Babel Tutorial For Beginners 2019

Table of Contents

What is Babel?

Babel Tutorial from Coding compiler. Babel or Babel.js is a free and open-source JavaScript compiler and configurable transpiler used in web development. Let’s start learning Babel with code examples.

Babel is a JavaScript compiler

Babel is a toolchain that is used to convert ECMAScript 2015+ code into a backward compatible version of JavaScript code in an older browser or environment:

  • Conversion syntax
  • Polyfill implements missing features in the target environment (via @babel/polyfill )
  • Source code conversion (codemods)
 // Babel Input: ES2015 arrow function
[1, 2, 3].map((n) => n + 1);

// Babel Output: ES5 equivalent
[1, 2, 3].map(function(n) {
 return n + 1;

For a great tutorial on compilers, check out the Super Micro Compiler, which explains how Babel itself works in high-level languages.

ES2015 and others

Babel supports the latest version of JavaScript through a syntax converter.

These plugins allow you to use the new syntax now without waiting for browser support. Check out our usage guide to get started.

JSX and React

Babel can convert JSX syntax! Check out the React preset to get started. And babel-sublime use with syntax highlighting can be elevated to a whole new level.

You can install the preset by the following command

npm install --save-dev @babel/preset-react

And @babel/preset-react added to your Babel configuration.

 export default React.createClass({
 getInitialState() {
   return { num: this.getRandomNumber() };

 getRandomNumber() {
   return Math.ceil(Math.random() * 6);

 render() {
   return <div>
     Your dice roll:

Learn more about JSX .

Type annotations (Flow and TypeScript)

Babel can delete type annotations! Check the Flow preset or TypeScript preset to get started. Note that Babel does not perform type checking ; you can still install Flow or TypeScript for type checking.

You can install the flow preset by using this command.

npm install --save-dev @babel/preset-flow
// @flow
function square(n: number): number {
 return n * n;

You can also install the typescript preset with this command.

npm install --save-dev @babel/preset-typescript

function Greeter(greeting: string) {
   this.greeting = greeting;

Learn more about Flow and TypeScript .


Babel is built with plugins. You can use your existing plugins to write your own conversion pipeline or write your own plugins. Easily use a set of plugins by using or creating a preset .

Use to dynamically create plugins or use generator-babel-plugin to generate plugin templates.

// A plugin is just a function
export default function ({types: t}) {
 return {
   visitor: {
     Identifier(path) {
       let name =; // reverse the name: JavaScript -> tpircSavaJ = name.split('').reverse().join('');


Source map is supported , so you can easily debug compiled code.


Babel tries to follow the ECMAScript standard as much as possible. In order to balance performance, it may also have specific options to make it more compliant.


Babel tries to use as little code as possible without relying on a large runtime environment.

Some situations can be difficult to achieve, so to ensure readability, file size, and (running) speed, some compliance is sacrificed for a particular conversion, providing the “loose” option.

Babel Usage

There are many tools in the Babel toolchain that make it easy to use Babel, whether you are an “end user” or a Babel in your build. This article is a quick guide to using these tools, and you can read more about them in the Usage section of the documentation.

If you are using a framework, the way different frameworks configure Babel may be different, and in fact some frameworks are already configured for you. Please refer to the interactive setup guide for the specific configuration method .


This article will show you how to compile JavaScript code that uses the ES2015+ syntax into code for the current browser. This will involve converting the new grammar and implementing missing features.

The entire configuration process includes:

Use the following command to install packages:

npm install --save-dev @babel/core @babel/cli @babel/preset-env
npm install --save @babel/polyfill

Create a file named in the root directory of the project using the following babel.config.js profile:

const presets = [
 ["@babel/env", {
   targets: {
     edge: "17",
     firefox: "60",
     chrome: "67",
     safari: "11.1"
   useBuiltIns: "usage"

> The browser list above is just an example of display purpose. You must adjust to the browser you want to support.

This command will run all the code from the src catalog compiled to lib:

./node_modules/.bin/babel src --out-dir lib


You can [email protected] npm package that comes with runner, with a npx babel replacement ./node_modules/.bin/babel to shorten the command.

Read on to get a step-by-step description of how it works and an introduction to each tool you use.

Basic usage of the CLI

All of the Babel modules you need will be released as a separate npm package, with a range @babel (starting with version 7). This modular design allows each tool to be designed for a specific use case. Let us look at @babel/core and @babel/cli.

Core library

The core functionality of Babel is in the @babel/core module. Install by the following command:

npm install --save-dev @babel/core

You can directly in JavaScript require it and so use it as follows:

const babel = require("@babel/core");
babel.transform("code", optionsObject);

As an end user, you may want to install other tools as @babel/corean interface, and can be well integrated in your development process. Even so, you may still need to check its documentation page for these options, most of which can be set by other tools.

CLI tool

@babel/cli is a tool that allows you to use babel from your terminal. The following are examples of installation commands and basic usage:

npm install --save-dev @babel/core @babel/cli
./node_modules/.bin/babel src --out-dir lib

It uses analytical methods we set up to resolve src all of the JavaScript files in a directory, and the output of each converted file to lib the directory. Since we haven’t set up parsing yet, the output code here will be the same as the input (the exact code style is not preserved). We can specify the way we want to parse by passing them as options.

We use the above –out-dir options. You can use –help it to view the remaining options cli tool accepts operation. But for us the most important thing is –plugins, and –presets.

Plugins & Presets

The code conversion comes in the form of a plugin, which is a small JavaScript program that tells Babel how to convert the code. You can even write your own plugin to apply whatever code conversion you want. To convert the ES2015+ syntax to ES5, we can rely on official plugins such as @babel/plugin-transform-arrow-functions:

npm install --save-dev @babel/plugin-transform-arrow-functions

./node_modules/.bin/babel src --out-dir lib --plugins=@babel/plugin-transform-arrow-functions

Now all the arrow functions in our code will be converted to ES5 compatible function expressions:

const fn = () => 1;
// converted to
var fn = function fn() {
 return 1;

This is a good beginning! If you want to convert the code there are other ES2015+ features. Instead of adding all the plugins we want, we can use “preset” instead of a pre-set set of plugins.

Just like using plugins, you can also create your own presets and share any plugin combinations you need. In this example, we used env preset.

 npm install --save-dev @babel/preset-env
./node_modules/.bin/babel src --out-dir lib --presets=@babel/env

Without any configuration, this preset includes all plugins that support modern JavaScript (ES2015, ES2016, etc.). But presets can also be chosen. Instead of passing in the cli and preset options from the terminal, we pass another way of passing in the options: the configuration file.


There are several different ways to configure the file, depending on your needs. Be sure to read about how to configure Babel in-depth guide for more information.

Now, let’s create a named babel.config.js file, which contains the following:

const presets = [
     targets: {
       edge: "17",
       firefox: "60",
       chrome: "67",
       safari: "11.1",

module.exports = { presets };

Env Preset now only loads the conversion plugin for features not available in the target browser. Next we look at polyfills.


The @babel/polyfill module includes core-js and a custom regenerator runtime to simulate the full ES2015+ environment.

This means that you can use like Promise or WeakMap such new built-in functions, like Array.from or Object.assign such static methods as Array.prototype.includes instance methods such, as well as generator function (provided you use the regenerator plug-in). To do this, polyfill increase the global scope as well as String Native prototype like this.

For the author of the library/tool, it is too redundant. If you do not like Array.prototype.includes such an instance method, you can use the transform runtime plugin instead of global pollution @babel/polyfill.

Further, if you know exactly what you need to implement, you can get them directly from core-js .

Since we are building an app, we can just install @babel/polyfill:

npm install --save @babel/polyfill

Note that –save option instead –save-dev, because this is a polyfill run before the source code needed.

Fortunately for us, we are using a env preset, which has an “useBuiltIns” option, when set “usage”when, in fact, the last application optimization mentioned above, you need only include polyfill. With this new option, the configuration changes are as follows:

 const presets = [
     targets: {
       edge: "17",
       firefox: "60",
       chrome: "67",
       safari: "11.1",
     useBuiltIns: "usage",

module.exports = { presets };

Babel will check all of your code to find missing features in the target environment and only include the polyfills you need. For example this code:


Will become this (because Edge 17 does not Promise.prototype.finally):


If we do not env preset the “useBuiltIns” setting options for “usage”, it is necessary to require the code before the other one full of polyfill.


We used @babel/cli to run from the terminal Babel, @babel/polyfill to implement all new JavaScript function, env PRESET only contains the conversion functions we use to achieve our goals browser missing features.

Configuring Babel

Babel can be configured! Many other tools have similar configs: ESLint (.eslintrc), Prettier (.prettierrc).

All Babel API options are allowed. However, if the option requires JavaScript, you may want to use a Javascript configuration file.

What’s your use case?

  • You want to programmatically create the configuration?
  • You want to compile node_modules?
babel.config.js is for you!
  • You have a static configuration that only applies to your simple single package?
.babelrc is for you!
  • The Guy Fieri is your hero?

We recommend to use the babel.config.js format. Babel itself is using it.


Create a file called babel.config.js with the following content at the root of your project (where the package.json is).

module.exports = function (api) {

 const presets = [ ... ];
 const plugins = [ ... ];

 return {

Check out the babel.config.js documentation to see more configuration options.


Create a file called .babelrc with the following content in your project.

 "presets": [...],
 "plugins": [...]

Check out the .babelrc documentation to see more configuration options.


Alternatively, you can choose to specify your .babelrc config from within package.json using the babel key like so:

 "name": "my-package",
 "version": "1.0.0",
 "babel": {
   "presets": [ ... ],
   "plugins": [ ... ],


The configuration is the same as .babelrc, but you can write it using JavaScript.

 const presets = [ ... ];
const plugins = [ ... ];

module.exports = { presets, plugins };

You are allowed to access any Node.js APIs, for example a dynamic configuration based on the process environment:

 const presets = [ ... ];
const plugins = [ ... ];

if (process.env["ENV"] === "prod") {

module.exports = { presets, plugins };

Using the CLI (@babel/cli)

babel --plugins @babel/plugin-transform-arrow-functions script.js

Check out the babel-cli documentation to see more configuration options.

Using the API (@babel/core)

require("@babel/core").transform("code", {
 plugins: ["@babel/plugin-transform-arrow-functions"]

Babel Code Editors – IDE For Babel

Syntax highlighting

Many popular editors now support ES2015+ syntax highlighting directly, while others require additional extensions. This guide will help you support syntax highlighting.

If you want more advanced integration, you can check out the installation guide.

Hint: The font used in the screenshot above is FiraCode .


Install the language-babel component and follow the instructions .

Sublime Text 3

First, install Package Control . Then install the Babel components from the Package Control menu and follow the instructions .


Install the vim-javascript plugin, which provides improved syntax highlighting and JavaScript indentation support for Vim.

Another approach is and used together yajs.vim .

Visual Studio Code

Install the sublime-babel-vscode extension and follow the instructions.

There are other ways to support syntax highlighting, and you can learn more in the Visual Studio Code documentation .


WebStorm now supports ES2015+ without installing any additional extensions. However, you may need to enable him .


Babel is a compiler (source code => output code). Like many other compilers it runs in 3 stages: parsing, transforming, and printing.

Now, out of the box Babel doesn’t do anything. It basically acts like const babel = code => code; by parsing the code and then generating the same code back out again. You will need to add plugins for Babel to do anything.

Instead of individual plugins, you can also enable a set of plugins in a preset.

Transform Plugins

These plugins apply transformations to your code.

Transform plugins will enable the corresponding syntax plugin so you don’t have to specify both.


  • member-expression-literals
  • property-literals
  • reserved-words


  • property-mutators


  • arrow-functions
  • block-scoped-functions
  • block-scoping
  • classes
  • computed-properties
  • destructuring
  • duplicate-keys
  • for-of
  • function-name
  • instanceof
  • literals
  • new-target
  • object-super
  • parameters
  • shorthand-properties
  • spread
  • sticky-regex
  • template-literals
  • typeof-symbol
  • unicode-regex


  • exponentiation-operator


  • async-to-generator


  • async-generator-functions
  • dotall-regex
  • named-capturing-groups-regex
  • object-rest-spread
  • optional-catch-binding
  • unicode-property-regex


  • modules-amd
  • modules-commonjs
  • modules-systemjs
  • modules-umd


  • class-properties
  • decorators
  • do-expressions
  • export-default-from
  • export-namespace-from
  • function-bind
  • function-sent
  • logical-assignment-operators
  • nullish-coalescing-operator
  • numeric-separator
  • optional-chaining
  • pipeline-operator
  • throw-expressions


Check out our minifier based on Babel!

These plugins are in the minify repo.

  • inline-consecutive-adds
  • inline-environment-variables
  • member-expression-literals
  • merge-sibling-variables
  • minify-booleans
  • minify-builtins
  • minify-constant-folding
  • minify-dead-code-elimination
  • minify-flip-comparisons
  • minify-guarded-expressions
  • minify-infinity
  • minify-mangle-names
  • minify-numeric-literals
  • minify-replace
  • minify-simplify
  • minify-type-constructors
  • node-env-inline
  • property-literals
  • regexp-constructors
  • remove-console
  • remove-debugger
  • remove-undefined
  • simplify-comparison-operators
  • undefined-to-void


  • react-constant-elements
  • react-display-name
  • react-inline-elements
  • react-jsx
  • react-jsx-compat
  • react-jsx-self
  • react-jsx-source


  • external-helpers
  • flow-strip-types
  • jscript
  • object-assign
  • object-set-prototype-of-to-assign
  • proto-to-assign
  • regenerator
  • runtime
  • strict-mode
  • typescript

Syntax Plugins

These plugins only allow Babel to parse specific types of syntax (not transform).

NOTE: transform plugins automatically enable the syntax plugins. So you don’t need to specify the syntax plugin if the corresponding transform plugin is used already.

Alternatively, you can also provide any plugins option from the Babel parser:

Your .babelrc:

 "parserOpts": {
   "plugins": ["jsx", "flow"]

Plugin/Preset Paths

If the plugin is on npm, you can pass in the name of the plugin and babel will check that it’s installed in node_modules

 "plugins": ["babel-plugin-myPlugin"]

You can also specify an relative/absolute path to your plugin.

 "plugins": ["./node_modules/asdf/plugin"]

Plugin Shorthand

If the name of the package is prefixed with babel-plugin-, you can use a shorthand:

 "plugins": [
   "babel-plugin-myPlugin" // equivalent

This also works with scoped packages:

"plugins": [
   "@org/name" // equivalent

Plugin Ordering

Ordering matters for each visitor in the plugin.

This means if two transforms both visit the “Program” node, the transforms will run in either plugin or preset order.

  • Plugins run before Presets.
  • Plugin ordering is first to last.
  • Preset ordering is reversed (last to first).

For example:

 "plugins": ["transform-decorators-legacy", "transform-class-properties"]

Will run transform-decorators-legacy then transform-class-properties.

It is important to remember that with presets, the order is reversed. The following:

 "presets": ["es2015", "react", "stage-2"]

Will run in the following order: stage-2, react, then es2015.

This is mostly for ensuring backwards compatibility, since most users list “es2015” before “stage-0”. For more information, see notes on potential traversal API changes.

Plugin Options

Both plugins and presets can have options specified by wrapping the name and an options object in an array inside your config.

For specifying no options, these are all equivalent:

plugins": ["pluginA", ["pluginA"], ["pluginA", {}]]

To specify an option, pass an object with the keys as the option names.

 "plugins": [
       "module": "bluebird",
       "method": "coroutine"

Settings options for presets works exactly the same:

 "presets": [
       "loose": true,
       "modules": false

Plugin Development

Please refer to the excellent babel-handbook to learn how to create your own plugins.

The simple plugin that reverses names (from the homepage):

 export default function() {
 return {
   visitor: {
     Identifier(path) {
       const name =;
       // reverse the name: JavaScript -> tpircSavaJ = name


Don’t want to set up the plugin yourself? no problem! Presets can operate even shareable options configurations like a set of Babel plugins .

Official Presets

We have assembled some presets for common environments:

  • @babel/preset-env
  • @babel/preset-flow
  • @babel/preset-react
  • @babel/preset-typescript

There are many other community-maintained presets available on npm !

Stage-X (Experimental Presets)

Any conversion in stage-x presets is a change to a section that is not approved for publishing as Javascript (such as ES6 / ES2015).

Adjustable change

These proposals are subject to change, so please use them with caution , especially for proposals prior to Phase 3. We plan to update the changes to stage-x presets as soon as possible after each TC39 meeting.

TC39 divides the proposal into the following phases:

  • Stage 0 – Scarecrow: Just an idea might have a related Babel plugin.
  • Stage 1 – Proposal: Worth deep.
  • Stage 2 – Draft: Initial specification.
  • Stage 3 – Candidate: Complete specification and initial browser implementation.
  • Stage 4 – End: will be added to the next annual version.

For more information, be sure to check out the latest TC39 proposal and its process documentation .

Yehuda Katz (@wycatz) explains the TC39 phase process in several articles in : Stage 0 and 1 , Stage 2 , Stage 3 .

Create Preset

You only need to export a configuration to create your own preset.

It just returns an array of plugins just…

module.exports = function() {
 return {
   plugins: [

Presets can contain other presets and plugins with options.

 module.exports = () => ({
 presets: [
 plugins: [
   [require("@babel/plugin-proposal-class-properties"), { loose: true }],

See the babel handbook section for more information .

Preset path

If the preset on npm, you can pass the default name, babel will check if it has been installed node_modulesin

 "presets": ["babel-preset-myPreset"]

You can also specify the relative/absolute path of presets.

 "presets": ["./myProject/myPreset"]

Preset shorthand

If the name of the package to babel-preset-as a prefix, you can use the shorthand:

 "presets": [
   "babel-preset-myPreset" // Equivalent

This also applies to the scoped package:

 "presets": [
   "@org/name" // Equivalent

Preset order

The order of Preset is the opposite (from the last to the first).

 "presets": [

Will run in the following order: c, b, then a.

This is mainly to ensure backward compatibility, as most users list “es2015” before “stage-0”.

Preset option

Both plugins and presets can specify options by placing name and option objects in an array in the configuration.

These are equivalent for not specifying options:

 "presets": [
   ["presetA", {}],

To specify an option, pass the option name as the key pass object.

 "presets": [
   ["@babel/preset-env", {
     "loose": true,
     "modules": false

Babel Usage Options

  • Primary options
  • Config Loading options
  • Plugin and Preset configuration
  • Config Merging options
  • Source Map options
  • Misc options
  • Code Generator options
  • AMD / UMD / SystemJS options
  • Option concepts

Options can be passed to Babel in a variety of ways. When passed directly to Babel, you can just pass the objects object. When Babel is used via a wrapper, it may also be necessary, or at least more useful, to pass the options via configuration files.

If passing options via @babel/cli you’ll need to kebab-case the names. i.e.

npx babel --root-mode upward file.js # equivalent of passing the rootMode config option


Primary options

These options are only allowed as part of Babel’s programmatic options, so they are primarily for use by tools that wrap around Babel, or people calling babel.transform directly. Users of Babel’s integrations, like babel-loader or @babel/register are unlikely to use these.


Type: string

Default: process.cwd()

The working directory that all paths in the programmatic options will be resolved relative to.


Type: Object with a string-typed “name” property.

Utilities may pass a caller object to identify themselves to Babel and pass capability-related flags for use by configs, presets and plugins. For example

 babel.transformFileSync("example.js", {
 caller: {
   name: "my-custom-tool",
   supportsStaticESM: true

would allow plugins and presets to decide that, since ES modules are supported, they will skip compilation of ES modules into CommonJS modules.


Type: string

The filename associated with the code currently being compiled, if there is one. The filename is optional, but not all of Babel’s functionality is available when the filename is unknown, because a subset of options rely on the filename for their functionality.

The three primary cases users could run into are:

  • The filename is exposed to plugins. Some plugins may require the presence of the filename.
  • Options like “test”, “exclude”, and “ignore” require the filename for string/RegExp matching.
  • .babelrc files are loaded relative to the file being compiled. If this option is omitted, Babel will behave as if babelrc: false has been set.


Type: string

Default: path.relative(opts.cwd, opts.filename) (if “filename” was passed)

Used as the default value for Babel’s sourceFileName option, and used as part of generation of filenames for the AMD / UMD / SystemJS module transforms.


Type: boolean

Default: true

Babel’s default return value includes code and map properties with the resulting generated code. In some contexts where multiple calls to Babel are being made, it can be helpful to disable code generation and instead use ast: true to get the AST directly in order to avoid doing unnecessary work.


Type: boolean

Default: false

Babel’s default is to generate a string and a sourcemap, but in some contexts it can be useful to get the AST itself. The primary use case for this would be a chain of multiple transform passes, along the lines of

const filename = "example.js";
const source = fs.readFileSync(filename, "utf8");

// Load and compile file normally, but skip code generation.
const { ast } = babel.transformSync(source, { filename, ast: true, code: false });

// Minify the file in a second pass and generate the output code here.
const { code, map } = babel.transformFromAstSync(ast, source, {
 presets: ["minify"],
 babelrc: false,
 configFile: false,

Note: This option is not on by default because the majority of users won’t need it and because we’d like to eventually add a caching layer to Babel. Having to cache the AST structure will take significantly more space.

Config Loading options

Loading configuration can get a little complex as environments can have several types of configuration files, and those configuration files can have various nested configuration objects that apply depending on the configuration.


Type: string

Default: opts.cwd

Placement: Only allowed in Babel’s programmatic options

The initial path that will be processed based on the “rootMode” to determine the conceptual root folder for the current Babel project. This is used in two primary cases:

  • The base directory when checking for the default “configFile” value
  • The default value for “babelrcRoots”.


Type: “root” | “upward” | “upward-optional”

Default: “root”

Placement: Only allowed in Babel’s programmatic options

Version: ^7.1.0

This option, combined with the “root” value, defines how Babel chooses its project root. The different modes define different ways that Babel can process the “root” value to get the final project root.

  • “root” – Passes the “root” value through as unchanged.
  • “upward” – Walks upward from the “root” directory, looking for a directory containing a babel.config.js file, and throws an error if a babel.config.js is not found.
  • “upward-optional” – Walk upward from the “root” directory, looking for a directory containing a babel.config.js file, and falls back to “root” if a babel.config.js is not found.

“root” is the default mode because it avoids the risk that Babel will accidentally load a babel.config.js that is entirely outside of the current project folder. If you use “upward-optional”, be aware that it will walk up the directory structure all the way to the filesystem root, and it is always possible that someone will have a forgotten babel.config.js in their home directory, which could cause unexpected errors in your builds.

Users with monorepo project structures that run builds/tests on a per-package basis may well want to use “upward” since monorepos often have a babel.config.js in the project root. Running Babel in a monorepo subdirectory without “upward”, will cause Babel to skip loading any babel.config.js files in the project root, which can lead to unexpected errors and compilation failure.


Type: string

Default: process.env.BABEL_ENV || process.env.NODE_ENV || “development”

Placement: Only allowed in Babel’s programmatic options

The current active environment used during configuration loading. This value is used as the key when resolving “env” configs, and is also available inside configuration functions, plugins, and presets, via the api.env() function.


Type: string | boolean

Default: path.resolve(opts.root, “babel.config.js”), if it exists, false otherwise

Placement: Only allowed in Babel’s programmatic options

Defaults to searching for a default babel.config.js file, but can be passed the path of any JS or JSON5 config file.

NOTE: This option does not affect loading of .babelrc files, so while it may be tempting to do configFile: “./foo/.babelrc”, it is not recommended. If the given .babelrc is loaded via the standard file-relative logic, you’ll end up loading the same config file twice, merging it with itself. If you are linking a specific config file, it is recommended to stick with a naming scheme that is independent of the “babelrc” name.


Type: boolean

Default: true as long as the filename option has been specified

Placement: Allowed in Babel’s programmatic options, or inside of the loaded “configFile”. A programmatic option will override a config file one.

true will enable searching for configuration files relative to the “filename” provided to Babel.

A babelrc value passed in the programmatic options will override one set within a configuration file.

Note: .babelrc files are only loaded if the current “filename” is inside of a package that matches one of the “babelrcRoots” packages.


Type: boolean | MatchPattern | Array<MatchPattern>

Default: opts.root

Placement: Allowed in Babel’s programmatic options, or inside of the loaded config File. A programmatic option will override a config file one.

By default, Babel will only search for .babelrc files within the “root” package because otherwise Babel cannot know if a given .babelrc is meant to be loaded, or if it’s “plugins” and “presets”have even been installed, since the file being compiled could be inside node_modules, or have been symlinked into the project.

This option allows users to provide a list of other packages that should be considered “root” packages when considering whether to load .babelrc files.

For example, a monorepo setup that wishes to allow individual packages to have their own configs might want to do

 babelrcRoots: [
 // Keep the root as a root

 // Also consider monorepo packages "root" and load their .babelrc files.

Plugin and Preset options


Type: Array<PluginEntry | Plugin> (PluginEntry)

Default: []

An array of plugins to activate when processing this file. For more information on how individual entries interact, especially when used across multiple nested “env” and “overrides” configs, see merging.

Note: The option also allows Plugin instances from Babel itself, but using these directly is not recommended. If you need to create a persistent representation of a plugin or preset, you should use babel.createConfigItem().


Type: Array<PresetEntry> (PresetEntry)

Default: []

An array of presets to activate when processing this file. For more information on how individual entries interact, especially when used across multiple nested “env” and “overrides” configs, see merging.

Note: The format of presets is identical to plugins, except for the fact that name normalization expects “preset-” instead of “plugin-“, and presets cannot be instances of Plugin.


Type: boolean

Default: false

Status: Deprecated

Instructs Babel to run each of the presets in the presets array as an independent pass. This option tends to introduce a lot of confusion around the exact ordering of plugins, but can be useful if you absolutely need to run a set of operations as independent compilation passes.

Note: This option may be removed in future Babel versions as we add better support for defining ordering between plugins.

Config Merging options


Type: string

Placement: Not allowed inside of presets

Configs may “extend” other configuration files. Config fields in the current config will be merged on top of the extended file’s configuration.


Type: { [envKey: string]: Options }

Placement: May not be nested inside of another env block.

Allows for entire nested configuration options that will only be enabled if the envKey matches the envName option.

Note: env[envKey] options will be merged on top of the options specified in the root object.


Type: Array<Options>

Placement: May not be nested inside of another overrides object, or within an env block.

Allows users to provide an array of options that will be merged into the current configuration one at a time. This feature is best used alongside the “test”/”include”/”exclude” options to provide conditions for which an override should apply. For example:

overrides: [{
 test: "./vendor/large.min.js",
 compact: true,

could be used to enable the compact option for one specific file that is known to be large and minified, and tell Babel not to bother trying to print the file nicely.


Type: MatchPattern | Array<MatchPattern> (MatchPattern)

If all patterns fail to match, the current configuration object is considered inactive and is ignored during config processing. This option is most useful when used within an overrides option object, but it’s allowed anywhere.

Note: These toggles do not affect the programmatic and config-loading options in earlier sections, since they are taken into account long before the configuration that is prepared for merging.


Type: MatchPattern | Array<MatchPattern> (MatchPattern)

This option is a synonym for “test”.


Type: MatchPattern | Array<MatchPattern> (MatchPattern)

If any of patterns match, the current configuration object is considered inactive and is ignored during config processing. This option is most useful when used within an overrides option object, but it’s allowed anywhere.

Note: These toggles do not affect the programmatic and config-loading options in earlier sections, since they are taken into account long before the configuration that is prepared for merging.


Type: Array<MatchPattern> (MatchPattern)

Placement: Not allowed inside of presets

If any of the patterns match, Babel will immediately stop all processing of the current build. For example, a user may want to do something like

ignore: [

to explicitly disable Babel compilation of files inside the lib directory.

Note: This option disables all Babel processing of a file. While that has its uses, it is also worth considering the “exclude” option as a less aggressive alternative.


Type: Array<MatchPattern> (MatchPattern)

Placement: Not allowed inside of presets

If all of the patterns fail to match, Babel will immediately stop all processing of the current build. For example, a user may want to do something like

 only: [


to explicitly enable Babel compilation of files inside the src directory while disabling everything else.

Note: This option disables all Babel processing of a file. While that has its uses, it is also worth considering the “test”/”include” options as a less aggressive alternative.

Source Map options


Type: boolean | SourceMap

Default: true

true will attempt to load an input sourcemap from the file itself, if it contains a //# sourceMappingURL=… comment. If no map is found, or the map fails to load and parse, it will be silently discarded.

If an object is provided, it will be treated as the source map object itself.


Type: boolean | “inline” | “both”

Default: false

  • true to generate a sourcemap for the code and include it in the result object.
  • “inline” to generate a sourcemap and append it as a data URL to the end of the code, but not include it in the result object.
  • “both” is the same as inline, but will include the map in the result object.

@babel/cli overloads some of these to also affect how maps are written to disk:

  • true will write the map to a .map file on disk
  • “inline” will write the file directly, so it will have a data: containing the map
  • “both” will write the file with a data: URL and also a .map.

Note: These options are bit weird, so it may make the most sense to just use true and handle the rest in your own code, depending on your use case.


This is an synonym for sourceMaps. Using sourceMaps is recommended.


Type: string

Default: path.basename(opts.filenameRelative) when available, or “unknown”

The name to use for the file inside the source map object.


Type: string

The sourceRoot fields to set in the generated source map, if one is desired.

Misc options


Type: “script” | “module” | “unambiguous”

Default: “module”

  • script” – Parse the file using the ECMAScript Script grammar. No import/export statements allowed, and files are not in strict mode.
  • module” – Parse the file using the ECMAScript Module grammar. Files are automatically strict, and import/export statements are allowed.
  • unambiguous” – Consider the file a “module” if import/export statements are present, or else consider it a “script”. unambiguous can be quite useful in contexts where the type is unknown, but it can lead to false matches because it’s perfectly valid to have a module file that does not use import/export statements

This option is important because the type of the current file affects both parsing of input files, and certain transforms that may wish to add import/require usage to the current file.

For instance, @babel/plugin-transform-runtime relies on the type of the current document to decide whether to insert an import declaration, or a require() call. @babel/preset-env also does the same for its “useBuiltIns” option. Since Babel defaults to treating files are ES modules, generally these plugins/presets will insert import statements. Setting the correct sourceType can be important because having the wrong type can lead to cases where Babel would insert import statements into files that are meant to be CommonJS files. This can be particularly important in projects where compilation of node_modules dependencies is being performed, because inserting an import statements can cause Webpack and other tooling to see a file as an ES module, breaking what would otherwise be a functional CommonJS file.

Note: This option will not affect parsing of .mjs files, as they are currently hard-coded to always parse as “module” files.


Type: boolean

Default: true

Highlight tokens in code snippets in Babel’s error messages to make them easier to read.


Type: (key: string, nodeType: string, fn: Function) => Function

Allows users to add a wrapper on each visitor in order to inspect the visitor process as Babel executes the plugins.

  • key is a simple opaque string that represents the plugin being executed.
  • nodeType is the type of AST node currently being visited.
  • fn is the visitor function itself.

Users can return a replacement function that should call the original function after performing whatever logging and analysis they wish to do.


Type: {}

An opaque object containing options to pass through to the parser being used.


Type: {}

An opaque object containing options to pass through to the code generator being used.

Code Generator options


Type: boolean

Default: false

Babel will make an effort to generate code such that items are printed on the same line that they were on in the original file. This option exists so that users who cannot use source maps can get vaguely useful error line numbers, but it is only a best-effort, and is not guaranteed in all cases with all plugins.


Type: boolean | “auto”

Default: “auto”

“auto” will set the value by evaluating code.length > 500_000

All optional newlines and whitespace will be omitted when generating code in compact mode.


Type: boolean

Default: false

Includes compact: true, omits block-end semicolons, omits () from new Foo() when possible, and may output shorter versions of literals.


Type: string

Allows specifying a prefix comment to insert before pieces of code that were not present in the original file.

Note: The definition of what is and isn’t present in the original file can get a little ugly, so usage of this option is not recommended. If you need to annotate code somehow, it is better to do so using a Babel plugin.


Type: string

Allows specifying a prefix comment to insert after pieces of code that were not present in the original file.

Note: The definition of what is and isn’t present in the original file can get a little ugly, so usage of this option is not recommended. If you need to annotate code somehow, it is better to do so using a Babel plugin.


Type: boolean

Default: true

Provides a default comment state for shouldPrintComment if no function is given. See the default value of that option for more info.


Type: (value: string) => boolean

Default without minified: (val) => opts.comments || /@license|@preserve/.test(val)

Default with minified: () => opts.comments

A function that can decide whether a given comment should be included in the output code from Babel.

AMD / UMD / SystemJS module options


Type: boolean

Default: !!opts.moduleId

Enables module ID generation.


Type: string

A hard-coded ID to use for the module. Cannot be used alongside getModuleId.


Type: (name: string) => string

Given the babel-generated module name, return the name to use. Returning a falsy value will use the original name.


Type: string

A root path to include on generated module names.

Options Concepts


Type: string | RegExp | (filename: string | void, context: { callee: { name: string } | void, envName: string ) => boolean

Several Babel options perform tests against file paths. In general, these options support a common pattern approach where each pattern can be

  • string – A file path with simple support for * and ** as full slug matches. Any file or parent folder matching the pattern counts as a match. The path follows Node’s normal path logic, so on POSIX is must be /-separated, but on Windows both / and \ are supported.
  • RegExp – A regular expression to match against the normalized filename. On POSIX the path RegExp will run against a /-separated path, and on Windows it will be on a \-separated path.

Importantly, if either of these are used, Babel requires that the filename option be present, and will consider it an error otherwise.

  • (filename: string | void, context: { callee: { name: string } | void, envName: string }) => boolean is a general callback that should return a boolean to indicate whether it is a match or not. The function is passed the filename or undefined if one was not given to Babel. It is also passed the current envName and callee options that were specified by the top-level call to Babel.


Babel’s configuration merging is relatively straightforward. Options will overwrite existing options when they are present, and their value is not undefined, with a few special cases:

  • parserOpts objects are merged, rather than replaced, using the same logic as top-level options.
  • generatorOpts objects are merged, rather than replaced, using the same logic as top-level options.
  • plugins and presets are replaced based on the identity of the plugin/preset object/function itself combined with the name of the entry.

Plugin/Preset merging

As an example, consider a config with:

Plugin/Preset merging

As an example, consider a config with:

 plugins: [
 ['./plug', { thing: true, field1: true }]
overrides: [{
 plugins: [
   ['./plug', { thing: false, field2: true }],

The overrides item will be merged on top of the top-level plugins. Importantly, the plugins array as a whole doesn’t just replace the top-level one. The merging logic will see that “./plug” is the same plugin in both cases, and { thing: false, field2: true } will replace the original options, resulting in a config as

 plugins: [
 ['./plug', { thing: false, field2: true }],

Since merging is based on identity + name, it is considered an error to use the same plugin with the same name twice in the same plugins/presets array. For example

 plugins: [

is considered an error, because it’s identical to plugins: [‘./plug’]. Additionally, evenplugins:

 ['./plug', {one: true}],
 ['./plug', {two: true}]

is considered an error, because the second one would just always replace the first one.

If you actually do want to instantiate two separate instances of a plugin, you must assign each one a name to disambiguate them. For example:

plugins: [
 ['./plug', {one: true}, "first-instance-name"],
 ['./plug', {two: true}, "second-instance-name"]

because each instance has been given a unique name and this a unique identity.

Plugin/Preset entries

PluginEntry / PresetEntry

Individual plugin/preset items can have several different structures:

  • EntryTarget – Individual plugin
  • [EntryTarget, EntryOptions] – Individual plugin w/ options
  • [EntryTarget, EntryOptions, string] – Individual plugin with options and name (see merging for more info on names)
  • ConfigItem – A plugin configuration item created by babel.createConfigItem().

The same EntryTarget may be used multiple times unless each one is given a different name, and doing so will result in a duplicate-plugin/preset error.

That can be a little hard to read, so as an example:

 plugins: [
 // EntryTarget

 // [EntryTarget, EntryOptions]
 ['@babel/plugin-transform-arrow-functions', { spec: true }],

 // [EntryTarget, EntryOptions, string]
 ['@babel/plugin-transform-for-of', { loose: true }, "some-name"],

 // ConfigItem


Type: string | {} | Function

A plugin/preset target can come from a few different sources:

  • string – A require-style path or plugin/preset identifier. Identifiers will be passed through name normalization.
  • {} | Function – An actual plugin/preset object or function after it has been require()ed.


Type: undefined | {} | false

Options are passed through to each plugin/preset when they are executed. undefined will be normalized to an empty object.

false indicates that an entry is entirely disabled. This can be useful in contexts where ordering is important, but a separate condition is needed to decide if something is enabled. For instance:

 plugins: [
 ['two', false],
overrides: [{
 test: "./src",
 plugins: [

would enable the two plugin for files in src, but two would still execute between one and three.

Name Normalization

By default, Babel expects plugins to have a babel-plugin- or babel-preset- prefix in their name. To avoid repetition, Babel has a name normalization phase will automatically add these prefixes when loading items. This boils down to a few primary rules:

  • Absolute paths pass through untouched.
  • Relative paths starting with ./ pass through untouched.
  • References to files within a package are untouched.
  • Any identifier prefixed with module: will have the prefix removed but otherwise be untouched.
  • plugin-/preset- will be injected at the start of any @babel-scoped package that doesn’t have it as a prefix.
  • babel-plugin-/babel-preset- will be injected as a prefix any unscoped package that doesn’t have it as a prefix.
  • babel-plugin-/babel-preset- will be injected as a prefix any @-scoped package that doesn’t have it anywhere in their name.
  • babel-plugin/babel-preset will be injected as the package name if only the @-scope name is given.

Here are some examples, when applied in a plugin context:

Input Normalized

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