← Today I Learned

Run a development server with live reload

esbuild is a great batteries-included bundler for frontend web projects.

This is a one line shell command that will run a development web server and reload the page every time a file changes (broken up into multiple lines here for readability). I tend to put it in the scripts property of project’s package.json file.

esbuild src/index.html src/index.ts src/style.css \
  --bundle --watch \
  --outdir=build --servedir=build \
  --loader:.html=copy \

It assumes the project structure looks like this:

├── index.html
├── index.ts
├── style.css
└── livereload.js

Line by line, here’s what the command does:

  • esbuild src/index.html src/index.ts src/style.css runs esbuild using the three files listed as entrypoints.
  • --bundle combines all the imports from the TypeScript entrypoint into a single .js file.
  • --watch runs another build whenever an entrypoint or any of its dependencies change.
  • --outdir=build places bundled and copied files into the build directory.
  • --servedir=build serves static content from the build directory if a request path doesn’t match any generated files. This is how index.html gets served.
  • --loader:.html=copy tells esbuild to use the copy loader for any files ending .html, copying them unchanged to outdir. This also gets triggered when the HTML file changes.
  • --inject:src/livereload.js adds the comments of src/livereload.js to the generated output. The reason to enable it this way is that the build command can simply omit this flag to not include the live reload code in the production bundle.

src/liveroad.js is pulled straight from the esbuild documentation on live reloading:

new EventSource("/esbuild").addEventListener("change", () => location.reload());