Efficient API Handling: GraphQL and Apollo for Modern React Applications

If you’re a web developer, you've probably heard of GraphQL and Apollo. These two technologies have revolutionized the way we interact with APIs. Instead of using traditional REST APIs, GraphQL and Apollo provide a more efficient way to handle data and offer many benefits such as, reducing the amount of unnecessary data transferred over the network, more advanced caching capabilities, and ease of use, especially in larger projects with lots of data to handle.

In this tutorial, we’ll go over the basics of GraphQL and Apollo and demonstrate how they can be integrated into modern React applications, to provide a more streamlined and efficient handling of APIs.

What is GraphQL?

GraphQL is a query language designed specifically for APIs. It was created by Facebook in 2012 and released to the public in 2015, and has since then become a popular alternative to traditional REST APIs. What makes GraphQL stand out is the ability to request only the exact data you need, rather than requesting entire resources from the backend.

Key Features of GraphQL

Some of the key features of GraphQL include:

  • A single endpoint for all data requests
  • Efficient and precise data fetching
  • Strong typing and sophisticated schema validation
  • Easy integration with front-end frameworks and libraries
  • Powerful tooling, such as GraphiQL and GraphQL Playground

What is Apollo?

Apollo is a set of tools and libraries for GraphQL, created by the team at ApolloGraphQL. The Apollo Client is a powerful state management library, designed specifically for React applications, that integrates with GraphQL APIs. It provides a seamless way for clients to interact with the server and dispatch data updates across components.

Key Features of Apollo

Some of the key features of Apollo include:

  • Easy integration with React applications
  • Efficient data fetching and caching
  • Flexible error handling and query management
  • Powerful debugging and development tooling
  • Compatibility across various servers, clients, and stacks

How To Get Started

Let’s now dive into the code and see how to integrate GraphQL and Apollo in a React application. For this tutorial, we'll be creating a simple application that fetches a list of books from a GraphQL server using Apollo.

Setting Up a GraphQL Server with Node.js and Express.js

As this tutorial focuses on how to integrate Apollo with a React application, setting up a GraphQL server is out of the scope. However, you can follow the instructions in this article to build an example GraphQL server with Node.js and Express.js, along with a Postgres database: Building a GraphQL API with Apollo Server in Node.js.

Setting Up Apollo Client in React

First, let's create a new React application using create-react-app:

npx create-react-app my-apollo-app
cd my-apollo-app

Next, let's install the necessary dependencies:

npm install apollo-boost react-apollo graphql graphql-tag

Now that we have all the dependencies, let’s create a new file, and name it index.js, inside the src directory:

import React from 'react';
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom';
import App from './App';

import ApolloClient from 'apollo-boost';
import { ApolloProvider } from 'react-apollo';

const client = new ApolloClient({
  uri: 'http://localhost:4000/graphql'

  <ApolloProvider client={client}>
    <App />
  , document.getElementById('root')

As you can see, we've initialized a new ApolloClient and passed in the GraphQL server’s URL to the uri property. We've also wrapped our component App with the ApolloProvider component, which gives the app access to the ApolloClient instance. The client instance is then passed as a prop to the provider component.

Fetching Data with Apollo

Now that we've set up the Apollo Client, let’s create a new component and fetch some data from the server. Create a new file Books.js inside the src/components/ directory, and add the following code:

import React from 'react';
import { Query } from 'react-apollo';
import gql from 'graphql-tag';

const GET_BOOKS = gql`
    books {

const Books = () => (
  <Query query={GET_BOOKS}>
    {({ data, loading, error }) => {
      if (loading) return <p>Loading...</p>;
      if (error) return <p>Error :(</p>;

      return data.books.map(({ title, author }) => (
        <div key={title}>
          <h4>{title} - {author}</h4>

export default Books;

Here, we’ve defined a new query, GET_BOOKS, to fetch the data for books. We’re also using the Query component that comes with the react-apollo library that wraps our query and retrieves data from the server. The component is passed a query prop that specifies the query we defined earlier.

The child function of the Query component, which receives the server data (data), as well as loading state and error objects, will be called with the most recent results every time data is updated by the server. The function then handles and modifies the data before rendering it as HTML elements. The function first checks if data is loading, and if so, it renders a loading indicator. If an error occurs, we render an error message to the user, indicating that something went wrong. Finally, if the server returns data, the function maps over the books array and renders the book's title and author as an HTML element.

Now, let’s add the Books component to our App component. Open the App.js file in the src directory:

import React, { Component } from 'react';
import Books from './components/Books';

class App extends Component {
  render() {
    return (
      <div className="App">
        <h1>List of Books</h1><hr />
        <Books />

export default App;

Here, we’ve imported our Books component and rendered it inside our App component. The component renders a header followed by the Books component.


In conclusion, GraphQL and Apollo offer powerful and performant solutions for managing API calls in modern web development. Apollo provides an easy way to integrate with React applications and can be used with other libraries such as Redux to manage application state. While GraphQL may seem like a new concept, it’s quickly becoming the foundation of modern API development, especially with high-bandwidth applications. Using GraphQL with Apollo Client allows you to streamline data interactions, reducing the amount of unnecessary data transmitted while ensuring that your application stays performant.

So, go ahead and explore the powerful world of GraphQL and Apollo and discover what’s possible in modern development.