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Dockerizing a React.js app

Rishabh Mishra
Originally published at rsbh.dev ・7 min read

In this post, we will dockerize a React application. We will setup Docker with auto-reloading for development setup and optimized multistage docker build for production deployment. We can even dockerize Next.js or Gatsby Static builds with the same process.

There are many advantages of using Docker. Right now Docker is the defacto standard of containerizing applications. It is easy to build, package, share, and ship applications with Docker. As Docker images are portable it is easy to deploy the application to any modern cloud provider.

Initialize React application

Let's start by creating a React application. You can use your existing React project. For this blog post, I am creating a new React application with create-react-app.

$ npx create-react-app react-docker
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Here I created a new React app named react-docker. Let's verify the app by running the npm start command inside the project directory.

$ npm start
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It will start the app and we can verify by visiting http://localhost:3000 in the browser. The application should be running.

Write Dockerfile.

Now let's create a Docker image for the React application. We need a Dockerfile to create Docker images. Let's create a file named Dockerfile in the root directory of the React application.

Dockerfile

FROM node:14-alpine

WORKDIR /app

COPY package.json ./

COPY yarn.lock ./

RUN yarn install --frozen-lockfile

COPY . .

EXPOSE 3000

CMD ["npm", "start"]
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Here We are using node v14 alpine as the base image to build and run the application. We are running the npm start command the default command which will run the React development server. We also need the .dockerignore file which will prevent node_modules and other unwanted files to get copied in the Docker image.

.dockerignore

node_modules
npm-debug.log
Dockerfile
.dockerignore
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Let's build the Docker image from the Dockerfile by running the docker build command. Here we are tagging it with the name react-docker.

$ docker build -t react-docker .
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After building the docker images we can verify the image by running the docker images command. We can see an image with the name react-docker is created.

$ docker images

REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
react-docker        latest              6b782301e271        2 minutes ago       438MB
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We can run the Docker image with the docker run command. Here we are mapping the system port 3000 to Docker container port 3000. We can verify if the application is running or not by visiting http://localhost:3000.

$ docker run -p 3000:3000 react-docker
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Add Docker Compose

The React application is working fine inside the docker container, but we need to build and run the docker container every time we make any changes in the source files as auto reloading is not working with this setup. We need to mount the local src folder to the docker container src folder, so every time we make any change inside the src folder, it will auto-reload the page on any code changes.

We will add the docker-compose.yml file to the root of the project to mount the local src folder to the /app/src folder of the container.

docker-compose.yml

version: "3"

services:
  app:
    build:
      context: .
      dockerfile: Dockerfile
    volumes:
      - ./src:/app/src
    ports:
      - "3000:3000"
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Run the docker-compose up command to start the container. The React development server will be running inside the container and will be watching the src folder.

$ docker-compose up
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We can't ship this docker image to the production as it is not optimized and runs a development server inside. Let's rename the Dockerfile as Dockerfile.dev and update the docker-compose.yaml file to use the Dockerfile.dev file. We will use docker-compose and the Dockerfile.dev file only for development. We will create a new Dockerfile for the production build.

$ mv Dockerfile Dockerfile.dev
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docker-compose.yml

version: "3"

services:
  app:
    build:
      context: .
      dockerfile: Dockerfile.dev
    volumes:
      - ./src:/app/src
    ports:
      - "8000:8000"
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Add Production Dockerfile

Let's first verify the React application production config by running the yarn build command to build the app for production.

$ yarn build
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We can verify the production build by running it locally. I am using serve to serve the build folder files.

$ npx serve -s build
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After verifying the server locally we can create a new Dockerfile for the production build. We will be using multi-stage builds to create the docker image. One Stage to build the production files and the other stage to serve them.

Dockerfile

FROM node:14-alpine AS builder
WORKDIR /app
COPY package.json ./
COPY yarn.lock ./
RUN yarn install --frozen-lockfile
COPY . .
RUN yarn build

FROM nginx:1.19-alpine AS server
COPY --from=builder ./app/build /usr/share/nginx/html
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The builder stage is nearly the same as the previous Dockerfile. Instead of running the npm start command here, we are running the yarn build command to build the production files.

We will use Nginx to serve the files. It will create a very lightweight image. From the builder stage, we need to copy the files of the build folder to the /usr/share/nginx/html folder. Nginx docker image uses this folder to serve the contents. Nginx docker image will use the port 80 to serve the files and auto expose that port.

Let's build the image again by running the docker build command and verify if the image is built or not by running the docker images command.

$ docker build -t react-docker .
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$ docker images

REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
react-docker        latest              5f885aeca09e        7 seconds ago       23.1MB
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The size of the production docker image will be very less in comparison to the development one. Let's run the docker image with the docker run command. Here we are mapping the host 3000 port with the container's port 80

docker run -p 3000:80 react-docker
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The application should be running fine on http://localhost:3000. Now let's verify if the client-side routing is working fine or not. For that, we need to install the react-router-dom to the application.

$ yarn add react-router-dom
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We also need to add a few routes and links to verify. I just copied the example from the react-router website to test.

import React from "react";
import { BrowserRouter as Router, Switch, Route, Link } from "react-router-dom";

export default function App() {
  return (
    <Router>
      <div>
        <nav>
          <ul>
            <li>
              <Link to="/">Home</Link>
            </li>
            <li>
              <Link to="/about">About</Link>
            </li>
            <li>
              <Link to="/users">Users</Link>
            </li>
          </ul>
        </nav>
        <Switch>
          <Route path="/about">
            <About />
          </Route>
          <Route path="/users">
            <Users />
          </Route>
          <Route path="/">
            <Home />
          </Route>
        </Switch>
      </div>
    </Router>
  );
}

function Home() {
  return <h2>Home</h2>;
}

function About() {
  return <h2>About</h2>;
}

function Users() {
  return <h2>Users</h2>;
}
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Let's verify the local setup by running the development server and visit the web page and click on every link and refresh the pages.

$ npm start
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The application should be working fine on the local development server. Now try the same thing with docker-compose. First, we need to build the image again as auto-reload works only with the src folder as we only mount that. For changes outside the src folder, we need to build the image again with the docker-compose build command.

$ docker-compose build
$ docker-compose up
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Now Let's try the same thing with the production docker build. First, we need to build the docker image and run the image again.

docker build -t react-docker .
docker run -p 3000:80 react-docker
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Accessing the pages other than the index directly should throw a 404 error. The React application here is a single-page application. Thus the routing is happing on the client-side with JavaScript and when we hit any route it first hits the Nginx server and tries to find the file there and when it was unable to find the fine it throws the 404 error.

We need to pass a custom Nginx configuration to the docker image. We will create an etc folder in the project's root directory and create an nginx.conf file there.

etc/nginx.conf

server {
    listen   80;
    listen   [::]:80 default ipv6only=on;

    root /usr/share/nginx/html;
    index index.html;

    server_tokens  off;
    server_name _;

    gzip on;
    gzip_disable "msie6";

    gzip_vary on;
    gzip_proxied any;
    gzip_comp_level 6;
    gzip_buffers 16 8k;
    gzip_http_version 1.1;
    gzip_min_length 0;
    gzip_types text/plain application/javascript text/css application/json application/x-javascript text/xml application/xml application/xml+rss text/javascript application/vnd.ms-fontobject application/x-font-ttf font/opentype;

    location / {
        try_files $uri /index.html;
    }
}
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Here we are configuring Nginx to fallback to /index.html if it is unable to find the route. We also enable gzip compression for the contents.

We need to copy the custom Nginx configuration file to the /etc/nginx/conf.d folder. Ngnix will auto-read all the configurations from that folder.

FROM node:14-alpine AS builder
WORKDIR /app
COPY package.json ./
COPY yarn.lock ./
RUN yarn install --frozen-lockfile
COPY . .
RUN yarn build

FROM nginx:1.19-alpine AS server
COPY ./etc/nginx.conf /etc/nginx/conf.d/default.conf
COPY --from=builder ./app/build /usr/share/nginx/html
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After copying the custom Nginx configuration file we need to build and run the docker image again.

$ docker build -t react-docker .
$ docker run -p 3000:80 react-docker
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Visiting all the routes and refreshing the pages should work fine.

All the source code for this tutorial is available on GitHub.

For dockerizing node backend app please read the other blog post

Discussion (3)

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bazenteklehaymanot profile image
bazen-teklehaymanot

Nice article, just minor thing to point out its common practice to have environment variables for an app and pass their value from your compose file. it would be nice if you could mention somethings how to deal with that when it comes to SPA(react in your case).

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abdennour profile image
abdennour

Seems like a 12factor guy! here you go : github.com/abdennour/go-to-do-app/...
Then, use it as initContainer in k8s: github.com/abdennour/go-to-do-app/...

Good luck with OS agnostic configuration!

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rsbh profile image
Rishabh Mishra Author

yes, i missed that as i was not using any env variables in the example app.

Forem Open with the Forem app