Introduction to Express

Tags: angular technical

Installing Express System-Wide

While there's a convention of installing node apps inside the project, we can install express-generator because it automatically creates boilerplate code for express and node based applications.

The following line does the trick

>>> npm install express-generator -g

Creating a new app in express

  • Open the directory where the express app needs to be present, and express again. This creates all the required code
    $ express
    create : .
    create : ./package.json
    ...
    create : ./bin/www
    
    $ ls
    app.js  bin  package.json  public  routes  views
    

    Application

  • Conventionally, the Express application is called app within our code, instantiated by:
    var express = require('express');
    var app = express();
    

    Middleware

  • The middleware is any function which changes the way request and response objects are changed before, in, or after, the request and the response. Usually this is called the middleware stack, because the order in which middleware functions are defined is the order in which they are executed.

  • They have the same syntax except the presence of a parameter called next which calls the next Middleware in line.

    Let's take an example, where the requests coming at the root are handled by some function:

        :::javascript
        app.use('/', function(req, res) {
            // handle the req/res 
        });
    

  • In order to introduce middleware, we have to add another function, which is the middleware:

    app.use(function(req, res, next) {
        // modify the req/res in some way
        next();
    });
    
    app.use('/', function(req, res, next) {
        // use the modified req/res
    });
    

    There are two important points to notice here:

  • The order is of paramount importance. Only because the middleware came before the route handling function, the latter could use the modified request.

  • The parameter next, which is a method and is called just before the function returns. Unless next is called, the request will be left hanging.

  • The middleware methods can be called before as well as after the routing. Again, we have to make sure that even the routing function calls the next method in those situations.

    app.use(function(req, res, next) {
        // modify the req/res in some way
        next();
    });
    
    app.use('/', function(req, res, next) {
        // use the modified req/res
        next();
    });
    
    app.use(function(req, res, next) {
        // modify the req/res some more
    });
    

  • Of course, just like the routing methods, even the middleware can take some routes and then will only modified those requests which match the given route.

    For instance, the following middleware will only modify the route starting with /users

    app.use('/users', function(req, res, next) {
        // modify the req/res in some way
        next();
    });
    

  • What we have been talking about is the app level middleware, which controls the routing at the application level. In order make the application more modular, and convenient, it's recommended to divide the routing based on different routes.

    Let's say we have a section of the application under the route /users. In order to use it, we first have to have a separate routing file, let's call it users.js and place it under routes directory.

    Then from the main app, we can access it using:

    var user = require('./routes/user');
    app.use('/user', user);
    

    In the file users.js, we can have the routing logic:

    var express = require('express');
    var router = express.Router();
    
    // the next route starts from / but since it's already redirected
    // from the root, it essentially means /user
    router.get('/', function(req, res) {
        // Show a welcome screen
    });
    
    // Path is /user/account from the main app
    router.get('/account', function(req, res) {
        // Show account screens
    });
    
    // Path is /user/logout from the main app
    router.get('/logout', function(req, res) {
        // Logout user
    });
    

    Of course, we have the option of using middlewares in the routing files too.

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