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Actionhero Tutorial

Actionhero Logo
  • Created: June 22, 2013
  • Updated: Jan 01, 2022

Node.js CI

This guide will walk you through the creation of the application in this repository, and in the process, you will learn some of the basics of Actionhero.

You will become comfortable with the following topics:

A simple Blogging API & site:

Adding a chat room

Next Steps

Actionhero Resources

Notes

  • You are expected to have a basic familiarity with node.js and the command line
  • You do not need to clone this repository to follow this guide. The code in this repository represents the final state of a project created with these instructions. The code in this project should serve as a reference.
  • You should also be able to run this project by:
    • git clone https://github.com/actionhero/actionhero-tutorial.git
    • cd actionhero-tutorial
    • npm install
    • npm run dev or npm start
    • There are a few extra steps needed to persists data to Redis.
  • This project uses Redis as a database. You will need to have it installed on your computer.
  • Remember that Actionhero is an API server, so we will be focusing on creating an API for blogging and chatting, and applying that to a website rather than creating a beautiful website itself.

Getting Started with a new actionhero Project

files discussed in this section:

relevant documentation section:

Actionhero is a node.js package. Be sure you have node.js (version >= 10.0.0) installed. Node comes with npm, the node package manager. npm includes a command npx we can use to run actionhero simply.

This guide was written on OSX It should be appropriate for any version of OSX > 10.6. It should also work on most Linux distributions (Ubuntu, CentOs, Fedora, etc). The concepts presented here should also be appropriate for windows users, but many of the "Getting Started" commands will not work as described here. If you are looking for help on getting started on Windows, please join the Actionhero Slack Channel to get help.

Create a new directory for this project and enter it (in the terminal):

  • mkdir ~/actionhero-tutorial
  • cd ~/actionhero-tutorial

note: From this point forward, it is assumed that all commands listed are run from within the ~/actionhero-tutorial directory.

Use the Actionhero generator to build your project

  • npx actionhero generate

Install any project dependencies

  • npm install

Try to boot the Actionhero server in development mode

  • npm run dev

You should see the default Actionhero welcome page at http://localhost:8080/public (visit in your browser)

The port 8080 is defined in src/config/web.ts, along with all other settings for Actionhero. Actionhero has two types of HTTP routes: static files and api routes. static files are served from /public and the API is served from /api. These routes are configurable from files within /src/config. Actionhero also picks one of these to be the default root route. This is defined by config.web.rootEndpointType in src/config/web.ts. We want our default route to serve our index.html file from /public, so we can leave this setting as "file".

Since you are running in development mode (npm run dev), Actionhero will notice you made a change to a config file and reboot the server automatically for you. Now, visit http://localhost:8080/ and you should see the welcome page. You will note that the setting we just changed was under the servers.web section. This is because this setting is only relevant to HTTP clients, and not the others (websocket, etc). We will talk about these more later.

We should also enable all the servers which ship with Actionhero (websocket). Enable them by setting enabled:true in their config files.

Actionhero uses the variable NODE_ENV to determine which modification file to load from /config/* to load to modify the default values in config. This is how you can set different variables per environment. We will use this for testing later.

Creating Modules

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Modules are common libraries you create to help you manipulate data. These are normal Typescript functions/modules/classes. Here, we will build 2 that help us manage users and posts. Typescript will then make all the methods and classes available for us in the rest of our application once we require the module

I'll define some common blog functions we'll use later in actions in initializers/blog.ts

Our blogging methods are:

Const Blog = {
  // posts
  postAdd: async function(...) {},
  postView: async function(...) {},
  postsList: async function(...) {},
  postEdit: async function(...) {},
  postDelete: async function(...) {},
  // comments
  commentAdd: async function(...) {},
  commentsView: async function(...) {},
  commentDelete: async function(...) {}
};

Const Users = {
  // users
  add: async function (...) {},
  list: async function (...) {},
  authenticate: async function (...) {},
  del: async function (...) {},
};

A few things to note:

  • posts are hashes with the content and some additional metadata
  • comments are also hashes, a key for each comment
  • we always make asynchronous functions, using async/await.
  • at this layer, we don't worry about authentication or validations. That will be handled in our Actions later on.
  • we are making use of api.redis.clients.client to talk to redis. To make that simpler, we've made a redis() method to reference the redis client object for us.

Creating Actions

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relevant documentation section:

Now that we have our helpers for getting and setting blog posts, how can we allow users to use them? Actions!

The files in /src/actions can define a one or more Actions each, so let's create one for comments and one for posts.

  • npx actionhero generate-action --name=users
  • npx actionhero generate-action --name=blog

Extending the Action Class

Actions can be extended by extending the Action class. We want to denote on each of our actions whether or not we require an authenticated user (to make a new post) or they are public (anyone can read the blog) - We'll use action.authenticated = true to denote that the action requires authentication. However, that property is not a normal property of the class Action. We can make a new class, AuthenticatedAction which we can then extend:

// from classes/authenticatedAction

import { Action } from "actionhero";

export abstract class AuthenticatedAction extends Action {
  authenticated: boolean;
}

Routes

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Now that we've defined our Actions, we want to expose them via the HTTP server. Actionhero does this via a src/config/routes.ts file. Routes allow different HTTP verbs to preform a different action on the same URL. We'll use a config/routes.ts file to transform our API into restful resources for users, comments, and posts. You can derive input variables from the structure of URLs with routing as well.

  • I can add a user with curl -X POST -d "userName=evan" -d "password=password" "http://localhost:8080/api/user"
  • I can log in with curl -X POST -d "userName=evan" -d "password=password" "http://localhost:8080/api/authenticate"
  • I can create a post with curl -X POST -d "password=password" -d "title=first-post" -d "content=My%20first%20post.%20%20Yay." http://localhost:8080/api/post/evan (the user name is derived from the route)
  • I can view that new post with curl -X GET "http://localhost:8080/api/post/evan/first-post"
  • I can get a list of my posts with curl -X GET http://localhost:8080/api/posts/evan
  • Another user could add a comment with: curl -X POST -d "comment=cool%20post" -d "commenterName=Someone_Else" "http://localhost:8080/api/comment/evan/first-post"
  • And we can see the comments with: curl -X GET "http://localhost:8080/api/comments/evan/first-post"

Once you define your routes, you can visit the Swagger page (http://localhost:8080/swagger) to see the automatic documentation of your HTTP API Actions!

Middleware and Initializers

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In the steps above, we created a users.authenticate method, but didn't use it anywhere. We also denoted that we wanted some actions to be authenticated with authenticated: true, but didn't create any logic to do so... now we will with an Action Middleware.

First, Let's create a new initializer for this:

  • npx actionhero generate-initializer --name=middleware

Middleware can run before and after every action (global), or just those actions that opt into them. In our case, we'll make a global middleware which applies to all actions and check if the action being run should be authenticated or not. The preProcessor lifecycle hook we are using will run before the Action, but will have access to the params sent by the user - like userName and password so we can check if they are correct.

Middleware are added to the api by adding them via actions.addMiddleware(authenticationMiddleware).

Testing

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When you generate a new Actionhero project, we will generate tests for you to be run with the Jest framework. Actionhero exposes a number of utilities to make it easy to boot up a server with configuration overrides to make testing easier. We'll also use the request package to make HTTP requests simpler in our tests. npm install --save-dev request (which will add the package to your package.json in the devDependencies section).

We can now run the test with the jest command. In our package.json we already have npm test configured to run the test suite how we would like it: "test": "jest". Jest will automatically set NODE_ENV=test for us, to tell Actionhero we are running this command in the 'test' environment this will signal Actionhero load any config changes from the /config file's TEST configurations, if they are different. In our case, we set up redis and the servers a little differently when testing.

A successful test run looks like this:

We also use the npm lifecycle command pretest to run a linter, prettier. This helps our code to conform to a consistent style and will check for errors like variable scope or missing variables.

Consuming the API via the Web

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relevant documentation section:

Actionhero is primarily an API server, but it can still serve static files for you. In config/api.ts, the config.general.paths.public directive is where your web site's "root" is. You can also use actions to manipulate file content with the api.staticFile.get method. Actionhero is also a great choice to power your front-end applications (angular, react, ember, etc).

Provided in index.html is a simple page that demonstrates how to call an action to show some status about your sever, using the status action (generated with a new project).

Websockets

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/public/chat.html demonstrates how to use Actionhero's websockets. The websocket is a first-class protocol in Actionhero and has all the capabilities of web clients - and more! Web sockets are persistent connections which also enables Actionhero's chat room features. We will make use of them here.

Note how we make use of the event libraries of actionheroWebsocket and build our events around it. This library is accessed by including /public/javascript/actionHeroClient.min.ts in your html page.:

client = new ActionheroWebsocketClient();

// register for events
client.on("connected", function () {
  console.log("connected!");
});
client.on("disconnected", function () {
  console.log("disconnected :(");
});
client.on("error", function (error) {
  console.log("error", error.stack);
});
client.on("reconnect", function () {
  console.log("reconnect");
});
client.on("reconnecting", function () {
  console.log("reconnecting");
});
client.on("welcome", function (message) {
  appendMessage(message);
});
client.on("say", function (message) {
  appendMessage(message);
});

client.connect(function (error, details) {
  if (error) {
    console.error(error);
  } else {
    // run an action
    client.action("createChatRoom", { name: "defaultRoom" }, function (data) {
      // join a chat room
      client.roomAdd("defaultRoom");
    });
  }
});

Tasks

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Actionhero comes with a robust task system for delayed/recurring tasks. For our example, we are going to create a task which will log some stats to the command line every 30 seconds. You can do much more with Actionhero's task system, including distributed tasks, recurring tasks, and more.

npx actionhero generate-task --name=stats --queue=default --frequency=30000

  • note how we set the task.frequency to run every 30 seconds
  • to enable our server to run tasks, we need to configure 'workers' to run. You can enable minTaskProcessors and maxTaskProcesssors in /src/config/tasks.ts (set them both to 1).
  • to re-schedule a job like ours, you will also need to enable the scheduler process in /config/tasks.ts.

Next Steps / TODO

  • Use cookie-based authentication rather than requiring the password and userName to be sent with each request
  • Migrate to another database
  • Implement a UI for the API
  • Tests should be more inclusive, and test failure cases
  • Pagination for all the *view actions

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An example actionhero project demonstrating many common features

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