Clinton Dreisbach Dad, programmer, game designer.

Using @pika/web with Django to handle JavaScript dependencies

I love Django, but its story for handling JavaScript dependencies and bundling is not very good. Without plugins, you’re stuck using old-school multiple script tags in order of dependencies and praying that you get it right. The best solution I’ve found until recently is django-webpack-loader, but that requires a Webpack setup, which can be complex.

I’ve been watching @pika/web for a little while, and I really like its approach to JavaScript dependencies.

It assumes you will use ES6 modules to load your dependencies. If you aren’t familiar, ES6 modules allow you to import other JavaScript files from within JavaScript and encapsulate those other JavaScript files within a namespace instead of slapping all their stuff into a global scope.

An example of ES6 imports

import cookie from 'cookiejs.js'
import Ramda from 'ramda.js'

@pika/web lets you use a standard npm package.json file to list your dependencies and will then download them and put them into single-file modules you can import with the ES6 module import syntax.

Because @pika/web downloads the files into a directory and gives them reasonable names, you can load them using plain old Django static files, giving you the power of real JavaScript dependency management without adding much overhead to your Django project.

How to use @pika/web with Django

First, create an empty package.json file at the root of your Django project. If you haven’t used npm before, your package.json should look like this:

{"private": true}

Next, run npm install @pika/web at the root of your project. You’ll have to do this for each new project. (This assumes you have npm installed. If not, install npm first.) This will be installed under node_modules/, which you will want to exclude from version control.

Edit your package.json so that it looks like the following:

{
  "private": true,
  "scripts": {
    "prepare": "pika-web --dest static/web_modules/"
  },
  "dependencies": {
    "@pika/web": "^0.4.1"
  }
}

The version number after @pika/web may be different; that is fine.

The above changes to your package.json file allow you to run npm run prepare to generate your bundled modules. In addition, when installing new modules (covered below), they will automatically be bundled up for you. I’ve configured it to install the bundled modules in static/web_modules/, as I use a static/ directory in the root of my project to hold static files. You can adjust this to install them elsewhere.

In order for your static files to be found in the static/ directory, you’ll need the following in settings.py:

STATICFILES_DIRS = [
    os.path.join(BASE_DIR, "static"),
]

You’ll also likely want to exclude the static/web_modules/ directory from version control.

Once all the above is done, you are good to start using @pika/web. To install new packages, first check the pika website to see if the npm package you want uses ES modules yet. Then you can run npm install <package_name> to install whatever packages you want.

Once you have the above in place, importing ES modules is as easy as:

import cookie from 'web_modules/cookiejs.js'