Rexplorer, A file explorer built in React

February 09, 2018

We'll be doing a deep dive into Rexplorer, a file explorer I built with React. This project has been going on for almost a year and I'd like to share somethings I learnt while building it. Before we begin, some background.

Folder Structure

Rexplorer folder structure looks like any other typical node/react library

├── dist    //minified output
├── docs    //StorybookJS static output
├── es      //es module version
├── lib     //cjs output
├── package.json
├── package-lock.json
├── rollup.config.js
├── screenshots //screenshots for readme
├── src //components
│   ├── content // Folder content component
│   ├── context.js //React context
│   ├── filetree //FileTree component
│   ├── index.js
│   ├── navigation //Navigation bar
│   └── svgs
├── stories // Storybookjs tests
└── yarn.lock

Data Flow

Rexplorer consumes json of directory listing in similar to this form below. The npm package directory-tree makes this pretty easy to obtain. Recplorer takes this data and creates components that mimic the files/folder present in json.

  "path": "",
  "name": "",
  "children": []

Moving on to actual rendering, let's say for argument sake, we get the directory listing from some local json file generated by directory-tree and on the frontend it looks like this

const dataSource = require('./sample.json')
      <Rexplorer data={dataSource}>
        {({ getFileTree, getFileContents }) => (

Here, the methods getFileTree and getFileContents are used to spit out rendered components from the json input. As we can see from the implementation below, it only renders the current visible folders, (which in this case can be found in children object).

getTree = () => {
  let { children } = this.state.initialFileTree
  return, key) => (
      key={ + key}
      isDirectory={content.type === 'directory' ? true : false}

initialFileTree here represents the same json after it has been sorted. Similarly with getFileContents, it takes the current sorted children and renders out File/Folder icons respectively.

getContents = () => {
  var { children } = this.state
  return, index) => (
      key={ + index}
      isDirectory={content.type === 'directory' ? true : false}

Now it's time to see it in action! See it live here

Lessons learnt (So far)

  1. Use React Context.

    I initially had planned to use redux for state management but using context I was quickly able not only to get started developing but also was very productive in moving/creating new components that required some more state/features.

  2. Keep dependencies to a (and I cant stress this enough) bare minimum

    I started out using styled-components in this project to help out with styling and theming (possibly) but when build time came around, I was disappointed with the bundle size, coming in at 55.65 KB, which to be honest isn't bad but a small library such as this one should carry that much weight. After refactoring and using inline-styles, I was able to remove styled-components and my new bundle size was a teeny tiny 6.54KB!

The Road Ahead

  • Navigation? Im working on including more features such as navigation bar and searching in rexplorer, really excited.

  • Themes This might be in the distant future, but it'd be pretty cool if it were able to accept different themes and customisations.

  • Smaller Bundles, better perf?

    Definitely looking forward to shaving even more off the bundle size and increasing perf.