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The missing piece of the Django + React puzzle

Project description

django-cra-helper

PyPI version

Introduction

django-cra-helper is the missing link between Django and create-react-app. By adding this to your Django project, you can almost effortlessly inject your React components into your Django templates and initialize component props via Django context variables.

The ultimate goal of this package is to integrate these two projects with minimal changes to workflows that are typically used with either during development. From npm start to python manage.py collectstatic, your commands should work as expected so you can forget about implementation and get back to development!

Note: For the purposes of this README, the abbreviation CRA will be used to refer to create-react-app.

Installation

This package is available for installation via pip:

pip install django-cra-helper

Configuration

1. settings.py

Once django-cra-helper is installed, cra_helper will need to be added to INSTALLED_APPS in settings.py:

INSTALLED_APPS = [
    'django.contrib.admin',
    'django.contrib.auth',
    'django.contrib.contenttypes',
    'django.contrib.sessions',
    'django.contrib.messages',
    'cra_helper',
    'django.contrib.staticfiles',
]

Note: cra_helper must be placed above django.contrib.staticfiles in the list!

Add cra_helper.context_processors.static to TEMPLATES['OPTIONS']['context_processors']:

TEMPLATES = [
    {
        # ...snip...
        'OPTIONS': {
            'context_processors': [
                # ...snip...
                'cra_helper.context_processors.static',
            ],
        },
    },
]

Additionally, the following STATICFILES_FINDERS list will also need to be added to settings.py:

STATICFILES_FINDERS = [
    # Django defaults
    'django.contrib.staticfiles.finders.FileSystemFinder',
    'django.contrib.staticfiles.finders.AppDirectoriesFinder',
    # A finder to pull in asset-manifest.json
    'cra_helper.finders.CRAManifestFinder',
]

The last necessary setting is the name of the folder containing the CRA project files, relative to the base directory of the Django project (the folder containing manage.py):

CRA_APP_NAME = 'cra-app'

If for some reason the CRA liveserver does not serve on localhost or port 3000, the following settings can be added to settings.py to specify its actual host and port:

CRA_HOST = '0.0.0.0' # defaults to 'localhost'
CRA_PORT = 9999      # defaults to 3000

2. urls.py

Hot-reloading support can be enabled by adding the following to your project or app's urls.py file:

# import Django settings
from django.conf import settings
# add `re_path` import here
from django.urls import path, re_path
# ...other imports...

from cra_helper.views import proxy_cra_requests

# other existing urls
urlpatterns = [...]

# add a reverse-proxy view to help React in the Django view talk to Create-React-App
if settings.DEBUG:
    proxy_urls = [
        re_path(r'^sockjs-node/(?P<path>.*)$', proxy_cra_requests),
        re_path(r'^__webpack_dev_server__/(?P<path>.*)$', proxy_cra_requests),
    ]
    urlpatterns.extend(proxy_urls)

3. asset-manifest.json

Finally, run CRA's npm run build command once to generate a build/ directory. django-cra-helper requires the build/asset-manifest.json file contained within to help load non-JS and non-CSS assets that might be used in any React components. This command should be re-run any time a new non-JS or non-CSS asset is added to the project.

Development

If the CRA project's liveserver is started via npm start prior to starting Django's development server via python manage.py runserver, code changes in the React codebase will be updated immediately within Django views as well.

When the CRA liveserver is running, django-cra-helper adds a bundle_js array template variable that can be inserted into the Django view's template to load the liveserver's various files containing all of the current JS and CSS. These files are recompiled on-the-fly by the liveserver whenever edits are made to the React code. This file can be added to a Django template as follows:

{% if bundle_js %}
  {% for file_url in bundle_js %}
<script type="text/javascript" src="{{ file_url }}"></script>
  {% endfor %}
{% endif %}

Note: Don't use the static template tag here! This file needs to be loaded from the CRA liveserver instead.

Production

django-cra-helper also takes care of ensuring that Django's collectstatic command pulls in production-ready bundles built by CRA's npm run build command.

First, prepare React files for production with the typical CRA npm build command:

npm run build

This will output bundled, minified JavaScript and CSS, and assets to the /build/ folder within the CRA project folder.

Once this command is complete, run the following Django command to gather static files, including the compiled React assets:

python manage.py collectstatic --no-input

React assets will be included with the other static assets in the settings.STATIC_ROOT directory, to be served as is usual in a Django production environment. An asset-manifest.json file will also get pulled in. The contents of this CRA-generated file are required by django-cra-helper to help reference React files that have had a unique hash added to their filenames during the build process.

Similar to the bundle_js template variable mentioned earlier, django-cra-helper includes numerous other template variables when the CRA liveserver is not running.

For older projects using up through react-scripts@2.1.8

The two most important variables are main_js and main_css. These can be injected into the page via a typical call to {% static %} in the template:

{% if main_css %}
<link href="{% static main_css %}" rel="stylesheet">
{% endif %}
{% if main_js %}
<script type="text/javascript" src="{% static main_js %}"></script>
{% endif %}

NOTE: Recent attempts at building a fresh CRA project with react-scripts@2.1.8 were unsuccessful in recreating SPAs that allowed for just a single main_js. npm run build-produced artifacts functioned almost identically to artifacts generated the same as react-scripts@3.1.2, detailed below.

There may be child dependencies of react-scripts that make it no longer possible to start apps that will function with the above instructions. In these cases, please try the instructions in the next section.

For projects using react-scripts@3.0.0 to react-scripts@3.1.2

Code-splitting was introduced in later versions of react-scripts that split up main_js into multiple files. Additional <script> tags are required to enable the React project to load. Depending on the size of your project, in addition to main_js mentioned above you'll need to add at least two more in a specific order:

{% if main_js %}
<script type="text/javascript" src="{% static runtime_main_js %}"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="{% static static_js_2_9a95e042_chunk_js %}"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="{% static main_js %}"></script>
{% endif %}

The naming of static_js_2_9a95e042_chunk_js above will differ from project to project. Unfortunately you'll have to manually confirm this value in your project's asset-manifest.json and update accordingly. It doesn't seem to change between builds, though, so it may not be a value you need to regularly update...

For projects using react-scripts@3.2.0 on

Starting with react-scripts@3.2.0, a new entrypoints property can be found in asset-manifest.json. This contains an array of files that django-cra-helper makes available in templates to more easily inject these files via new entrypoints.css and entrypoints.js arrays. These replace the main_css and main_js values used above:

{% for file in entrypoints.css %}
<link href="{% static file %}" rel="stylesheet">
{% endfor %}
{% for file in entrypoints.js %}
<script type="text/javascript" src="{% static file %}"></script>
{% endfor %}

NOTE: These JavaScript and CSS files should be arranged in an order required for the site to load; the ultimate order is derived from the order present in asset-manifest.json.

React in Django templates

Specifying React Components via template context

The CRA project will need to undergo a small bit of re-architecture to prepare it to accept input values via context when Django serves the view. The following is an example of how a couple of small tweaks to a CRA project's src/index.js file will establish a simple API for Django to communicate with the bundled React codebase:

import React from 'react';
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom';
import App from './App';
import './index.css';

/**
 * Maintain a simple map of React components to make it easier
 * for Django to reference individual components
 */
const pages = {
  App,
}

/**
 * If Django hasn't injected these properties into the HTML
 * template that's loading this script then we're viewing it
 * via the create-react-app liveserver
 */
window.component = window.component || 'App';
window.props = window.props || { env: 'Create-React-App' };
window.reactRoot = window.reactRoot || document.getElementById('root');

/**
 * React the component as usual
 */
ReactDOM.render(
  React.createElement(pages[window.component], window.props),
  window.reactRoot,
);

Basically, index.js is updated to read values set to window.component, window.props, and window.reactRoot and use these to render a component. Each of these three "inputs" will allow Django to easily specify which component to initialize on a per-view basis:

  • window.component: A string that points to a Component entry in pages
  • window.props: An Object containing props to get passed into the Component
  • window.reactRoot: an instance of document.getElementById

Note: Settings these values is optional. The defaults specified in the template above enable components to render as expected when viewed from the CRA liveserver.

Now that the "API" is in place, Django Views can include values for these inputs via the context they pass to their template:

def index(request):
    context = {
        'component': 'App',
        'props': {
            'env': 'Django',
        },
    }
    return render(request, 'index.html', context)

Below is the Django app view's index.html template that can render across multiple versions of react-scripts (intended only for demo purposes with a fresh CRA app):

{% load static %}
{% load cra_helper_tags %}
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">

  <head>
    <meta charset="UTF-8">
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
    <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="ie=edge">
    {% if entrypoints %}
      {% for file in entrypoints.css %}
    <link href="{% static file %}" rel="stylesheet">
      {% endfor %}
    {% elif main_css %}
    <link href="{% static main_css %}" rel="stylesheet">
    {% endif %}
    <title>Django + React Project</title>
  </head>

  <body>
    <div id="react">Loading...</div>

    <script>
      window.component = '{{ component }}';
      window.props = {{ props | json }};
      window.reactRoot = document.getElementById('react');
    </script>
    {% if bundle_js %}
      {% for file in bundle_js %}
    <script type="text/javascript" src="{{ file }}"></script>
      {% endfor %}
    {% elif entrypoints %}
      {% for file in entrypoints.js %}
    <script type="text/javascript" src="{% static file %}"></script>
      {% endfor %}
    {% elif main_js %}
    <script type="text/javascript" src="{% static runtime_main_js %}"></script>
    {# make sure to update this accordingly according to asset-manifest.json #}
    <script type="text/javascript" src="{% static static_js_2_597565cd_chunk_js %}"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="{% static main_js %}"></script>
    {% endif %}
  </body>

</html>

The context's component and props are bound to window.component and window.props respectively.

Note the use of the json filter when setting windows.props! {% load cra_helper_tags %} provides this filter as a way to easily sanitize and convert a Python dict to a Javascript Object. The View context prepared above thus renders to the following typical Javascript Object:

// This is what is returned in the rendered HTML
window.props = {"env": "Django"};

Finally, window.reactRoot specifies the container element that the React component should be rendered into. Setting a value for this is only required if the container's id is not "root" (the same ID assigned to the container <div> in the CRA project's index.html.)

Referencing React static files

Other assets bundled by CRA, including image assets, can be accessed in templates by substituting /, ., ~, and - in their filepaths with _. django-cra-helper adds every entry in asset-manifest.json to the base context, using these substitution rules to accomodate Django's static tag.

For example, a logo.svg file in the CRA project can be included in a Django template as follows:

<!-- This file is located at `/build/static/media/logo.svg` -->
<img src="{% static static_media_logo_svg %}" height="40" width="40">

Note: This is optional! Static assets can still be included in the Django app's /static/ directory and loaded as usual. The special substitution mentioned above is only needed when reusing React assets outside of specific components.

The Payoff Revealed

When all is said and done, React components should now render and be viewable in both the CRA liveserver and when served via Django. Here's an example of a slightly-modified CRA App component displayed in CRA (left) and Django (right):

Comparison Shot

TODO

  • Figure out how to get Django to auto-reload when the CRA liveserver reloads after code is updated.
    • Supported as of v1.2.0

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