Cover image for Step 2: Setting up React with React-Native-Web

Step 2: Setting up React with React-Native-Web

ugglr profile image Carl-W ใƒป6 min read

In our pursuit of creating the ultimate UI development starting point, it is time to take the first step with react-native-web

This is the second part of a series where I go through all the steps of creating The Ultimate React Native UI Library starter repo. Please visit the first post (just linked ๐Ÿ‘†๐Ÿป) for a general description of what we are trying to accomplish and where all the Steps are numbered + linked.

The finished source code can be found here react-native-storybook-boilerplate

What's covered in this post? ->

  • setting up react from scratch
    • installation
    • webpack
    • babel
  • setting up react-native-web
    • installation
    • webpack alias configuration

Please note that this is not a webpack or babel tutorial so I will more or less not cover the basics of those

If you want to go really in depth in how to set up React from scratch I really recommend a tutorial series from codecademy:

I thought that series was very good.

Setting up React - Installing our dependencies

If you are following along from the first part in the series you have a "normal" react-native and storbook already set up and running locally, and now it's time to add React into the mix.


Obviously we need react, but it comes with the react-native installation but we need to add react-dom ->

yarn add react-dom

and then we need to install our babel dependencies babel

yarn add --dev @babel/core babel-loader @babel/preset-react @babel/preset-env

Then we also need to ochestrate the packaging so let's install webpack also while we are at it:

yarn add --dev webpack webpack-cli webpack-dev-server html-webpack-plugin

Add scripts to package.json

You can do this in any order you like but, I for some reason, like to add scripts first. I think it gives me a sense of what I'm trying to acomplish.

"scripts": {
  "build-react": "webpack --mode production",
  "start-react": "webpack-dev-server --config ./webpack.config.js --mode development",

You obviously can name the scripts anything you like & makes sense to you: I named my scripts start-react & build-react.

Configure Webpack

This is where the magic happens ๐Ÿคน๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ In the root folder add a webpack.config.js file and add the folowing:

const path = require('path')
const HTMLWebpackPlugin = require('html-webpack-plugin')

const HTMLWebpackPluginConfig = new HTMLWebpackPlugin({
  template: path.resolve(__dirname, './public/index.html'),
  filename: 'index.html',
  inject: 'body',

module.exports = {
  entry: path.join(__dirname, 'index.web.js'),
  output: {
    filename: 'bundle.js',
    path: path.join(__dirname, '/build'),
  module: {
    rules: [
        test: /\.js$/,
        exclude: /node_modules\/(?!()\/).*/,
        use: {
          loader: 'babel-loader',
          options: {
            presets: ['@babel/preset-env', '@babel/preset-react'],
  plugins: [HTMLWebpackPluginConfig],
  devServer: {
    historyApiFallback: true,
    contentBase: './',
    hot: true,

for a better description of what's going on I really recommend this article from codecademy React Setup, Part III: Webpack

Here's a rough description:

entry what it does
entry Tells Webpack the root file of our application. Starting from that file it will go through the whole tree and transform all code which match our webpack rules. I've named this file index.web.js we need to remember to create this file.
output Configuration for the output files from react. filename gives the packed javascript a name. path sets an output folder for the packed files
rules test is a regular expression which matches to our source files, i.e. *.js. exclude excludes files we don't want webpack to touch. use this is where we plug in babel i.e. the stuff that will transform our react code into vanilla js.

After webpack are dont with the JS it needs to make a new HTML file as well, that's where HTMLWebpackPluginConfig comes in, please refer to this article for a better description: React Setup, Part IV: HTMLWebpackPlugin.

Let's take a look at the code for the HTMLWebpackPlugin closer:

const HTMLWebpackPluginConfig = new HTMLWebpackPlugin({
  template: path.resolve(__dirname, './public/index.html'),
  filename: 'index.html',
  inject: 'body',
  • template: It tells our plugin what template file it should use and copy to our ./build folder. I set it to a file in the folder public and the file name is index.html. (We shall not forget to create these.)
  • filename: Is the name of the newly created file which it copies. As I mentioned above this file will wind up in ./build folder.
  • inject: Is where the our JavaScript script tag will be injected. Both head and body are valid options.

What's the path stuff?
It's just a way to concatenate path-strings instead of using a +sign, __dirname meaning the current directory which the file is in.

Add entry files

Add public index.html

As I've configured the HTMLWebpackPlugin, and shortly explained right above, we need to add a index.html into a folder called public,

So! In root create a folder called public and inside of that folder create a file called index.html and the following html

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <title>React Native Web Storybook</title>
    <div id="app"></div>

Take notice of the id-name (app) of the div where we are injecting the react single page application. All of these files are react boilerplate which are basically the same when using the library.

Add index.web.js

In the root add index.web.js and code the following:

import React from 'react'
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom'

import App from './App.web'

ReactDOM.render(<App />, document.getElementById('app'))

this is where <div id="app"></div> needs to match document.getElementById('app')

If you've used create-react-app before you'll see that it's basically the same code as they generate for you, in our case I wan't to keep web react seperate from react-native so I named the file with the extension .web.js.

From the code we also see that we need to add our <App /> component, so let's do that next:

Add App.web.js

In the root add App.web.js, this will be the entry component for react, and add the following code:

import React from 'react'

function App() {
  return (
      <h1>Hello world from react</h1>

export default App

As you can see this is normal jsx, we will come to adding react-native-web after we confirm that our vanilla react setup works first.

Test our React configuration

It's time to check if we are able to run everything together so let's run our script:

yarn start-react

Hopefully this starts the Webpack development server for you and you see this page:

react hello world

Great Success Time to add React-Native-Web into the configuration!

Install React-Native-Web

For those who are not quite familiar react-native-web makes it possible to use the react-native-api to write components for the web. It transforms View to div etc. so it's readable by a web browser. Really cool stuff!

"React Native for Web" makes it possible to run React Native components and APIs on the web using React DOM.

It's open source and do check it out!


yarn add react-native-web

When that's done we need to modify our webpack configuration so it swaps out all our react-native imports for react-native-web.

Re-configure webpack.config.js

so it our awesome webpack file let's add the following lines:

module.exports = {
  resolve: {
    alias: {
      'react-native$': 'react-native-web',

That's enough configuration for now!

Let's modify our App.web.js to use the react-native-api.

import React from 'react';
import {View, Text} from 'react-native';

function App() {
  return (
      <Text>Hello world from react native</Text>

export default App;

run yet again:

yarn start-react


react native hello world

With this we can now use the whole react-native-api for the web, you can have a look here: React-Native: Core Components and APIs

To extra check this we can, for instance, add an <ActivityIndicator /> component to our App.web.js

import React from 'react';
import {View, Text, ActivityIndicator} from 'react-native';

function App() {
  return (
      <Text>Hello world from react native</Text>
      <ActivityIndicator />

export default App;

And here's the result!

activity indicator

That's it for this part in the series!

Thanks for reading and again, you can find the finished project here: react-native-storybook-boilerplate

Posted on by:

ugglr profile



React / React Native / Software Engineer, former Senior Robotics Hardware Engineer.


Editor guide

Thank you for this blog, its excellent.

Have you managed to get react-navigation working in such an app. I followed this blog and I can run the app on both Android and Web. As soon as i add in react-navigation it all breaks and the web does not run. I get the following error

Swipeable.js:1 Uncaught Error: Module build failed (from ./node_modules/babel-loader/lib/index.js):
SyntaxError: C:\0_LEARNING\Headless_Apps\ReactNativeWeb\plainApp\plainapp\node_modules\react-native-gesture-handler\Swipeable.js: Missing class properties transform.

if i add the following in the webpack.config.js under options
plugins: ['@babel/plugin-proposal-class-properties'],

I then get the following error

Directions.js:1 Uncaught TypeError: Cannot read property 'Direction' of undefined
at eval (Directions.js:1)
at Object../node_modules/react-native-gesture-handler/Directions.js

Have you got any idea how to resolve this?