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quik

Quik

A quick way to prototype and build apps with React and Babel with zero-setup.

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Setting up the tooling required to work on a modern day web app is hard, and makes quick prototyping much more difficult than it should be. Quik is a quick way to prototype a React application without any kind of setup. It can also generate a production-ready JavaScript bundle to use in your app. No setup required.

Quik runs a simple server that compiles JavaScript files with Babel on the fly, so you can include ES201x files in a script tag directly,

<script src="index.js"></script>

Tip: You can add ?transpile=false to the script src to skip the transpilation.

Quik also exposes a koa middleware which can be easily integrated with your server.

Features

  • One-time installation, no additional setup required
  • Hot Module Replacement
  • Generates bundles for use in production
  • Generates single standalone HTML file for sharing
  • React, Redux, React Router and Radium are already included
  • Quick prototyping with an optional starter template

Installation

You need at least Node 7.0 to run quik.

npm install --global quik

Usage

Open the Terminal in any directory and run the following,

quik

It'll start a simple server which will serve the files in the current directory. By default, it'll automatically watch the file index.js if present.

If no index.html file is present, it'll generate and serve an HTML file with it's script tag pointing to index.js file. Alternatively, you can specify the name of the script to include,

quik --run script.js

If you want to use a different port. For example, to run the server in the port 8008, run,

quik --port 8008

You can include any ES2015 file in a script tag in an HTML file and the script will be transpiled to ES5 on the fly. You can use JSX and Flow syntax as well as use ES2015 modules to import other scripts. It just works.

NOTE: You'll need to install any dependencies you use in the project manually.

Enabling Hot Module Replacement

Hot Module Replacement for React Components is automatically enabled if you have a script named index.js in the directory, or if you specified a script to run with the --run option, for example,

quik --run app.js

Alternatively, you can specify the filenames you want to watch for HMR,

quik --watch file1.js file2.js

When using the --run option, the index.html file is always generated on the fly and served. If you want to use your own index.html file, just use --watch.

You only need to specify the entry points, not all scripts. Most of the time it'll be just one script. Note that Hot Module Replacement won't work for any components in the entry points.

Generating JavaScript Bundle

The bundler provides an abstraction on top of webpack with sensible defaults for a React project. If you need additional customisation, use webpack directly for bundling.

To generate a bundle wth quik for use in your web application, run the following in a Terminal,

quik --bundle entry.js --output bundle.js --production

The --production option performs minification on the resulting bundle. You can omit it if you're not going to use the file in production.

You can provide multiple entry points as arguments. In that case, you can use [name] to get the name of the entry point while specifying an output file,

quik --bundle file1.js file2.js --output [name].bundle.js --common common.bundle.js

Sourcemap files are automatically generated when generating bundles.

Generating a sharable single HTML file

Sometimes you might want compile and inject bundles into an HTML file for easier sharing through dropbox, email etc. To do so, run the following in a Terminal,

quik --html --output output.html --production

You can also specify an HTML file, which quik will parse for any local scripts. Then it will build them and inject into the HTML file. It'll also inline stylesheets as is, without any pre-processing. Just open the generated HTML file in any browser to preview.

quik --html index.html --output output.html

Specify browser to open

You can specify which browser to open when server starts. Refer opn's documentation on browser names.

For example, to use firefox as the browser, you'd do,

quik --browser firefox

Sample project

To get started with a sample project, run the following in a Terminal,

quik --init AwesomeProject
cd AwesomeProject && quik

Refer the API documentation for more to know how to customize and extend the server.

How it works

The quik middleware is just an abstraction on top of webpack. It includes a base webpack config and generates appropriate config files when needed. For example, when the quik server receives a request for a JavaScript file, it generates a webpack config on the fly, the file is then transpiled with webpack, and the server responds with the generated bundle instead of the original script.

Motivation

Tooling is the hardest part in JavaScript development, and it's time we do something about it.

The following posts inspired me to work on quik,

One good thing about quik is that it is highly opinionated, which means we don't worry about becoming generic and can focus on making it better at what it does. It doesn't allow additional babel transforms, or loaders for webpack as of now.

Inline styles are recommended for styling. When combined with a library like radium, they provide much more flexibility than CSS.

The goal of quik is to improve the tooling around React and Babel projects. While it'll be easy enough to support additional customization, it defeats the whole purpose of being zero-setup. If you need additional configuration, it will be better to go with webpack directly. If you think something should be included by default, send a pull request or file a bug report.

Even though quik itself doesn't provide additional customization, it's just a koa middleware at the core. That means it's composable with other koa middlewares and you can add additional functionality easily.

Plans for improvements

Below are some ideas on how to improve quik. It would be awesome to receive pull requests for these.

  • Automatically parse HTML files to enable hot reloading without having to specify files with --watch
  • Cache bundles instead of re-building on every request
  • Better error handling
  • Atom plugin to make it easier to use without CLI

Similar tools

Of course, quik is not the only tool trying to solve this problem. There are few other tools which are also doing a great job at it.

  • react-heatpack - a very minimal prototyping server for React with Hot Module Replacement
  • nwb - similar, but has lot more options
  • rwb - pretty similar to quik, has Hot Module Replacement and can also build bundles for production
  • run-js - works on top of browserify, zero-setup, has live-reload functionality