Webpacker

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node.js Gem

Webpacker makes it easy to use the JavaScript pre-processor and bundler webpack 5.x.x+ to manage application-like JavaScript in Rails. It coexists with the asset pipeline, as the primary purpose for webpack is app-like JavaScript, not images, CSS, or even JavaScript Sprinkles (that all continues to live in app/assets).

However, it is possible to use Webpacker for CSS, images and fonts assets as well, in which case you may not even need the asset pipeline. This is mostly relevant when exclusively using component-based JavaScript frameworks.

NOTE: The master branch now hosts the code for v6.x.x. Please refer to 5-x-stable branch for 5.x documentation.

Table of Contents

Prerequisites

  • Ruby 2.4+
  • Rails 5.2+
  • Node.js 10.22.1+ || 12+ || 14+
  • Yarn 1.x+

Features

  • webpack 5.x.x
  • ES6 with babel
  • Automatic code splitting using multiple entry points
  • Asset compression, source-maps, and minification
  • CDN support
  • Rails view helpers
  • Extensible and configurable

Optional support

requires extra packages to be installed

  • Stylesheets - Sass, Less, Stylus and Css, PostCSS
  • CoffeeScript
  • TypeScript
  • React

Installation

You can either add Webpacker during setup of a new Rails 5.1+ application using new --webpack option:

# Available Rails 5.1+
rails new myapp --webpack

Or add it to your Gemfile:

# Gemfile
gem 'webpacker', '~> 6.x'

# OR if you prefer to use master
gem 'webpacker', git: 'https://github.com/rails/webpacker.git'
yarn add https://github.com/rails/webpacker.git

Finally, run the following to install Webpacker:

bundle
bundle exec rails webpacker:install

# OR (on rails version < 5.0)
bundle exec rake webpacker:install

Optional: To fix "unmet peer dependency" warnings,

yarn upgrade

When package.json and/or yarn.lock changes, such as when pulling down changes to your local environment in a team settings, be sure to keep your NPM packages up-to-date:

# default for `yarn` is to install
yarn

Usage

Once installed, you can start writing modern ES6-flavored JavaScript apps right away:

app/packs:
  ├── entrypoints:
  │   # Only webpack entry files here
  │   └── application.js
  │   └── application.css
  └── src:
  │   └── my_component.js
  └── stylesheets:
  │   └── my_styles.css
  └── images:
      └── logo.svg

You can then link the JavaScript pack in Rails views using the javascript_pack_tag helper. If you have styles imported in your pack file, you can link them by using stylesheet_pack_tag:

<%= javascript_pack_tag 'application' %>
<%= stylesheet_pack_tag 'application' %>

If you want to link a static asset for <img /> tag, you can use the asset_pack_path helper:

<img src="<%= asset_pack_path 'images/logo.svg' %>" />

Or use the dedicated helper:

<%= image_pack_tag 'application.png', size: '16x10', alt: 'Edit Entry' %>
<%= image_pack_tag 'picture.png', srcset: { 'picture-2x.png' => '2x' } %>

If you want to create a favicon:

<%= favicon_pack_tag 'mb-icon.png', rel: 'apple-touch-icon', type: 'image/png' %>

If you want to preload a static asset in your <head>, you can use the preload_pack_asset helper:

<%= preload_pack_asset 'fonts/fa-regular-400.woff2' %>

If you want to use images in your stylesheets:

.foo {
  background-image: url('../images/logo.svg')
}

Note, if you are using server-side rendering of JavaScript with dynamic code-spliting, as is often done with extensions to Webpacker, like React on Rails your JavaScript should create the link prefetch HTML tags that you will use, so you won't need to use to asset_pack_path in those circumstances.

Note: In order for your styles or static assets files to be available in your view, you would need to link them in your "pack" or entry file. Otherwise, Webpack won't know to package up those files.

Development

Webpacker ships with two binstubs: ./bin/webpack and ./bin/webpack-dev-server. Both are thin wrappers around the standard webpack.js and webpack-dev-server.js executables to ensure that the right configuration files and environmental variables are loaded based on your environment.

In development, Webpacker compiles on demand rather than upfront by default. This happens when you refer to any of the pack assets using the Webpacker helper methods. This means that you don't have to run any separate processes. Compilation errors are logged to the standard Rails log. However, this auto-compilation happens when a web request is made that requires an updated webpack build, not when files change. Thus, that can be painfully slow for front-end development in this default way. Instead, you should either run the bin/webpack --watch or run ./bin/webpack-dev-server

If you want to use live code reloading, or you have enough JavaScript that on-demand compilation is too slow, you'll need to run ./bin/webpack-dev-server or ruby ./bin/webpack-dev-server. Windows users will need to run these commands in a terminal separate from bundle exec rails s. This process will watch for changes in the app/packs/entrypoints/*.js files and automatically reload the browser to match. This feature is also known as Hot Module Replacement.

HMR is only the first step to running "Fast Refresh" with React. For more information on how to configure rails/webpacker for Fast Refresh with React, see article HMR and React Hot Reloading.

# webpack dev server
./bin/webpack-dev-server

# watcher
./bin/webpack --watch --colors --progress

# standalone build
./bin/webpack

Once you start this webpack development server, Webpacker will automatically start proxying all webpack asset requests to this server. When you stop this server, Rails will detect that it's not running and Rails will revert back to on-demand compilation if you have the compile option set to true in your config/webpacker.yml

You can use environment variables as options supported by webpack-dev-server in the form WEBPACKER_DEV_SERVER_<OPTION>. Please note that these environmental variables will always take precedence over the ones already set in the configuration file, and that the same environmental variables must be available to the rails server process.

WEBPACKER_DEV_SERVER_HOST=example.com WEBPACKER_DEV_SERVER_INLINE=true WEBPACKER_DEV_SERVER_HOT=false ./bin/webpack-dev-server

By default, the webpack dev server listens on localhost in development for security purposes. However, if you want your app to be available over local LAN IP or a VM instance like vagrant, you can set the host when running ./bin/webpack-dev-server binstub:

WEBPACKER_DEV_SERVER_HOST=0.0.0.0 ./bin/webpack-dev-server

Note: You need to allow webpack-dev-server host as an allowed origin for connect-src if you are running your application in a restrict CSP environment (like Rails 5.2+). This can be done in Rails 5.2+ in the CSP initializer config/initializers/content_security_policy.rb with a snippet like this:

  Rails.application.config.content_security_policy do |policy|
    policy.connect_src :self, :https, 'http://localhost:3035', 'ws://localhost:3035' if Rails.env.development?
  end

Note: Don't forget to prefix ruby when running these binstubs on Windows

Webpack Configuration

Webpacker gives you a default set of configuration files for test, development and production environments in config/webpack/*.js. You can configure each individual environment in their respective files or configure them all in the base config/webpack/base.js file.

By default, you don't need to make any changes to config/webpack/*.js files since it's all standard production-ready configuration. However, if you do need to customize or add a new loader, this is where you would go.

Here is how you can modify webpack configuration:

You might add separate files to keep your code more organized.

// config/webpack/custom.js
module.exports = {
  resolve: {
    alias: {
      jquery: 'jquery/src/jquery',
      vue: 'vue/dist/vue.js',
      React: 'react',
      ReactDOM: 'react-dom',
      vue_resource: 'vue-resource/dist/vue-resource'
    }
  }
}

Then require this file in your config/webpack/base.js:

// config/webpack/base.js
const { webpackConfig, merge } = require('@rails/webpacker')
const customConfig = require('./custom')

module.exports = merge(webpackConfig, customConfig)

If you need access to configs within Webpacker's configuration, you can import them like so:

// config/webpack/base.js
const { webpackConfig } = require('@rails/webpacker')

console.log(webpackConfig.output_path)
console.log(webpackConfig.source_path)

// Or to print out your whole webpack configuration
console.log(JSON.stringify(webpackConfig, undefined, 2))

Integrations

Webpacker out of the box supports JS and static assets (fonts, images etc.) compilation. To enable support for CoffeeScript or TypeScript install relevant packages:

CoffeeScript

yarn add coffeescript coffee-loader

TypeScript

yarn add typescript @babel/preset-typescript

Add tsconfig.json

{
  "compilerOptions": {
    "declaration": false,
    "emitDecoratorMetadata": true,
    "experimentalDecorators": true,
    "lib": ["es6", "dom"],
    "module": "es6",
    "moduleResolution": "node",
    "baseUrl": ".",
    "paths": {
      "*": ["node_modules/*", "app/packs/*"]
    },
    "sourceMap": true,
    "target": "es5",
    "noEmit": true
  },
  "exclude": ["**/*.spec.ts", "node_modules", "vendor", "public"],
  "compileOnSave": false
}

Babel won’t perform any type-checking on TypeScript code. To optionally use type-checking run:

yarn add fork-ts-checker-webpack-plugin

Then modify the webpack config to use it as a plugin:

// config/webpack/base.js
const { webpackConfig, merge } = require("@rails/webpacker");
const ForkTSCheckerWebpackPlugin = require("fork-ts-checker-webpack-plugin");

module.exports = merge(webpackConfig, {
  plugins: [new ForkTSCheckerWebpackPlugin()],
});

CSS

To enable CSS support in your application, add following packages:

yarn add css-loader mini-css-extract-plugin css-minimizer-webpack-plugin

optionally, add the css extension to webpack config for easy resolution.

// config/webpack/base.js
const { webpackConfig, merge } = require('@rails/webpacker')
const customConfig = {
  resolve: {
    extensions: ['.css']
  }
}

module.exports = merge(webpackConfig, customConfig)

To enable postcss, sass or less support, add css support first and then add the relevant pre-processors:

Postcss

yarn add postcss-loader

Sass

yarn add sass sass-loader

Less

yarn add less less-loader

Stylus

yarn add stylus stylus-loader

React

React is supported and you just need to add relevant packages,

yarn add react react-dom @babel/preset-react

if you are using typescript, update your tsconfig.json

{
  "compilerOptions": {
    "declaration": false,
    "emitDecoratorMetadata": true,
    "experimentalDecorators": true,
    "lib": ["es6", "dom"],
    "module": "es6",
    "moduleResolution": "node",
    "sourceMap": true,
    "target": "es5",
    "jsx": "react",
    "noEmit": true
  },
  "exclude": ["**/*.spec.ts", "node_modules", "vendor", "public"],
  "compileOnSave": false
}

For more information on React props hydration and Server-Side Rendering (SSR), see the article Rails/Webpacker React Integration Options in the ShakaCode/react_on_rails repo.

Other frameworks

Please follow webpack integration guide for relevant framework or library,

  1. Svelte
  2. Angular
  3. Vue

For example to add Vue support:

// config/webpack/rules/vue.js
const VueLoaderPlugin = require('vue-loader/lib/plugin')

module.exports = {
  module: {
    rules: [
      {
        test: /\.vue$/,
        loader: 'vue-loader'
      }
    ]
  },
  plugins: [new VueLoaderPlugin()]
}
// config/webpack/base.js
const { webpackConfig, merge } = require('@rails/webpacker')
const vueConfig = require('./rules/vue')

module.exports = merge(webpackConfig, vueConfig)

Custom Rails environments

Out of the box Webpacker ships with - development, test and production environments in config/webpacker.yml however, in most production apps extra environments are needed as part of deployment workflow. Webpacker supports this out of the box from version 3.4.0+ onwards.

You can choose to define additional environment configurations in webpacker.yml,

staging:
  <<: *default

  # Production depends on precompilation of packs prior to booting for performance.
  compile: false

  # Cache manifest.json for performance
  cache_manifest: true

  # Compile staging packs to a separate directory
  public_output_path: packs-staging

or, Webpacker will use production environment as a fallback environment for loading configurations. Please note, NODE_ENV can either be set to production, development or test. This means you don't need to create additional environment files inside config/webpacker/* and instead use webpacker.yml to load different configurations using RAILS_ENV.

For example, the below command will compile assets in production mode but will use staging configurations from config/webpacker.yml if available or use fallback production environment configuration:

RAILS_ENV=staging bundle exec rails assets:precompile

And, this will compile in development mode and load configuration for cucumber environment if defined in webpacker.yml or fallback to production configuration

RAILS_ENV=cucumber NODE_ENV=development bundle exec rails assets:precompile

Please note, binstubs compiles in development mode however rake tasks compiles in production mode.

# Compiles in development mode unless NODE_ENV is specified, per the binstub source
./bin/webpack
./bin/webpack-dev-server

# Compiles in production mode by default unless NODE_ENV is specified, per `lib/tasks/webpacker/compile.rake`
bundle exec rails assets:precompile
bundle exec rails webpacker:compile

Upgrading

You can run following commands to upgrade Webpacker to the latest stable version. This process involves upgrading the gem and related JavaScript packages:

# check your Gemfile for version restrictions
bundle update webpacker

# overwrite your changes to the default install files and revert any unwanted changes from the install
rails webpacker:install

yarn upgrade @rails/webpacker --latest
yarn upgrade webpack-dev-server --latest

# Or to install the latest release (including pre-releases)
yarn add @rails/[email protected]

Also, consult the CHANGELOG for additional upgrade links.

Paths

By default, Webpacker ships with simple conventions for where the JavaScript app files and compiled webpack bundles will go in your Rails app. All these options are configurable from config/webpacker.yml file.

The configuration for what webpack is supposed to compile by default rests on the convention that every file in app/packs/entrypoints/*(default) or whatever path you set for source_entry_path in the webpacker.yml configuration is turned into their own output files (or entry points, as webpack calls it). Therefore you don't want to put anything inside packs directory that you do not want to be an entry file. As a rule of thumb, put all files you want to link in your views inside "packs" directory and keep everything else under app/packs.

Suppose you want to change the source directory from app/packs to frontend and output to assets/packs. This is how you would do it:

# config/webpacker.yml
source_path: frontend # packs are in frontend/packs
public_output_path: assets/packs # outputs to => public/assets/packs

Similarly you can also control and configure webpack-dev-server settings from config/webpacker.yml file:

# config/webpacker.yml
development:
  dev_server:
    host: localhost
    port: 3035

If you have hmr turned to true, then the stylesheet_pack_tag generates no output, as you will want to configure your styles to be inlined in your JavaScript for hot reloading. During production and testing, the stylesheet_pack_tag will create the appropriate HTML tags.

Additional paths

If you are adding Webpacker to an existing app that has most of the assets inside app/assets or inside an engine, and you want to share that with webpack modules, you can use the additional_paths option available in config/webpacker.yml. This lets you add additional paths that webpack should look up when resolving modules:

additional_paths: ['app/assets', 'vendor/assets']

You can then import these items inside your modules like so:

// Note it's relative to parent directory i.e. app/assets
import 'stylesheets/main'
import 'images/rails.png'

Note: Please be careful when adding paths here otherwise it will make the compilation slow, consider adding specific paths instead of whole parent directory if you just need to reference one or two modules

Deployment

Webpacker hooks up a new webpacker:compile task to assets:precompile, which gets run whenever you run assets:precompile. If you are not using Sprockets, webpacker:compile is automatically aliased to assets:precompile. Similar to sprockets both rake tasks will compile packs in production mode but will use RAILS_ENV to load configuration from config/webpacker.yml (if available).

When compiling assets for production on a remote server, such as a continuous integration environment, it's recommended to use yarn install --frozen-lockfile to install NPM packages on the remote host to ensure that the installed packages match the yarn.lock file.

Troubleshooting

See the doc page for Troubleshooting.

Contributing

Code Helpers

We encourage you to contribute to Webpacker! See CONTRIBUTING for guidelines about how to proceed.

License

Webpacker is released under the MIT License.