Writing client-side ES6 with webpack

[2015-04-02] esnext, dev, javascript
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This blog post is outdated (it covers Babel 5). Please read Sect. “Browser setup: ES6 via webpack and Babel” in “Setting up ES6”.


webpack is a client-side module builder and module loader. This blog post shows you how to write ECMAScript 6 code with it.

The code shown here is on GitHub, in the project webpack-es6-demo.

webpack features  

Notable webpack features include:

  • Supported module formats: AMD, CommonJS
    • Via loader (plug-in): ES6
  • Supported package managers: Bower, npm
  • Loaders for non-code: CSS, templates, …
  • On-demand loading (chunked transfer)
  • Built-in development server

Installing webpack  

Install webpack:

npm install -g webpack

Enable support for ECMAScript 6 (via Babel):

  • Per project: npm install babel-loader --save-dev
  • In your home directory: cd $HOME ; npm install babel-loader
  • Globally: npm install -g babel-loader

Using webpack and ES6 in a project  

The demo project webpack-es6-demo has the following structure:

webpack-es6-demo/
    es6/
        Point.js
        main.js
    index.html
    webpack.config.js

The following command compiles the ES6 files es6/Point.js and es6/main.js to a file bundle.js:

webpack --watch

After executing the previous command, you can open index.html in a web browser (directly from the file system if you’d like). index.html runs bundle.js, which means that you get to see what main.js is doing.

In real-world projects, you probably won’t use webpack directly, but via build tools, such as grunt, gulp, etc.

webpack.config.js  

This is the configuration file for webpack:

var path = require('path');
module.exports = {
    entry: './es6/main.js',
    output: {
        path: __dirname,
        filename: 'bundle.js'
    },
    module: {
        loaders: [
            { test: path.join(__dirname, 'es6'),
              loader: 'babel-loader' }
        ]
    }
};

Things work as follows:

  • Input: is specified via the property entry. This is where the execution of JavaScript code starts.
  • Output: webpack bundles the entry file and everything it depends on into the output file bundle.js (which resides in the same directory as webpack.config.js).
  • Support for ES6: is enabled via a the module loader babel-loader.
    • Property test: specifies what files the loader should be used for.
      • Single test: regular expression or string with an absolute path
      • Multiple tests: array of single tests (logical “and”)

HTML  

The HTML file starts JavaScript via the bundle file that was created by webpack.

<!doctype html>
<html>
<head>
    <meta charset="UTF-8">
    <title>webpack ES6 demo</title>
</head>
<body>
<script src="bundle.js"></script>
</body>
</html>

ECMAScript 6 code  

The following two ECMAScript 6 files were packaged into bundle.js.

main.js:

import Point from './Point.js';
var body = document.querySelector('body');
body.textContent = 'Good point: ' + new Point(1, 23);

Point.js:

class Point {
    constructor(x, y) {
        this.x = x;
        this.y = y;
    }
    toString() {
        return '('+this.x+','+this.y+')';
    }
}
export default Point;

Note that the paths follow Node.js conventions.

Using npm packages  

You can install packages via npm and use them from your ES6 code, seamlessly. For example: First install lodash.

$ mkdir node_modules
$ npm install lodash

Then use it anywhere in your ES6 code:

import { zip } from 'lodash';
console.log(zip(['1', '2'], ['a', 'b']));

Alternatives to webpack  

If webpack is not your cup of tea, there are several capable alternatives for writing client-side ES6 code. For example:

webpack, jspm and Browserify can also use Traceur instead of Babel, if you want to.


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