InteractableJS with React

When building 100Ideas project and it's board view where you can drag and drop ideas around the div I wanted to use interact.js. The project though was in plain JS. I tried a few codesandbox examples that ports it to React, but it didn't work for me in the project. This writeup is a compilation of every hiccup I faced when building this drag and drop UI and how I over came it.

I didn't come up with all of this on my own, most of this is from interact.js documentation and codesandbox of George Gray

The Goal

Project Setup

For this setup you can create a project with create-react-app with three files as following

  |_ App.js
  |_ Interactable.js
  |_ App.css

Draggable Items

Let's create a div with draggable Items first later we can hook in the listeners to it.

export default function App() {
    return (
      <div className="App" id="App">
          <div className="draggable drag-item">
            <p>Drag Item 1</p>

          <div className="draggable drag-item">
            <p>Drag Item 2</p>



CSS in this case is not just to style the div but also to set the start position to (0, 0)

.drag-item {
  width: 5%;
  height: 100%;
  min-height: 6.5em;

  background-color: #29e;
  color: white;

  border-radius: 0.75em;

  -webkit-transform: translate(0px, 0px);
  transform: translate(0px, 0px);

Pure JS Way

As I mentioned before for some reason, I couldn't implement the interactable logic in React way with components, so I went with a pure JS way.

For this we need to first install interactablejs package

npm install interactablejs

Next we are going to hook the interact function of this package to all the dragItem div

import interact from 'interactjs'

// target elements with the "draggable" class
    inertia: false,
    // Ensures the element stays with in the parent div
    modifiers: [
        restriction: '#App',
        endOnly: true
    // enable autoScroll
    autoScroll: false,

    listeners: {
      // this function is called when card is moved
      move: dragMoveListener,

Listener to Move the Card

Unlike what I thought the logic to move the card was rather simple, look for yourself

function dragMoveListener(event) {
    // the element we are moving
    const target =;
    // Add the relative position to current position of the div
    const x = (parseFloat(target.getAttribute("data-x")) || 0) + event.dx;
    const y = (parseFloat(target.getAttribute("data-y")) || 0) + event.dy;

    // translate the element to new position = =
      "translate(" + x + "px, " + y + "px)";

    // update the posiion attributes
    target.setAttribute("data-x", x);
    target.setAttribute("data-y", y);
    // These two lines is very important for the next section
    return [x, y]

ReactJS Way

This is an alternative to the Pure JS way. If the pure js way works fine why would we need the ReactJS way? Here's why?

  • React works with states and components

  • The position of a dragItem is technically a state that changes

  • In pure JS way we have no way of tracking the changes to this state. So what?

  • Let's say you want to store the items and it's associated position in a DB or send via an API call, the app compoent will have no way of knowing the current position

  • Hence we need a component that can track the position. We call this the ineteractable component

To get to the code directly checkout this Codesandbox

Creating Interactable Component

Interactable is a custom component that we are going to introduce that will help us track the positions. The listener remains the same, but instead of hooking it directly to the interact method we will hook it to our custom component

import interact from "interactjs";
import { Component, cloneElement } from "react";
import PropTypes from "prop-types";
import { findDOMNode } from "react-dom";

export default class Interactable extends Component {
  static defaultProps = {
    draggable: true,
    // preparing an object to hook the listener, this is the format supported by interact.js
    draggableOptions: {onmove: dragMoveListener},

  render() {
    return cloneElement(this.props.children, {
      ref: node => (this.node = node),
      draggable: false

  componentDidMount() {
    // wrapping the component in interact method 
    this.interact = interact(findDOMNode(this.node));
    // hooking the listener in

Interactable.propTypes = {
  children: PropTypes.node.isRequired,
  draggable: PropTypes.bool,
  draggableOptions: PropTypes.object,
  dropzone: PropTypes.bool,
  dropzoneOptions: PropTypes.object,
  resizable: PropTypes.bool,
  resizableOptions: PropTypes.object

That's our Interactable component. It does nothing but takes the element it's wrapped with and make it draggable. Let's take it back to our original App.js where we will track the position as a state

Making Div's Interactable

Notice how the elements are wrapped with interactable component.

import Interactable from './Interactable'

export default function App() {
    return (
      <div className="App" id="App">
            <div className="draggable drag-item">
              <p>Drag Item 1</p>
            <div className="draggable drag-item">
              <p>Drag Item 2</p>

The code will work absolutely fine at this point as well, but our goal is to persist the position of the cards at the App level. To do that we need to introduce a data structure to store the card data

App.propTypes = {
  data: PropTypes.shape({
      id: PropTypes.shape({
          text: PropTypes.string,
          position: PropTypes.shape({
              x: PropTypes.number,
              y: PropTypes.number,

Update the App component to work with the props

import React from "react";
import ReactDOM from "react-dom";
import "./styles.css";
import { createRoot } from "react-dom/client";

import Interactable, { dragMoveListener } from "./Interactable";

function App() {
  // set the initial props to create two cards
  const initialProps = {
    "1": { id: 1, text: "card1" },
    "2": { id: 2, text: "card2" }
  // creating state object
  const [data, setCurrentData] = React.useState(initialProps);

  // function will be called when the card is moved an the state is updated
  const handlePositionChange = (event) => {
    const [x, y] = dragMoveListener(event);
    const id =;
    setCurrentData((data) => {
      return {, [id]: {[id], position: { x: x, y: y } } };

  let boarditems = Object.keys(data).map((key) => {
    return (
        // modifying draggableOptions to use handlePositionChange
        draggableOptions={{ onmove: handlePositionChange }}
        // populating style using inline style
        <div className="draggable drag-item" style={{transform: `translate(${data?.position?.x}px, ${data?.position?.y}px)`}}>>

  return (
    <div className="App" id="app">

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