I’m writing down some of the things I’ve picked up when I started to
about Node, Express and Mongo.
Here are all the post in the series:
This post is about the most commonly used web framework in Node:
in itself is pretty cool and the three-line web server is mind blowing
at first sight. Pretty soon though you want something that is a bit
friendlier to code against. Most people seems to go
with Express. From
their web page we read:
Express is a minimal and flexible node.js web application framework,
providing a robust set of features for building single and multi-page,
and hybrid web applications.
Couldn’t agree more. The only thing is… most tutorials on Express uses
the generators. That is the set of tools that comes with Express
(install with npm install
express -g) and you’ll have
the generators all over. This site generator bothers me in two
- it sets up a complete site, when I just want to do an API
- that site defaults to server-side generation, when I want to serve a
Nowadays I tend to default to a simple backend API (see, I din’t even
write REST API just to avoid religious battles. Smooth operator :)),
API, using AngularJS
I don’t need Jade, Sessions and folders for controllers etc. My whole
API will be 1-5 files depending on how modular I’m feeling. I might need
a public folder but that’s easy enough to fix.
So my suggestion is that you ditch the
generators (powerful as they are) and drop down to
bare-bones Express. You’ll
find a very powerful and terse framework that resembles
NancyFx a lot. Ah,
well it resembles
Sinatra too, but
Nancy is cooler.
In fact, on their guide-page,
ExpressJs is showing
you the minimal version first. And we can write the ubiquitous
This little application just responds with "Hello World" when you access
it on [http://localhost:3000](http://localhost:3000/)
### Understanding Express
The API for Express is very easy and in fact there just a couple of
basic things that you need to know in order to start coding up an API.
Things are considerable easier when we're just dishing out JSON rather
than keeping creating a complete site.
As always this is just the things that I've used and get to know. You
should check out the
, it's great. And the
is also nice.
First and formost you should create an Express application. This is
super simple since that's what the express()
function returns. Like this:
In the little tweet example above you saw the app.get() function in
action. The really good news is that all the HTTP verbs act in the same
manner. They take an URL path and a callback function.
You can understand it as: "when somebody *Posts* to '/orders/', execute
this function that I'm writing here".
As I said the path parameter can contain parameters that we easily get
hold of via the req.params property. Here's an example of a
get to an URL with a parameter, called id
Often your clients will be sending data in the body of the HTTP request.
Express provides an easy way to extract those by using the middleware
bodyParser() (see below). Which gives us this
easy way to access the body data
To this you can post a HTTP form like this (using the awesome
Sometimes, or rather after awhile, writing the functions inline gets a
bit messy. You can then write the handling code in a separate module and
include that. Express, default, puts these in a folder called "routes",
but we can do as we want.
Note that I'm using the exports-keyword
in the userHandler.js
file. That let's the function be visible to other modules. I used the
name handler as
a nod to a way we created frameworks in the 90-ies. Everything that we
really didn't know what to name was "handler". It should maybe have been
"controller" in this case...
You return data via the response-object that is passed to the callback
function for your route, often called res but you
can of course name it what ever you want. The simplest is just to do
send as we seen a lot of examples of already.
When you send JSON back there's a special method for that. The
content-type will automatically be set to "application/json" for you
when using this method as a nice little service to you.
At the heart of Express is the Connect middleware. For the most part you
don't need to care about Connect since it's nicely exposed as a couple
of functions, but it's really how Express is stitched together.
We have already seen
the bodyParser() in action and here are few others that
I found useful:
basicAuth()- sets up basic authentication for
your site. As always, basic is sending the username and password in
clear text, so beware.
#### directory and static
directory() - that helps you configure
directories, together with static() it
application for example
#### app.param() - an example of middleware, that is really powerful
The one middleware that impressed me the most, so far, is app.param(). This can help you do some really
powerful stuff, in just a few lines of code. To show this I'm going to
lean on an example from this site and walk your
You could also do hard coded paths, of course (like /users) and create a
little snippet that loads users by id. This is shown to great effect in
the documentation for app.param() and I've adapted it here:
Yeah, as you can see express is not that hard and that the same time
powerful. Just like we like it. I think you get the know the framework
much better without the generators. Go old school and type it yourself!