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Abhishek Prakash
Abhishek Prakash

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Configure React from Ground Up

Originally posted on

Introduction ꒰⑅•ᴗ•⑅꒱

The easiest and the most effective way to write react code is to spin up a dev environment via create react app. I bet everyone who is into React development has used create react app. The best and the worst thing about CRA is abstraction. It abstracts away the details which are required for the setup. For someone new to react, its heaven as that person can solely focus on learning react. For a seasoned/senior developer, it makes more sense to know how the setup works. In this post, I will setup the dev environment to react from the ground up using Webpack and Babel.

Why do we need Webpack and Babel? (◞‸ლ)


At its core, webpack is a static module bundler for modern JavaScript applications.

We can structure our application into multiple files and in the end webpack bundles out app into a bundle, ready to be served.


Babel is a toolchain that is mainly used to convert ECMAScript 2015+ code into a backward-compatible version of JavaScript in current and older browsers or environments.

We can write ESNext code and JSX in our application and the transpiling will be taken care of by babel.

What is our aim? (`_´)ゞ

Our aim is to have a basic setup which -

  • understand jsx and new javascript syntax (ESNext)
  • load CSS and images via import
  • is able to spin up a dev server and support hot reloading

In the rest of the post, we will try to achieve the above-mentioned points.

Warmup \(●o○;)ノ

We will start with creating a directory react-webpack

mkdir react-webpack
cd react-webpack

Next, we will create package.json

yarn init -y

-y flag above skips the interactive session of yarn. Feel free to omit the --yes flag if you want more control over your creation of package.json.

Note: I am using yarn as a package manager but you can use npm as well

Once we have our package.json ready, we need to install webpack-cli and webpack-dev-server.

Webpack CLI provides a flexible set of commands for developers to increase speed when setting up a custom webpack project.

Webpack Dev Server serves a webpack app and updates the browser on changes.

yarn add -D webpack-cli webpack-dev-server

Now, it's time to install babel and it's plugins/presets.

yarn add -D @babel/core babel-loader @babel/preset-env @babel/preset-react

We also need webpack plugins and loaders for files, css, and styles.

yarn add -D css-loader file-loader style-loader html-webpack-plugin

Phew, too many dependencies! (◣_◢)

Let's see what all do -

  • @babel/core - The core babel library
  • @babel/preset-env - It is a smart preset that allows you to use the latest JavaScript without needing to micromanage which syntax transforms (and optionally, browser polyfills) are needed by your target environment(s). This both makes your life easier and JavaScript bundles smaller!
  • @babel/preset-react - Transform React JSX into regular JavaScript code
  • babel-loader - Babel loader for webpack. This package allows transpiling JavaScript files using Babel and webpack.
  • css-loader - The css-loader interprets @import and url() like import/require() and will resolve them.
  • file-loader - The file-loader resolves import/require() on a file into a url and emits the file into the output directory.
  • style-loader - Inject CSS into the DOM.
  • html-webpack-plugin - The HtmlWebpackPlugin simplifies the creation of HTML files to serve your webpack bundles. This is especially useful for webpack bundles that include a hash in the filename which changes every compilation.

Finally, add react and react-dom

yarn add react react-dom

Code Walk ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ

In the previous section, we have added the required dependencies. In this section, we will walk together writing some code. (^∇^)

Add source code related to the application

Let's create a src directory under the root and add index.js, index.html, App.js and App.css

mkdir src
touch src/index.js src/index.html src/App.js src/App.css

Now, it's time to update the files. You can use the editor of your choice. I will first add some basic html to index.html

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
  <meta charset="UTF-8">
  <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
  <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="ie=edge">
  <title>My React App</title>
  <div id="root"></div>

<!-- src/index.html -->

Time for our first component

// src/App.js

import React from "react";
import "./App.css";
import reactImg from "./assets/react.svg";

const App = () => {
  return (
      <div>Welcome to React Webpack</div>
      <img src={reactImg} />

export default App;

Throw in some minor styles

/* src/App.css */

div {
  background-color: teal;

img {
  display: flex;
  height: 50px;
  width: 50px;

Finally wire them together in index.js, the entry point of this application

// src/index.js

import React from "react";
import ReactDOM from "react-dom";

import App from "./App";

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

Configure babel

The above code in the present state means nothing to the browser. We have to make it browser friendly and for that, we need to configure our babel. Let's create .babelrc file in the root and add below line to it.

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

Configure webpack

First create webpack.config.js in the root and add below code to it.

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

module.exports = {
  entry: './src/index.js',
  output: {
    path: path.resolve(__dirname, 'dist'),
    filename: 'bundle.js',
    chunkFilename: '[id].js',
    publicPath: ''
  resolve: {
    extensions: ['.js', '.jsx']
  module: {
    rules: [
        test: /\.js$/,
        loader: 'babel-loader',
        exclude: /node_modules/
        test: /\.css$/,
        use: [
          { loader: 'style-loader' },
            loader: 'css-loader',
            options: {
              modules: {
                localIdentName: "[name]__[local]___[hash:base64:5]"
              sourceMap: true
        test: /\.(png|jpe?g|gif|svg)$/i,
        use: [
            loader: 'file-loader',
  plugins: [
    new HtmlWebpackPlugin({
      template: __dirname + '/src/index.html',
      filename: 'index.html',
      inject: 'body'

Well, a lot is going on. Let's break and see what's happening.

  • entry - Represents the entry point of the application. In our case, it's src/index.js
  • output - Represents the outcome. In our case, the application is bundled in bundle.js and is stored in the dist directory.
  • resolve - It resolves the list of extensions
  • module - Out of the box, webpack only understands JavaScript and JSON files. Loaders allow webpack to process other types of files and convert them into valid modules that can be consumed by your application and added to the dependency graph.
  • plugins - While loaders are used to transform certain types of modules, plugins can be leveraged to perform a wider range of tasks like bundle optimization, asset management and injection of environment variables.

Run the app in dev mode

Almost there! Finally, add the below script to script section of package.json

script: {
  "start": "webpack-dev-server --open --hot --mode development"

And to run the application, open a terminal and hit

yarn start

Conclusion ᕦ༼ ͡° ͜ ͝° ༽ᕤ

In this post, we have successfully created our react workspace using webpack and babel. It can easily be extended as per the use case, like adding strict typings support (Flow or TypeScript), etc.

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to comment below.

Top comments (4)

otomer profile image
Tomer Ovadia • Edited

Nice post @linuxnerd !
"For someone new to react, its heaven as that person can solely focus on learning react. For a seasoned/senior developer, it makes more sense to know how the setup works. "

Gotta admit I do not completely agree with you about this CRA statement.

  1. Understanding how things work and configure everything for your project is two different things.
  2. You can always easily eject a CRA to a custom setup at any time.
  3. Both new and experienced developers will enjoy zero time wasting on configurations and focus on writing code.
  4. CRA is a single dependency, that means hassle-free updates for all the main packages with a single dependency.
  5. CRA already includes Webpack, Babel and ESLint (as you mentioned), but it also includes really great packages that creates a cohesive experience (which is ideal for React) on top of them. At some point you will need to put more time around configuring packages like dotenv, jest, svg and more ideal configurations for your react linter.
linuxnerd profile image
Abhishek Prakash

Thanks, @otomer for expressing your views!
I completely agree with you, It doesn't make sense to reinvent the wheels. But, in this post, I never advocated against the use of CRA.

This post is more towards getting a clear understanding of how things work by actually doing it.

anshulkatta profile image
Anshul Katta

amazing post , i never knew this much we have to do....

linuxnerd profile image
Abhishek Prakash

Glad you liked it! But this just tip of the iceberg.