Coding Tutorials Blog

Intro to Express

October 12, 2020

Watch My Intro to Express Video Playlist Here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLY6oTPmKnKbamIu4uuDJ3QNNDU1SoOkjl

What is Express and the Node Web Server Ecosystem

When it comes to creating a Web Server no framework in the Node ecosystem stands as tall as ExpressJS. It’s a minimalistic unopinionated framework that gives you a lot of flexibility as far as customization. If you enjoy minimalistic frameworks ExpressJS isn’t the only option that Node has to offer…

  • Koa (From the creators of express)
  • Fastify
  • Polka
  • Merver (My Own Creation)

If you are looking for a more robust Rails/Django like experience, Node has you covered too!

  • NestJS
  • FoalTS
  • Sails
  • Loopback

Along with other fun frameworks for special use cases…

  • Apollo (For GraphQL APIs)
  • SocketIO (For Real Time Applications like chat)

Getting Started With Express

It is assumed you have installed Node and NPM, which you can do at nodeJS.org

To started just create an empty folder somewhere on your workspace and open terminal in that folder and do the following.

npm init -y

This will create a package.json file which for now will have the main purpose of tracking our dependencies and scripts. Then let’s install our first set of libraries.

npm i express nodemon

  • Express: Our web framework
  • Nodemon: Command to run our files and watch our project files so it will re-run our server when there are file changes.

Next in our folder let’s create a .gitignore file to make sure we don’t push certain things up to github. The file should contain…

/node_modules
.env

Now create a file called server.js with the following…

//BRING IN EXPRESS
const express = require("express")
//CREATE EXPRESS APPLICATION OBJECT
const app = express()
//PORT THE SERVER WILL LISTEN ON
const PORT = process.env.PORT || 3000 //use environment variables and if not, 3000



//OUR SEVER LISTENER, SHOULD ALWAYS BE AT THE BOTTOM
app.listen(PORT, () => {
    console.log(`Listening on port ${PORT}`)
})

The skeleton of our server is now created, let’s create some scripts in our package.json.

"scripts": {
    "start": "node server.js",
    "dev": "nodemon server.js"
}

If for some reason nodemon causes any issues a workaround is to change the dev script to npx nodemon server.js.

Now that the scripts are setup in your terminal type npm run dev to run the dev script. You should see “Listening on port 3000” in your terminal which means your server is running!

Open up your browser and go to http://localhost:3000 and you’ll see “cannot get /”, this is good it means your server is running. What this means is we have not defined a “get” route for ”/“.

While your server is running it is listening for requests and it will look for routes that you define that match the http verb (get) and the endpoint (/) to figure out how to respond. Unfortunately, we haven’t defined any routes yet! Let’s do that.

//BRING IN EXPRESS
const express = require("express")
//CREATE EXPRESS APPLICATION OBJECT
const app = express()
//PORT THE SERVER WILL LISTEN ON
const PORT = process.env.PORT || 3000 //use environment variables and if not, 3000

//ROUTES DEFINED BY A FUNCTION NAMED AFTER THE VERB ITS RESPONDING TO
//Takes a string for the endpoint, and a callback to define handling
app.get("/",(request, response) => {
    response.send("Hello World") //Sending back a text response
})

//THIS ROUTE HAS A URL PARAM, VARIABLE IS NOTED WITH A COLON
app.get("cheese/:param", (request, response) =>{
    const {params, query} = request //Destructuring URL params and URL queries from request object
    response.json({params, query}) // Sending a JSON Response
})



//OUR SEVER LISTENER, SHOULD ALWAYS BE AT THE BOTTOM
app.listen(PORT, () => {
    console.log(`Listening on port ${PORT}`)
})

After saving these changes you’ll notice in the terminal nodemon will restart your server. Now let’s test these out!

Go to… http://localhost:3000/ You should see the string “Hello World”

Go to… http://localhost:3000/cheese/thisisaparam?this=is&a=query You should see an object with a param and query object show the above data

Other things you can do

Read the express documentation to learn how to do the following:

  • Serve static files like html using express.static
  • Render templates using response.render in the templating language of your choice (ejs, pug, handlebars, mustache, express-react-views)
  • use middleware to parse request bodies (express.json() & express.urlencoded())
  • create clusters of routes with routers (express.Router())

You can also learn all this from my express playlist linked in the beginning of this post.

Templates

Here are some templates you can scaffold for express…

Express with EJS templating npx merced-spinup expressejs projectName

Express with Express-React-Views templating npx merced-spinup expressreact projectName

Express for Restful APIS npx merced-spinup expressrest projectName

Express with Express-React-Views and Mongo npx create-ervmongo-app projectName

Express API with Mongo npx merced-spinup expressmongo projectName

Express API with Postgres npx merced-spinup expresspg projectName


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