React Router + Keyboardist

June 13, 2018

Last week I presented you with React Keyboardist and based on the feedback I received, it looks like I haven’t been very good at explaining the value-proposition of this project. So I thought of sharing an useful piece of code that we’ve been using on a small internal project.

Fake Dashboard Illustration

First, think of your typical admin dashboard application. Most likely it has a main navigation with links pointing to the main screens of your system. To write such application using React and React-Router, you may start with something like this:

import { BrowserRouter as Router, Route, NavLink } from 'react-router-dom';

const Dashboard = () => (
    <div className="dashboard">
      <div className="sidebar">
              <NavLink path="/">Home</NavLink>
              <NavLink path="/posts">Posts</NavLink>
              <NavLink path="/comments">Comments</NavLink>
              <NavLink path="/users">Users</NavLink>
              <NavLink path="/settings">Settings</NavLink>

      <div className="main">
        <Route exact path="/" component={Home} />
        <Route path="/posts" component={Posts} />
        <Route path="/comments" component={Comments} />
        <Route path="/users" component={Users} />
        <Route path="/settings" component={Settings} />

That’s phenomenal. The Route and NavLink components will do the heavy lifting and your only concern will be to make a nice design around it.

But what if, let’s say, you wanted to give special abilities to you power users, like letting them navigate trough the different routes using keyboard shortcuts instead of reaching for their mouse?. Like, for example, they could press the letter P to go to /posts, C to go to /comments and so on. I bet people with RSI would like that too.

And I know that this is the kind of feature that dies in the planning phase because it is hard to justify spending time on something the majority of users wont even know about.

But… what if we could implement it by just declaring a property on our Route component?

Well, using React-Keyboardist, it is possible to create a drop-in replacement for Route that is enhanced with amazing keyboard super powers.

import React, { Fragment } from 'react';
import Keyboardist from 'react-keyboardist';

// we'll need the `withRouter` HOC so our component can access the router history
import { Route, withRouter } from 'react-router-dom';

// let's create a mutant Route with enhanced keyboard abilities
const KeyboardRoute = ({ keyName = null, history, ...props }) => {
  // if there's no keyName argument, let's just pass down the regular `Route`
  // this allows to use this component as a drop-in replacement for `Route`
  if (keyName === null) {
    return <Route {...props} />;

  // let's create the binding object to pass to React-Keyboardist
  const bindings = {
    [keyName]: () => {
      // this does all the magic.
      // by returning false we stop propagation
      return false;

  // and that's it.
  return (
      <Keyboardist bindings={bindings} />
      <Route {...props} />

export default withRouter(KeyboardRoute);

And now you can replace each Route component with KeyboardRoute and assing a key to each route using the keyName property.

<div className="main">
  <KeyboardRoute exact path="/" component={Home} keyName="keyH" />
  <KeyboardRoute path="/posts" component={Posts} keyName="keyP" />
  <KeyboardRoute path="/comments" component={Comments} keyName="keyC" />
  <KeyboardRoute path="/users" component={Users} keyName="keyU" />
  <KeyboardRoute path="/settings" component={Settings} keyName="keyS" />

In case that you find this useful, the code is both on Github and published on npm. I also made a cute demo, so you can see it in action.

npm install --save react-router-plus-keyboardist

Let me know if you found this useful or if you catch any errors. I’m @soska on Twitter.