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Getting started with Babel and Node

Along with ES6 came a lot of cool features such as template literals, arrow functions, Block-Scoped Constructs among others to make writing JavaScript code more delightful.

However, ES6 is not widely supported by all browsers especially older ones which poses a challenge.

‘Oh okay, then how do I take advantage of the spicy ES6 features and still support all browsers?’

Babel’s got our backs!

Babel is a JavaScript transpiler tool that converts JavaScript code into ES5 which can be understood by any browser. It comes as a node module to be installed in your project through the npm package registry.

The focus of this post is to highlight the steps necessary to quickly get started with Babel on a Node project. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Step #1: Installation

As mentioned earlier, Babel is a node module. This means the first step to getting started is to install it in your project:

npm install --save babel-cli 

The above command updates your package.json file with the new dependency.

Step #2: Build

Installing Babel alone will make no difference in your project. To actually get Babel doing its work which is to transpile your files to ES5, it is necessary to define a build script in your package.json file to fire Babel up.

"build":babel ./server/ -d dist/server

In other words, you are saying to Babel: Hey, I need you to convert all the files you find in a server folder into a dist/server folder

Voila, Babel does this and you will notice a new ‘/dist’ folder in your project directory which is a transpiled version of your original files.

Step #3: Update Start Script

To run the resulting files from the Babel transpiling process above, let’s modify our start script:

“start”: “babel-node server/app.js

Step #4: Create a gitignore file

The .gitignore file tells the version control system you are working with what files or folders you do not want pushed or made public. Let us add this to our .gitignore file which should be created in the root of our project:


With these steps, you should be able to use a syntax such as ‘import’ instead of ‘require’ without getting an error. Running ‘npm start’ should also give a similar output to this in our terminal:

babel-node server/app.js
Server running on port 3000

You can find out more interesting features of Babel from the official documentation

Thanks for reading.