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Already used React Native

If you are familiar with React Native, this guide will help you understand the key differences between Expo and React Native.

This guide is intended to give developers who have already used React Native a quick outline of some of the key concepts, resources, and differences they will encounter when using Expo.

You can use just about every part of the Expo SDK in any vanilla React Native app - we call using the Expo tools in this context the "bare" workflow. It's no different than using libraries in your React Native app, we just offer a lot of well-tested, consistent, and increasingly comprehensive libraries that give you access to the underlying native APIs.

Expo managed workflow

The Expo managed workflow provides a shared native runtime so you don't write native code, you focus on writing your React app in JavaScript. You don't have to worry about Android or iOS specific settings, or even opening up Xcode. Managed Expo projects have their own workflow including Expo CLI (a command line interface) to make developing and deploying easy.

  • If you've ever upgraded React Native or a native module you'll appreciate Expo's ability to seamlessly do this for you by only changing the version number.

Expo extends the React Native platform by offering additional, battle-tested modules that are maintained by the team. This means you're spending less time configuring and more time building.

  • If you've ever had to go through the trouble of upgrading a module or installing something like react-native-maps, you'll appreciate when things just work.

Managed Expo projects also offer updates and a push notification service.

  • If you've ever been in a situation where you find a spelling mistake in your app and have to wait for Apple to approve a change, you'll appreciate updates - these changes will appear as soon as you run eas update. You aren't limited to text either, this applies to assets like images and configuration updates too!

Expo offers a shared configuration file we call a manifest.

  • Configuration that you would typically do inside your Xcode / plist files or Android studio / xml files is handled through app.json. For example, if you want to lock the orientation, change your icon, customize your splash screen, add/remove permissions and entitlements (in standalone apps), configure keys for Google Maps and other services, you set this in app.json and it will apply to both iOS and Android. See the guide here.

We talk about permissions we set within app.json, but there's also the Permissions API. Permissions inside app.json are meant to be used by Android standalone apps for things like camera access, geolocation, fingerprint, etc. The Permissions API on the other hand, is used to request and verify access at runtime. It offers an easy API for asking your users for push notifications, location, camera, audio recording and contacts.

How does Expo work?

Since you write your code in JavaScript, we bundle it up and serve it from S3. Every time you publish your app, we update those assets and then push them to your app so you've always got an up-to-date version.

Developing in Expo

Apps are served from Expo CLI through a tunnel service by default (we currently use ngrok for this) -- this means that you don't have to have your device connected to your computer, or to even be in the same room or country (or planet? I guess it should work from space) as the development machine and you can still live reload, use hot module reloading, enable remote JS debugging, and all of those things you can do normally with React Native. One caveat to this is that using a tunnel is a bit slower than using your LAN address or localhost, so if you can, you should use LAN or localhost. See how to configure this in Expo CLI.

  • Expo streams your device logs to Expo CLI so you don't need to run adb logcat or the iOS equivalent -- the console.log / warn /error messages from any device that is connected to your app will show up automatically in your terminal.

What Expo can't do

Deploying to the Play/App Store

When you're ready, you can run eas build --auto-submit using EAS CLI to both build your app and automatically upload the binary for distribution on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Helpful Tools & Resources

    • The best way to test and share examples and small projects directly from your browser. Point your phone at the QR code and you have a sandbox environment you can build in the browser and test directly on your device.
    • If there's something you don't understand or wish to learn more about, this is a great place to start.
    • The fastest way to get help from the Expo team or community
    • the Expo Go app and SDK are all open source. If there's something you'd like to fix, or figure out how we implement our native modules, you're welcome to look through the code yourself!

Useful Commands

When developing a managed Expo project, you have the option to use command line tools instead. Here are some of our friends' favorite commands and workflows:

# start expo server, clear cache, load only on localhost and open on iOS simulator
expo start -c --localhost --ios
# start expo server (don't clear cache) and run expo on a tunnel so you can share it with anyone!
expo start --tunnel
# send a link to a friend's email so they can view on their phone exactly what I'm working on
expo send -s