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Using Expo in Gatsby

Sébastien Lorber
May 11th, 2020 · 3 min read

You probably heard of React-Native-Web, allowing to render React-Native views on the web.

So, what about using React-Native in a Gatsby website?

This post is a proof-of-concept: it contains React-Native and Expo interactive components, embedded directly into this article (using MDX), of my open-source Gatsby site.

If you are not familiar with the React-Native ecosystem:

  • React-Native-Web: it is like a CSS-in-JS library (similar to Emotion or styled-components) that reuse the existing React-Native APIs. It has interesting properties (like atomic CSS-in-JS).
  • Expo: it is like an extension of React-Native: it provides a large SDK with much more APIs than core React-Native (camera, battery, video, audio, qrcode…), enabling you to build more complex experiences.

The idea is that I can use such code in my Gatsby site:

1import { TouchableOpacity, Text } from 'react-native';
2
3export const MyTestButton = () => (
4 <TouchableOpacity
5 onPress={() => alert('onPress')}
6 style={{
7 padding: 10,
8 backgroundColor: 'blue',
9 borderRadius: 5,
10 }}
11 >
12 <Text style={{ color: 'white' }}>Click me</Text>
13 </TouchableOpacity>
14);

And it should work fine in my Gatsby pages, but also in MDX content:

1# Blog title
2
3blabla this is a MDX blog post using an embedded RN button:
4
5import { TouchableOpacity, Text } from 'react-native';
6
7<TouchableOpacity
8 onPress={() => alert('press')}
9 style={{
10 padding: 10,
11 backgroundColor: 'blue',
12 borderRadius: 5,
13 }}
14>
15 <Text style={{ color: 'white' }}>Click me</Text>
16</TouchableOpacity>

Let’s run this Hello world code and see if it works:

Click me

Why ???

  • blogging about React-Native
  • cross-platform: sharing code between your mobile app and a static website
  • using React-Native-Web, as it’s a performant atomic CSS-in-JS library

I have good hope to see more React-Native developers embed runnable code in their blogs, like I did in this post.


Demo time

Keep in mind that all the demos are written in a cross-platform way, using only React-Native and Expo apis.

All these demos can also run (natively) in iOS and Android (natively).

There’s no usage of a single div, or any direct browser or DOM api usage.

So, let’s start with a simple one. Can I render a complex svg with react-native-svg? Yes!


Can I use a cross-platform third-party component, like expo-dark-mode-switch, and wire it to my Gatsby theme-ui state? Yes!


Can I ask your permission to use your camera, and reveal it with a fade-in animation? Yes!

Show expo-camera

Can I use more complex gesture-based systems? Yes! Demo credits to Evan Bacon.


Can I play a video? Yes!


Can I build an image picker, and enable a few image transformations? Yes!

Pick an image

In case you wonder what the code looks like, here’s a snippet for the camera demo.

You can find the rest of the code here.

1import { View, Text } from 'react-native';
2import { Camera } from 'expo-camera';
3import * as Permissions from 'expo-permissions';
4
5import MobilePhoneView from 'components/MobilePhoneView';
6import AppButton from 'components/designSystem/AppButton';
7import AppRevealView from 'components/designSystem/AppRevealView';
8
9export const ExpoCameraDemo = () => {
10 const [showCamera, setShowCamera] = useState(false);
11 return (
12 <MobilePhoneView safeAreaPaddingTop={0}>
13 {showCamera ? (
14 <AppRevealView>
15 <Camera style={{ flex: 1, width: '100%' }} />
16 </AppRevealView>
17 ) : (
18 <View style={{ flex: 1, justifyContent: 'center' }}>
19 <AppButton
20 onPress={async () => {
21 const result = await Permissions.askAsync(
22 Permissions.CAMERA,
23 );
24 if (result.status === 'granted') {
25 setShowCamera(true);
26 }
27 }}
28 >
29 Show expo-camera
30 </AppButton>
31 </View>
32 )}
33 </MobilePhoneView>
34 );
35};

gatsby-plugin-react-native-web v3

I created gatsby-plugin-react-native-web, and version 3.0 is now out of beta.

It uses under the hood @expo/webpack-config, which permit to get started fast without any config (thanks Evan Bacon).

Note: you can use React-Native and Expo with NextJS too. Evanbacon.dev is build with NextJS and Expo. You can use @expo/webpack-config on any project using Webpack.

After adding the required dependencies, you only need to add the plugin to gatsby-config.js, and nothing else is required (0 plugin config to provide). This blog post does not need any fancy additional config to render properly. Expo APIs, and your favorite React-Native libs, should work out of the box.

The best way to get started is to use the new Gatsby Recipes feature:

1gatsby recipes https://raw.githubusercontent.com/slorber/gatsby-plugin-react-native-web/master/recipe.mdx

Otherwise you can do these steps manually

Step 1

Add required dependencies to package.json

1yarn add react-native react-native-web@~0.11.7 gatsby-plugin-react-native-web

If you want to use Expo APIs, and advanced animations, you can install these too:

1yarn add expo react-native-gesture-handler react-native-reanimated

Step 2

Add the plugin in gatsby-config.js:

1module.exports = {
2 plugins: [`gatsby-plugin-react-native-web`],
3};

Step 3

Use React-Native and Expo components in your Gatsby site.

Check the React-Native-Web and Expo docs for available web platform support.

You can also browse libraries with web support on reactnative.directory.


Toward cross-platform content

All these demos use React Native and Expo code, and they can run natively on React-Native, because they only rely on React-Native primitives. These demos are embedded in this markdown post using MDX. Fortunately, MDX can be run on React-Native too!

This actually means that… my posts are cross-platform?

Stay tuned: in upcoming blog posts, I’ll show you how I run my cross-platform MDX blog posts inside an Expo app.

preview

For a preview, scan my Expo QRCode, or take a look at the source code :)

QRCode


Conclusion

We need more people to adopt cross-platform development, to make it mainstream and polished.

The setup to get started has never been so simple, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon, and get started with React-Native-Web.

Thank you for reading!


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Browser code demos, or correct my post typos on the blog repo

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I blog about the wide React ecosystem (React, ReactNative, Expo, React-Navigation, Apollo, GraphQL, Gatsby, Typescript, Node...), and try to focus on uncovered subjects.

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