Relay Compiler

Relay Modern uses the Relay Compiler to convert graphql literals into generated files that live alongside your source files.

While you type queries as:

  fragment MyComponent on Type {

This causes a generated file to appear in ./__generated__/MyComponent.graphql, with both runtime artifacts (which help to read and write from the Relay Store) and Flow types to help you write type-safe code.

The Relay Compiler is responsible for generating code as part of a build step which, at runtime, can be used statically. By building the query ahead of time, the client's JS runtime is not responsible for generating a query string, and fields that are duplicated in the query can be merged during the build step, to improve parsing efficiency. If you have the ability to persist queries to your server, the compiler's code generation process provides a convenient time to convert a query or mutation's text into a unique identifier, which greatly reduces the upload bytes required.

Setting up Relay Compiler

First, you need watchman installed:

brew install watchman

Next, install the compiler (typically as a devDependency):

yarn add --dev relay-compiler

This installs the bin script relay-compiler in your node_modules folder. It's recommended to run this from a yarn/npm script by adding a script to your package.json file:

"scripts": {
  "relay": "relay-compiler --src ./src --schema ./schema.graphql"

The relay-compiler script requires both the directory which holds your source files as well as a path to your GraphQL schema in either a .json or .graphql schema file.

Then after making edits to your application files, just run yarn run relay to generate new files, or yarn run relay -- --watch to run the compiler as a long-lived process which automatically generates new files whenever you save.

Optionally install globally

Alternatively, you can install relay-compiler globally so you can access it directly:

yarn global add relay-compiler

Then after making edits to your application files, run relay-compiler --src ./src --schema path/schema.graphql to generate new files, or relay-compiler --src ./src --schema path/schema.graphql --watch to run the compiler as a long-lived process which automatically generates new files whenever you save.

GraphQL Schema

To use the Relay Compiler, you need either a .graphql or .json GraphQL schema file, describing your GraphQL server's API. Typically these files are local representations of a server source of truth and are not edited directly. For example, we might have a schema.graphql like:

schema {
  query: Root

type Root {
  dictionary: [Word]

type Word {
  id: String!
  definition: WordDefinition

type WordDefinition {
  text: String
  image: String

Source files

Additionally, you need a directory containing .js files that use the graphql tag to describe GraphQL queries and fragments. Let's call this ./src.

Then run yarn run relay as set up before.

This will create a series of __generated__ directories that are co-located with the corresponding files containing graphql tags.

For example, given the two files:

  • src/Components/DictionaryComponent.js

    const DictionaryWordFragment = graphql`
      fragment DictionaryComponent_word on Word {
        definition {
    const DictionaryDefinitionFragment = graphql`
      fragment DictionaryComponent_definition on WordDefinition {
  • src/Queries/DictionaryQuery.js

    const DictionaryQuery = graphql`
      query DictionaryQuery {
        dictionary {

This would produce three generated files, and two __generated__ directories:

  • src/Components/__generated__/DictionaryComponent_word.graphql.js
  • src/Components/__generated__/DictionaryComponent_definition.graphql.js
  • src/Queries/__generated__/DictionaryQuery.graphql.js

Importing generated definitions

Typically you will not need to import your generated definitions. The Relay Babel plugin will convert the graphql literals to require() the generated files.

However the Relay Compiler also automatically generates flow types, as type comments. To import the types:

import type {DictionaryComponent_word} from './__generated__/DictionaryComponent_word.graphql';

Advanced usage

In addition to the bin script, the relay-compiler package also exports library code which you may use to create more complex configurations for the compiler, or to extend the compiler with your own custom output.

If you find you need to do something unique (like generate types that conform to an older version of flow, or to parse non-javascript source files), you can build your own version of the Compiler by swapping in your own FileWriter and ASTCache, or by adding on an additional IRTransform. Note, the internal APIs of the RelayCompiler are under constant iteration, so rolling your own version may lead to incompatibilities with future releases.

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Licensed under the BSD License.