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An overview of Gatsby

Gokul Suresh
Thinker! Dreamer! Developer! Free and Open Source Enthusiast!
・4 min read

Hey there, I've been playing with gatsby for a couple of weeks now. This note is not an in-depth explanation, just the things that we need to get started with gatsby.

What we will be going to look into

  1. The Initial Setup
  2. Starters, Themes, and Plugins
  3. The folder structure
  4. Adding plugins and options
  5. Graphql and page queries
  6. And Just an overview of gatsby.js files!

Before we start, we need a glance at few things.

What is Gatsby?

Gatsby is a static site generator(SSG), which uses React and GraphQL. It follows the latest web standards and is optimized to be highly performant. To know more about Gatsby visit the Official Website.

What is an SSG?

SSG stands for Static Site Generator. An SSG takes in templates, components, data and provides us with a static HTML page. Static site generators are an alternative to database-driven content management.

1. The initial setup

Before setting up Gatsby, we need to install some prerequisites.

  1. Node.js

Nodejs is a JavaScript runtime environment that runs on the V8 engine and executes JavaScript code outside a web browser.

Windows users install Node.js from https://nodejs.org/en/.

Linux users who are using ubuntu based system install Node.js by typing

   sudo apt install nodejs
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Linux users who are using Arch based system install Node.js by typing

   sudo pacman -S nodejs
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  1. The gatsby-cli

The Gatsby CLI tool lets us run gatsby commands on the command line. It is an npm package that we need to install.

   npm install -g gatsby-cli
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which will install gatsby-cli globally in our system.

Windows users need to run the following command to properly use gatsby-cli / any other globally installed npm package.

   Set-ExecutionPolicy -Scope CurrentUser -ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted
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2. Starters, Themes, and Plugins

What is a Gatsby starter site?

The easiest way to get started with gatsby is to use a starter template from the Gatsby Starter Library.
These are preset gatsby projects which have everything already configured and ready for use.
The Hello-World starter is a base starter with the basic pre-configured.
So, now we need to create a new gatsby site from the starter.

    gatsby new [YOUR-PROJECT-NAME] https://github.com/gatsbyjs/gatsby-starter-hello-world
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Then cd into the project folder.

    cd [YOUR-PROJECT-NAME]
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Run the development server by :

gatsby develop
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or

npm start
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There is an abundance of plugins available for a gatsby project, such as plugins for responsive images, google font injection, stylings, the list goes on.
Themes are Plugins that come with pre-configured functionality, data sourcing, or a predesigned UI.

3. The folder structure

When we create a new gatsby site from the template, we can see an src folder that contains a pages folder; this folder is responsible for the routing in the gatsby site.
Every component we create inside this folder creates URL route /(component name)

If we have a component, about.js inside the pages folder.

import React from "react"

const About = () => {
  return <h1>The about page</h1>
}
export default NotFound
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This can be accessed via localhost:8000/about

If we create a 404.js file, it will be served if the requested route is not found.

4. Adding plugins and options

Plugins are usually installed using the npm package manager.

npm install [PLUGIN-NAME]
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And configured in the gatsby-config.js file

module.exports = {
  plugins: [
    //plugins are added here with the options they need
  ],
}
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If we want to install the Google fonts plugin.

npm install gatsby-plugin-google-fonts
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and in the gatsby-config.js file

module.exports = {
  plugins: [
    {
      resolve: `gatsby-plugin-google-fonts`,
      options: {
        fonts: [
          `limelight`,
          `source sans pro\:300,400,400i,700`, // you can also specify font weights and styles
        ],
        display: "swap",
      },
    },
  ],
}
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5. Graphql and page queries

GraphQL is a query language developed by Facebook. It interacts with APIs. Queries allow us to get all the information we need inside of a single request.
Gatsby uses Graphql to interact with local files. This allows us to reuse pieces of data.

There are two types of queries we can use in Gatsby, static and page queries.

Static queries

We can implement static queries using a react hook called useStaticQuery.Which will query data with Graphql at build time.

React hooks let us use state and other React features without writing a class.
Want to know more about hooks React Hooks

const ComponentName = () => {
  const data = useStaticQuery(graphql`
    query {
      logo: file(relativePath: { eq: "logo.svg" }) {
        publicURL
      }
    }
  `)
  return <div><img src={data.logo.publicURL} alt="logo goes here"></div>
}
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Where as in a page query

export const PageQuery = graphql`
  query MyQuery {
    logo: file(relativePath: { eq: "logo.svg" }) {
      publicURL
    }
  }
`

const ComponentName=({data})=>{
  return <div><img src={data.logo.publicURL} alt="logo goes here"></div>

}
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6. Overview of Gatsby files

  • gatsby-node.js is executed once in the process of building our site.
    We can use it to dynamically create pages, add Graphql Nodes, etc.

  • gatsby-config.js contains all the plugins and configs for the site, including the site metadata.

  • gatsby-browser.js used to respond to browser events and wrap the site with additional components.

  • gatsby-ssr.js Related with Server-Side-Rendering. This file will let us alter the content of static HTML files while they are being rendered by the server.

Well, That's a wrap, folks! Hope you enjoyed reading!

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