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How to create a react app without create-react-app command

jose1897 profile image Jose Esteban Garcia Grullon ・5 min read

Create a react app only using a basic webpack and babel configuration

You can find the code with the settings already made in my repository https://github.com/jose1897/minimal-react-webpack-babel-setup

Requirements

  • install node

First we will define the tools that we are going to use and we are going to give a brief review of what each one does

Webpack

Webpack is a Bundler of javascript modules although it can also transform static files such as HTML, css and images.

The main benefits of using webpack are:

  • Provides you with a transcompiler with babel
  • Elimination of dead code
  • Code minification
  • Management of static files

Babel

It is a javascript transcompiler that is mainly used to convert ECMAScript 2015+ code to a compatible javascript version for older environments.

Already finished the boring theory part 😴 Let's start with the configuration

We will start by creating a new directory that will contain our project

mkdir react_app
cd react_app

Then we will proceed to start a new project using npm

npm init -y

This will create a package.json file which has the default settings for an npm project.

Before continuing to install the packages we are going to create the basic files of the project

react_app
β”œβ”€ package.json
└─ src
   β”œβ”€ App.jsx
   β”œβ”€ index.html
   └─ index.js

The file index.html andindex.js will be the ones that will start our project. For now, let's work with them.

The index.html will have the basic HTML5 format with a div tag that will have the id 'root'

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
<head>
  <meta charset="UTF-8">
  <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
  <title>React App</title>
</head>
<body>
  <div id="root"></div>
</body>
</html>

This div will be where our react components will be rendered

The index.js will start the javascript script in the html

But before writing the code of this file we will install react with the following command

npm install react react-dom

These packages allow you to write react code and render it at the DOM

Now we can code the index.js

import React from 'react'
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom'

ReactDOM.render(<h1>Hello world</h1>, document.querySelector('#root'))

Import the react packages and render an h1 in the tag with the id of 'root'

Now we continue with the setup! 😁

We will install the main packages for the configuration using npm

npm install  webpack webpack-cli --save-dev
npm install @babel/core @babel/preset-env @babel/preset-react babel-loader --save-dev

Ok ok I know, this is too much at once but everything will be explained

The webpack packages are the basic packages so that we can use to bundle the project code

Babel packages, I will detail them one by one

  • babel/core: is the babel core package
  • @babel/preset-env: allows you to use the latest JavaScript without micromanaging which syntaxist transformations
  • @babel/preset-react: allows to use react code
  • babel-loader: This package allows you to transpile JavaScript files using Babel and webpack.

Now that we understand what each package is used for, let's add the following scripts to package.json

"start": "webpack --mode development",
"build": "webpack --mode production"

You will notice that when executing any of these scripts we have errors and not exactly the expected result, this is because we have not configured the webpack even so we are going to do it

To configure webpack we will create a file webpack.config.js

const path = require("path");

module.exports = {
  entry: "./src",
  output: {
    path: path.resolve(__dirname, "public"),
    filename: "bundle.js",
  },
  module: {
    rules: [
      {
        test: /\.(js|jsx)/,
        exclude: /node_modules/,
        use: ["babel-loader"],
      },
    ],
  },
  resolve: {
    extensions: ["*", ".js", ".jsx"],
  },
};

Ok, don't be scared. What we are doing here is very simple.

We export the webpack configuration, first indicating where is the index.js file that we are going to use and then indicating the folder where we are going to save it and the name of the file.

Then we create a rule indicating webpack for the .js and .jsx files is going to use babel-loader

And finally we indicate the extensions that webpack can use

What's going on? still not working 😟

Well that's because we haven't configured babel yet, for this we will create a .babelrc file

{
  "presets": [
    [
      "@babel/preset-env",
      {
        "targets": {
          "node": "current"
        }
      }
    ],
    "@babel/react"
  ]
}

Here we are only indicating to babel to use the packages that you had installed before specifying that we will use the node modules for the preset-env

It works now! ...Or not ?

Well, you can certainly run the scripts and the bundle.js file will be created correctly, but there is no html to open our page. And that's because webpack is designed for javascript, to be able to use it with html we will have to install a plugin we will use npm for this

npm install html-webpack-plugin --save-dev

We will add this plugin to our webpack configuration

const path = require("path");
const HtmlWebpackPlugin = require('html-webpack-plugin');

const htmlPlugin = new HtmlWebpackPlugin({
  template: "./src/index.html",
  filename: "./index.html"
})

module.exports = {
  entry: "./src",
  output: {
    path: path.resolve(__dirname, "public"),
    filename: "bundle.js",
  },
  module: {
    rules: [
      {
        test: /\.(js|jsx)/,
        exclude: /node_modules/,
        use: ["babel-loader"],
      },
    ],
  },
  resolve: {
    extensions: ["*", ".js", ".jsx"],
  },
  plugins: [htmlPlugin]
};

First we import the plugin we instantiate it indicating which file it will take and the name of the file it will create and then we include the instance in plugins

Everything is ready !! πŸ˜‰ Well almost

The index.html and thebundle.js are already created when running npm start ornpm run build but this is not how a react application is executed, at least not in development mode, it is annoying that every once we make a change in the code we have to create the files and for this we will add a new webpack package using npm

npm install webpack-dev-server

Now we will change the start script of the package.json

"webpack-dev-server --mode development --open --hot --port 3000" 

This command will no longer create the files in the public folder instead it will start a server at http: // localhost: 3000 /

The β€”open indicates that the webpack will continue to run by compiling the file changes and making these changes visible

The β€”hot is for changes to be made without having to refresh the entire page

Now your setup is ready!

Let's add code to the App.jsx file to test that you can also run this extension file

import React from 'react'

const App = () => {
  return (
    <h1>
      React App
    </h1>
  )
}

export default App

And let's import this into index.js

import React from 'react'
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom'

import App from './App'

ReactDOM.render(<App/>, document.querySelector('#root'))

That was all any questions or suggestions you can leave in the comments I am just a student and what interests me most is learning so do not hesitate to comment

Posted on May 18 by:

jose1897 profile

Jose Esteban Garcia Grullon

@jose1897

Web developer apprentice, Frontend and Backend

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