A short and concise guide to the Tower of Babel

Babel is an excellent entry in the Web Developer toolset. This is an amazing tool that has been around for a while, but now almost every JavaScript developer relies on it, and this situation will continue, because Babel is now indispensable and has solved everyone's big problems.

This article introduces Babel 7 (the current stable release)

Introduction to Tongtian Tower

Babel is an amazing tool that has been around for a while, but now it’s almostJavaScriptDevelopers rely on it, and this situation will continue, because Babel is now indispensable and has solved everyone's big problems.

Which problem?

A problem that every web developer will definitely encounter: JavaScript functionality is available in the latest version of the browser, but not in the earlier version. Maybe Chrome or Firefox can achieve it, but Safari iOS and Edge cannot.

For example, ES6 introducedArrow function:

[1, 2, 3].map((n) => n + 1)

All modern browsers now support this feature. IE11 does not support it, nor does Opera Mini (how do I know? CheckedES6 compatibility table).

So how should you deal with this problem? Should you move on and let customers who use older/incompatible browsers stay, or should you write older JavaScript code to satisfy all users?

Enter Babel. Tongtian Tower istranslater: Accept code written in one standard and convert it to code written in another standard.

You can configure Babel to convert modern ES2017 JavaScript to JavaScript ES5 syntax:

[1, 2, 3].map(function(n) {
  return n + 1

This must happen at build time, so you must set up a workflow that can handle it for you.WebpackIs a common solution.

(PS, if all thisESSounds confusing you, see more information about ES versionIn the ECMAScript guide)

Install Babel

Babel is easy to install and usenpm, Located locally in the project:

npm install --save-dev @babel/core @babel/cli

In the past I suggested to installbabel-cliGlobally, but Babel maintainers do not recommend this now, because using it locally can use different versions of Babel in each project, and checking in babel in the repository is more suitable for team work

Since npm now comes withnpx, You can run the locally installed CLI package by typing the following command in the project folder:

So we can run by running Babel

npx babel script.js

Babel configuration example

Babel doesn't do anything useful out of the box, you need to configure it and add plugins.

This is the list of Babel plugins

To solve the problem we discussed in the introduction (using the arrow function in each browser), we can run

npm install --save-dev \

Download the package tonode_modulesApplication folder, then we need to add

  "plugins": ["@babel/plugin-transform-arrow-functions"]

To.babelrcThe file exists in the root folder of the application. If you don’t have the file yet, just create a blank file and put its contents in it.

Tip: If you have never seen a dot file (files that start with a dot), it may seem strange at first, because the file may not appear in the file manager because it is a hidden file.

Now if we have ascript.jsFiles containing the following content:

var a = () => {};
var a = (b) => b;

const double = [1,2,3].map((num) => num * 2); console.log(double); // [2,4,6] var bob = { _name: “Bob”, _friends: [“Sally”, “Tom”], printFriends() { this._friends.forEach(f => console.log(this._name + " knows " + f)); } }; console.log(bob.printFriends());

Runbabel script.jsThe following code will be output:

var a = function () {};var a = function (b) {
  return b;

const double = [1, 2, 3].map(function (num) { return num * 2; });console.log(double); // [2,4,6] var bob = { _name: “Bob”, _friends: [“Sally”, “Tom”], printFriends() { var _this = this;

<span style="color:#66d9ef">this</span>.<span style="color:#a6e22e">_friends</span>.<span style="color:#a6e22e">forEach</span>(<span style="color:#66d9ef">function</span> (<span style="color:#a6e22e">f</span>) {
  <span style="color:#66d9ef">return</span> <span style="color:#a6e22e">console</span>.<span style="color:#a6e22e">log</span>(<span style="color:#a6e22e">_this</span>.<span style="color:#a6e22e">_name</span> <span style="color:#f92672">+</span> <span style="color:#e6db74">" knows "</span> <span style="color:#f92672">+</span> <span style="color:#a6e22e">f</span>);

} }; console.log(bob.printFriends());

As you can see, the arrow functions have all been converted to JavaScript ES5 functions.

Babel presets

We just saw how to configure Babel to transform specific JavaScript functions in the previous article.

You can add more plug-ins, but you can't add them to the configuration function one by one, which is impractical.

This is why Babel providesPreset.

The most popular preset isenvwithreact.

Tip: Babel 7 has deprecated (and deleted) annual presets, such aspreset-es2017And stage presets. use@babel/preset-envinstead.


ThisenvThe preset is very good: you tell it to support the environment, it can do all the work for you,Supports all modern JavaScript functions.

For example, "supports the last 2 versions of each browser, but for Safari, we support all versions after Safari 7.

  "presets": [
    ["env", {
      "targets": {
        "browsers": ["last 2 versions", "safari >= 7"]

Or "I don’t need browser support, just let me use it togetherNode.js6.10"

  "presets": [
    ["env", {
      "targets": {
        "node": "6.10"


ThisreactWhen writing React applications, presets are very convenient: addpreset-flow,syntax-jsx,transform-react-jsx,transform-react-display-name.

By including it, you are ready to develop React applications using JSX transformation and Flow support.

More information about presets


Use Babel with Webpack

If you want to run modern JavaScript in your browser, Babel alone is not enough, you also need to bundle the code. Webpack is the perfect tool for this purpose.

Tip: please readWebpack guideIf you are not familiar with webpack

Modern JS requires two different phases: the compilation phase and the runtime phase. This is because certain ES6+ features require polyfills or runtime helpers.

To install the Babel polyfill runtime features, run

npm install @babel/polyfill \
            @babel/runtime \

Now in yourswebpack.config.jsFile addition:

entry: [
  // your app scripts should be here

module: { loaders: [ // Babel loader compiles ES2015 into ES5 for // complete cross-browser support { loader: ‘babel-loader’, test: /.js$/, // only include files present in the src subdirectory include: [path.resolve(__dirname, “src”)], // exclude node_modules, equivalent to the above line exclude: /node_modules/, query: { // Use the default ES2015 preset // to include all ES2015 features presets: [‘es2015’], plugins: [‘transform-runtime’] } } ] }

By keeping the preset and plugin information inwebpack.config.jsFiles we can avoid.babelrcfile.

More devtools tutorials: