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Configure reactjs with webpack and grunt

So, you wanna bun­dle your react com­po­nents using web­pack? How about a grunt task that con­tin­u­ously watches the changes that you make to your jsx files and auto­mat­i­cally com­piles them before web­pack bun­dles them together?

In this post, we are going to do exactly that.

The entire source code for this project is avail­able at github here .

Direc­tory Structure

The project has 3 main parts
– app.js: A sim­ple nodejs http server that lit­er­ally does noth­ing but server your sta­tic pages.
– public/js/src: The direc­tory where we will keep all our .js and .jsx files.
– public/js/build: The direc­tory where the com­piled form of our jsx files are placed and then bun­dled.
– Two basic html pages: public/index.html , public/anotherPage.html, just to demon­strate how to con­fig­ure web­pack to cre­ate one bun­dle per page.

rootd directory structure

Set­ting up your package.json
You can look at the package.json file from the github repos­i­tory. Else, if you are adding it to an exist­ing project, you can run the fol­low­ing com­mands from your project root to get your dev depen­den­cies right.

npm install --save-dev expose-loader grunt grunt-browserify grunt-cli grunt-contrib-watch grunt-react grunt-webpack webpack nodemon

If you haven’t installed react, you will need to do that as well

npm install --save react

The public/js/src direc­tory
Sicne React mainly deals with com­po­nents, its nice to have a direc­tory in which you keep all of your com­po­nents. Here’s how our stuff is orga­nized within the public/js/src direc­tory
components/common : As the name sug­gests, keep any com­po­nents reused on mul­ti­ple pages here.
components/index : Com­po­nents spe­cific to the index page.
components/index/Page.jsx: The top level React com­po­nent for the index page.

components/anotherPage: Com­po­nents spe­cific to the anoth­er­Page page.
components/anotherPage/Page.jsx: The top level React com­po­nent for the anoth­er­Page page.


The grunt con­fig­u­ra­tion
We are going to keep our grunt file sim­ple by split­ting the con­fig­u­ra­tion of each task into their own files and them require them as modules.

rootd directory structure

module.exports = function(grunt) {


  grunt.config( 'webpack', require('./grunt/webpack.js') );
  grunt.config( 'react', require('./grunt/react.js') );
  grunt.config( 'watch', require('./grunt/watch.js') );


  grunt.registerTask('default', ['react']);


Also, make a note of how the keys in the grunt con­fig file are related to the names of the exported files. This is what lets you cre­ate dif­fer­ent files for dif­fer­ent sources.

rootd directory structure

The react task configuration

module.exports = {
    jsx: {
        files: [{
            expand: true,
            cwd: 'public/js/src', // Source Directory
            src: ['**/*.jsx','**/*.js'], // Files to compile
            dest: 'public/js/build', // Destination dir after compile
            ext: '.js'

Web­pack configuration

var path = require('path');

module.exports = {
  dev: {
    entry: {
        index: './grunt/webpack_entries/index.js',
        anotherPage: './grunt/webpack_entries/anotherPage.js',
    output: {
        path: path.join(__dirname,'../public/js/build'),
        filename: 'bundle-[name].js'
    stats: {
        // Configure the console output
        colors: true,
        modules: true,
        reasons: true
    progress: true,
    keepalive: true

And finally the con­fig­u­ra­tion for the watch that keeps an eye on file changes
Watch task configuration

module.exports = {
  scripts: {
    files: ['public/js/**/*.jsx', 'public/js/**/*.js'],
    tasks: ['react', 'webpack']

As icing on the cake, if you are usng nodejs, you can con­fig­ure a script in your package.json to run your first run your tasks and then restart your nodejs application.


"scripts": {
    "build": "grunt react && grunt webpack",
    "dev": "grunt watch & nodemon app"

Using the gen­er­ated bun­dles in your html pages
Now that our bun­dles are gen­er­ated, open public/index.html and add a script tag with the src prop­erty js/build/bundle-index.js since that’s the bun­dle that is gen­er­ated for your index. Sim­i­lary, in anotherPage.html, set the script tag’s src prop­erty to js/build/bundle-index.js

One prob­lem that I encoun­tered when I set this up was that the react dev tools plu­gin did not show up in chrome. Turns out, you need to expose React as a global object for the plu­gin to work. In order to do that, in our webpack_entires/index.js and webpack_entries/anothePage.js I included a line expose react. Thats the rea­son why we have expose-loader in our depen­dency list.


That’s all there is to the setup. Now all you gotta do is run npm run dev from your project root and then stop wor­ry­ing about hav­ing to com­pile and bun­dle your changes and restart­ing your nodejs server after every save.

Ryan Sukale

Ryan is just a regular guy next door trying to manage his life and finances.

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  • Евгений Куртов

    thank you for the writeup and git repo!

    • tuto­ri­al­hori­zon

      Actu­ally yes. Web­pack has a com­mon­sChunkPlu­gin that lets you do that. I am gonna shortly pub­lish a sig­nif­i­cantly refac­tored ver­sion of this project along with a tuto­r­ial with a much cleaner code orga­ni­za­tion and some web­pack good­ies like the opti­miza­tion that you mentioned

    • tuto­ri­al­hori­zon

      Ive finally updated the project. Its much cleaner and your wepack con­fig is now optimized.

      Check it out and let me know if you have any questions