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React, Typescript, Parcel: Setting up Hot Module Reloading

Lúcás Meier
I love lambdas, sockets, and databases
・4 min read

Recently I had to setup a new greenfield project using React and Typescript. I'm a big fan of using parcel over other bundling tools like webpack. Parcel usually works with essentially no config whatsoever, and ends up being much simpler.

I did run into a few issues getting hot-module-reloading to work, so that's why I'm writing up this short post.

What is HMR?

Hot-module-reloading lets us change the code of our application while maintaining our current state and position in the website. This allows us to do things like tweak the styling of some page of our app without having to navigate all the way back to that page each time. This helps immensely when prototyping and developing an application.

Setting up a basic build

After creating an empty directory to set up the project in, we need to run a command to create an npm project:

npm init

After following the instructions in this command, you'll have a package.json file with metadata.

Essential packages

Now it's time to install the packages we'll end up using in the actual application. There are other packages we'll use as a developer, but that the end-user doesn't actually need.

npm install react react-dom

The first package is React, of course, which happens to be our framework of choice. react-dom is necessary for rendering in the browser.

Developer packages

Now we install all the tools we'll be using to develop.

npm install --save-dev parcel-bundler typescript @types/react @types/react-dom

We use --save-dev to make sure that these won't end up in the code that we end up shipping in production.

We can setup the typescript compiler with the following command:

npx tsc --init

We then need to add the following line:

"jsx": "react"

in order to get the Typescript compiler to handle our React html correctly.

Creating the basic frontend

Now we need to create a basic UI to test out the packages we've installed:

index.html

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
  <head>
    <meta charset="UTF-8" />
    <meta name="generator" content="parceljs" />
  </head>
  <body>
    <div id="root"></div>
    <script src="./index.tsx"></script>
  </body>
</html>

This file contains the basic HTML for our website. React will be filling in the rest, starting from the element with id root. We reference our main typescript file, which will be like this:

index.tsx

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

ReactDOM.render(<App />, document.getElementById('root'));

Here we render our main App component in the element with id root. The component is defined like this:

components/App.tsx

import React, { FunctionComponent, useState } from "react";

const App: FunctionComponent = () => {
  const [count, setCount] = useState(0);
  return (
    <>
      <p>Count: {count}</p>
      <button onClick={() => setCount(count + 1)}>+</button>
    </>
  );
};
export default App;

Understanding everything going on here isn't important, all that matters is having a component with a bit of state (here, the current count) so we can see whether or not HMR works. This component is just a counter we can increment with a button.

Bundling

Now, we can bundle and serve the app by adding the following script to package.json:

"scripts": {
  "dev": "parcel index.html"
}

Now in order to start up a development server, we just run npm run dev. Parcel will magically figure out how to bundle everything based on the imports in the files themselves, without any configuration from us.

We can now navigate to our frontend at http://localhost:1234 in our browser (or whatever else parcel tells us).

We should see something like this:

Counter.

Now, if we change the following line in App.tsx to:

<p>The Count: {count}</p>

the entire page reloads, and the count is lost, before we see our change. This isn't ideal, because we might want to be styling or editing the logic for a specific state. Having to reset the state manually each time is a pain. This is where HMR is useful.

Setting up HMR

We first need to install a package for hot module reloading in React.

npm install --save-dev react-hot-loader

We only need this in development, hence --save-dev.

We now need to modify the root component of our app, in App.tsx:

import { hot } from 'react-hot-loader';
...
declare const module: any;
export default hot(module)(App);

This only needs to be done to the top-level component, as we add more components they can be written normally.

With this simple change, we now have HMR! In order to test this out, try incrementing the counter, and then changing the text in the component. The counter's state shouldn't change even as the text does. This is HMR in action.

Repo

I've hosted the code for this demo here

Discussion (1)

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portela828 profile image
Flavio Portela

You can avoid the declare if you import from react-hot-loader/root instead of react-hot-loader

github.com/gaearon/react-hot-loade...

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