Nicolas Hery

Nicolas Hery

Web development. Data analytics.

Using environment variables with Webpack and Divshot

26 September, 2014

Here I show one way to give configuration values to a static web app, using environment variables, for both the Webpack dev server (local development) and the Divshot server (test a build before deploying).

If you haven't heard of Webpack, it's a great way to bundle modules of any type (scripts, styles, images, etc.), into static files ready for deployment. It comes with a dev server for local development, with fast incremental rebuilds.

Divshot is a great service that lets you easily deploy those files right from the command line. Think Heroku, but for static web apps. Divshot's command-line tool provides a server that lets you test your build locally.

A common problem in static web apps is configuration. A Node.js app for example, can read values directly from environment variables (var apiUrl = process.env.API_URL). Of course, that's not possible for the web app, which is delivered and run in the user's browser.

Divshot mimics environment variables for your deployed web apps, by allowing you to set values like:

$ divshot env:add development API_URL=http://development-api.example.com

It will then deliver a file at the /__/env.js URL that looks like:

window.__env = {
  API_URL: 'http://development-api.example.com'
};

And your web app can use this global __env object.

What would be nice would be to use this locally, both for development with the Webpack dev server, and to test a build with the Divshot CLI's server.

Situation

Proposed solution

Your index.html in the project root directory looks something like:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
  <!-- ... -->

  <body>
    <p>Loading app...</p>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="/__/env.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" src="bundle.js"></script>
  </body>

</html>

Create a .env.js file that looks something like:

module.exports = {
  API_URL: process.env.API_URL || 'http://localhost:8081'
};

Create a scripts/ directory with two files.

The first, scripts/buildenv.js, will create __/env.js for the Webpack dev server and .env.json for the Divshot static server:

require('shelljs/global');
var util = require('util');

var output;
var env = require('../.env.js');

// Used for local development with webpack-dev-server
output = util.inspect(env, {depth: null});
output = 'window.__env = ' + output + ';\n';
output.to('__/env.js');

// Used to test build with divshot server
output = JSON.stringify(env, null, 2);
output = output + '\n';
output.to('.env.json');

The second, scripts/build.js, will build the Webpack app ready for deployment in the dist/ directory:

require('shelljs/global');

console.log('Cleaning output directory "dist/"...');
rm('-rf', 'dist');
mkdir('-p', 'dist');

console.log('Bundling all the things...');
exec('webpack --colors --progress');

console.log('Copying "index.html"...');
cp('index.html', 'dist/index.html');

console.log('Build successfull');

Make sure to update your .gitignore with the necessary things:

.divshot-cache
dist
__
.env.json

We can create npm scripts in our package.json to easily call what we just created:

{
  "scripts": {
    "start": "npm run build-env && webpack-dev-server --devtool eval-source-map --cache --colors --progress",
    "build-env": "node scripts/buildenv",
    "build": "node scripts/build",
    "server": "npm run build-env && divshot server -p 8080",
    "deploy": "divshot push"
  }
}

Now, if we want to work on the app, hitting a particular API, we can do:

$ export API_URL=http://localhost:3001
$ npm start

If we want to deploy, we'll first build the app:

$ npm run build

Then we can test our build, for example hitting a remote development API:

$ export API_URL=http://development-api.example.com
$ npm run server

If all seems to work, we can deploy!

$ npm run deploy