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This small tutorial will guide you through a simple example.

You’ll learn:

  • How to install webpack
  • How to use webpack
  • How to use loaders
  • How to use the development server

Installing webpack

You need to have node.js installed.

$ npm install webpack -g

This makes the webpack command available.

Setup the compilation

Start with a empty directory.

Create these files:

add entry.js

document.write("It works.");

add index.html

        <meta charset="utf-8">
        <script type="text/javascript" src="bundle.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Then run the following:

$ webpack ./entry.js bundle.js

It will compile your file and create a bundle file.

If successful it displays something like this:

Version: webpack 1.14.0
Time: 16ms
    Asset     Size  Chunks             Chunk Names
bundle.js  1.42 kB       0  [emitted]  main
chunk    {0} bundle.js (main) 28 bytes [rendered]
    [0] ./tutorials/getting-started/setup-compilation/entry.js 28 bytes {0} [built]

Open index.html in your browser. It should display It works.

Second file

Next, we will move some code into an extra file.

add content.js

module.exports = "It works from content.js.";

update entry.js

- document.write("It works.");
+ document.write(require("./content.js"));

And recompile with:

$ webpack ./entry.js bundle.js

Update your browser window and you should see the text It works from content.js..

webpack will analyze your entry file for dependencies to other files. These files (called modules) are included in your bundle.js too. webpack will give each module a unique id and save all modules accessible by id in the bundle.js file. Only the entry module is executed on startup. A small runtime provides the require function and executes the dependencies when required.

The first loader

We want to add a CSS file to our application.

webpack can only handle JavaScript natively, so we need the css-loader to process CSS files. We also need the style-loader to apply the styles in the CSS file.

Run npm install css-loader style-loader to install the loaders. (They need to be installed locally, without -g) This will create a node_modules folder for you, in which the loaders will live.

Let’s use them:

add style.css

body {
    background: yellow;

update entry.js

+ require("!style!css!./style.css");

Recompile and update your browser to see your application with yellow background.

By prefixing loaders to a module request, the module went through a loader pipeline. These loaders transform the file content in specific ways. After these transformations are applied, the result is a JavaScript module.

Binding loaders

We don’t want to write such long requires require("!style!css!./style.css");.

We can bind file extensions to loaders so we just need to write: require("./style.css")

update entry.js

- require("!style!css!./style.css");
+ require("./style.css");

Run the compilation with:

webpack ./entry.js bundle.js --module-bind 'css=style!css'

Some environments may require double quotes: –module-bind “css=style!css”

You should see the same result:

A config file

We want to move the config options into a config file:

add webpack.config.js

module.exports = {
    entry: "./entry.js",
    output: {
        path: __dirname,
        filename: "bundle.js"
    module: {
        loaders: [
            { test: /\.css$/, loader: "style!css" }

Now we can just run:


to compile:

Version: webpack 1.14.0
Time: 173ms
    Asset     Size  Chunks             Chunk Names
bundle.js  10.7 kB       0  [emitted]  main
chunk    {0} bundle.js (main) 8.85 kB [rendered]
    [0] ./tutorials/getting-started/config-file/entry.js 64 bytes {0} [built]
    [1] ./tutorials/getting-started/config-file/style.css 943 bytes {0} [built]
    [2] ../~/css-loader!./tutorials/getting-started/config-file/style.css 197 bytes {0} [built]
    [3] ../~/css-loader/lib/css-base.js 1.51 kB {0} [built]
    [4] ../~/style-loader/addStyles.js 6.09 kB {0} [built]
    [5] ./tutorials/getting-started/config-file/content.js 45 bytes {0} [built]

The webpack command-line will try to load the file webpack.config.js in the current directory.

A prettier output

If the project grows the compilation may take a bit longer. So we want to display some kind of progress bar. And we want colors…

We can achieve this with

webpack --progress --colors

Watch mode

We don’t want to manually recompile after every change…

webpack --progress --colors --watch

Webpack can cache unchanged modules and output files between compilations.

When using watch mode, webpack installs file watchers to all files, which were used in the compilation process. If any change is detected, it’ll run the compilation again. When caching is enabled, webpack keeps each module in memory and will reuse it if it isn’t changed.

Development server

The development server is even better.

npm install webpack-dev-server -g
webpack-dev-server --progress --colors

This binds a small express server on localhost:8080 which serves your static assets as well as the bundle (compiled automatically). It automatically updates the browser page when a bundle is recompiled (SockJS). Open http://localhost:8080/webpack-dev-server/bundle in your browser.

The dev server uses webpack’s watch mode. It also prevents webpack from emitting the resulting files to disk. Instead it keeps and serves the resulting files from memory.

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