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React Native Code-Splitting With Repack

ยท 5 min read
Agastya Darma Laksana
Software Engineer

When you are developing a React Native application you will most likely be writing a lot of JavaScript code that contains dependencies that usually come from external repositories like NPM. The compilation of these many JavaScript files and dependencies will be processed into a single bundle file that can be read by React Native. In React Native this compilation will be done by default by Metro Bundler.

So basically Metro Bundler works by taking your source code, all external library dependencies as well as static assets that you use and converting them, optimizing them, and packaging them into a single bundle that can be run by React Native.

What is Code-Splitting?#

Code-Splitting is a technique that allows developers to create multiple bundle files from existing code sources, so the resulting bundle is not just one but consists of many files which are commonly referred to as chunck.

By default, all your input files (source code, dependencies, and assets) are combined into one file. With Code-Splitting, the bundle will be divided into several parts called chunck. The main chunck (also known as the entry chunk) is commonly referred to as the main bundle.

Why Do You Need Re.pack To Code-Splitting?#

As explained above, by default React Native will use Metro Bundler to do JavaScript bundling. But unfortunately Metro Bundler cannot perform Code-Splitting technique by default. To be able to perform the Code-Splitting technique, we need a JavaScript bundler other than Metro Bundler.

What is Re.pack?#

Re.pack is basically a toolkit that allows you to use Webpack and its Code-Splitting functionality and use them on React Native.

Why Do We Need Code-Splitting in React Native?#

Single bundles aren't a bad thing, but as your app grows your bundle size will grow as well. Especially if you use a lot of third-party libraries you need to be very careful about the code that will be included in the application bundle so that you don't accidentally make your bundle so large that it takes a long time for React Native to load your application.

Increasing App Startup Time#

If you have performance issues in the application startup area Code-Splitting is a technique worth trying when you have those problems.

Moving code from a single bundle to multiple chunks of chunck if properly configured can make your React Native app to only load the required code snippets and delay loading of other code on startup. This really helps improve the startup performance of your application.

Modular Applications#

Apps that expose different functionality or different UI based on user details are examples of apps that would benefit greatly from Code-Splitting.

Let's take an example of an e-learning application like Ruangguru. With Code-Splitting, you will be able to separate student and teacher functionality in separate bundle files, so that the application only loads one of the bundles, this can improve startup performance by loading only code that is relevant to the user's needs.

Two other groups of apps where Code-Splitting plays a big role are super apps (like Gojek) as well as apps with mini app stores (like WeChat/Line). Instead of having multiple apps on the App Store and Google Play, you can combine them into one while streamlining development and simplifying management.

How to Use Re.pack for Code-Splitting in React Native#

How to use Re.pack? The first step to using Re.pack is to install the required dependencies:

npm i -D webpack terser-webpack-plugin babel-loader @callstack/repack# oryarn add -D webpack terser-webpack-plugin babel-loader @callstack/repack

After that, Create react-native.config.js (if this file is not in your project) and copy the content below:

module.exports = {  commands: require('@callstack/repack/commands'),};

Then configure XCode and Gradle to use the webpack-bundle command. By making this change you will replace the default Metro Bundler to Re.pack

  • XCode: Add export BUNDLE_COMMAND=webpack-bundle to the Bundle React Native code and images phase of Build Phases in your XCode project configuration.

    export NODE_BINARY=nodeexport BUNDLE_COMMAND=webpack-bundle../node_modules/react-native/scripts/
  • Gradle: Add bundleCommand: "webpack-bundle" into project.ext.react in android/app/build.gradle file, so it looks similar to:

    project.ext.react = [    enableHermes: false,  // clean and rebuild if changing    bundleCommand: "webpack-bundle",    bundleInDebug: false]

All configurations have been completed. Now you can use repack in your React Native application.

To run the development server you can use the command

npx react-native webpack-start

What are the disadvantages of Repack compared to Facebook Metro Bundler ?#

Of course there are some drawbacks when we use Code-Splitting with Re.pack instead of Metro Bundler. One of the biggest drawbacks is that we can't use Codepush anymore to do Hot Push code in Production Env.

Besides that at the time this article was written if you use Hermes with Re.pack then it can only convert Main Bundle to Hermes Bytecode, chunck files outside of Main Bundle will not be transformed into Hermes Bytecode.