Understanding the CLI

Though you may have installed the react-native-cli via npm as a separate module, it is a shell for accessing the CLI embedded in the React Native of each project. Your commands and their effects are dependent on the version of the module of react-native in context of the project. This guide will give a brief overview of the CLI in the module.

The local CLI

React Native has a local-cli folder with a file named cliEntry.js. Here, the commands are read from commands.js and added as possible CLI commands. E.G. the react-native link command, exists in the react-native/local-cli/link folder, and is required in commands.js, which will register it as a documented command to be exposed to the CLI.

Command definitions

At the end of each command entry is an export. The export is an object with a function to perform, description of the command, and the command name. The object structure for the link command looks like so:

module.exports = {
  func: link,
  description: 'links all native dependencies',
  name: 'link [packageName]',


The command name identifies the parameters that a command would expect. When the command parameter is surrounded by greater-than, less-than symbols < >, this indicates that the parameter is expected. When a parameter is surrounded by brackets [ ], this indicates that the parameter is optional.

Getting a list of all CLI commands

Running react-native --help from inside a React Native project will list all of your current commands. Here is an example from version 0.56:

  Usage: react-native [options] [command]


    -V, --version                      output the version number
    -h, --help                         output usage information


    start [options]                    starts the webserver
    run-ios [options]                  builds your app and starts it on iOS simulator
    run-android [options]              builds your app and starts it on a connected Android emulator or device
    new-library [options]              generates a native library bridge
    bundle [options]                   builds the javascript bundle for offline use
    unbundle [options]                 builds javascript as "unbundle" for offline use
    eject [options]                    Re-create the iOS and Android folders and native code
    link [options] [packageName]       links all native dependencies (updates native build files)
    unlink [options] <packageName>     unlink native dependency
    install [options] <packageName>    install and link native dependencies
    uninstall [options] <packageName>  uninstall and unlink native dependencies
    upgrade [options]                  upgrade your app's template files to the latest version; run this after updating the react-native version in your package.json and running npm install
    log-android [options]              starts adb logcat
    log-ios [options]                  starts iOS device syslog tail
    dependencies [options]             lists dependencies
    info [options]                     Get relevant version info about OS, toolchain and libraries

CLI Configs

When using react-native start, its platform derivatives, and react-native bundle you can use a file to define the CLI options used by React Native by default. If you create a file rn-cli.config.js in the root of your project, it will be evaluated and options for the commands will come from there.

You can see the options for the CLI config on the metro website. Here's a common rn-cli.config.js used for supporting TypeScript in React Native projects:

module.exports = {
  getTransformModulePath() {
    return require.resolve('react-native-typescript-transformer');
  getSourceExts() {
    return ['ts', 'tsx'];