Migrating Snowpack to Vite (and Docker!)

About eighteen months ago I migrated a small Javascript app to use Snowpack development tooling. (This was mostly for fun, I had already had it working with Webpack.) Snowpack claimed simple dev tooling with nearly instant updates, using the power of ES Modules. It worked pretty well.

About six months ago, the team that developed Snowpack realized that their efforts had paralleled those of the Vite.js tooling. Vite.js also used ES Modules, and provides a mature code base and strong community support. Since the Snowpack team wanted to work on other projects (Astro), they switched their underlying tooling to use Vite.js.

So… I decided to see what it would take to migrate my Snowpack project to use Vite.js. Everything I had read said that it was easy. Here’s a field report from what was required.

A Side Project – Using Docker: Since this Javascript app was a side project, I have also been using it as a learning environment. I had read Jonathan Bergknoff’s Run More Stuff in Docker that made a lot of sense to me. (The magic of using Docker is that once you’ve created the instance, all the tool and dependency versions remain the same. It’s easy then to hand the Dockerfile to a colleague who can build an identical development environment in a few minutes. It also avoids cluttering my daily-driver laptop with multiple versions of Node, npm, Go, Python, rust, and any number of little-used tooling – they’re all encapsulated in the Docker container.)

So I decided to investigate whether using Docker to create the Javascript tooling would make my life better. Googling around led to Andrew Welch’s vitejs-docker-dev project. It builds a Docker instance with full development tooling (Vite.js, pnpm, hot reloading, etc.) that watches the source files in your local directory for updates. You develop the code using your favorite editing tools. Changes are immediately reflected in your browser/test environment. This is very slick. The vitejs-docker-dev repo has good documentation. It describes a lot of background of how the Docker machine gets built and how to use it.

Update: Andrew Welch (who created the vitejs-docker-dev project) sent me a link to his article about using “Docker for all the things.” It’s a good adjunct to the original “Run More Stuff in Docker” post.

Back to the main story – here are the steps I followed to get my Snowpack project on the air with Vite.js:

  1. Create the Docker instance. Clone the vitejs-docker-dev repo. Then run make docker to put the set of development tools into a new Docker instance. This one-time step takes a few minutes. You may see several warnings (as described in a Github issue) but these don’t seem to be important.
  2. Check the default Vite.js app builds on Docker. Run make vite-pnpm run dev in one terminal window, then run make app-pnpm run dev in a second window (waiting between the commands as described in the README). Click the http://localhost:3000 URL to see if the test Vite app starts up. Edit the index.html file to see if the change is reflected in the web browser. (It should be…)
  3. Customize the /app directory for your app. Copy all your app’s files into the app directory. (I renamed the original to app-old and created a new app directory.) This required a bit of jiggering to adjust between Snowpack and Vite.js, such as:
    • My index.html file for Snowpack was in the public directory; for Vite.js, I moved it to the top-level app directory
    • Copy the package.json and other important directories to app directory
    • Adjust the paths for index.html: Snowpack bundles source files from /src into the /dist directory; Vite.js processes the files directly from /src
    • I can’t remember whether I made other tweaks; it certainly wasn’t odious.
  4. Remove references to the Snowpack modules from the package.json file. Optionally, you could take the opportunity to update the versions of dependencies.
  5. Rebuild the Docker instance (#1 above) and restart the development process (#2 above). Click the link to http://localhost:3000 and your app should begin to run. You’ll probably need to make adjustments, but you’ll be substantially on the air.

TL;DR The process of converting to Vite.js wasn’t very hard (at least, not on my small project). It required a little farbling around, but nothing terrible. The jury’s still out on whether vitejs-docker-dev will make my life better – but I think it just might.

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