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A set of Rails generators to create all the necessary boilerplate code (with examples) for integrating React, Webpack, and Redux into Rails 4/5 apps.
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README.md

ReactRailsWebpack

Gem Version

Warning: If you are upgrading across major versions, please read the release notes in the changelog.

Ruby gem for quickly creating highly customizable react/rails integrations using webpack and npm.

Key Features

  1. One-command setup
  2. Use any packages from the npm ecosystem
  3. Built-in examples of plain and redux-backed React components
  4. The webpack development server for React components will live update your changes to any device on your local network (including phones) (gif demo of this feature here)

more features...

Demo Page

Generate this page after installation with the create_example_page command

Image of main demo page with two example React components on it

Install

Video demo of setup and use on a new Rails app here

  1. Make sure you have the requirements installed
  2. Add gem 'react_rails_webpack' to your Gemfile
  3. Run bundle install
  4. Run rails g react_rails_webpack:install (further explanation of what this does)

Requirements

  • Rails version 4 or greater (check version with rails -v)
  • node version 4 or greater (check version with node -v)
  • npm version 3 or greater (check version with npm -v)

Contents

About

When I looked over the available gems for react/rails integrations, none of them were as customizable as I wanted, so I decided to build my own. Since I wanted it to be as customizable as possible, I made my gem a set of generators, instead of a bunch of under-the-hood gem code. You can customize the inner workings of this integration to your heart's content, since all the files used for the integration will be added directly to your app. You can edit them, delete them, and add or remove any npm packages you like, because this integration allows you to use any npm packages you could use in a static front-end react app.

Pros:

  • Webpack integration
  • Hot-reloading webpack development server
  • Ability to see dev server output on any computer (or mobile device) on your network
  • Built-in redux integration
  • Generators provide example code for basic react components and react-redux components
  • Highly customizable
  • Ability to use any npm packages that you could use on a static front-end app

Cons:

  • This gem does not do server-side rendering. I don't find this makes much of a difference for my apps in practice, but if it does for you, best avoid. This post by Henrik Joreteg covers some of the reasons I like just doing it this way.

See the demo components in action

On webpack dev server

  1. Run the webpack dev server with npm run start
  2. Go to the url specified by the rake react_rails_webpack:print_server_info command

On your rails app

  1. Generate an example page in rails with the rails g react_rails_webpack:create_example_page command
  2. Start your Rails server with rails s
  3. Go to localhost:3000/greeting

Commands

Set up the integration

rails g react_rails_webpack:install

Further explanation of what this does here.

Set up an example page in your Rails app

rails g react_rails_webpack:create_example_page

Sets up an example page in your Rails app at localhost:3000/greeting that displays the two example components.

Configure react_rails_webpack on a new clone of your repo

rails g react_rails_webpack:new_fork

You must run this whenever you clone a repo with a react_rails_webpack integration setup. It generates the environment.json file based on your computer's network name. Since the network name will be different for most computers, this file is gitignored and needs to be regenerated for each new computer the project is cloned on.

See the url of your webpack development server

rake react_rails_webpack:print_server_info

This command will tell you the url of your webpack development server on your local network.

Generate react component Trailblazer cell

rails g react_rails_webpack:trailblazer_integration

If you use the Trailblazer gem, use this command to add a trailblazer cell for react components to your lib folder.

Suggested Development Workflow

  1. Write the code for your React components in the client/src/components directory
  2. Test your new components with live reloading by running the webpack dev server with the command npm run start (note: the base html page for the webpack dev server is based on the html provided to context.defaultTemplate in the webpack.config.js file)
  3. Add any components you want to spin up with the react_component helper in Rails to the available components file (further explanation)
  4. Run the npm run build command to compile your javascript files and add them to the Rails assets folder
  5. Add calls to the react_component helper method in your Rails app to render your React components in views
  6. Make sure they still work, repeat steps 1-5 until satisfied

Creating and using your own components

Let's say you want to make a checkout form component with react. Here's what you'd need to do to use it from Rails:

For example, if you called your component CheckoutForm, your client/src/app/availableComponents.js file might look like this:

import CheckoutForm from '../components/CheckoutForm'

export default {
  CheckoutForm: {
    class: CheckoutForm
  }
}

Or like this if it's a component that uses redux:

import {CheckoutFormContainer} from '../components/CheckoutForm'

export default {
  CheckoutForm: {
    redux: true,
    class: CheckoutFormContainer
  }
}
  • Wherever you want this component to render in your view, put a call to the react_component helper method with the components name and props, like so:
render_component :CheckoutForm, { customerName: 'Harper' }

NOTE: Unless you're sure you know what you're doing, do not edit anything in the client/app folder except the availableComponents file). Those files are where the integration works it's magic (though of course feel free to read the files to check out how everything works).

Working with the Webpack Dev Server

npm run start will start a webpack development server with hot reloading that is completely independent of your Rails app. You can see the output of this server on any computer or mobile device on your local network by going to the appropriate url (which you can find by running rake react_rails_webpack:print_server_info). Any changes you make to your component files will be pushed immediately to all devices looking at the page.

How does this work?

When you run the install generator like this:

$ rails g react_rails_webpack:install

This gem will setup a basic react integration with some example components (one standard react component and one using react with redux) under a client folder in your project's root.

The meat of the integration with Rails is in the client/app folder, and the app.js file. When your page loads in Rails, if you call the react_component method like this:

react_component :ComponentName, {myProp: 'some value'}

It will create a div that looks like this:

<div class="react-component-target" data-componentname="ComponentName" data-componentprops="{myProp: 'some value'}">
  <script>renderLastComponentDiv()</script>
</div>

When your browser hits that renderLastComponentDiv() call, it grabs the component name (which is ComponentName in this example) from the parent div, then looks it up in the availableComponents.js file.

In our example, your available components file might look like this:

import MyComponent from '../components/MyComponent'
import SomeOtherComponent from '../components/SomeOtherComponent'

export default {
  ComponentName: {
    class: MyComponent
  },
  OtherName: {
    class: SomeOtherComponent
  }
}

If it looked like that, you would render your MyComponent React component with react_component :ComponentName, and you would render your SomeOtherComponent React component with react_component :OtherName. Using react_component :MyComponent would NOT work. The react_component method is looking for the javascript object keys from availableComponents.js (e.g. ComponentName, OtherName ), NOT the actual component class names (e.g. MyComponent, SomeOtherComponent). It's usually fine to make the object key the same as the class name, though. They're just different in this example for clarity.

Assuming react_component finds a key in availableComponents.js that matches the name it's given, it will immediately render that component within that div, passing in props from the data-componentprops attribute. As the page loads, each successive div generated by react_component renders this way.

Gotchas

Forgetting to run npm run build

Remember, while your changes to components will hot reload when you use the webpack dev server, they will not show up at all in your Rails app until you run the npm run build command. And they do NOT hot-reload when run in the context of your Rails app.

Forgetting to add components to the client/src/app/availableComponents.js file

Components will not be accessible from Rails if you forget to add them here.

Forgetting to run rails g react_rails_webpack:new_fork when cloning your repo on a new machine

rails g react_rails_webpack:new_fork sets up the environment.json file, which is NOT included in your repo, because it contains information specific to each computer it is generated on.

npm install vs. npm run install

Usually to install new npm packages, you run the npm install command. This will work fine if you do it from the client folder, but it won't work from your project's root, since your package.json file with your project's requirements is in the client folder and not the project's root. However, as a convenience, the project's root has the command npm run install which is essentially the same as hopping in and out of the client folder to run npm install (it's basically like running cd client && npm install && cd ..).

More succinctly: if you're in your project's root folder, use npm run install instead of npm install to install any new npm package dependencies you've added to the client/package.json file.

Development

After checking out the repo, run bin/setup to install dependencies. You can also run bin/console for an interactive prompt that will allow you to experiment.

To install this gem onto your local machine, run bundle exec rake install. To release a new version, update the version number in version.rb, and then run bundle exec rake release, which will create a git tag for the version, push git commits and tags, and push the .gem file to rubygems.org.

Contributing

Bug reports and pull requests are welcome on GitHub at https://github.com/neurodynamic/react_rails_webpack. This project is intended to be a safe, welcoming space for collaboration, and contributors are expected to adhere to the Contributor Covenant code of conduct.

License

The gem is available as open source under the terms of the MIT License.

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