Adding Webpack-dev-server

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Ading Webpack-dev-server

what is webpackdevserver ? Like it was said  “The webpackdevserver is a little Node.js Express server, which uses the webpackdev-middleware to serve a webpack bundle. It also has a little runtime script, which is connected to the server via Sock.js. The server emits information about the compilation state to the client, which reacts to those events.

Basically webpack-dev-server is handy dev tool that is not only an HTTP server but it could monitor your files for changes and rebuild the bundle and serve it from memory which speeds up the developing process.

Let’s add webpack-dev-server so we could open the project via http. Additionally  Webpack dev server adds a few more benefits like live reloading for the client side code.
Webpack dev server like it’s name suggests should be used only for development and never in production.

yarn add webpack-dev-server --dev

Let’s add a script to execute it through Yarn/NPM. Also, since we have the entry and the output set up in webpack.config.js we can simplify the build-dev and build-prod scripts as well.

  "scripts": {
    "start": "webpack-dev-server",
    "clean": "rm -rf ./dist",
    "lint": "eslint .",
    "build-dev": "webpack --mode development",
    "build-prod": "webpack --mode production"

Let’s give it a try and start the server:

yarn start

and point the browser to http://localhost:8080/

If everything worked fine, you should be able to see the project and the console message.

But bundle file is still served statically from the ./dist` folder instead of bundled dynamically from Webpack-dev-server and serving it from memory,  and you could confirm this by deleting the ./dist folder, and restarting the server. And you will get this error message in the console.

GET http://localhost:8080/dist/main-bundle.js net::ERR_ABORTED 404 (Not Found)

As you see bundle file is not there, instead Webpack-dev-server is serving it from here:http://localhost:8080/main-bundle.js
Point your browser there and you will see the bundle file. Let’s fix this. Open ./webpack.config.js and add the highlighted lines:


module.exports = {
  mode: 'development',
  entry: [
  output: {
    filename: '[name]-bundle.js',
    publicPath: '/dist',
  module: {
    rules: [
        test: /\.js$/,
        exclude: /node_modules/,
        use: {
          loader: "babel-loader"

This instructs Webpack-dev-server to serve the bundle from ./dist location but this time the bundle will be dynamically generated by Webpack-dev-server, instead of statically served from the ./dist location.

The advantage is that the bundle will re-generate on change and the location will be the same as the production location but just served from the memory.
Reload the browser and now the error message in the console is gone, and if you navigate to `http://localhost:8080/dist/main-bundle.js` you will see newly generated bundle.

 Webpack-dev-server is serving the bundle from memory. You could go ahed and delete ./dist folder and reload the server and the main bundle should still be accessible.

Set up Webpack to monitor your project’s folder for changes and rebuild the bundle.

Webpack-dev-server comes with very handy option --watch to monitor for changes, rebuild the bundle and restart the browser.
The god news is that by default the --watch` mode it turned on so if you go and do some changes into any file under ./src folder and save it, you will see in the console that Webpack-dev-server will re-generate the bundles and the browser will restart and reflect the changes.

There are two ways of setting up Webpack-dev-server to reload the page:

  • Iframe mode (page is embedded in an iframe and reloaded on change)
  • Inline mode (a small webpack-dev-server client entry is added to the bundle which refreshes the page on change)

But we could go even further.

Adding Hot Module Replacement plug-in.

Having Webpack-dev-server to reload our page and reflect the changes is cool but we still reload the whole page and components state is reset back to the initial state. We could tell Webpack-dev-server to use hot module replacement plugin (HMR) to re-load only the components that did change, but before doing this, let’s make some real component that will show something in the website instead of the console.

Remove ./src/test.js.

Let’s create greeting component that will simply show a greeting in the webpage.
create folder called ‘greeting’ and file in ./src/greeting/index.js with these contents:


function doGreeting(name) {
  return "Hello " + name;
module.exports = doGreeting;

edit ./src/app.js to load the new component and attach the result to an HTML div component. We have to also add the highlighted if statement that will enable HMR.


var greeting = require('./greeting');

var result = greeting("John");
document.querySelector('#root').innerHTML = result;

if ( {;

and edit index.html to have a div component with id=”root” that  will be the entry point for our app and will show the result of our greeting component.


<!DOCTYPE html>
        <meta charset="UTF-8">
        <title>Babel Webpack Boilerplate</title>
        <div id="root"></div>
        <script type="text/javascript" src="dist/main-bundle.js"></script>

Last step is to tell Webpack-dev-server to use HMR.


  "name": "babel-webpack-react-boilerplate",
  "version": "1.0.0",
  "main": "index.js",
  "license": "MIT",
  "devDependencies": {
    "@babel/core": "^7.1.2",
    "@babel/preset-env": "^7.1.0",
    "@babel/preset-react": "^7.0.0",
    "babel-eslint": "^10.0.1",
    "babel-loader": "^8.0.4",
    "eslint": "^5.7.0",
    "eslint-loader": "^2.1.1",
    "eslint-plugin-react": "^7.11.1",
    "webpack": "^4.20.2",
    "webpack-cli": "^3.1.2",
    "webpack-dev-server": "^3.1.9"
  "scripts": {
    "start": "webpack-dev-server --hot",
    "clean": "rm -rf ./dist",
    "lint": "eslint .",
    "build-dev": "webpack --mode development",
    "build-prod": "webpack --mode production"

what we just did:
– we added --hot parameter to tell Webpack-dev-server to use HMR.

Go ahead, restart the server and give it a try and now if you change something in ./src folder the browser will reflect the changes without reloading. (you could observe the reload button and it will never show reload). Also if you look at browser’s console you will see the messages from HMR

[HMR] Waiting for update signal from WDS…
client:71 [WDS] Hot Module Replacement enabled.

Now development process could really speed up!

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