Yanking Webpacker out of Rails (6)

Call me a grumpy old man buy I find webpack(er) to be a major pain in the ass. It overcomplicates things and turns (previously) simple tasks such as installing bootstrap into a nightmare. This is why I prefer not to use it for small personal projects.

Yes, it might be better for js-centric apps but not everyone makes SPAs. This post will explain how to remove webpacker and add javascript back to the sprockets pipeline.

Sadly, we can’t simply use rails new --skip-webpack and call it a day. There is some manual work involved. Also, a warning: it will be harder to use newer Rails 6 features such as Action Text.

Creating a new application

When creating a new application, you can supply two flags that prevent webpacker from being installed. The first is --skip-webpack-install which prevents the generator from running rails webpacker:install. The second is --skip-javascript, which drops the webpacker gem from the Gemfile. The final command is:

rails new app-name --skip-webpack-install --skip-javascript

Adding javascript to the sprockets pipeline

You will find that the app/assets/javascripts folder no longer exists. Create it by running the following command in your shell:

mkdir -p app/assets/javascripts

Then, create app/assets/javascripts/application.js with the following contents (taken from a Rails 5 app):

//= require rails-ujs
//= require turbolinks
//= require_tree .

Note: If you want to use ActionCable, you can also copy a pristine cable.js from a Rails 5 application.

Next, open app/assets/config/manifest.js and add the following line:


//= link_directory ../javascripts .js

Finally, open you application layout (app/views/layouts/application.html.erb) and add the following line:

<%= javascript_include_tag 'application', 'data-turbolinks-track': 'reload' %>

Also, remove lines with javascript_pack_tag if there are any. You’re done.


Webpacker is the future and being ignorant with regard to how it works is probably not a good idea. I strongly urge everyone to learn how to use it properly. Still, being quite a new feature (introduced in Rails 6), the tooling and general knowledge base related to it are still quite limited. This is why I generally avoid it for personal projects, where I don’t want to spend an hour trying to setup bootstrap when it should not take me more than a couple of minutes.

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