Dance, Computer, Dance

by Ray Grasso

Adding Webpack to Middleman's External Pipeline

18 February, 2017

I use Middleman to build most of my content-focused websites. With the upgrade to version 4 comes the opportunity to move the asset pipeline out to an external provider such as Webpack.

I struggled to find good examples of how to integrate Webpack 2 with Middleman 4 so I’m documenting the approach I used here. For example code refer to middleman-webpack on Github.

Points of Interest

Build and development commands for webpack are in package.json.

"scripts": {
  "start": "NODE_ENV=development ./node_modules/webpack/bin/webpack.js --watch -d --color",
  "build": "NODE_ENV=production ./node_modules/webpack/bin/webpack.js --bail -p"
},

The external pipeline configuration in Middleman just calls those tasks.

activate :external_pipeline,
           name: :webpack,
           command: build? ? "yarn run build" : "yarn run start",
           source: ".tmp/dist",
           latency: 1

set :css_dir, 'assets/stylesheets'
set :js_dir, 'assets/javascript'
set :images_dir, 'images'

Assets are loaded by Webpack from the assets folder outside of the Middleman source directory1. Webpack includes any JS and CSS imported by the entry point files in webpack.config.js and generates bundle files into the asset paths Middleman uses.

module.exports = {
  entry: {
    main: './assets/javascript/main.js',
  },

  output: {
    path: __dirname + '/.tmp/dist',
    filename: 'assets/javascript/[name].bundle.js',
  },

  // ...

}

The config for Webpack itself is fairly straightforward. The ExtractText plugin extracts any included CSS into a file named after the entry point it was extracted from.

module.exports = {
  // ...

  plugins: [
    new ExtractTextPlugin("assets/stylesheets/[name].bundle.css"),
  ],

  // ...
}

This means you can include your styles from your JS entry file like normal and Webpack will extract the styles properly2.

Using the standard Middleman helpers to include the generated JS and CSS bundles allows Middleman to handle asset hashing at build time.

<head>
  <%= stylesheet_link_tag "main.bundle" %>
</head>

<body>
  <%= javascript_include_tag "main.bundle" %>
</body>

Finally

If you want to add modern JS and CSS to a bunch of statically generated pages then Middleman and Webpack works fine.

If, however, you are looking for a boilerplate for building a React SPA then something like react-boilerplate or create-react-app is likely a better fit.

  1. To avoid asset files being processed by both Webpack and Middleman. 

  2. Images are currently managed via Middleman and not Webpack.