Forcing React Components to re-mount

I wonder if I’m making a newbie mistake here (just not found the “right” way to fix this problem) or if this is a neat way to solve a common use-case…?

The problem

If you want a React component to load data from the server, you can make an AJAX call in the componentDidMount function. When the call returns you can simply call setState() with the data and the component will display it - great!

    componentDidMount: function() {
            url: "/load/data/",
            success: function(data) {
                this.setState({data: data});

In the OMERO webclient, we need to use a <PlateGrid /> component to display a plate of images, specified by plateId. The plateId is a property of the <PlateGrid /> component and is changed when the user selects a different plate in the left-hand tree.

However, if we do the loading of the specified plate in the componentDidMount function as shown above, then this does not get called when the plateId is updated, so the component will not re-render to show the new plate.

    # This doesn't get called when props.plateId changes
    componentDidMount: function() {
            url: "/load/plate/" + this.props.plateId,
            success: function(plate) {
                this.setState({plate: plate});

My solution

I found that if I pass a key={plateId} to my <PlateGrid /> component, in the parent’s render() then this would force the component to re-mount each time the selected plateId changed.

render: function() {
    return (

However, I don’t see this described anywhere in the React.js docs. Instead it seems that the key attribute is used to avoid re-mounting a components in a list, which makes me think that I’m misusing it. Is there a better way to fix the problem above?

Written on January 29, 2016