Easier Upgrades Thanks to Git

Some people complained here about how painful the React Native upgrades are…

For them and the others, I’m proud to announce the first release of react-native-git-upgrade

Upgrading to new versions of React Native has been difficult.
You might have seen something like this before:


None of those options is ideal. By overwriting the file we lose our local changes. By not overwriting we don’t get the latest updates.

Today I am proud to introduce a new tool that helps solve this problem. The tool is called react-native-git-upgrade and uses Git behind the scenes to resolve conflicts automatically whenever possible


Requirement: Git has to be available in the PATH. Your project doesn’t have to be managed by Git.

Install react-native-git-upgrade globally:

$ npm install g reactnativegitupgrade

or, using Yarn:

$ yarn add global reactnativegitupgrade

Then, run it inside your project directory:

$ cd MyProject
$ reactnativegitupgrade 0.38.0

Note: Do not run ‘npm install’ to install a new version of react-native. The tool needs to be able to compare the old and new project template to work correctly. Simply run it inside your app folder as shown above, while still on the old version.

Example output:

You can also run react-native-git-upgrade with no arguments to upgrade to the latest version of React Native.

We try to preserve your changes in iOS and Android build files, so you don’t need to run react-native link after an upgrade.

We have designed the implementation to be as little intrusive as possible. It is entirely based on a local Git repository created on-the-fly in a temporary directory. It won’t interfere with your project repository (no matter what VCS you use: Git, SVN, Mercurial, … or none). Your sources are restored in case of unexpected errors.

How does it work? #

The key step is generating a Git patch. The patch contains all the changes made in the React Native templates between the version your app is using and the new version.

To obtain this patch, we need to generate an app from the templates embedded in the react-native package inside your node_modules directory (these are the same templates the react-native init commands uses). Then, after the native apps have been generated from the templates in both the current version and the new version, Git is able to produce a patch that is adapted to your project (i.e. containing your app name):


diff git a/ios/MyAwesomeApp/Info.plist b/ios/MyAwesomeApp/Info.plist
index e98ebb0..2fb6a11 100644
+++ b/ios/MyAwesomeApp/Info.plist
@@ 45,7 +45,7 @@
+ <key>NSExceptionAllowsInsecureHTTPLoads</key>

All we need now is to apply this patch to your source files. While the old react-native upgrade process would have prompted you for any small difference, Git is able to merge most of the changes automatically using its 3-way merge algorithm and eventually leave us with familiar conflict delimiters:

13B07F951A680F5B00A75B9A /* Release */ = {
isa = XCBuildConfiguration;
buildSettings = {
<<<<<<< ours
CODE_SIGN_IDENTITY = “iPhone Developer”;
>>>>>>> theirs

These conflicts are generally easy to reason about. The delimiter ours stands for “your team” whereas theirs could be seen as “the React Native team”.

Why introduce a new global package? #

React Native comes with a global CLI (the react-native-cli package) which delegates commands to the local CLI embedded in the node_modules/react-native/local-cli directory.

As we mentioned above, the process has to be started from your current React Native version. If we had embedded the implementation in the local-cli, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy this feature when using old versions of React Native. For example, you wouldn’t be able to upgrade from 0.29.2 to 0.38.0 if this new upgrade code was only released in 0.38.0.

Upgrading based on Git is a big improvement in developer experience and it is important to make it available to everyone. By using a separate package react-native-git-upgrade installed globally you can use this new code today no matter what version of React Native your project is using.

One more reason is the recent Yeoman wipeout by Martin Konicek. We didn’t want to get these Yeoman dependencies back into the react-native package to be able to evaluate the old template in order to create the patch.

Looking ahead #

The logic behind react-native-git-upgrade described above is going to power the standard react-native upgrade starting with React Native version 0.40.0.

This means that if you are upgrading from version 0.40.0 or higher, you will be able to simply run react-native upgrade in your project without having to install anything globally. The react-native-git-upgrade is provided so anyone can enjoy this improved experience today while using older versions of React Native.

Try it out and provide feedback #

I would like to thank the awesome companies openGeeksLab and M6 without whom none of this would have been possible!