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Lab: Workbox


Workbox is the successor to sw-precache and sw-toolbox. It is a collection of libraries and tools used for generating a service worker, precaching, routing, and runtime-caching. Workbox also includes modules for easily integrating background sync and Google analytics into your service worker.

See the Workbox page on for an explanation of each module contained in Workbox. In this lab, we use the main Workbox library, workbox-sw, and workbox-build to inject an array of static assets that you want to precache into a service worker.

What you will learn

  • How to write a service worker using the workbox-sw library
  • How to add routes to your service worker using workbox-sw
  • How to use the predefined caching strategies provided in workbox-sw
  • How to inject a manifest into your service worker using workbox-build and the workbox-webpack-plugin

What you should already know

  • Basic HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • ES2015 Promises
  • How to run commands from the command line
  • Familiarity with gulp
  • Some familiarity with service workers is recommended

What you will need

1. Get set up

If you have not already downloaded the repository, follow the instructions in Setting up the labs. You don't need to start the server for this lab.

If you have a text editor that lets you open a project, open the workbox-lab/project folder. This will make it easier to stay organized. Otherwise, open the folder in your computer's file system. The project folder is where you will be building the lab.

This folder contains:

  • app/css/main.css is the cascading stylesheet for the sample page
  • app/images folder contains sample images
  • gulpfile.js is where we will write the workbox-build gulp task
  • app/index.html is a sample HTML page
  • app/service-worker.js is where we will write the service worker using workbox-sw
  • package.json tracks Node dependencies

2. Install workbox-sw

From the project directory, install the project dependencies. See the package.json file for the full list of dependencies.

npm install

Then run the following to install the workbox-sw library and save it as a project dependency:

npm install --save workbox-sw


workbox-sw is a high-level library that makes it easier to precache assets and configure routes with caching strategies in a service worker.

3. Write a basic service worker using workbox-sw

Open service-worker.js and add the following snippet. Be sure to replace vX.Y.Z with the actual version number of the workbox-sw library (you can find the version number in the file in node_modules/workbox-sw/build/importScripts/).



const workboxSW = new WorkboxSW();

Save the service-worker.js file. In the command line, run gulp serve to open the app in the browser (if you don't have gulp installed globally, install it with npm install -g gulp). Take a moment to look over the gulpfile and make sure you understand what it does.

Unregister any existing service workers at localhost:8002. Refresh the page and check that the new service worker was created in your browser's developer tools. You should see a "Service Worker registration successful" message in the console.


Here we import the workbox-sw library and create an instance of WorkboxSW so we can access the library methods from this object.

In the next line we call workboxSW.precache([]). This method takes a manifest of URLs to cache on service worker installation. It is recommended to use workbox-build or workbox-cli to generate the manifest for you (this is why the array is empty). These build tools will generate hashes of the files along with their URLs. We will do that in the next step.

The precache method takes care of precaching files, removing cached files no longer in the manifest, updating existing cached files, and it even sets up a fetch handler to respond to any requests for URLs in the manifest using a cache-first strategy. See this example for a full explanation.

4. Inject a manifest into the service worker

This step uses gulp and workbox-build to build a service worker.

Start by installing the workbox-build module:

npm install --save workbox-build

This module is used to generate a list of assets that should be precached in a service worker. The list items are created with a hash that Workbox uses to intelligently update a cache when the service worker is updated.

Next, add a line to include the workbox-build library at the top of gulpfile.js:


const wbBuild = require('workbox-build');

Now copy and paste the following gulp task into the gulpfile:


gulp.task('bundle-sw', () => {
  return wbBuild.injectManifest({
    swSrc: 'app/service-worker.js',
    swDest: 'build/service-worker.js',
    globDirectory: 'app',
    staticFileGlobs: [
  .catch((err) => {
    console.log('[ERROR] This happened: ' + err);

Finally, update the default gulp task to include the bundle-sw task in its runSequence:


gulp.task('default', ['clean'], cb => {

Save the file and run gulp serve in the command line (you can use Ctrl-c to terminate the previous gulp serve process). When the command finishes executing, open build/service-worker.js and check that the manifest has been added to the precache method in the service worker. It should look like this:


    "url": "index.html",
    "revision": "ee7d4366f82a736863dc612c50d16e54"
    "url": "css/main.css",
    "revision": "3a78f101efdbf4c896cef53c323c7bb7"

When the app opens in the browser, make sure to close any other open instances of the app. Update the service worker and check the cache in your browser's developer tools. You should see the index.html and main.css files are cached.


In this step, we installed the workbox-build module and wrote a gulp task that uses the module's injectManifest method. This method copies the source service worker file to the destination service worker file, searches the new service worker for an empty precache() call, like .precache([]), and populates the empty array with the assets defined in staticFileGlobs.

5. Add routes to the service worker

workbox-sw has a router method that lets you easily add routes to your service worker.

Let's add a few routes to the service worker. Copy the following code into app/service-worker.js. Make sure you're not editing the service worker in the build folder. This file will be overwritten when we run gulp serve.


    cacheName: 'googleapis',
    cacheExpiration: {
      maxEntries: 20
    cacheableResponse: {statuses: [0, 200]}

    cacheName: 'iconfonts',
    cacheExpiration: {
      maxEntries: 20
    cacheableResponse: {statuses: [0, 200]}

// We want no more than 50 images in the cache. We check using a cache first strategy
    cacheName: 'images-cache',
    cacheExpiration: {
      maxEntries: 50

Save the file. Saving the file should trigger the gulp watch task which automatically rebuilds build/service-worker.js, restarts the server, and refreshes the page. Update the service worker and refresh the page a couple times so that the service worker intercepts some network requests. Check the caches to see that the googleapis, iconfonts, and images-cache all exist and contain the right assets. You may need to refresh the caches in developer tools to see the contents. Now you can take the app offline by either stopping the server or using developer tools. The app should work as normal!


Here we add a few routes to the service worker using registerRoute method on the router class. registerRoute takes an Express-style or regular expression URL pattern, or a Route instance. The second argument is the handler that provides a response if the route matches. The handler argument is ignored if you pass in a Route object, otherwise it's required.

Each route uses the strategies class to access the cacheFirst run-time caching strategy. The built-in caching strategies have several configuration options for controlling how resources are cached.

The domains in the first two routes are not CORS-enabled so we must use the cacheableResponse option to allow responses with a status of 0 ( opaque responses). Otherwise, Workbox does not cache these responses if you're using the cacheFirst strategy. (Opaque responses are allowed when using networkFirst and staleWhileRevalidate, because even if an error response is cached, it will be replaced in the near future.)

6. Optional: Use Webpack plugin to bundle the service worker

6.1 Install the dependencies

In the command line, move into the webpack directory and install the dependencies. Then install the webpack module globally so we can use it from the command line.

cd ../webpack
npm install
npm install -g webpack
npm install -g webpack-dev-server


This will install several packages:

  • Webpack - webpack is a tool for bundling your project's assets
  • workbox-webpack-plugin - generates a service worker or injects a manifest into an existing service worker as part of a webpack build process
  • webpack-dev-server - a webpack development server that provides live reloading

6.2 Configure webpack

Open webpack.config.js and paste in the following code to include the necessary plugins:


const path = require('path');
const WorkboxPlugin = require('workbox-webpack-plugin');

Then paste in the following module.exports object:


module.exports = {
  entry: './src/index.js',
  output: {
    path: path.resolve(__dirname, 'build'),
    filename: '[name].js',
  plugins: [
    new WorkboxPlugin({
      globDirectory: './',
      globPatterns: ['**\/*.{html,js,css}'],
      globIgnores: ['admin.html', 'node_modules/**', 'service-worker.js',
        'webpack.config.js', 'src/**', 'build/**'],
      swSrc: './src/service-worker.js',
      swDest: './service-worker.js',
  resolve: {
    modules: ['node_modules'],
    extensions: ['.js', '.json', '.jsx', '.css']

In the command line run the following commands to test your code:

webpack-dev-server --open --hot


Here we are adding the workbox-webpack-plugin to a very basic webpack configuration file. The plugin will inject the files matched in the glob patterns into the source service worker and copy the whole file to the destination service worker. The source service worker must contain an empty call to the precache method (workboxSW.precache([]);).

This example is meant to demonstrate just the workbox-webpack-plugin and doesn't really use webpack the way it's meant to be used. If you'd like to learn more about webpack itself, checkout the introduction on


You have learned how to use Workbox to easily create production-ready service workers!

What we've covered

  • Using workbox-sw to precache static assets
  • Using workbox-sw to create routes in your service worker
  • Using workbox-build to inject a list of files for your service worker to precache
  • Using workbox-webpack-plugin to inject a list of files for your service worker to precache