A react wrapper for the Phocus library
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Phocus: focus and action management, with context-sensitive hotkeys

This is a react wrapper for the Phocus library.

Phocus helps you make your apps accessible and power-user-friendly by managing context-sensitive actions. Hotkeys and buttons are tied to the same root action definition, so they're guaranteed to do the same thing.

Phocus lets your users set, change, and unset keyboard shortcuts for all manner of actions in your app, and those shortcuts can be context-dependent, based on what object has focus.

Example usage

See React-Phocus Example for an absolutely stripped-down example of phocus making a todo.

See Vistimo for a rich and complicated use-case.


yarn add react-phocus or npm install react-phocus.

Phocus comes with typescript typings; no need to install them separately.


Usage is much the same as Phocus.

ActionContextSevice and Action

An action context is a set of actions which are available only when focus is within a specific part of the page. A context consists of a globally unique name, help text, and a list of actions. Each action has a name, help text, default hot keys, and an implementation.

import {
} from "react-phocus";

// Wherever you like, but ideally on startup, define some contexts:
ActionContextService.addContext("feature-thumbnail", {
  name: "The Feature Thumbnail",
  documentation: <ThumbnailDocs />,
  hidden: false,
  actions: {
    showBugs: new Action({
      name: "Show bugs",
      shortDocumentation: "Show a list of bugs filed against this feature",
      actOn: (id) => {
        let feature = getFeature(id);
      defaultKeys: ["b"]
    showEnhancements: new Action({
      name: "Show enhancements",
      shortDocumentation: "Show a list of enhancements planned for this feature",
      actOn: (id) => {
        let feature = getFeature(id);
      defaultKeys: ["h"]
    edit: new Action({
      name: "Edit",
      shortDocumentation: "Edit the feature's name or other properties without leaving the feature map.",
      actOn: (id, element, event) => {
        // You also get a reference to the context element,
        // and to the triggering event.
      defaultKeys: ["e"]

PhocusContext and PhocusButton

Rather than using the data-phocus- attributes to connect contexts and actions to the DOM, use these two react components:

<PhocusContext context="feature-thumbnail" argument={123}>
  <PhocusButton action="showBugs" />
    <PhocusButton action="showEnhancements" />
    <PhocusButton action="edit"><i class="pencil-icon" /></PhocusButton>

Start your engines

Finally, use startPhocus to get things started.

import { startPhocus } from "react-phocus";
import "react-phocus/dist/react-phocus.css"; // Only if you want the default CSS for phocus-modal and with-command-palette.

// Starting Phocus before your initial page load can slow down
// load times. It's recommended to wait until the initial
// render, and then call

Contexts can be nested, and are transparent; if a child context does not shadow a parent's hotkey, then that hotkey will work even when the child is focused. A context marked opaque: true will shadow all actions in its parent.

PhocusButtons will be giving appropriate aria-labels, and if they contain no children, will be filled in with the actions 'name'.

Constraining Focus

For modals and the like, it can be important to constrain focus, and prevent it from tabbing onto hidden elements.

ConstrainFocusService.pushConstraint(() => element);

Takes a function that returns an element (useful if the element in question hasn't been rendered, or changes over time), and will constrain focus to within that element until such time as you call


As the names suggest, there is a stack of constraints; you can push consecutive constraints, and pop them one by one.


Speaking of modals, react-phocus provides an a11y-attentive modal that interacts well with phocus.

{this.state.modalOpen && <PhocusModal close={() => this.setState({modalOpen: false})}>
  This is a modal!

Focus is constrained to the modal, screenreading is constrained to the modal, clicking away will close, hitting escape will close.


Phocus provides an interface for listing, manipulating, and rebinding the available hotkeys and actions. React-phocus provides a default interface for that. Wrap your app in a <WithCommandPalette> component, and press Control+Shift+P to see a searchable list of actions. Click on any of the keybindings (or hit 'e'!) to rebind or unbind them.

Hotkey remapping

If you'd rather not use the provided WithCommandPalette component, hotkey mapping works exactly as in Phocus.

ActionContextService.currentRemapping is a JSON object representing the current mapping of hotkeys to actions. If you store this for a user, either in localstorage or on a server, then on subsequent visits, you can use ActionContextService.restoreRemapping(mapping) which takes that JSON object and restores the mapping it represents.

remapAction(action: Action, newMapping) takes an Action object and a key string (such as "Control+a") and customizes that action with that hotkey.

unmapAction(action: Action) removes hotkeys from an Action.

unremapAction(action) restores the default hotkeys to an Action.

All three remapping functions are temporary without using currentRemapping and restoreRemapping to carry the effects across sessions.

Other useful functions

These all work exactly as in Phocus.

stopPhocus(element) removes all Phocus' event watchers from the dom.

ActionContextService.availableActions is the list of actions that could be taken in the currently focused context, and all its parents. This is useful for generating context-sensitive documentation.

ActionContextService.contextStack is the list of context-names, arguments, and DOM elements for the current context and all its ancestors.

ActionContextService.contexts is an object describing all context blueprints.

ActionContextService.setContext(element) will set the context to a given element. Using document.activeElement as an argument is the most common, setting the context to the currently focused element.

focusInContext(phocusId[, element]) will focus on an element with the attribute data-phocus-id="[phocusId]"; but it will focus on the element that is the nearest context sibling. That is, if such an element exists in the currently focused context, it will focus on it. Otherwise it will look for one in the parent context, then the granparent context. This allows muliple elements on the page to have the same phocus-id, while still allowing us to focus on the meaningful one, not just the first in the DOM.


react-phocus is, first and foremost, a tool I use for building products myself. I probably won't accept changes that make it less effective for me, personally.

However, if you like react-phocus, and want to contribute, feel free to reach out, and I'll add you to the Vistimo project that tracks Phocus' progress.

Github issues are, if not welcome, accepted, and will be read eventually.