Why do we need keys for React lists?

Experience Level: Junior
Tags: React


In React, lists are used to display a set of similar items. When rendering a list, React needs to identify each item uniquely to keep track of changes and update the UI efficiently. This is where keys come in. Keys are unique identifiers that help React identify each item in the list. They are added to the top-level element of each item in the list and should be unique across all items in the list.

Using keys in React lists has several benefits. Firstly, it helps React identify which items have changed, been added or removed from the list. This allows React to update the UI efficiently by only re-rendering the necessary items. Secondly, keys help preserve the state of the components in the list. Without keys, React would have to destroy and recreate the components every time the list changes, which can be inefficient and cause performance issues. Finally, keys help improve the accessibility of the UI by providing a unique identifier for each item in the list, which can be used by assistive technologies to navigate the UI.

// Example of using keys in a React list
const items = [
  { id: 1, name: 'Item 1' },
  { id: 2, name: 'Item 2' },
  { id: 3, name: 'Item 3' }

function ItemList() {
  return (
      {items.map(item => (
        <li key={item.id}>{item.name}</li>

In the example above, we have a list of items with unique IDs. When rendering the list using the map function, we add the key attribute to each item's li element, using the item's ID as the key. This ensures that each item in the list is uniquely identified and allows React to efficiently update the UI when the list changes.

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