Using MDX with create-react-app 2

Learn how to get the succinct syntax of Markdown, the power of JSX, and all with the simplicity of create-react-app 2.

MDX is a wonderful way to write content for React-based apps. It gives you the succinct syntax of Markdown, with all the power of raw JSX. And while MDX started out as an obscure little package, it’s grown to be supported by everything from Next.js, to Gatsby, to mdx-deck.

But there’s one place where support has been conspicuously missing: create-react-app 2. Here’s why.

#Configuring create-react-app

While create-react-app 1 allowed for slight modifications to configuration through react-app-rewired, this wasn’t supported by the create-react-app team itself.

With create-react-app 2, official support was added for some extensions through babel-plugin-macros. In fact, it’s possible to get some MDX support with babel-plugin-macros through the mdx.macro package (by yours truly). However, this package has a major drawback: you’ll need to manually restart the server each time you change an .mdx file.

In order to implement proper MDX support through babel-plugin-macros, babel itself will need a new feature. But this feature doesn’t exist yet. So how are you going to get the benefit of MDX without ejecting from create-react-app?


One of the great things about create-react-app is that it doesn’t force you to use the official scripts. It makes it dead easy to use a fork. And given that there’s now a react-scripts-mdx fork, this means that getting started with MDX and create-react-app is a one-liner:

npx create-react-app --scripts-version react-scripts-mdx your-project-name

Simple, huh? Or if you’ve already got a create-react-app generated project, you can add MDX support by just switching out react-scripts with react-scripts-mdx in your dependencies and running yarn install or npm install. Then, you’ll be able to add MDX files like this to your project:

# I'm a Markdown file

And I can use <em className="jsx">JSX!</em>

Then import and use your MDX file, just as you would with any other React component:

import React, { Component } from 'react';
import './App.css';
import MDXDocument from './';

class App extends Component {
  render() {
    return (
      <div className="App">
        <MDXDocument />

export default App;

Neat, huh? But while adding MDX support is super easy, is it really ok to use a fork?

#What the fork changes

The react-scripts-mdx fork makes a single change to react-scripts:

react-scripts-mdx will transform .md and .mdx files with mdx-loader.

The fork is tested, and is only a tiny patch on the main create-react-app project — making maintenance easy. Of course, the fork shouldn’t be necessary forever! Once babel-plugin-macros gains live reload support, it’ll be simple to transition over to that instead.

But for the moment, if you need MDX and create-react-app? Give react-scripts-mdx a try!

Thanks for reading! And if you have any questions, give me a shout on twitter at @james_k_nelson. And until next time, happy mdxing!