JSPM Workflows

This guide covers practical workflows for using JSPM and import maps from development to production.

These workflows are based on the JSPM starters repo located at https://github.com/jspm/jspm-starters.

Native Modules Development Workflow

This workflow follows the React Starter.

Developing with pure native modules requires just a web server, a browser and an editor.

Instead of building JavaScript, the modules are all loaded by the browser directly.

Adding an Import Map

When loading third-party code, we use import maps to tell the browser that an import like import React from 'react' should actually be fetched from https://ga.jspm.io/npm:react@17.0.1/index.js.

The import map to do this would look like:

<script type="importmap">
  "imports": {
    "react": "https://ga.jspm.io/npm:react@17.0.1/index.js"

In reality, we need both React and ReactDOM and these packages in turn depend on other third-party packages requiring their own mappings in turn.

These shared mappings are useful because it enables dependencies to be shared between both local code and different third-party modules.

Import map management becomes a form of package management in the browser.

Running the Generator

Either use the online version at https://generator.jspm.io, the API or
run the generator library directly.

For the online version, add "react" and "react-dom" into the dependencies box to generate the map.

For the API, run npm install @jspm/generator then use the following code to generate the import map:


import { Generator } from '@jspm/generator';
const generator = new Generator({ env: ['browser', 'development'] });
await generator.install('react');
await generator.install('react-dom');
console.log(JSON.stringify(generator.getMap(), null, 2));

The full import map generated for this React development environment will then look like the following:

  JSPM Generator Import Map
  Edit URL: https://generator.jspm.io/#Y2VgYGBiDkpNTC5RCC5JLCpJLWIoAvF0U/JzHQzN9Qz0DCECUA4A8Cd9GjEA
<script type="importmap">
  "imports": {
    "react": "https://ga.jspm.io/npm:react@17.0.1/dev.index.js",
    "react-dom": "https://ga.jspm.io/npm:react-dom@17.0.1/dev.index.js"
  "scopes": {
    "https://ga.jspm.io/": {
      "object-assign": "https://ga.jspm.io/npm:object-assign@4.1.1/index.js",
      "scheduler": "https://ga.jspm.io/npm:scheduler@0.20.1/dev.index.js",
      "scheduler/tracing": "https://ga.jspm.io/npm:scheduler@0.20.1/dev.tracing.js"

The scopes entry in the import map allows defining import mappings that only apply when resolved by modules contained within the scope. For example in the above map, import 'object-assign' wouldn't resolve in the local HTML page, but would resolve for any module contained within https://ga.jspm.io/, as is handled by React and its dependencies.

Currently Chrome 89+ only supports import maps written inline like the above example.
Support for <script type="importmap" src="external.json"></script> is specified but still a pending browser feature.

Writing Native Modules

With the import map in place, the JS module can be included itself with a <script type="module" src="app.js"></script> tag.

Writing the app.js file we can include our hello world example:

import React from 'react';
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom';

  React.createElement('h1', { children: 'Hello world!' }),     

Setting up a Local Server

If you have Node.js installed, a local server can be run with npx http-server -c-1 (the -c-1 flag is useful to disable caching during development). This server is then the only step necessary to get going on a simple web application development workflow with native modules - no other tooling is required apart from the web browser and editor.

Navigate to http://localhost:8080/index.html to load the application in the browser.

Of course, use whatever hosting and serving mechanism you prefer - it is the open web after all. It is even possible to use new protocols in browsers like IPFS or Beaker Browser to deploy applications directly to the decentralized web without needing any local command line tooling.

Creating a Production Import Map

React ships separate development and production builds, so when shifting to production it is important to configure this.

Loading up the development version of the React import map in JSPM Generator, there's an "Environment Conditions" box at the bottom of the sidebar. This allows configuring which conditional exports to use.

Clicking the "Production" condition will then update the import map to use the production sources:

  JSPM Generator Import Map
  Edit URL: https://generator.jspm.io/#Y2NgYGBiDkpNTC5RCC5JLCpJLWIoAvF0U/JzHQzN9Qz0DCECUA4AhFDkUDEA
<script type="importmap">
  "imports": {
    "react": "https://ga.jspm.io/npm:react@17.0.1/index.js",
    "react-dom": "https://ga.jspm.io/npm:react-dom@17.0.1/index.js"
  "scopes": {
    "https://ga.jspm.io/": {
      "object-assign": "https://ga.jspm.io/npm:object-assign@4.1.1/index.js",
      "scheduler": "https://ga.jspm.io/npm:scheduler@0.20.1/index.js"

Only some packages have production variants - usually the library or framework will mention this in its documentation or in a console message.

The JSPM CDN is suitable for production workflows because all packages are optimized with code splitting and are fully minified.

For small applications it is even possible to get away with leaving the local code as separate modules (and the JSPM sandbox and generator apps even do this).

For larger applications you will always want to look at applying code optimizations for production, see the RollupJS optimization section below for more information. The important point here is that these further optimizations are optional and additive to the workflow later on. By using native standards it is more likely you can apply a wider variation of optimization tools as well.

Import Maps Polyfill

By default JSPM Generator will include a boilerplate HTML template that contains the ES Module Shims import map polyfill.

The polyfill will just do feature detections in modern Chrome, and if import maps aren't supported it replaces the imports with their actual URLs and executes them again.

Because of this, in browsers without support for import maps you'll see a console error message like:

Uncaught TypeError: Failed to resolve module specifier "react". Relative references must start with either "/", "./", or "../".

This is correct and means the polyfill is working!

If you're using a logging service or don't want these errors, add the -shim suffix to your import map and module scripts:

<script type="importmap-shim">
<script type="module-shim" src="app.js"></script>

Note that ES Module Shims only works in browsers with basic native modules support (it polyfills import maps on top of basic modules) - which is around 93% of all browsers (and higher on desktop).

ES Module Shims is very fast and perfectly suitable for production workflows. The cost is that it adds around 7KB to the page load, and for large applications (500-1000 modules) can start to add a slight performance overhead of a few 100 ms.


This workflow follows the SystemJS Babel Starter.

For support in older browsers even without ES modules at all (including IE11), SystemJS can be used and there's an entire variant of the CDN serving System modules which can work in older browsers for this (depending on library support).

Building modules into SystemJS can be achieved with Babel by first installing Babel CLI and the System transform:

npm install --save-dev @babel/core @babel/cli @babel/plugin-transform-modules-system

Then to use Babel CLI, run the following command (add the --watch flag for watch mode):

./node_modules/.bin/babel src --out-dir dist/system --plugins=@babel/plugin-transform-modules-systemjs

Usually we put commands like the above in the package.json "scripts" field. This avoids having to include the ./node_modules/.bin prefix as well. See the starter for how to set this up.

This will compile all the modules in the "src" folder into "dist/system" as System modules.

Finally load up the example import map in JSPM Generator and select the SystemJS Import Map output option at the top.

Update the import map and reference to the main module to point to the dist/system/app.js file:

  JSPM Generator Import Map
  Edit URL: https://generator.jspm.io/#M2VgYGBiDkpNTC5RCC5JLCpJLWIoAvF0U/JzHQzN9Qz0DCECUA4ANkXMaDEA
<script type="systemjs-importmap">
  "imports": {
    "react": "https://ga.system.jspm.io/npm:react@17.0.1/dev.index.js",
    "react-dom": "https://ga.system.jspm.io/npm:react-dom@17.0.1/dev.index.js"
  "scopes": {
    "https://ga.system.jspm.io/": {
      "object-assign": "https://ga.system.jspm.io/npm:object-assign@4.1.1/index.js",
      "scheduler": "https://ga.system.jspm.io/npm:scheduler@0.20.1/dev.index.js",
      "scheduler/tracing": "https://ga.system.jspm.io/npm:scheduler@0.20.1/dev.tracing.js"

<!-- Load an app.js file written in the "system" module format output (via RollupJS / Babel / TypeScript) -->
<script type="systemjs-module" src="dist/system/app.js"></script>

The promise of SystemJS is that if it worked with native modules and a native import map, it will work just the same on SystemJS.

Optimization with RollupJS

This workflow follows the Rollup Starter.

As the number of modules in your application grows, there can start to be performance benefits to combining modules together that always load together into a single module.

While HTTP/2 makes it possible for very large numbers of requests, there are still per-request overheads and code and network optimizations that benefit from combining modules together.

RollupJS (and other build tools) can do this module combination for us, including working out which modules can be combined together.

First, install RollupJS:

npm install rollup --save-dev

Next create a rollup.config.js:


export default {
  // Add extra entry points here if there are multiple to build
  input: ['src/app.js'],

  output: [
    // ES module build
      dir: 'dist/esm',
      format: 'esm'
    // SystemJS build
      dir: 'dist/system',
      format: 'system'

  // disable external module warnings
  // (JSPM / the import map handles these for us instead)      
  onwarn (warning, warn) {
    if (warning.code === 'UNRESOLVED_IMPORT')

To start the build, run (add the -w flag for watch mode):

./node_modules/.bin/rollup -c

If app.js were to import 20 separate modules, all of these modules would now be just one single module file.

RollupJS will output this to dist/esm/app.js for the ES module build and dist/system/app.js for the SystemJS build (output can also just be a single object to just have one output format per the project requirements).

If we had two separate pages of the application, say src/homepage.js and src/shop.js, then passing both of these to RollupJS it would automatically work out which dependencies are only
dependencies of src/homepage.js and which are only dependencies of src/shop.js. Shared dependencies between both would be split out into a separate module dependency chunk. The great thing about
RollupJS is that it is a very stable reliable project - a lot of engineering over years of development has gone into making these cases all work out well.

Update the main application module scripts to reference the build folder, or even configure this in the import map via an "app" entry in the "imports" object.


This workflow roughly follows the TypeScript Starter, although takes a different direction with file extensions.

Many JS developers use TypeScript for the immense development benefits of comprehensive type checking it provides. For larger applications this benefit can be indispensible.

First, install TypeScript:

npm install typescript --save-dev

Create the following tsconfig.json file:

  "compilerOptions": {
    "allowSyntheticDefaultImports": true,
    "moduleResolution": "node",
    "target": "es2017",
    "module": "esnext",
    "outDir": "dist"
  "include": ["src/**/*.ts"]

TypeScript files always use the .ts file extension, but the first big decision when it comes to TypeScript is whether to import modules using the .ts file extension or the .js extension, and there are some pros and cons here:

We keep waiting for the day TypeScript just provides a configuration option for handling .ts -> .js extensions in the build...

Unlike the starter, let's use the TypeScript-recommended .js file extensions to demonstrate the workflow.

So if writing an app.ts that imports a local dependency.ts file, this would be written:

// we import dependency.js EVEN THOUGH it is dependency.ts
import './dependency.js';

Run the compilation with (add -w for watch mode):

tsc -p .

This will create dist/app.js and dist/dependency.js, and now that it is compiled, the ./dependency.js import points to the correct file.

Using the import map and boilerplate as per the previous examples, and updating the module script to reference dist/app.js, the application can now run natively in the browser with no other steps necessary.

Using the "module": "system" option it is also possible to output SystemJS modules directly from TypeScript. See the starter repo for the full example.


JSPM Deno support is still experimental, and there will be bugs! Bug reports are encouraged via https://github.com/jspm/project/issues.

Since CommonJS -> ESM conversion and conditional environment resolution is an integral part of the JSPM import map generation, constructing import maps to support execution of npm packages in Deno or other non-browser environments is possible using the same techniques.

This provides a novel mechanism for executing npm packages in Deno, thanks to the ability to support JSPM Core to link against the Deno shims of the Node.js standard libraries.

To create a Deno import map, use the env: ["node", "deno", "module", "development"] option in the generator.

Example: Running Babel on Deno

To demonstrate running Babel in Deno, first create an import map installing @babel/core and @babel/preset-typescript.

Eg see this example with the online generator using the Deno conditions.

We could optionally have also used the "browser" resolution but the goal in this example case is to match the Node.js environment execution as closely as possible.

Save this import map into the file map.json locally.

With Deno installed we can create a sample TypeScript parser:


import babel from '@babel/core';
import babelPresetTs from '@babel/preset-typescript';

const { code } = babel.transform(`export var p: number = 5;`, {
  // Must end in .ts!
  filename: 'test.ts',
  sourceType: 'module',
  presets: [babelPresetTs],


To run this in Deno, we can use the following Deno command:

deno --unstable run --allow-read --allow-env --no-check --import-map map.json app.js

Which should give the correct output:

export var  = 5;

Note there is a Chalk bug affecting Babel error output currently. If using the generator API, use an inputMap option to override using Chalk 4:

import generator from '@jspm/generator';

const generator = new Generator({
  inputMap: {
    imports: {
      chalk: 'https://ga.jspm.io/npm:chalk@4.1.2/source/index.js'
  env: ['node', 'deno', 'module', 'development']

await generator.install(['@babel/core', '@babel/preset-typescript']);


Or if using the online generator, edit the map manually to change the Chalk entry to the above.

That will then ensure Babel error messages render correctly pending https://github.com/babel/babel/issues/13728.

Running the JSPM Generator in Deno

The JSPM Generator itself can also be executed in Deno by building its own map.

See the online generator example here.

That import map is then sufficient to support import { Generator } from '@jspm/generator' with full JSPM Generator functionality in Deno.