webpack custom plugin

Recently we work with a platform which need to use webpack to build some ng2/4 assets and also some custom steps to pull data from a headless cms(via gulp) and eventually render components. One problem here is we cannot do live reload/recompile that every time we make some change we have to run the npm command again to compile the resources.

To solve the issue, i decided to write a custom webpack plugin to make browser-sync and webpack work together.

The basic flow is 1. run webpack in watch mode so every time a resouce(ts/css/html) changes, webpack auto re-compile, 2. serve the resources via browser-sync, here browserSync just serve as a mini express server and provide browser reload capability. 3. a webpack plugin to start the browser-sync server and register the reload event when webpack compilation is done.


The webpack api is pretty straightforward, it exposes a compile object from the plugin’s apply function. It represents the fully configured Webpack environment. This object is built once upon starting Webpack, and is configured with all operational settings including options, loaders, and plugins. When applying a plugin to the Webpack environment, the plugin will receive a reference to this compiler. Use the compiler to access the main Webpack environment.

const browserSync = require('browser-sync');

function WebpackAndromedaPlugin(options) {
  console.log(`WebpackAndromedaPlugin options: ${JSON.stringify(options, null, 2)}`);

  let browserSyncConfig = require('./lib/dev-server').getBrowserSyncConfig(options);

WebpackAndromedaPlugin.prototype.apply = (compiler) => {

  compiler.plugin("compile", function (params) {
    console.log('--->>> andromeda started compiling');

  compiler.plugin('after-emit', (_compilation, callback) => {
    console.log('--->>> files prepared');

as we can see above, we can register our callbacks with compiler.pulgin(), where webpack exposes different stages for us to interact.

Another important object is compilation, which  represents a single build of versioned assets. While running Webpack development middleware, a new compilation will be created each time a file change is detected, thus generating a new set of compiled assets. A compilation surfaces information about the present state of module resources, compiled assets, changed files, and watched dependencies. The compilation also provides many callback points at which a plugin may choose to perform custom actions.

For example, all the generated files will be in compilation.assets object.


The webpack-dev-middleware is a nice little express middleware that serves the files emitted from webpack over a connect server. One good feature it has is serving files from memory since it uses a in memory file system, which exposes some simple methods to read/write/check-existence in its MemoryFileSystem.js.  The webpack-dev-middleware also exposes some hooks like close/waitUntilValid etc, unfortunately the callback that waitUntilValid registers will only be called once according to the compileDone function here. Anyway, it is still an efficient tool to serve webpack resources and very easy to integrate with the webpack nodejs APIs:

~function() {
  const options = require('./config');
  let  webpackMiddleware = require("webpack-dev-middleware");

  let webpack = require('webpack');
  let browserSyncConfig = getBrowserSyncConfig(options);
  const compiler = webpack(require('./webpack.dev'));
  compiler.plugin('done', ()=>browserSync.reload())
  let inMemoryServer = webpackMiddleware(compiler, {noInfo: true, publicPath:'/assets'});



The webpack-dev-server is basically a wrapper over the above webpack-dev-middleware. it is good for simple resources serving since it does not expose much. I was trying to find a hook to it to intercept the resource it generates/serves but did not get a good solution. If you need more customization, it would be better to go with webpack-dev-middleware.

a very detailed webpack intro article


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