Herman Starikov

Web Developer @ Coursera

Read a File in Create React App

Published on October 29, 2019

Imagine you have a text file on your computer. It could be JSON, CSV, markdown or any other format. And now you want to create a React app to make the information in that file more presentable and maybe somewhat interactive. Right? So, you run create-react-app, you drag and drop your file into the project, and now you need to figure out how to hook it up. If it's JSON, you're in luck.

import json from './my-file.json';


Now, if it's not JSON, let's see how you can use preval.macro to read any kind of a file from the file system in an app created by create-react-app.

Preval macro

Kent C. Dodds is a talented developer who has made a lot of nifty projects. More specifically he made babel-plugin-macros which is now integrated into create-react-app. It's a plugin that lets you use babel macros, which run at build-time in a node.js environment.

One such babel macro is preval.macro. It's very simple. It takes a string, executes it in node, and inlines the resulting value in your code. It pre-evaluates your node.js code.

It's like writing a node script and executing it every time before you yarn start your app. But with preval.macro the development experience is more seamless.

CSV Example

In this example, I will display Comma Separated Values from a local file in an HTML table using React.

import React from "react";
import preval from "preval.macro";

const myData = preval`
module.exports = (
__dirname + '/my-file.csv',
.map(line => line.split(','))

const CsvExample = () => {
const [labels, ...rows] = myData;
return (
{labels.map(label => (
<th key={label}>{label}</th>
{rows.map((row, index) => (
<tr key={index}>
{row.map(cell => (
<td key={cell}>{cell}</td>


Here is a Codesandbox of this. I read the file, parse it, inline data into our App source file, and render it in a basic HTML table.

NOTE: If you change the CSV file, you need to re-run yarn start!


Or imagine you want to start a blog. You've heard of Gatsby, but you are not impressed. You think displaying rendered markdown is simple enough to use create-react-app for that. Consider the following example.

import React from "react";
import preval from "preval.macro";

const myBlogPostJsx = preval`
module.exports = (
__dirname + '/blog-post.md',

const MarkdownExample = () => (
<article dangerouslySetInnerHTML={{
__html: myBlogPostJsx

Here I'm reading a file, then parsing it with remark. And rendering it as a string of html using dangerouslySetInnerHTML. This is very simple.

For my personal website (the one you're on right now) I'm doing something similar. Except I'm generating blog post components, so that I can lazy load them in runtime. But all markdown parsing is done at build time.

Closing words

You probably already knew that create-react-app is awesome. But I bet you did not know how much more awesome it really is thanks to babel-plugin-macros and all these build time super powers you have with macros such as preval. I hope this new knowledge comes in handy on your next React project!

Do you have any questions or comments? Talk to me on Twitter.

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