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How to use WebView in React Native

Tulsi Prasad

A WebView is an embedded browser that can be used to display web pages inside your React Native applications. It can display anything (from custom HTML elements to entire web applications) inside React Native.

In React Native, we can use WebView by using a third-party package called react-native-webview. This is the official implementation of WebView after it was removed from the React native core to keep the core as lean as possible.

In this shot, we’re going to implement a simple project to see how to work with WebView on React Native and what some of the good use cases that it serves are.

Create a React Native project

To get started, we need to begin a new project with the React Native CLI. You can do this with Expo if you don’t want to go through the tedious installation process.

npx react-native init ExperimentingWithWebview

With Expo: If you’re using Expo, you can jump straight to Implementing a basic WebView after this:

expo install react-native->webview

Add dependencies

For npm users:

npm install react-native-webview

If you’re using yarn:

yarn add react-native-webview

Link native dependencies

You’ll only need this if you’re not using Expo and using React Native CLI to start your project.

react-native link react-native-webview

If you’re using react-native ≥ 0.60, auto-linking will take care of this step so feel free to skip, but don’t forget to run pod install.

If you ever uninstall this package:

react-native unlink react-native-webview

For iOS and macOS

If you’re using cocoapods in the ios/ or macos/ directory, run:

pod install

For Android

If you’re using react-native-webview < 6: Feel free to skip.

If you’re using react-native-webview ≥ 6.x.x:

Make sure AndroidX is enabled in your project by editing android/gradle.properties.

android.useAndroidX=true
android.enableJetifier=true

Chances are that this has been automatically done by React Native CLI.

Implementing a basic WebView

It’s time to get rid of the boilerplate code inside app.js and write our code for the WebView:

// App.js

import React from 'react';
import {SafeAreaView, StatusBar} from 'react-native';
import {WebView} from 'react-native-webview';

const App = () => {
  return (
    <>
      <StatusBar barStyle="dark-content" />
      <SafeAreaView style={{flex: 1}}>
        <WebView source={{uri: 'https://www.educative.io/'}} />
      </SafeAreaView>
    </>
  );
};

export default App;

This is all you need to do in order to display a website in your application!

https://i.imgur.com/SU4iNIC.png

originWhitelist prop

This is a list of origin strings that you are allowed to navigate inside the webview component, which takes an array of strings. By default, its values are http:// and https://. If the user navigates to a new page that isn’t in whitelisted origins, the URL will be handled by the OS.

<WebView
  source={{ uri: 'https://www.educative.io/' }}
  originWhitelist={['https://*', 'git://*']}
/>

Loading local/inline HTML files

You can also load local or inline HTML files into a WebView. This is how you can achieve that:

const sourceHtml = require("./src/index.html"); // your html file here

export const App = () => <WebView source={{ html: sourceHtml }} />

Or you can add some inline HTML:

export const App = () => {
	const htmlSource =
    '<h1 style="font-size:100px; padding: 50px; text-align: center;">Hello World 🌍</h1>';

	return (
		<SafeAreaView style={{flex: 1}}>
        <WebView source={{ html: htmlSource }} />
    </SafeAreaView>
	)
}

https://i.imgur.com/62XCJmA.png

Injecting custom javascript into a WebView

You can also add your own JavaScript, that can run inside the WebView, to manipulate the behavior of the website you’re loading according to your needs.

There are two ways to do this:

  1. injectedJavascript prop
  2. injectJavascript method

I know these names can be confusing, so we will understand them based on their purpose. It’ll be clear to you in a few examples.

injectedJavascript prop

This is a prop to the WebView component that contains the scripts that will run once the web page loads for the first time. The prop only runs once, even if the web page is reloaded or the user navigates away.

import React from 'react';
import {View} from 'react-native';
import {WebView} from 'react-native-webview';

const App = () => {
  const scripts = `
      document.body.style.backgroundColor = 'hotpink';
      document.querySelector("h1").style.color = 'skyblue';
      document.querySelector("p").style.padding = '20px';
      true;
    `;

  return (
    <View style={{flex: 1}}>
      <WebView
        source={{uri: 'https://www.example.com/'}}
        injectedJavaScript={scripts}
      />
    </View>
  );
};

export default App;

https://i.imgur.com/JiurUbs.png

injectJavascript method

As we know, the injectedJavascript prop that we discussed above only works on the first load – there is no other way to do this if we want to run scripts or page navigations multiple times. That’s why WebView exposes the injectJavascript method on its reference.

import React from 'react';
import {View} from 'react-native';
import {WebView} from 'react-native-webview';

const getRandomColor = () => {
  let letters = '0123456789ABCDEF';
  let color = '#';
  for (let i = 0; i < 6; i++) {
    color += letters[Math.floor(Math.random() * 16)];
  }
  return color;
};

class App extends React.Component {
  render() {
    const scripts = () => {
      const color = getRandomColor();

      return `
      document.body.style.backgroundColor = '${color}';
      document.body.style.color = '${color}';
      document.body.querySelector("a").style.color = '${color}';
      true;
      `;
    };

    setInterval(() => {
      this.webref.injectJavaScript(scripts());
    }, 500);

    return (
      <View style={{flex: 1}}>
        <WebView
          ref={r => (this.webref = r)}
          source={{uri: 'https://www.example.com'}}
        />
      </View>
    );
  }
}

export default App;

https://i.imgur.com/lkuidcw.gif

While all these ways can help us manipulate the WebView according to our needs, what if you need to send or receive data from the webpage inside WebView?

Well, let’s how we can communicate between our JS and React Native app.

Communicating between JS and React Native

This requires the use of two things:

  1. window.ReactNativeWebView.postMessage function
  2. onMessage prop

The window.ReactNativeWebView.postMessage is a function that’s exposed to the injected scripts inside WebView. We can basically pass anything to it, provided it’s properly serialized. This is clearly shown in the example below.

Rest assured, whatever we pass inside the postMessage can be accessed in React Native through the callback passed into the onMessage proponMessage is a prop for the WebView that takes a callback and is triggered anytime a message is sent using postMessage.

import React from 'react';
import {View} from 'react-native';
import {WebView} from 'react-native-webview';

const getRandomColor = () => {
  let letters = '0123456789ABCDEF';
  let color = '#';
  for (let i = 0; i < 6; i++) {
    color += letters[Math.floor(Math.random() * 16)];
  }
  return color;
};

class App extends React.Component {
  render() {
    const scripts = () => {
      const color = getRandomColor();

      return `
      document.body.style.backgroundColor = '${color}';
      document.querySelector("h1").style.color = 'hotpink';    
      
      window.ReactNativeWebView.postMessage(document.body.style.backgroundColor);
      true;
      `;
    };

    setInterval(() => {
      this.webref.injectJavaScript(scripts());
    }, 500);

    return (
      <View style={{flex: 1}}>
        <WebView
          ref={r => (this.webref = r)}
          source={{uri: 'https://www.example.com'}}
          onMessage={event => console.log(event.nativeEvent.data)}
        />
      </View>
    );
  }
}

export default App;

This simply logs the background color of the webpage whenever it’s changed. As you can see, we are passing the callback inside the onMessage prop that gets triggered on the postMessage.

https://i.imgur.com/1ke2jJ2.gif

The actual event object that’s passed inside the onMessage callback is this: [nativeEvent.data](http://nativeevent.data) and the argument we passed inside window.ReactNativeWebView.postMessage.

{
	"nativeEvent": {
										"canGoBack": false, 
										"canGoForward": false, 
										"data": "rgb(247, 75, 142)", 
										"loading": false, 
										"target": 15, 
										"title": "Example Domain", 
										"url": "https://www.example.com/"
								 }
}

Handling navigation state changes

Now, we’ll discuss how you can intercept whenever a user navigates inside the WebView to a different webpage or clicks on any link. You can place a callback that’ll happen anytime the route changes.

onNavigationStateChange prop

The onNavigationStateChange prop takes a callback that is triggered whenever the user navigates inside the WebView. It prop passes the current navigation state as an argument that can be accessed inside the callback.

import React from 'react';
import {View} from 'react-native';
import {WebView} from 'react-native-webview';

class App extends React.Component {
  handleNavigationStateChanged = navState => {
    const {url, title} = navState;
    console.log({url, title});
  };

  render() {
    return (
      <View style={{flex: 1}}>
        <WebView
          ref={r => (this.webref = r)}
          source={{uri: 'https://www.example.com'}}
          onNavigationStateChange={this.handleNavigationStateChanged}
        />
      </View>
    );
  }
}

export default App;

The basic navState param structure passed into handleNavigationStateChanged:

{
	"canGoBack": false, 
	"canGoForward": false, 
	"loading": false, 
	"target": 3, 
	"title": "Example Domain", 
	"url": "https://www.example.com/"
}

https://i.imgur.com/W6uvn21.gif

As a cool project, you can play around with WebView and use its available methodssuch as goForward and goBack, stopLoading or add apple pay support to replicate a browser-like feel for your users (just like when we used the injectJavascript method above).

References

You can:

  • refer to the React Native WebView docs to have an overview of all that it offers
  • see the references page to grab a look at all the available props and methods.

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