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Navigator Comparison

The differences between Navigator and NavigatorIOS have been a common source of confusion for newcomers. Facebook is transitioning from Navigator to NavigationExperimental, which will be the supported navigation library going forward.

NavigationExperimental is often referred to as "the new navigator", but it is actually a new approach to navigation logic that allows ANY view to act as a navigation view. It includes a pre-built component for managing scene animations called NavigationTransitioner. The views within can each define their own gestures and animations. There are pre-built scene and overlay components that are meant to look consistent with platform conventions.

Navigator and NavigatorIOS are both stateful components that allow you to manage the navigation in your app between various "scenes" (another word for screens). They manage a route stack and allow you to pop, push, and replace states. In this way, they are similar to the html5 history API. The primary distinction between the two is that NavigatorIOS leverages the iOS UINavigationController class, and Navigator re-implements that functionality entirely in JavaScript as a React component. A corollary of this is that Navigator is to be compatible with Android and iOS, whereas NavigatorIOS will only work on the one platform. If multiple of these stateful navigation components are used in an app, it can become tricky to coordinate navigation transitions between them.

NavigationExperimental

  • NavigationRootContainer allows navigation state to be stored at the top-level of the app
    • Uses a reducer to declaratively set up transitions in navigation state
    • Can save state to disk to persist navigation state over refreshes or app updates
    • Listens to Linking for url opening, and BackAndroid for easy back button support
  • NavigationReducer contains pre-built reducers to manage transitions in navigation state
    • Reducers can be combined with each other to set up advanced navigation logic
  • The navigation logic can work with any view
  • NavigationTransitioner is the component that can be used to manage animations between a set of scenes, and can be used to replace a Navigator or NavigatorIOS component.
    • Each scene can be totally custom and manage its own animations and gestures
    • Can have an overlay/header that can be syncronized with the animations of the scenes
  • NavigationCard and NavigationHeader are available as pre-built scenes and overlays which can be used with NavigationTransitioner

Navigator

  • Facebook is dropping support for Navigator and will focus on NavigationExperimental from now on
  • Owns navigations state and has an imperative API, which goes against the React philosophy of single-directional data flow
  • Scene animations and gestures are difficult to customize
    • Gestures are handled by the Navigator and cannot be customised on a per-scene basis
    • Animation customization is obscure because it predates the Animated library
  • Works on iOS and Android.
  • Includes a simple navigation bar component similar to the default NavigatorIOS bar: Navigator.NavigationBar, and another with breadcrumbs called Navigator.BreadcrumbNavigationBar. See the UIExplorer demo to try them out and see how to use them.
    • Animations are less refined than Apple's, which you get from NavigatorIOS.
  • You can provide your own navigation bar by passing it through the navigationBar prop.

NavigatorIOS

  • Has an imperative API that does not play nice with the rest of the app.
  • Small, limited API makes it much less customizable than Navigator or NavigationStackView
  • Development belongs to open-source community - not used by the React Native team on their apps.
    • A result of this is that there is currently a backlog of unresolved bugs, nobody who uses this has stepped up to take ownership for it yet.
    • If the community refactors it to be declarative, it will work nicely with NavigationExperimental
  • Wraps UIKit, so it works exactly the same as it would on another native app. Lives in Objective-C and JavaScript.
    • Consequently, you get the animations and behavior that Apple has developed.
  • iOS only.
  • Includes a navigation bar by default; this navigation bar is not a React Native view component and the style can only be slightly modified.

For most non-trivial apps, you will want to use NavigationExperimental - it won't be long before you run into issues when trying to do anything complex with NavigatorIOS.