This is a step by step guide on setting up ReactJS to work with a Django backend. It can be use on a existing project or a brand new project.

At the end of this three-part guide, you will be able to write frontend in ReactJS and still have a comfortable and familiar Django backend to work with by part two. At part three, we would make ReactJS more awesome by using the enabling hot reload!

Assumption

You should already have a strong understanding in Django. This guide is only going to show how to setup ReactJS with Django. Limited explanation on other topic is given to keep this guide short.

Getting Started

git clone the following project and checkout to start branch to follow along.

Step 1: Create a virtualenv and install pip

Navigate to the clone project and do this:

$ cd react-django
$ virtualenv react_django_env
(react_django_env)$ source react_django_env/bin/activate
(react_django_env)$ pip install -r requirements.txt

If you use virtualenvwrapper, do this:

$ cd react-django
$ mkvirtualenv react_django_env
(react_django_env)$ pip install -r requirements.txt

This steps only installed django v1.11, psycopg2 for postgres and dotenv to read our environment variable from .env file later.

Step 2: Create a postgres user and database and do migration

$ psql
# CREATE USER reactuser;
# CREATE DATABASE reactdjango OWNER reactuser;
# \q
$ python manage.py migrate

We have create a postgres user: reactuser and database: reactdjango. At this stage, migration should run successfully.

Step 3: Setup ReactJS, webpack with npm

$ npm init
$ npm install --save-dev react react-dom react-hot-loader@next babel-cli babel-loader babel-preset-react
    webpack webpack-bundle-tracker webpack-dev-server

If everything is good, you should see this in the tail of package.json:

"devDependencies": {
  "babel-cli": "^6.24.1",
  "babel-loader": "^7.0.0",
  "babel-preset-react": "^6.24.1",
  "react": "^15.5.4",
  "react-dom": "^15.5.4",
  "react-hot-loader": "^3.0.0-beta.6",
  "webpack": "^2.4.1",
  "webpack-bundle-tracker": "^0.2.0",
"webpack-dev-server": "^2.4.5"
}

All the babel related package would allow us to write in modern javascript syntax. webpack related package would help us bundle and serve the static file when needed. react, react-dom is needed for ReactJS and react-hot-loader is something we will use in part two of this guide.

Step 4: Add some scripts for easy development later

In package.json add this.

"scripts": {
  "build": "webpack --config webpack.config.js --progress --colors",
  "build-prod": "webpack --config webpack.prod.config.js --progress --colors",
  "watch": "node server.js"
}

Step 5: Create web pack and related config

$ mkdir -p assets/static/js
$ touch assets/static/js/index.js
$ touch webpack.config.js

Inside webpack.config.js, do this:

var path = require("path")
var webpack = require('webpack')
var BundleTracker = require('webpack-bundle-tracker')

module.exports = {
  context: __dirname,
  entry:[
    './assets/static/js/index',
	],
  output: {
      path: path.resolve('./assets/static/bundles/'),
      filename: '[name]-[hash].js',
  },
  plugins: [
    new BundleTracker({filename: './webpack-stats.json'}),
  ],
  module: {
    loaders: [
      { test: /\.jsx?$/, exclude: /node_modules/, loaders: ['babel-loader'], },
    ],
  },
  resolve: {
    modules: [
          'node_modules',
          'bower_components'
    ],
    extensions: ['.js', '.jsx']
  },
}

To check everything is working, compile the bundle by doing this:

$ ./node_modules/.bin/webpack --config webpack.config.js

In the editor, we should see a assets/static/bundles/main-[hashes].js

At this part, we already have a ReactJS app that is living inside Django. In part two, the guide will focus on setting up Django to display a ReactJS using webpack.