Next.js 13.4 is the latest version of the popular React framework for building server-rendered applications. In this article, we will take a look at the key features and changes introduced in this release.
Overview of Next.js
For those new to Next.js, it is a React framework that makes it easy to build universal or isomorphic applications - apps that are rendered on both the server and client. It builds on top of React by providing file-system based routing, pre-rendering for faster initial page loads, and other optimizations.
Next.js introduced the concept of Static Site Generation (SSG) and Server Side Rendering (SSR) as two different ways of pre-rendering pages before sending to the client. It has built-in support for styling solutions like CSS Modules and Sass, and for data fetching from external APIs. Over the years, Next.js has become popular for building production-grade React applications.
For a comprehensive understanding, refer to Part 1 of this series, which provides an in-depth analysis of Next.js and its extensive features.
Major Changes in Next.js 13.4
Incremental Static Regeneration
One of the biggest changes in Next.js 13.4 is the addition of Incremental Static Regeneration. Until now, Static Site Generation (SSG) would rebuild the entire site on every change. With ISR, you can regenerate static pages incrementally based on a revalidate property.
This means only changed or expired pages will rebuild instead of the entire site. ISR allows you to retain the benefits of static generation while scaling it for larger, dynamic sites.
Improved Image Component
The Next.js Image component has been rewritten with several improvements including native lazy loading, better caching, and priority hints. The new component makes images load faster while improving Lighthouse performance scores.
Next.js 13.4 brings built-in support for internationalized routes like having pages for
/about-us. This allows serving multi-language sites from the same codebase while retaining SEO benefits of unique URLs.
ES Modules Support
Next.js 13.4 supports ECMAScript Modules natively across both client and server code. You can now use
.mjs files without additional configuration.
Minor New Features
Some other additions include a new next/google-font loader, support for the latest React 18 release, environment variable support for
loader.config(), and several accessibility improvements.
The latest version comes with several performance optimizations and fixes for issues in previous versions as well.
Setting Up a Next.js 13.4 App
Let's look at how to create a simple Next.js app with version 13.4:
To setup a Next.js app router, first install the create-next-app package:
npm install -g create-next-app
Create a new Next.js app using:
npx create-next-app next-project-arjuns-blog
You will then be asked multiple prompts about what technologies you want to use in your project. For simplicity's sake, do what I am telling you below
Would you like to use TypeScript? … No Would you like to use ESLint? … No Would you like to use Tailwind CSS? … Yes Would you like to use src/ directory? … No Would you like to use App Router? (recommended) … Yes Would you like to customize the default import alias? … No
This will install all the required dependencies first. Then set up a default Next.js app with pages, styles, and public folders.
Run Next.js in development mode:
npm run dev
Your Next.js 13.4 app should now be up and running on http://localhost:3000. With this, you have a solid foundation to start building features and leveraging the new capabilities in Next.js 13.4
The Road Ahead
With the latest version, Next.js is recommending new projects use the App Router system. This brings file-system routing to the app directory instead of the pages folder. Over time, as the App Router functionality matures, we will likely see it become the preferred way of handling routing and navigation in Next.js apps.
The traditional pages/ folder structure will not disappear overnight, but the writing is on the wall. App Router provides benefits like more code splitting and bundle optimization. As more capabilities and best practices emerge around App Router, we’ll see new Next.js projects adopt it by default. So while immediate change is not required, developers should familiarize themselves with App Router as it will likely be the future of routing in Next.js. The framework continues to evolve rapidly, and App Router is the next paradigm shift on the horizon.
In conclusion, Next.js 13.4 introduces significant improvements such as Incremental Static Regeneration, an enhanced Image component, internationalized routing, and native ES Modules support. These features make it a compelling choice for developers looking to stay ahead of the competition.
As the framework continues to evolve, it's essential for developers to familiarize themselves with the latest features, particularly the App Router system, which is expected to become the preferred way of handling routing in Next.js applications.
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