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Easily exclude node_modules in Webpack bundle

Webpack node modules externals

Easily exclude node modules in Webpack

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Webpack allows you to define externals - modules that should not be bundled.

When bundling with Webpack for the backend - you usually don't want to bundle its node_modules dependencies. This library creates an externals function that ignores node_modules when bundling in Webpack.
(Inspired by the great Backend apps with Webpack series)

Quick usage

npm install webpack-node-externals --save-dev

In your webpack.config.js:

var nodeExternals = require('webpack-node-externals');
module.exports = {
    target: 'node', // in order to ignore built-in modules like path, fs, etc. 
    externals: [nodeExternals()], // in order to ignore all modules in node_modules folder 

And that's it. All node modules will no longer be bundled but will be left as require('module').

Detailed overview


This library scans the node_modules folder for all node_modules names, and builds an externals function that tells Webpack not to bundle those modules, or any sub-modules of theirs.


This library accepts an options object.

options.whitelist (=[])

An array for the externals to whitelist, so they will be included in the bundle. Can accept exact strings ('module_name'), regex patterns (/^module_name/), or a function that accepts the module name and returns whether it should be included.
Important - if you have set aliases in your webpack config with the exact same names as modules in node_modules, you need to whitelist them so Webpack will know they should be bundled.

options.importType (='commonjs')

The method in which unbundled modules will be required in the code. Best to leave as commonjs for node modules.

options.modulesDir (='node_modules')

The folder in which to search for the node modules.

options.modulesFromFile (=false)

Read the modules from the package.json file instead of the node_modules folder.


var nodeExternals = require('webpack-node-externals');
module.exports = {
    target: 'node', // important in order not to bundle built-in modules like path, fs, etc. 
    externals: [nodeExternals({
        // this WILL include `jquery` and `webpack/hot/dev-server` in the bundle, as well as `lodash/*` 
        whitelist: ['jquery', 'webpack/hot/dev-server', /^lodash/]

For most use cases, the defaults of importType and modulesDir should be used.


Why not just use a regex in the Webpack config?

Webpack allows inserting regex in the externals array, to capture non-relative modules:

    externals: [
        // Every non-relative module is external 
        // abc -> require("abc") 

However, this will leave unbundled all non-relative requires, so it does not account for aliases that may be defined in webpack itself. This library scans the node_modules folder, so it only leaves unbundled the actual node modules that are being used.

How can I bundle required assets (i.e css files) from node_modules?

Using the whitelist option, this is possible. We can simply tell Webpack to bundle all files with extensions that are not js/jsx/json, using this [regex](!(%3F%3Ajs%7Cjson)%24).%7B1%2C5%7D%24):

  // load non-javascript files with extensions, presumably via loaders 
  whitelist: [/\.(?!(?:jsx?|json)$).{1,5}$/i],

Thanks @wmertens for this idea.


Contributions and pull requests are welcome. Please run the tests to make sure nothing breaks. ### Test

npm run test