Getting Started with Create React App
January 31, 2018
create-react-app is a handy CLI tool which allows you to quickly create and run a React application with no configuration. In this post (and the above video) I'll show how to get started with
create-react-app and long the way, we’ll look at each of its built-in scripts and also investigate various ways to keep your
react-scripts dependency up-to-date.
First, you'll need to verify what version of
npm you have installed. You can do this on the command line by typing...
node -v && npm -v
You need at least Node version 6 or above on your dev machine in order for
create-react-app to work. If you are using
5.2 or above you can utilize the
npx package runner instead of having to install
To create your React app you can run...
npx create-react-app playground
That’ll create a new playground React app and start to install all the dependencies that it needs to run, build. etc…
Once the app creation has completed and it's dependencies have finished installing, you can change directories to your new project and execute
npm run in order to see all the scripts that are available.
You should see
ejects scripts listed in your terminal. We will go through these scripts and show you what they do.
start script will kick off a development server for your app and launch a browser instance to the correct URL.
The folder structure of the generated app is pretty straightforward. Most files can be found in the
src folder. The
index.js file is where our App begins. You can see the
ReactDOM.render where it attaches to the
root DOM element. The
App.js file contains the
App React component where the main header and intro text can be found.
package.json file, in particular, is a sight for sore eyes. Where are all the dependencies!?! There are only 3 depedencies:
react-scripts dependency manages all of the other dependencies such as
webpack, `jest', etc...
npm scripts are just thin proxies to functionality inside of
Under the covers React uses the Jest test runner, which is a really nice tool.
Out of the box, the generated app only has one unit tests, but you are highly encouraged to write your own tests once you start building out your app.
npm run build
build script will create a production build of your app and output the results to the
Once the build is complete, you can go into the build folder (
cd build) and kick up a simple http server with
cd build && npx serve
At that point, you can head over to your browser and take a look at a built version of your react app.
npm run eject
If the application that was generated by
create-react-app doesn’t quite fit your needs (babel config, webpack config, etc…) then you can use the
eject script, which will export all of your app's dependencies, configurations, and scripts and inject them into your app.
This is permanent. There will no longer be a quick and easy way to upgrade your app if Facebook makes a new version of
Once you eject you'll see a new
config folder that contains stuff for jest, polyfils, and various webpack configurations.
Also, you'll have a
scripts folder that contains code for your
In addition, the
package.json file is MUCH larger than it used to be. You’ll notice that there are many dependencies that could possibly use updating. The
react-scripts dependency used to take responsibility of keeping the dependencies up-to-date and compatible, but now that is your responsibility.
Various Ways to Update
As your app gets older, newer version of
react-scripts may come out. These newer versions may come with bug fixes or new features that you may want to leverage.
Using Native VSCode
If you have an older version of
react-scripts, then you can open up the
package.jsonfile and hover over your dependency to see what the latest version of that dependency is! Cool, right?
Using VSCode Extension
If you do use VSCode, you could go one step further and install an extension called Version Lens. Once installed this extension adds metadata to your package.json dependencies. The extension will indicate if you are using the latest version, what version it'll update based on the range you specified, and also show the latest version published in
npm. You can also click on the metadata links to update your
package.jsonfile with the new version.
First let’s run
npm view react-scripts versionsthis will list out all of the versions that have been published to npm.
If you want just the latest official release you can try the same command, but remove the
sat the end.
Another command you can try is
npm outdated, which is a native npm command. It’ll check the registry for you and see if you have any packages that are currently outdated.
The output will list the current version installed, the highest version based on your supplied version range, and the latest version that has been published. This is a great command, however, it is read-only.
If you want a more interactive update tool, you can try out
-u(interactive update) flag.
The output is an interactive list of dependencies that need updating. You can navigate through the list and select one or more with the space bar and then enter to install.
I hope you found something helpful from this post. The above video is the first in a series about
create-react-app, so stay tuned.
This is the first post in a series about
create-react-app. The next post in the series is Debugging a Create React App with VS Code.
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