with the DropTarget higher-order component. 

Customize the appearance and behavior of these components as needed.

Step 4: Implement Drag and Drop Logic

Within the DragSource and DropTarget components, define the necessary functions and event handlers to handle the drag and drop events. These functions will determine how the draggable and droppable components behave during the interaction.

Step 5: Connect Components to the DnD Context

Connect the draggable and droppable components to the React DnD context using the higher-order components. This enables the components to communicate and interact during the drag-and-drop process.

Step 6: Render the Components

Finally, render the components in your application. You should now observe the drag-and-drop functionality in action.

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What is React Beautiful DnD?

What is React Beautiful DnD

React Beautiful DnD is a library that enhances the drag-and-drop functionality in React applications. It provides an elegant and performant solution for managing draggable and droppable components. 

Unlike other drag-and-drop libraries, React Beautiful DnD focuses on smooth and visually pleasing animations during the drag-and-drop process. It offers a flexible API that enables developers to quickly implement complex interactions, such as nested lists and sortable grids. 

With its intuitive approach and comprehensive documentation, React Beautiful DnD simplifies the development of interactive interfaces. This makes it a favorable choice for creating engaging and responsive drag-and-drop experiences in React projects.

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React Beautiful DnD Pros and Cons

When considering the implementation of drag-and-drop functionality in React applications, React Beautiful DnD emerges as a popular choice. But it comes with its own set of advantages and considerations. So to gain a better understanding of its capabilities, you need to know the pros and cons of using React Beautiful DnD.

Pros of React Beautiful DnD

  • Smooth and Beautiful Animations: React Beautiful DnD provides visually appealing and fluid animations during the drag-and-drop process, enhancing the overall user experience.
  • Comprehensive Documentation: The library offers detailed and well-structured documentation, making it easier for learners to understand and implement complex drag-and-drop interactions.
  • Nested Lists and Grid Support: React Beautiful DnD supports advanced features like nested lists and sortable grids, allowing developers to create sophisticated drag-and-drop layouts effortlessly.
  • Performance Optimization: The library optimizes performance using advanced techniques like virtualization, resulting in smooth interactions even with many draggable elements.
  • Active Community and Support: React Beautiful DnD has an active and supportive community, providing timely assistance and updates to address issues and improve the library.

Cons of React Beautiful DnD

  • Learning Curve: The library’s advanced features and animation capabilities may have a steeper learning curve than straightforward drag-and-drop solutions.
  • Additional Dependency: React Beautiful DnD is a different library that needs to be included in the project, increasing the overall bundle size.
  • Compatibility Limitations: Certain older browsers or platforms need to fully support the advanced features and animations provided by React Beautiful DnD, potentially limiting its usage in specific contexts.


In conclusion, drag-and-drop functionality in React empowers developers to create engaging and intuitive user interfaces. React DnD offers numerous advantages, such as flexibility and extensive documentation, although it may present a learning curve for beginners. React Beautiful DnD provides a seamless alternative with smooth animations yet lacks certain advanced features. 

By leveraging the power of drag-and-drop interaction, developers can enhance user experience and streamline complex workflows. Exploring the advanced capabilities of React DnD enables the creation of dynamic and interactive applications, taking web development to new heights.

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About the Author

Techical Research Analyst - Front End Development

As a Technical Research Analyst, Kislaya specializes in Front End Development. He is a Full Stack Developer, known for crafting scalable architectures and user-centric interfaces. He has a massive international client base and is an expert in cloud computing, Linux, and Java Script, personifying a commitment to quality and information sharing.