Building Apps with Create React App and Django -- Words (1412)

Building Apps with Create React App and Django

Create React App is an npm tool to generate React apps without any build configurations for tools such as Webpack or Babel .That doesn't mean these tools are not used but they are just hidden so you can focus on building your React app instead of setting up build environments .

By issuing a few commands you can generate a React app and start building your next idea in time record but if you need to integrate your app with a server framework such as Django in our case we still need to do little configuration so you can deploy your React app as a static front end for your Django project .

In this How To tutorial we are going to see how to use Create React App with Django to create our Django app front end using React in both development and production environments .

Lets start by generating a Django project from scratch :

$ virtualenv env 
$ source env/bin/activate 
$ pip install django
$ django-admin.py startproject django-react-demo 
$ cd django-react-demo   

Create some API endpoints with Django Rest Framework

Since the communication between React and Django happens over an API we need to create some Django API endpoints for resting purposes .We are not going to reinvent the wheel here ,I have previously created a simple product manager api with Django and Django Rest Framework so I'm goint to use it .You can also follow the tutorial to create your API endpoints .

Create React App

Next create the React app inside your Django project root folder

$ npm install -g create-react-app
$ create-react-app frontend

Putting the React app inside Django root folder is not the end of the problem we still need to tackle these two issues :

How to seamlessly serve the React app with Django (as a front end ) ?

How to make React app talk to Django over some API endpoints ?

Solving these two issues depends on if we are in a development or a production environment.

So lets start by development environment

Integrating React App with Django in development

In development you don't have any problem running two servers so you can Django and React local developent servers to run both apps

Open a first terminal then run :

cd django-react-demo
python manage.py runserver

Then open a second terminal and run :

cd ./frontend 
npm start 

Sending GET api calls

First we are going to add a button to send a GET http request when clicked

import React, { Component } from 'react';
import logo from './logo.svg';
import './App.css';

class App extends Component {
render() {
    return (
    <div>
    <button type="button" onClick={this.onClick}>Send GET /products </button>
    </div>
    );
}

onClick(ev) {
    console.log("Sending a GET API Call !!!");
}

}

export default App;

How to send http requests with React ?

Now how to send http requests ?

React doesn't have any built in support for sending http requests since it's only a view library not a complete framework so we are going to use axios : a library for sending http requests on the browser

Lets start by installing it via npm :

npm install axios --save 

Next import it :

import React, { Component } from 'react';
import axios from 'axios';
import logo from './logo.svg';
import './App.css';

And then send a GET request when the button is clicked to http://localhost:8000/products endpoint :

onClick(ev) {
    console.log("Sending a GET API Call !!!");
    axios.get('http://localhost:8000/products')
    .then(res => {
            console.log(res.json())
    }).then(response => {
        console.log(JSON.stringify(response));
    })    
}     

When you click on the button you should get a cross origin error in the browser console saying :

XMLHttpRequest cannot load http://localhost:8000/products. 
No 'Access-Control-Allow-Origin' header is present on the requested resource.
Origin 'http://127.0.0.1:3000' is therefore not allowed access.

That's because we are making cross origin requests from http://localhost:3000 to http://localhost:8000 which are not allowed by default on servers so how to solve this to be able to continue developing our React app without cross origin errors ?

Proxying requests

Simply add "proxy": "http://localhost:8000" to package.json to proxy requests from the React app local server (:3000) to Django local server (:8000)

{
"name": "frontend",
"version": "0.1.0",
"private": true,
"proxy": "http://localhost:8000", 
"dependencies": {
    "axios": "^0.16.2",
    "react": "^15.6.1",
    "react-dom": "^15.6.1",
    "react-scripts": "1.0.10"
},
"scripts": {
    "start": "react-scripts start",
    "build": "react-scripts build",
    "test": "react-scripts test --env=jsdom",
    "eject": "react-scripts eject"
}
}

But this works only if we are using relative urls for endpoints in our React app so change

axios.get('http://localhost:8000/products')

To

axios.get('/products')

If you run your app and click on send GET button you should get a response from the Django server with an array of products and other information .

In many cases absolute endpoints urls are used which makes this proxy useless so how to overcome this ?

We need to add CORS headers to our Django application

Adding CORS headers to Django app

First start by installing django-cors-headers app with pip :

pip install django-cors-headers

Add it to installed apps in settings.py :

INSTALLED_APPS = (
    ...
    'corsheaders',
    ...
)

Add 'corsheaders.middleware.CorsMiddleware' middleware :

MIDDLEWARE = [  
    ...
    'corsheaders.middleware.CorsMiddleware',
    'django.middleware.common.CommonMiddleware',
    ...
]

Then set CORSORIGINALLOW_ALL to True in settings.py :

CORS_ORIGIN_ALLOW_ALL = True     

See all available options here

Now change your React app

onClick(ev) {
    console.log("Sending a GET API Call !!!");
    axios.get('http://127.0.0.1:8000/products')
    .then(res => {
            console.log(res);
    }).then(response => {
        console.log(JSON.stringify(response));
    })    
}

That's all you can continue developing your web app using Django and React and when you are ready to deploy your app for production you need to change your strategy that's because running two servers in production is not a good approach for many reasons so lets see how to use Django and React in prodction environments :

Integrating React App with Django in production

First build your React app with :

cd frontend
npm run build 

The build files will be output in frontend/build folder

.
├── asset-manifest.json
├── favicon.ico
├── index.html
├── manifest.json
├── service-worker.js
└── static
    ├── css
    │   ├── main.cacbacc7.css
    │   └── main.cacbacc7.css.map
    ├── js
    │   ├── main.cec8a28d.js
    │   └── main.cec8a28d.js.map
    └── media
        └── logo.5d5d9eef.svg

Now lets configure Django staticfiles to serve JavaScript and CSS from static folder in frontend/build

STATICFILES_DIRS = (
    os.path.join(os.path.join(BASE_DIR, 'frontend'), 'build', 'static')
)

Now the next thing is to serve the React app index.html file available from frontend/build/index.html

So lets create a Django view for that :

Create a Django app if you have not created one yet then :

python manage.py startapp inventory 

In inventory/views.py add:

from django.views.generic import View
from django.http import HttpResponse
from django.conf import settings
import os 

class ReactAppView(View):

    def get(self, request):
        try:

            with open(os.path.join(settings.REACT_APP, 'build', 'index.html')) as file:
                return HttpResponse(file.read())

        except :
            return HttpResponse(
                """
                index.html not found ! build your React app !!
                """,
                status=501,
            )

Then in urls.py map this view with catch-all urlpattern

urlpatterns = [
    #...
    url(r'^',views.ReactAppView.as_view()),
]

Make sure to place any other urls or API endpoints before the catch all pattern so they can continue to work .

Conclusion


We have seen how to create a React frontend for Django web apps using Create React App project generator and how to send http requests from React to Django .


I'm a web developer and technical writer. Passionate about modern JavaScript technologies and currently trying to develop all kind of apps (Web, Mobile and Desktop) with JavaScript.