Create modern, React-enabled WordPress themes with no build configuration.
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README.md

Create React WP Theme

UPDATED to support create-react-app v2, including TypeScript!

The intention of this project is to maintain a set of custom react-scripts that will allow you to create React WordPress themes as easily as create-react-app allows other devs to create their apps.

The biggest difference with this project and the original is that it uses your WordPress server as the development server instead of the Webpack Dev Server.

Usage

To create a WordPress theme using the create-react-wptheme, follow these steps.

  • Make sure your WordPress server is up and running.
  • Change dir into your WordPress themes folder (this is just an example, use your real themes folder).
    • Windows: cd C:\xampp\htdocs\wordpress\wp-content\themes
    • Mac or *nix: cd /xampp/htdocs/wordpress/wp-content/themes
  • Use npx create-react-wptheme to make a new theme
    • For example: (replace "my_react_theme" with whatever you want your theme to be named):
    • npx create-react-wptheme my_react_theme
      • If you want to use TypeScript, then the command would be:
      • npx create-react-wptheme my_react_theme --typescript
  • When it finishes it'll tell you to change into your new theme's folder and run the Nodejs watcher (replace "my_react_theme" with the same name you used in the previous step):
    • cd my_react_theme/react-src
    • npm run wpstart
  • That sets up the theme so that it can be seen in the WordPress admin area.
    • Go there now and set your WordPress site to use this theme.
  • View the site in your browser with the new theme.
    • You must do this as it does some extra setup via PHP.
    • If you get PHP errors, most likely your web server doesn't have write access to your theme.
      • Write access for your web server is only needed during this setup step.
      • You can revoke write access after the setup has completed.
      • Interested (paranoid?) about what it's doing? Check out the file: <your theme folder name>/index.php
    • When that's done the theme tells you to Please restart the Nodejs watcher now...
    • To do that, go back to your command prompt where you first ran npm run wpstart and rerun that same command again.
  • In a few seconds you should see your browser load with the standard create-react-app page, but it's running as a WordPress theme!

Coding with React

React Tutorials

If you're looking at a React tutorial on the web, you can use create-react-wptheme in place of create-react-app.
But you do have to remember that the React app code is one extra folder down inside your theme folder.
Notice that the final folder in this path is react-src:

/xampp/htdocs/wordpress/wp-content/themes/<Your-Create-React-WP-Theme-Folder>/react-src

So for example, if the tutorial instructs you to edit the src/App.js file, then for you, that file would actually be located at (assuming you're already in your new theme's root folder):

react-src/src/App.js

The Public Folder

The authors of the original create-react-app say that using the "Public" folder (found at react-src/public in your new theme's folder) is a last ditch "escape hatch" for adding otherwise-hard-to-deal-with files.

But for this project, I've decided to use it for all things that you'd put into a normal WordPress theme (e.g. functions.php, etc.). So any PHP, hard-coded CSS, and/or hard-coded JS (like other JS libraries that you'd like to reference globally (I don't judge)), can go into the public folder.

In addition, any changes made to CSS, JS, and PHP files in the Public folder will cause a rebuild to happen. Which is unlike create-react-app which ignores most of the files in the Public folder.

I'm not sure if making the Public folder more important is the right decision yet. Maybe I should have created a separate folder for this. I guess time will tell.

Dev Configuration

After you've created a new theme, and all the setup is done, you'll find a file named react-src/user.dev.json that has some configuration options that you can mess with if you need to.

Build Configuration

The react-src/user.prod.json configuration file is read when you run npm run wpbuild. The only option in there is setting the "homepage" which controls the relative linking to files in your theme. The "homepage" setting in your main package.json file is used during development (and build by default). During development, this is probably what you want. But if you know your production server will have a different root, then you can set the homepage to be different during a production build.

For example:

  • Your WordPress dev server is running at http://localhost/wordpress
    • the homepage setting in your main package.json file will probably work just fine.
    • The homepage line in your main package.json be something like: "homepage": "/wordpress/wp-content/themes/<your theme's folder name>"
  • But you know that your production server runs WordPress from the root: http://mycoolblog.com/
    • In this case you want to remove the /wordpress part, so set the "homepage" line in your user.prod.json file to: "homepage": "/wp-content/themes/<your theme's folder name>"
    • Then run npm run wpbuild
    • Note that if you then view your theme on your dev server, it will most likely be broken. But will hopefully look correct on your production server.

HTTPS/SSL Support

If you develop using SSL (i.e. HTTPS), then you might want to run the "Browser Refresh Server" under SSL as well. Especially if you use Firefox, see here: Firefox Websocket security issue.

To configure the Browser Refresh Server to use SSL, follow these steps:

  • These instructions use the command prompt.
  • Assuming you've already created a theme using create-react-wptheme, change directory into the react-src folder in your theme's folder
    • Be sure to follow all the instructions under the Usage section at the top of this document.
    • Windows example: cd C:\xampp\htdocs\wordpress\wp-content\themes\<your theme's folder name>\react-src
    • Mac or *nix example: cd /xampp/htdocs/wordpress/wp-content/themes/<your theme's folder name>/react-src
  • Create a new folder to hold you're development SSL certificate and key.
    • All OSes: mkdir ssl
  • Change directory into the ssl folder
    • All OSes cd ssl
  • Then create the SSL certificate and key.
  • Depending on which process you use to create the certificate and key, the files you created might have different extensions than those mentioned below.
    • That's OK.
    • Sometimes both files have a .pem extension, or each file has a different extension like .crt and .key.
    • Just be sure you know which file is the certificate and which is the key.
  • There is a file named user.dev.json in the folder named react-src in your theme.
    • Open that file in your favorite text editor.
    • Change the "wpThemeServer" section to look like this (make sure it is proper JSON):
    • "wpThemeServer": { "enable": true, "host": "127.0.0.1", "port": 8090, "sslCert": "ssl/localhost.crt", "sslKey": "ssl/localhost.key", "watchFile": "../index.php" },
    • NOTE the sslCert and sslKey items. Make sure the values point to your SSL certificate and key files.
    • The paths to those files can be full paths or relative paths from the react-src folder (as shown above).
    • I like to set the host to 127.0.0.1 instead of "localhost". The numeric address gets special treatment at the OS level as being mostly safe.
  • Back in your command prompt, change dir back to the react-src folder.
    • All OSes: cd ..
  • Start Node/Webpack JS watcher as you normally would:
    • All OSes: npm run start
    • Your theme should open in a new browser tab
  • If you need to add an SSL exception to your browser for your new certificate, there is a page running over HTTPS at the "host" and "port" you set in user.dev.json above.
    • For example, if you're using host 127.0.0.1 and port 8090 as shown above, then open your browser to:
      • https://127.0.0.1:8090/
    • From there you'll get the standard browser warning about self-signed certificates and get the option to add an exception.
    • Once you've finished adding an exception to your browser, you'll need to refresh the tab with your development theme to force a reconnect to the Browser Refresh Server.

Goals

  • Remove WebPackDevServer and use your WordPress dev server instead.
    • Also, do not proxy the WordPress server.
    • This has many benefits:
      • One: Never CORS me again.
      • Two: Never CORS me again.
        • Just a little Pacific Rim joke for ya.
          • Just a little Thor: Ragnarok joke for ya.
      • I mean, really, do you need more reasons than avoiding CORS?
  • No need for any wp_enqueue_script stuff.
  • Maintain feature parity(ish) with create-react-app
  • Touch the original react-scripts as little as possible.
    • Add new files where possible.
    • This will make merges easier.
    • However, something worse than merge conflicts is confusing users.
      • If completely munging one of the original files will lower the number of support issues... do it!
        • Example: renaming all the original create-react-app scripts by prefixing them with "cra" (e.g. crastart, craeject, etc.) will stop ensure users don't accidentally start the Webpack Dev Server, but still allows them to.

Acknowledgements

I'm grateful to the authors of existing related projects for their ideas and collaboration:

License

Create React WP Theme is open source software licensed as MIT.