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Now that we know how to create HTML elements and components, and how to pass props and event handlers to both using JSX, it's time to learn how to update the Virtual DOM tree.

As we alluded to in the previous chapter, both function and class components can have state - data stored by a component that is used to change its Virtual DOM tree. When a component updates its state, Preact re-renders that component using the updated state value. For function components, this means Preact will re-invoke the function, whereas for class components it will only re-invoke the class' render() method. Let's look at an example of each.

State in class components

Class components have a state property, which is an object that holds data the component can use when its render() method is called. A component can call this.setState() to update its state property and request that it be re-rendered by Preact.

class MyButton extends Component {
  state = { clicked: false }

  handleClick = () => {
    this.setState({ clicked: true })

  render() {
    return (
      <button onClick={this.handleClick}>
        {this.state.clicked ? 'Clicked' : 'No clicks yet'}

Clicking the button calls this.setState(), which causes Preact to call the class' render() method again. Now that this.state.clicked is true, the render() method returns a Virtual DOM tree containing the text "Clicked" instead of "No clicks yet", causing Preact to update the button's text in the DOM.

State in function components using hooks

Function components can have state too! While they don't have a this.state property like class components, a tiny add-on module is included with Preact that provides functions for storing and working with state inside function components, called "hooks".

Hooks are special functions that can be called from within a function component. They're special because they remember information across renders, a bit like properties and methods on a class. For example, the useState hook returns an Array containing a value and a "setter" function that can be called to update that value. When a component is invoked (re-rendered) multiple times, any useState() calls it makes will return the exact same Array each time.

ℹ️ How do hooks actually work?

Behind the scenes, hook functions like setState work by storing data in a sequence of "slots" associated with each component in the Virtual DOM tree. Calling a hook function uses up one slot, and increments an internal "slot number" counter so the next call uses the next slot. Preact resets this counter before invoking each component, so each hook call gets associated with the same slot when a component is rendered multiple times.

function User() {
  const [name, setName] = useState("Bob")    // slot 0
  const [age, setAge] = useState(42)         // slot 1
  const [online, setOnline] = useState(true) // slot 2

This is called call site ordering, and it's the reason why hooks must always be called in the same order within a component, and cannot be called conditionally or within loops.

Let's see an example of the useState hook in action:

import { useState } from 'preact/hooks'

const MyButton = () => {
  const [clicked, setClicked] = useState(false)

  const handleClick = () => {

  return (
    <button onClick={handleClick}>
      {clicked ? 'Clicked' : 'No clicks yet'}

Clicking the button calls setClicked(true), which updates the state field created by our useState() call, which in turn causes Preact to re-render this component. When the component is rendered (invoked) a second time, the value of the clicked state field will be true, and the returned Virtual DOM will have the text "Clicked" instead of "No clicks yet". This will cause Preact to update the button's text in the DOM.

Try it!

Let's try creating a counter, starting from the code we wrote in the previous chapter. We'll need to store a count number in state, and increment its value by 1 when a button is clicked.

Since we used a function component in the previous chapter, it may be easiest to use hooks, though you can pick whichever method of storing state you prefer.