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📓 Improving Development by Automating Clean Up Tasks

Right now, the dist folder is empty. Run $ npm run build now and webpack will generate two files, bundle.js and index.html, and add them to the dist folder. In the future, anytime time we re-run $ npm run build, webpack creates a new bundle.js and index.html file and replaces any existing files in the dist folder.

Well, what if we change webpack's output to another name?


module.exports = {
entry: './src/index.js',
output: {
filename: 'output.js', // new name!!
path: path.resolve(__dirname, 'dist')

If we re-run $ npm run build, our dist folder will now contains these three files:

├── index.html
├── bundle.js
└── output.js

Notably, webpack won't automatically delete the old bundle.js file. The same is true for any other assets that get added to our dist folder, like images. (We'll work with images later in this course section.)

In short, as we write code, add new assets, and change our config options, our dist folder will get cluttered. While we won't be changing the name of our bundle to main.js — we'll always stick with bundle.js — we can improve our developer experience by configuring webpack to automatically clean up after us. We'll do this with another plugin.

By the end of this lesson, you should have CleanWebpackPlugin installed and configured in your Shape Tracker project.

Using CleanWebpackPlugin

We can configure webpack to use CleanWebpackPlugin so that webpack clears the files inside of our dist folder before adding any new ones, each time run $ npm run build to bundle our code and generate an HTML file.

In the terminal, navigate to the root of the Shape Tracker project and enter the following command.

$ npm install clean-webpack-plugin@4.0.0 --save-dev

Then, we'll add the plugin to our configuration file:

const path = require('path');
const HtmlWebpackPlugin = require('html-webpack-plugin');
const { CleanWebpackPlugin } = require('clean-webpack-plugin'); // new line

module.exports = {
entry: './src/index.js',
output: {
filename: 'bundle.js',
path: path.resolve(__dirname, 'dist')
plugins: [
new CleanWebpackPlugin(), // new line
new HtmlWebpackPlugin({
title: 'Shape Tracker',
template: './src/index.html',
inject: 'body'
module: {
rules: [
test: /\.css$/,
use: [

We've added two lines to our webpack.config.js file. The new lines have comments to indicate where they are.

Hopefully this pattern is starting to look familiar.

  • First we require the new plugin and save it in a variable. This makes it so that we can call on the plugin within the webpack.config.js file.
  • Then we add it to module.exports in the plugins section.
  • Within plugins, we create a new instance of the plugin.

The default behavior for CleanWebpackPlugin is to clear the files inside of the dist folder. Now when we run $ npm run build, webpack will automatically clean out the contents of our dist folder before creating new bundle files.

Depending on your computer, you may or may not be able to actually see the files being deleted and then recreated. In fact, it looks like nothing is happening at all. If this is the case for you, there's additional configurations we can set for CleanWebpackPlugin that will confirm that our files are being deleted. Update new CleanWebpackPlugin() with this code:

new CleanWebpackPlugin({
verbose: true

Setting verbose: true will tell webpack to include terminal output about CleanWebpackPlugin. With this configuration set, when we now run $ npm run build, we'll see two new lines in the terminal output:

  • clean-webpack-plugin: removed dist\bundle.js
  • clean-webpack-plugin: removed dist\index.html

See if you can find those new lines in the output below!

$ npm run build

> shape-tracker@1.0.0 build
> webpack --mode=development

clean-webpack-plugin: removed dist\bundle.js
clean-webpack-plugin: removed dist\index.html
Hash: 9f99a3aa8081bb8f3eaf
Version: webpack 4.46.0
Time: 765ms
Built at: 06/27/2022 1:48:28 PM
Asset Size Chunks Chunk Names
bundle.js 18 KiB main [emitted] main
index.html 631 bytes [emitted]
Entrypoint main = bundle.js
[./node_modules/css-loader/dist/cjs.js!./src/css/styles.css] 186
bytes {main} [built]
[./src/css/styles.css] 410 bytes {main} [built]
[./src/index.js] 789 bytes {main} [built]
[./src/triangle.js] 256 bytes {main} [built]
+ 2 hidden modules
Child html-webpack-plugin for "index.html":
1 asset
Entrypoint undefined = index.html
[./node_modules/html-webpack-plugin/lib/loader.js!./src/index.html] 805 bytes {0} [built]
[./node_modules/webpack/buildin/global.js] (webpack)/buildin/global.js 472 bytes {0} [built]
[./node_modules/webpack/buildin/module.js] (webpack)/buildin/module.js 497 bytes {0} [built]
+ 1 hidden module

Note that adding the configuration verbose: true is optional. You can add it if you want to your own Shape Tracker project, but we won't include it in the LearnHowToProgram's Shape Tracker project.

We could also configure this plugin to clean multiple directories and exclude specific files, as well, but that's for further exploration.

In the next lesson, we'll add another tool that's great for development: source maps.