As you know, Webpack use Loaders to manage different type of web resources, like css. Being css files so important for web applications, there are more than one way of handling this. There are different loaders and different combination of loaders that will help you have the right behavior for you app.

We will take a look at these loaders:

  1. css-loader
  2. style-loader
  3. style/usable-loader
  4. css-modules

And then I will mention some other tools that can help with css development.

css-loader

This is the plain css loader. It will return the css code interpreting the resources inside, but it will not add it to the page.

With this loader @import and url(...) are interpreted like require() and will be resolved. Good loaders for requiring your assets are the file-loader and the url-loader which you should specify in your config.

Then what you do with that css code it’s up to you. The next loader will help you with it.

style-loader

This loader adds CSS to the DOM by injecting a <style> or <link> tag.

<style>

To inject a <style> you need to get the content of the css file, and then inject that.

require("style!raw!./file.css");
// => add rules in file.css to document

But it’s recommended to combine it with the css-loader, as it will interpret all the resources in your css file, instead of just having the raw css.

require("style!css!./file.css");
// => add rules in file.css to document

If you want to add a <link> to your css file, you need to first have the url to that file, for that you can use the file-loader.

require("style/url!file!./file.css");
// => add a <link rel="stylesheet"> to file.css to document

Notice that it’s not style anymore, but style/url, it’s like another flavor of the same loader.

As you can see, these loaders are the ones that help you to add the style to the page.

style/usable

This is another flavor of the style-loader. With styleable/usable-loader you get the option to inject and remove the styles yourself using a simple API given by the loader.

var myStyle = require('myStyle.css');
myStyle.use(); //inject it via a `<style>` element
myStyle.unuse(); //removes it

Something important that you need to know is that these loader works counting references of the css usages (kind of like a GC). So:

var myStyle = require('myStyle.css');
myStyle.use(); //inject it via a `<style>` element (counter = 1)
myStyle.use(); //nothing happens, already injected (counter = 2)

myStyle.unuse(); // nothing happens! counter should be 0 to remove it (counter = 1)
myStyle.unuse(); // removes it (counter = 0)

myStyle.unuse(); // nothing happens (counter = -1) -> weird!

As you can see in the last line, if you call unuse() more than use() you get a negativa counter, which looks weird, I created a PR in github to fix this but the repo seems to be asleep…

A recommended way to use this is having a different suffix for css files that you want to use with this loader, in case you have css files that you want to load with a <style> and files that you want to load with this API.

{
  module: {
    loaders: [
      { test: /\.css$/, exclude: /\.useable\.css$/, loader: "style!css" },
      { test: /\.useable\.css$/, loader: "style/useable!css" }
    ]
  }
}

css-modules

This is also a flavor of the css-loader. This loader helps us the developers to avoid name conflicts while using css, and by doing so, keep our components modular.

When requiring a css file, it will return an object with all the css selectors in that file (if you have images, etc then you first use some of the other loaders). That object should be passed to the html template or react view or whatever, and use the key corresponging to the class you want to use. An example:

.myClass {
	color: red;
}
var myStyle = require('myStyle.css');
// {
// 	"myClass": "73nsdfsdf7agkfdg73"
// }
<div class="{ { myStyle.myClass } }">
</div>
<!-- would convert to -->
<div class="73nsdfsdf7agkfdg73">
</div>

And the final css would be like

.73nsdfsdf7agkfdg73 {
	color: red;
}

So as you can see, selectors are made universal, avoiding any clash in names and giving more modularity to the components using it. It’s an interesting approach on an eternal css problem, the global scope. Until Shadow DOM and CSS local scope comes, this might be an option.

More on css-modules here.

Helpful tools and docs for css development

If you are using any of the CSS pre-processors and you want to lint your CSS, you can check my post on it.

All these loaders have different configuration options you can check out but I hope this helps you to choose what loaders to use and what tools to help you get going!

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Tomas Alabes

Software Engineer, author, blogger and obsessive learner, from Argentina living in Silicon Valley


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