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Theena Dayalan
Theena Dayalan

Posted on • Updated on

How to set up React.js app from scratch without using create-react-app?

Originally posted here

After dwelling in Ember.js for almost two years I have tried React.js. As every developer do, I started surfing on the internet to create my Hello World app using React.js.

Initially, I found create-react-app which is pretty much useful for creating React.js in lightning-fast speed. I really enjoyed create-react-app since it had all the setup that we usually need in JS framework, starting from development server to test setup.

After using it for a while I felt that it lacks customization. create-react-app uses Webpack behind the screen to build the application. Webpack is a widely used javascript bundler which has a large ecosystem that supports plenty of plugins. But create-react-app doesn't allow us to explore those plugins.

So I arrived at the conclusion that I need to move out of create-react-app to utilize the full power of webpack with React.js. I started writing my own webpack configuration to release the full power of webpack.

Here I'm writing how I used webpack to build my react application to help the developers like me.


  • Node.js must be installed on your computer. I hope you guys are familiar with yarn. Also, yarn is installed globally.
  • Create an empty project and create a package.json file.


Install the following packages.

Setup React.js

yarn add react and react-dom
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react - React.js library.

react-dom - This package serves as the entry point to the DOM and server renderers for React.

Setup webpack

yarn add -D webpack webpack-cli webpack-dev-server html-webpack-plugin
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webpack - Webpack is a bundler for modules.

webpack-cli - Command Line interface for webpack.

webpack-dev-server - Development server that provides live reloading.

html-webpack-plugin - The HtmlWebpackPlugin simplifies creation of HTML files to serve your webpack bundles.

Setup Babel

yarn add -D @babel/core @babel/preset-env @babel/preset-react babel-loader
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@babel/core - Mainly used to convert ECMAScript 2015+ code into a backwards compatible version of JavaScript.

@babel/preset-env - @babel/preset-env allows you to use the latest JavaScript.

@babel/preset-react - This package is a set of plugins used to support React.js specific features.

babel-loader - This package allows transpiling JavaScript files using Babel and webpack.


We have installed all the required packages to create a React.js application using webpack. Next we need an index.html template where we need to insert the react constructed dom. Create an HTML file inside src/ folder.


      <title>Setup React Application From Scratch</title>
      <!-- We will insert the dom here -->
      <div id="react-app">

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Also, we need a starting point to create react application. Create a js file index src/ folder.


  import React from 'react';
  import { render } from 'react-dom';

  const rootElement = document.getElementById('react-app');

  render(<div> Hello World! </div>, rootElement);
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Configure webpack to serve live development server


  const path = require('path');
  const HtmlWebpackPlugin = require('html-webpack-plugin');

  module.exports = {
    entry: path.resolve(__dirname, 'src/index'),
    output: {
      path: path.resolve(__dirname, 'dist'),
      filename: 'bundle.js'
    module: {
      rules: [{
        test: /\.js$/,
        include: path.resolve(__dirname, 'src'),
        use: ['babel-loader']
    devServer: {
      contentBase:  path.resolve(__dirname, 'dist'),
      port: 9000
    plugins: [
      new HtmlWebpackPlugin({
        template: "src/index.html" //source html
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Babel Configurations


  "presets" : [
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We have reached to the finishing line. Oh wait! there is one more thing to be done. Add the webpack scripts to package.json file.


  "name": "react-setup-from-scratch",
  "scripts": {
    "serve": "webpack-dev-server --mode development",
    "build": "webpack --mode production",
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That's all! It's show time. Let's start the development server.

  yarn serve
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Voila!!! We are done. Let's see the output.

Development Server

Fully completed code can be found here.

I hope this post is useful in someway for the beginners ❤️.

Top comments (3)

luansantosti profile image
Luan Santos

Very useful, thanks!

theenadayalan profile image
Theena Dayalan

I'm glad that it was useful to you! :)

ramu profile image

Thanks. Such a useful article for react developers