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Plugins

Plugins are the backbone of webpack. webpack itself is built on the same plugin system that you use in your webpack configuration!

They also serve the purpose of doing anything else that a loader cannot do.

Anatomy

A webpack plugin is a JavaScript object that has an apply property. This apply property is called by the webpack compiler, giving access to the entire compilation lifecycle.

ConsoleLogOnBuildWebpackPlugin.js

function ConsoleLogOnBuildWebpackPlugin() {

};

ConsoleLogOnBuildWebpackPlugin.prototype.apply = function(compiler) {
  compiler.plugin('run', function(compiler, callback) {
    console.log("The webpack build process is starting!!!");

    callback();
  });
};
As a clever JavaScript developer you may remember the Function.prototype.apply method. Because of this method you can pass any function as plugin (this will point to the compiler). You can use this style to inline custom plugins in your configuration.

Usage

Since plugins can take arguments/options, you must pass a new instance to the plugins property in your webpack configuration.

Depending on how you are using webpack, there are multiple ways to use plugins.

Configuration

webpack.config.js

const HtmlWebpackPlugin = require('html-webpack-plugin'); //installed via npm
const webpack = require('webpack'); //to access built-in plugins
const path = require('path');

const config = {
  entry: './path/to/my/entry/file.js',
  output: {
    filename: 'my-first-webpack.bundle.js',
    path: path.resolve(__dirname, 'dist')
  },
  module: {
    rules: [
      {
        test: /\.(js|jsx)$/,
        loader: 'babel-loader'
      }
    ]
  },
  plugins: [
    new webpack.optimize.UglifyJsPlugin(),
    new HtmlWebpackPlugin({template: './src/index.html'})
  ]
};

module.exports = config;

Node API

Even when using the Node API, users should pass plugins via the plugins property in the configuration. Using compiler.apply should not be the recommended way.

some-node-script.js

  const webpack = require('webpack'); //to access webpack runtime
  const configuration = require('./webpack.config.js');

  let compiler = webpack(configuration);
  compiler.apply(new webpack.ProgressPlugin());

  compiler.run(function(err, stats) {
    // ...
  });
Did you know: The example seen above is extremely similar to the webpack runtime itself! There are lots of great usage examples hiding in the webpack source code that you can apply to your own configurations and scripts!

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