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Technically Speaking

Using GitHub with Expo and Vanilla React Native

Motivation

One of the major disadvantages of making use of Expo is when you have to stop using it – when you come across a missing feature in Expo. The only option left is to eject from the Expo workflow and move to a vanilla react-native stack. Any SDKs you borrowed from Expo can be added using ExpoKit. This immediately sounds like a lot of work and we will discuss about a workflow to integrate both Expo and react-native using GitHub.

About the Project

I am writing this while I am in the process of adapting one of my projects to this new workflow – to say the least, I am learning as I am writing; I am writing as I am learning. This would serve as a personal reference as well while sharing my process with other fellow developers so that they can run where I, crawled.

The project started as a test project but quickly evolved into a financially backed contract. I had not integrated GitHub to the initial project either. What I had was two separate folders. One for the react-native workflow and one for the Expo workflow. Modifications that had a native module part was done in the react-native distribution while using Expo for the UI/ UX modifications and other logic that did not require the custom modules to function. The custom module I wanted to use was react-native-nfc-manager – Expo does not support NFC features as of now.

Expo is a tool at Orpheus that we can not live without. Due to this, we have a bunch of other tutorials that delve into great depths about Expo like the implementation of material design in Expo-based apps.

Using expo eject

A feature introduced in SDK 34 upwards is the ability to eject to what Expo terms a bare workflow. Initially you could only eject to an ExpoKit workflow. Personally, not having used this workflow, I will refrain from commenting on its functionality. But seeing that the folks at Expo are phasing it out and recommending new users eject to bare workflow, I would say that ExpoKit was not successful at its job. What happens to any Expo-based APIs and libraries? The process of moving to the bare workflow will also move the Expo libraries already in use. This is an automatic process.

The beautiful thing with the new bare workflow environment is that it allows you to use the Expo client as long as Native code is restricted from running. Expo provides an API call to detect if the app is running in an Expo mobile client or as a vanilla app.

To eject, simply run,

expo eject
A screenshot showing the manual steps of the eject command used on a GitHub repo project
A screenshot showing the manual steps of the eject command

Do not forget to select “Bare” from the options that come up.

To run the project as an Expo app, simply run –

expo start

Adding native plugins

The next logical step is to add a plugin that is based on native code. In other words, a plugin that would not be able to be added in a managed Expo environment.

The plugin we will use to test this is react-native-nfc-manager plugin. To add this plugin, we use the yarn add command as shown below:

yarn add react-native-nfc-manager --save

To run the app as a vanilla React Native app on a mobile connected via USB, simply execute the following command –

yarn android

Committing to GitHub

Another question that would arise at this point of the process is what folders should be committed to GitHub. The easiest method is to use the gitignore.io online service. This website allows you to select your technology stack to produce a gitignore file. For your easiness, we have already selected and produced a .gitignore file for use on Windows or macOS stacks: https://www.gitignore.io/api/macos,windows,reactnative

The most significant change is that the certain files from android and ios folders (that were made during the eject process) are also chosen to be synced. Commits will exclude build-related files and folders. These files are auto-generated from the source.

Cloning from GitHub

After cloning the repository to a local folder, we need to install the libraries and instantiate Expo (basically, re-creating the node_modules folder) . To do this, you will only require one command:

npm install

Library and script downloads will take some time. After that, we can run it on Expo using;

expo start

Or if we want to check native code and run vanilla React Native, simply run;

yarn android
yarn ios

Sometimes the react-native builder fails to recognize the Android SDK directory. In that case you can set an environment variable pointing to the directory (command shown for Windows):

set ANDROID_HOME=C:\Users\<UserName>\AppData\Local\Android\sdk

The placeholder <UserName> should be replaced with the user’s Windows profile directory name.

We do not have to perform expo eject as our commits already contain an ‘ejected’ work space.

This concludes the Technically Speaking post for today. Hope you learnt something from the post!

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