Supercharge Your React Apps by Adding Bootstrap – A Comprehensive 2022 Guide

Have you built awesome React apps but struggle with the design and styling part? Do you find yourself wasting time trying to make your React user interfaces look good across desktop and mobile?

Then this guide is for you!

We will explore five different methods to add Bootstrap, the most popular styling framework, to your React apps for responsive and consistent UI/UX design.

Why Combine React and Bootstrap?

Before we dive into the installation guides, let‘s first understand why Bootstrap and React work so well together:

React focuses purely on the view layer, helping build complex UIs out of reusable components using JavaScript.

But React does not style your apps by default. That‘s where Bootstrap comes in!

Bootstrap is used in over 19 million web projects as of 2022 according to Wappalyzer stats. Over 80% of developers surveyed by StackOverflow use Bootstrap due to its responsive grid system, CSS components and JavaScript widgets for rapid UI development.

Combining the powers of React and Bootstrap results in fast, responsive and great-looking apps!

Here‘s a quick glimpse of how they perfectly complement each other:

React and Bootstrap

Now let‘s check out the different ways to add Bootstrap to our React app.

Prerequisites

To follow along with the examples in this article and install Bootstrap in React, you will need:

Node.js and NPM

Bootstrap relies on Node.js and NPM for installation and dependency management. Node.js comes bundled with the NPM package manager.

Let‘s check the versions to ensure they are installed:

node -v
# v16.14.0 - your version may differ

npm -v 
# 8.3.1  - your version may differ

If Node.js is not installed, head to nodejs.org and download the recommended LTS version for your operating system. This will install both Node and NPM.

React Project

You need an existing React project to integrate Bootstrap. While you can install React manually, Create React App is the officially recommended starter boilerplate.

Let‘s use CRA to scaffold a React project:

npm install -g create-react-app
npx create-react app my-react-app
cd my-react-app
npm start

This will create a new folder called my-react-app, initialize dependencies and launch the app on http://localhost:3000.

That‘s it for prerequisites! Now let‘s jump into actually installing Bootstrap.

Method #1: Install Bootstrap using NPM

The easiest way to install Bootstrap is via NPM which comes bundled with Node.js.

Follow these steps to install Bootstrap in React using NPM:

  1. Open your React project (which we initialized earlier with Create React App)

  2. Install latest Bootstrap and the required peer dependencies:

    npm install [email protected]
    npm i @popperjs/core
  3. Open src/index.js

  4. Import the Bootstrap CSS file:

    import ‘bootstrap/dist/css/bootstrap.min.css‘;
  5. Optionally import Bootstrap JS:

    import ‘bootstrap‘; 

And we are done! NPM will download the Bootstrap packages into the node_modules folder of your React app.

The index.js global import statements inject Bootstrap styles and scripts across your entire React app. Now you can use Bootstrap components anywhere by just adding the required HTML classes and IDs!

Let‘s see an example React component using Bootstrap styling:

// Header.js

import React from ‘react‘ 

function Header() {
  return (
     <nav className="navbar navbar-expand-lg navbar-light bg-light">
      <div className="container-fluid">
        <a className="navbar-brand" href="#">
          My React-Bootstrap App 
        </a>
      </div>
    </nav>  
  )
}

export default Header

Which gets rendered nicely as a responsive Bootstrap navigation bar!

React Bootstrap Navbar Component

Some benefits of adding Bootstrap to React using NPM:

✅ Simple and straightforward installation

✅ No Internet required after initial install

✅ Can customize Bootstrap Sass files before compilation

✅ Choose which plugins and components to install

✅ Actively maintained by the Bootstrap core team

The NPM installation works seamlessly for most React apps. And you can always customize the included modules down the road.

Up next, let‘s look at another popular package manager Yarn and how to use it to add Bootstrap.

Method #2: Install Bootstrap using Yarn

Just like NPM is a package manager for Node.js, Yarn does the same job. Many developers choose Yarn over NPM for performance reasons.

Here is how to install Bootstrap using the Yarn package manager:

  1. Ensure Yarn itself installed globally:

    npm install --global yarn
  2. Navigate to your React project directory

  3. Install latest Bootstrap and Popper.js:

    yarn add [email protected]
    yarn add @popperjs/core
  4. Open src/index.js

  5. Import Bootstrap CSS:

    import ‘bootstrap/dist/css/bootstrap.min.css‘;  
  6. Optionally import Bootstrap JS:

    import ‘bootstrap‘;

The advantage of Yarn is that it parallelizes operations to maximize resource utilization resulting in much faster installs.

Yarn also provides reliable and consistent dependency locking so newer packages don‘t break your app. No more NPM random failure errors!

Under the hood, Yarn and NPM work similarly by downloading dependencies into node_modules.

The rest of your Bootstrap integration remains exactly the same no matter which package manager you pick.

Method #3: Use Bootstrap CDN

This method avoids installing Bootstrap locally and instead loads it from a free Bootstrap CDN:

<link href="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/[email protected]/dist/css/bootstrap.min.css" rel="stylesheet" crossorigin="anonymous">

<script src="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/[email protected]/dist/js/bootstrap.bundle.min.js" integrity="sha384-kenU1KFdBIe4zVF0s0G1M5b4hcpxyD9F7jL+jjXkk+Q2h455rYXK/7HAuoJl+0I4" crossorigin="anonymous"></script>

Steps to add Bootstrap CDN to React:

  1. Open public/index.html file

  2. Add above CSS <link> in <head> before any other stylesheets

  3. Add JS <script> tag before </body>

And done! The CDN will serve the Bootstrap library globally on all pages.

Pros of using Bootstrap CDN:

✅ No installation needed

✅ Bootstrap served from the cloud

✅ Always using the latest version

Cons of Bootstrap CDN:

❌ Slower performance due to external HTTP requests

❌ Dependency on CDN provider‘s SLA

For quick prototypes and tests, CDNs are great to get started faster. But for production apps, self-hosted local installs are recommended for speed, reliability and customizations.

Up next, let‘s look at React specific Bootstrap packages.

Method #4: Use React Bootstrap Package

While the first 3 methods work with standalone Bootstrap, there are React specific wrappers available:

  1. React Bootstrap – Bootstrap components rebuilt from scratch as React components
  2. Reactstrap – another popular React Bootstrap library

Let‘s look at them in more detail:

Install and Use React Bootstrap

Run the following commands to install React Bootstrap:

npm install react-bootstrap bootstrap

Now you can import any component instead of the entire library:

import Button from ‘react-bootstrap/Button‘;

Benefits of using React Bootstrap:

✅ Integrates tightly with React

✅ True React Components with JSX support

✅ Import just what you need instead of entire library

✅ No manual className replacement required

✅ Customizable via theming and overridable styles

Install and Use Reactstrap

ReactStrap is an older but still popular React Bootstrap library.

Installation:

npm install bootstrap
npm install --save reactstrap react react-dom

Import Bootstrap CSS in your entry file:

import ‘bootstrap/dist/css/bootstrap.min.css‘;

Then import components from Reactstrap:

import { Button } from ‘reactstrap‘;

Benefits of Reactstrap:

✅ Integration without needing standalone Bootstrap js

✅ Huge library of responsive components

✅ Theme customizations support

So in summary, for rich interactivity without needing to wire up Bootstrap JS, pick popular libraries like React Bootstrap or Reactstrap.

This eliminates a lot of effort involved in manually making Bootstrap compatible with React.

With that we come to an end of the 5 main methods to add Bootstrap to React!

Now let‘s cover some additional tips on integrating and using Bootstrap for maximum impact.

Troubleshooting Guide

Facing issues getting Bootstrap to work in React? Here are some common problems and troubleshooting tips:

❌ Bootstrap components not applying proper styling

  • Verify Bootstrap CSS is imported correctly without errors
  • Try force refreshing the browser
  • Use !important tag on Bootstrap imports
  • Ensure JS bundles are correctly imported

❌ JavaScript plugins like Dropdowns not working

  • Check Bootstrap JS bundle is added
  • There could be conflicts with other JS libraries
  • Inspect browser console for errors

❌ Changes to Bootstrap styles not reflecting

  • Restart the dev server
  • Confirm CSS is reloaded without caching issues

❌ Reactstrap/React Bootstrap components breaking

  • Ensure compatible versions of library and Bootstrap
  • Refer documentation for correct usage
  • Raise GitHub issues for bugs

Still facing problems integrating Bootstrap in React? Feel free to ask for help in the comments section!

Tips for Effective Usage

Here are some tips for effectively using Bootstrap in React apps:

🔻 Learn Bootstrap theming – Customize colors, fonts, sizes via variable overrides

🔻 Use Sass imports – Modify source Sass files for advanced customization

🔻 Add Bootstrap Icons – Enhance UI by integrating Bootstrap Icons library

🔻 Create layouts using Container > Row > Column model – Build responsive grid-based layouts painlessly

🔻 Extract reusable component logic – Create common Button, Card, Table, Input components powered by Bootstrap primitives

🔻 Ensure accessibility – Use correct ARIA roles and attributes for inclusive components

The key is finding the right balance between React‘s composable components and Bootstrap‘s pre-built widgets.

Let‘s now summarize the installation options through a comparison.

Comparison of Installation Methods

Method Easy to Install Customizable Works Offline Learning Curve
NPM Low
Yarn Low
CDN Lowest
React Bootstrap Medium
Reactstrap Medium

As you can see, each integration approach has its own pros and cons.

For most use-cases, the NPM or Yarn install methods strike the right balance without too much overhead. They offer offline capability and customizability while keeping the learning curve low.

CDNs are great for quick testing while React wrappers excel at rich interactivity.

Over time, as your requirements evolve – you can always switch between the methods with minor overall code changes.

Wrapping Up

We have covered a lot of ground around integrating Bootstrap in React!

Here are the key takeaways from this guide:

1. Bootstrap complements React‘s capabilities – by handling responsive design and themes

2. Multiple integration options are available – pick one aligning to your use-case

3. Customizable and themeable – tailor Bootstrap to match your brand

4. Rich ecosystem of complementary libraries – like React Boostrap and Reactstrap

Learning Bootstrap will make you a better React developer through exposure to design concepts, CSS framework architecture and responsive APIs.

Bootstrap helps speed up styling so you can dedicate maximum time to business logic and React functionality.

I hope this guide served as a comprehensive reference for adding Bootstrap to your next React project! Let me know if you have any other questions.

Happy React development!