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Using VS Code for Supercharged Gatsby.js Development

Michael Holtzman
October 22nd, 2018

VS Code is a truly great choice for your code editing needs. In this article, I'll show you some great tips and tricks, extensions, and more to maximize your productivity and get to what matters, building out great products. Some of these tips and tricks will make it even easier to contribute to the Gatsby core repo, and help ensure your pull requests are ✅ and accepted. That being said everything mentioned here can be applied to just about any JavaScript project.

Editors – Make Your Selection

Lots of Available Options

I know that there are as many choices for IDE editors and personal preferences as there are JS frameworks in existence (hint LOTS). I am not going to debate those here, this article will focus on VS Code. It's the editor I use and find it amazing for the JavaScript and web development ecosystem. I was a long time holdout using Sublime Text, but once I gave VS Code a try I switched over within a day and haven't looked back.

Enough Talk, Let's get Started

First thing to do is download VS Code for your given OS platform. After opening the Editor and getting comfortable with the various screens, you'll notice one of the main views is the Extensions tab. This is where the rubber meets the road, as these extensions really enhance the capabilities and productivity you'll realize using VS Code.

Let's Talk Extensions

Install all the Extensions meme

OK, not quite, if you browse the list you will notice there are A LOT. I'm going to review some popular ones that are applicable to contributing to the Gatsby.js GitHub repo.

🚨 Code linting and Formatting 🚨

The main Gatsby GitHub repo has configuration files in place already for ESLint and Prettier. VS Code has extensions for both of these, which makes development really easy.

To get started, go to the Extensions View and search for these plugins and press the green Install button for each. You may have to restart for the Extensions to take effect.

Now as you view, create, and modify files ESLint will display "squiggles" for warnings and errors in your files according to the existing rules already configured. You can correct any issues as you go.

For Prettier, you have two options. You can run the Format manually, by bringing up the Command Palette CMD + Shift + P (Ctrl + Shift + P on Windows), then selecting Format Document. This will format the currently open File.

The other option is to configure Prettier to Format on Save. You can enable the setting editor.formatOnSave by editing the Preferences and applying this at the User, Workspace, or Folder level.

Other Fun Plugins

Of course once you start browsing the Extensions Marketplace you'll want to install additional plugins. Here is a short-list of must-have plugins you should consider installing.

You can take a look at my "dotfiles" GitHub for a README on the VS Code Extensions I am using along with editor settings.

🚀 Debugging in Chrome 🚀

VS Code has a built-in debugger to enable proper runtime debugging, if you want to move past the console.log throughout your code. Use the following steps to be up and (debugging) in minutes.

  1. Install the Debugger for Chrome Extension for VS Code.
  2. In the Debug view, click the Debug Dropdown in the Panel and select the option Add Config (projectname). This will create a launch.json file in your .vscode subfolder in the given project. Add the following to this file.

NOTE: You most likely will want to add the .vscode folder to your .gitignore file so it is not checked into source.


In this article we have learned some of the basics about configuring and using VS Code for development on the Gatsby project. That being said, the Extensions and configuration discussed here can be applied to any modern JavaScript web project that may or may not use Gatsby.

You may want to browse through the VS Code Updates page to see some of the recent features added. You'll notice they publish major updates monthly. It seems they are listening to the user community and continually adding features to the Editor and improvements to the user experience.

A great way to contribute is to browse the open issues on GitHub, and find some that look interesting! Armed with some of the techniques I've shown here today, authoring these fixes, features, and more will be a breeze thanks to some of the great features of VS Code.

Do you use an Extension that I missed in this tutorial? Send a message to @mikelax on Twitter to let me know.

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nyc • tech • I build things ? & learn things ?

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