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How to Upgrade from BuckleScript to ReScript

webbureaucrat profile image webbureaucrat Originally published at webbureaucrat.gitlab.io on ・3 min read

I have a weakness: I have never seen an update I didn't want to adopt immediately. Betas? No thanks. Give me the nightly build. New major version of the Linux kernel? I'll just run the installation without stopping to grab my charger. So when BuckleScript announced a whole new language syntax (along with a rebrand to "ReScript"), I got excited and immediately wanted to transpile everything. This post will document the simple process step-by-step.

The need for the upgrade

To be honest, there isn't much of one. As the ReScript package maintainers have emphasized, the new compiler will not break code in the old syntax, as long as that old syntax is still in .re files.

I have as good a reason as any, though. I have a BuckleScript package called bs-elm-es6, and I want new users who are unfamiliar with the old syntax to be able to read it, so I transpiled it to the new ReScript syntax and pushed it to a new package called res-elm. I also have a demo website for bs-elm-es6 that functions as a project template and is also an important part of its documentation. I want to continue this template/documentations for users of res-elm (like myself), so that's what I'm going to start with here.

Upgrading to the ReScript compiler

I'd like to leave the BuckleScript version for historical reasons just in case there are users who aren't ready to make the switch, so I forked the repository rather than push drastic changes to the old one. To make the page work in GitLab pages, I created a new group called elmandrescript and created a new repository to match the domain, elmandrescript.gitlab.io Then I cloned that repository to my local workbench.

The next step, for me, is to navigate to my local BuckleScript repository and do a quick sanity check.

npm i
npm run build
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This should succeed, but it never hurts to make sure it does before you make changes.

Next, it's time to upgrade the compiler. For me, the easiest way to upgrade an npm package is just to uninstall and reinstall (without making any other changes in between.

npm r bs-platform
npm i bs-platform
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This should upgrade you to the latest version. Note: as long as both commands succeeded, this is not a breaking change. You should make sure that bs-platform is properly installed by running your build command once again.

npm run build
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This should succeed, which is a good reminder: we don't have to migrate everything all at once. If we want, we can use the old compiler for _.re_files that use the old syntax.

Upgrading old BuckleScript code to ReScript Syntax

The bsc -format command will translate our new code automatically. Run it on each of your scripts.

npx bsc -format src/Index.re > src/Index.res
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If you build after this command using npm run build again, you will get a compiler error because you now have two modules that have the same name. It is safe to remove the old .re file.

rm src/Index.re
npm run build
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Now your project should build successfully.

Review the new .res file and revise

It's worth reviewing your new code and looking at the changes. In particular, the transpiler sometimes deletes whitespace that I prefer to have. (I'm a stickler for 80-character lines, which is a challenge in ReScript). It also deletes semicolons at the ends of lines because semicolons are optional in ReScript.

I like semicolons, and the emacs reason-mode still needs them to determine tab width, so I'm going to put at least some of them back.

I'm also going to splurge and update some other code dependencies. In particular, I want to take this opportunity to upgrade from bs-elm-es6 to res-elm for a consistently readable syntax throughout the codebase. (And mostly because res-elm is mine and I really need to test it!)

Enjoy the new ReScript syntax

If the above steps succeeded, you have now moved successfully from BuckleScript 7 to ReScript 8. I'll update this post with the new npm package location as soon as its available.

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