Extending webpack in the SharePoint Framework toolchain

Webpack is a JavaScript module bundler that takes your JavaScript files and its dependencies and generates one or more JavaScript bundles so you can load different bundles for different scenarios.

The framework tool chain uses CommonJS for bundling. This enables you to define modules and where you want to use them. The tool chain also uses SystemJS, a universal module loader, to load your modules. This helps you to scope your web parts by making sure that each web part is executed in its own namespace.

One common task you would want to add to the SharePoint Framework toolchain is to extend the webpack configuration with custom loaders and plugins.

Using webpack loaders

There are many cases where one would like to import and utilize a non-JavaScript resource during development, typically this is done with images or templates. A webpack loader will convert the resource into something that can be utilized by your JavaScript application. For example, a Markdown template may be compiled and converted to a text string, while a image resource may be converted to Base64 image.

There are a number of useful loaders, several of which are already used by the standard SharePoint Framework webpack configuration, such as:

  • html-loader
  • json-loader
  • loader-load-themed-styles

Extending the framework webpack configuration with custom loaders is a straightforward process which is documented here in the webpack documentation.

You can find more details on the loaders from webpack loaders documentation

Example: Using the markdown-loader package

As an example, let's use the markdown-loader package. It's a loader which allows you to reference an .md file and output it as HTML string.

You can download the completed sample here.

Step 1 - Install the package

Let's reference markdown-loader in our project.

npm i --save markdown-loader 

Step 2 - Configure Webpack

Now that we have the package installed, lets now configure the SharePoint Framework webpack configuration to include the markdown-loader.

In the documentation of markdown-loader, it shows how to extend the webpack configuration to include the loader:

  module: {
    loaders: [
      { test: /\.md$/, loader: "html!markdown" }

We will use this information to configure it in our project.

In order to add this custom loader into the SharePoint Framework webpack configuration, we will need to instruct the build task to configure webpack. The build tasks are defined in the gulp file - gulpfile.js - which is located at the root of your project. SharePoint Framework uses gulp as its task runner and hence we use it to define and register custom tasks with the gulp task runner.

Edit the gulpfile.js and add the following code right before build.initialize(gulp);:

  additionalConfiguration: (generatedConfiguration) => { 
      { test: /\.md$/, loader: "html!markdown" } 

    return generatedConfiguration; 

Notice that we simply push the loader config onto the list of existing loaders in the toolchain. It's important to ensure that your additionalConfiguration function ends with the return generatedConfiguration line, as this ensures that it returns the loader configuration to the toolchain.

While you are able to completely replace the toolchain's default webpack configuration using this approach, to get the maximum benefit with performance and optimization, it is not recommended to do so unless stated otherwise in the documentation.

Step 3 - Update your code

Now that we have configured the loader, lets update our code and add few files to test the scenario.

Create a file my-markdown.md in the src directory of your project folder with some Markdown text in it.

#Hello Markdown

*Markdown* is a simple markup format to write content. 

You can also format text as **bold** or *italics* or ***bold italics***  

When you build the project, the webpack markdown-loader will convert this markdown text to a HTML string. To use this HTML string in any of your source *.ts files, add the following require() line at the top of the file after your imports, for example:

const strMarkdownString = require("../../../../src/readme.md") as string;

Webpack by default will look in the lib folder for the file, but by default .md files don't get copied to the lib folder, meaning we need to create a rather lengthy relative path. We can control this setting by defining a config file to tell the toolchain to copy md files to the lib folder.

Create a file copy-static-assets.json in the config directory to tell the build system to copy some additional files from src to lib. By default, this build task copies files with extensions that the default toolchain webpack configuration understands (like png and json), so we just need to tell it to also copy md files.

  "includeExtensions": [

Now instead of using the relative path, you can use the file path in your require statement, for example:

const strMarkdownString = require("../../readme.md") as string;

You can then reference this string in your code, for example:

public render(): void {
  this.domElement.innerHTML = strMarkdownString;

Step 4 - Build and test your code

To build and test your code, execute the following command in a console in the root of your project directory:

gulp serve

gulp serve