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README.md

csi

client side asset management for team players

go ahead, elevator pitch me.

csi is an asset manager for industrial strength software projects. it's built on require.js, and it allows you to write full client-side components (html, css, and javascript) that can be installed anywhere within your app. csi aims to be:

  • framework agnostic -- csi doesn't assume anything other than npm during development and build. you can use it with whatever server-side and client-side framework you prefer, and it doesn't have any dependencies in production (it just delivers a directory of assets).

  • test-driven -- csi provides built-in, easy to use testing with qunit, and it can be easily extended to use other frameworks like mocha.

  • require.js based -- amd is baked in with require.js, and csi builds on that foundation to allow even more modularity.

  • whollistic -- last time we checked, client-side web apps are composed not just of javascript, but also css and markup. csi helps you write full components with css and html dependencies without having to worry about where your assets will be stored.

let's get into some examples.

let's say you've got a module called bird, and its sole purpose is to put a bird on it.

it is so friggin useful that you want it in all the apps that you make, even though some of your apps are 10 years old and they run on perl-scripting-cgi-serving technology, and others are so hip that you haven't even heard of their framework yet. it goes something like this:

var birdifyIt = function(el) {
    $('<div>').addClass('with-a-bird-on-it').appendTo(el);
    return el;
};

and then you throw some css up somewhere:

.with-a-bird-on-it {
  width: 640px;
  height: 480px;
  background-image: url(bird.png);
}

the cool kids are all using modules for code reuse, so you throw it in an amd module:

define([

    // assuming you guys throw your third-party stuff in a vendor direcotry
    'vendor/jquery' 

], function($) {
    return function(el) {
        $('<div>').addClass('with-a-bird-on-it').appendTo(el);
        return el;
    };
});

you're even so savvy that you write a require.js plugin for css (maybe something like this). that way you can abstract the caller's transitive dependency on the css required to make this whole boat stay afloat.

define([
    'vendor/jquery',
    'css!bird.css'
], function($) {
    return function(el) {
        $('<div>').addClass('with-a-bird-on-it').appendTo(el);
        return el;
    };
});

your code works, it's modular, your company is selling crap with birds on it left and right, and your boss is so happy he comes over to your cubicle and he's all like:

man that put-a-bird-on-it code you wrote is so sick, lets use it in our new app, version 2.0!

the plot thickens.

like any good engineering organization, you guys completely re-architected everything in version 2.0, and now you're putting modules into their own little subdirectories in order to separate concerns. you throw your bird module into the components/bird directory, and BOOM, it stops working because the paths to jquery.js, bird.css, bird.png have changed.

so now you've got to edit the bird code in order to put it in a new app. that's not optimal. and why should your code care where jquery lives? it should work whether it's at vendor/jquery.js or lib/jquery.js or the/shady/part/of/the/codebase/jquery.js. it doesn't discriminate.

on top of that you didn't write any unit tests for it, cause it's such a pain to have to keep re-configuring QUnit to work with require.js each time you roll out a new app. now you've got that sinking "i think i broke it when i changed it" feeling.

a simple csi component

so what would it look like to have a fully modular way of doing this? let's write it as a csi component. we make a 'bird' repository with the following directory structure:

bird
|-- package.json
`-- src
    |-- bird.css
    |-- bird.js
    |-- bird.png
    `-- test.js

bird.js looks like:

define([
    'jquery',
    'css!./bird.css'
], function($) {
    return function(el) {
        $('<div>').addClass('with-a-bird-on-it').appendTo(el);
        return el;
    };
});

now the code just lists jquery as a dependency. the details about version and where it's installed are configured via a 'package.json' file (see below).

we're still using that slick css plugin, but the leading ./ before bird.css tells require.js to get it from the same directory as bird.js.

we've also included an npm package.json file. this is necessary whether or not you plan on publishing to the npm registry because it's how we manage dependencies. here's the contents:

{
  "author": {"name": "nature and stuff"},
  "name": "put-a-bird-on-it",
  "description": "we put birds on things.",
  "version": "0.0.0",
  "dependencies": {
    "jquery": "1.7.x",
    "csi": "0.1.x"
  },
  "csi": {
    "name": "bird"
  }
}

this is all pretty strait forward, but there are three important things:

  • csi dependency: declaring csi as a dependency gives us tools that help with unit testing and code reuse

  • jquery dependency: this is where we make jquery available to our module*.

  • csi property: csi uses this to define the name of the component. the csi.name property is required.

before we get into how we include the bird component, let's write a quick qunit test to cover ourselves in future refactorings:

define([
    'jquery',
    'bird/bird'
], function($, birdifyIt) {

    test('put an effin bird on it', function() {
        birdifyIt($('body'));
        equal($('body').children().last()[0].className, 'with-a-bird-on-it');
    });

    start();
});

running the test is easy:

$ npm install
$ node_modules/.bin/csi test

this will start up a server for you and list out URL's you can visit to run tests. open up http://localhost:1335/components/bird/test in your browser.

including components in an app

now back to your app version 2.0. you'll have a directory structure like this:

app_v2
|-- package.json
`-- static
    |-- bluejay.js
    `-- index.js

your sweet new bluejay module extends the functionality of birdifyIt:

define([
    'bird/bird'
], function(birdifyIt) {
    return function(node) {
        var childNodes = birdifyIt(node).childNodes;
        childNodes[childNodes.length-1].style.backgroundColor = 'blue';
    };
});

and then you can add an entry point at static/index.js

define([
    'bluejay'
], function(bluejay) {
    bluejay(document.body);
});

and your package.json will be:

{
  "name": "app_v2",
  "description": "aviary appification",
  "version": "0.0.0",
  "engines": {
    "node": "~0.6.11"
  },
  "dependencies": {
    "csi": "0.0.x",
    "put-a-bird-on-it": "git://github.com/aaronj1335/put-a-bird-on-it.git"
  }
}

thanks to npm's flexible dependency specification, we can just use a git url, but you could of course use the npm registry or the location of a tarball.

running tests is still easy:

$ npm install
$ node_modules/.bin/csi test

since we defined the entry point in static/index.js, we can open http://localhost:1335/index. csi is smart enough to figure out that this is not a test module (since it doesn't have 'test' in the filename), so your page loads as without all the qunit stuff.

ba-da-bing

and there you have it, modular client-side development. there are quite a few details that we glossed over, such as the mechanics of installing components (hint: they go in a directory called components), and the fact that csi may re-write url() paths in css files, but hopefully this was an instructive tutorial. the best way to get a feel for csi would probably be to check out working examples:


* since the official jquery repo isn't in NPM, and it doesn't have a "csi" field in its 'package.json' file, you would actually need to specify this as something like:

"jquery": "git://github.com/aaronj1335/node-jquery.git",