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How Explosiv Works

The most lightweight, yet fully featured static-site generator you'll see.
#code · #projects · #explained

Explosiv npm ↗ Github ↗ is a static site generator for JSX content.

This article is about how Explosiv works, if you want to want to learn how to use Explosiv go to Explosiv's Github Page instead.

Why Explosiv was made.

While I was creating this blog, I thought.

About all the front-end options I had. Because, I was not going to write static HTML for a fully featured site! While I had already met stylus for all my CSS needs, I was still looking for an option to write my markup seamlessly.


TBH, I love React. It's syntax, it's community, it's everything really. Yet, React also put so much overhead on your site, like Build times, Babel, Webpack, hydrating or rendering etc. After some digging, I found out the foundation behind React was JSX, dubbed as XHTML within Javascript.

// JSX syntax is coool!
let Site = (data) => {
    return <div>Hello {}!</div>

Well because JSX is tightly coupled with React, I kinda thought it would not work on it's own, but yet kartiknair made Dhow, which proved me otherwise.


Dhow, is a static site generator, that uses JSX to render static HTML at build time, ready to be served as is. It is quick, very fast and still uses JSX, so migrating my app from React was a breeeeze. Until I encountered the severe limitations of Dhow.

Dhow was very young. That means It just implemented JSX, nothing else. Many features were lacking. While creating this site, I cloned Dhow. I found myself adding many features as I wanted. I saw it was incredible. I decided to push it to My Github as Explosiv


Explosiv, being a clone of Dhow, inherits all it's current features. Here is a simple example.

First, add explosiv to your site's dependencies.

npm i explosiv

And install explosiv globally, so that you can use the CLI wherever you are...

npm i explosiv -g

Or, to keep up with modern standards, although I personally like the first syntax more, use npx to always use the latest version of explosiv

npx explosiv

To make an Explosiv site, just create a folder and generate a pages/ directory. Add a simple index.js file to get started.

// pages/index.js
import Explosiv from 'explosiv'

export default () => (
        <h1>Hello there!</h1>
            This is a super simple example of generating static files using Explosiv.
            You can learn more at{' '}
            <a href="">here</a>

To build, and serve, the site use:

explosiv build
explosiv serve

Et voìla! A static site was generated in your /out directory. Magic right!

How it works

You can learn how JSX works by this article from the React team.

You can read a very nice article by kartiknair, the creator of Dhow about converting JSX into HTML without React.

TL;DR: We use a pragma function that generate real DOM elements using a minimal DOM implementation, min-document.

// A general overview of how it works.
// !! Not real code
const document = require('min-document');

const createElement = (tag, props, ...children) => {
    const element = document.createElement(tag)

    children.forEach((child) => {

    return element

We transpile Javascript using ESBuild, a verrry fast, yet fully featured transpiler. We transpile the code in the pages directory from JSX into pure, native Javascript, while replacing all instances of JSX with our pragma function.

The transpiled file will look like this

// transpiled/index.js
let { createElement } = require('explosiv')

export default () => (
    createElement('main', null,
        createElement('h1', null, 'Hello there!'),
        createElement('p', null,
            'This is a super simple example of generating static files using Explosiv.',
            'You can learn more', ' ',
            createElement('a', {
                href: ""
            }, 'here'

At the end we render our DOM into static HTML by using document.toString() and piping the output into the relevant output directory.

Impovements over Dhow

Explosiv, is a personal project. It is not a competitor, or even an alternative to Dhow, yet all current improvements are listed for anyone interested. Many of these can also be implemented in Dhow if worth it.

  • Provide an explosiv serve command that serve a static directory on a specified port (defaults to 3000).
  • Head elements are added on top of document.head instead of the bottom (allowing overriding existing tags)
  • Rewritten for build code to be independent and ease debugging
  • Does not use polka but the more minimal connect.
  • Use middleware deemed as useful like morgan which log all requests and compression which compress resources on HTTP.
  • Fixed bugs on edge cases like rendering <> (aka Fragment tags) as root elements and rendering empty children.
  • Added support for className HTML attribute.
  • Fixed bug where self-closing (like <img src="/path/to.img">) elements doesn't render correctly.
  • Use tabs instead of 4 spaces lol!
  • And other many but subtle changes.

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