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c8b8303 Apr 27, 2013
@dlochrie @1602
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CompoundJS starter guide

We are going to learn the compoundjs core basics without using the code generator.


Let's start with a single file, call it server.js. Put two lines of code here:

if (!module.parent) app.listen(3000);

That's it - our first compoundjs project, which is a regular express application. We can run it using node server.js command. Let's start and try to load the root url of our web service.

We got an error 404: "Cannot GET /". It works! We can work with the express application as usual:

app.get('/', function (req, res) {

But wait. It's not just express, we should put things in the right place.


Let's configure our environment using file config/environment.js with following contents:

var express = require('express');

app.configure(function () {
    app.use(express.static(app.root, {maxAge: 86400000}));
    app.set('view engine', 'ejs');
    app.set('view options', {complexNames: true});
    app.set('jsDirectory', '/javascripts/');
    app.set('cssDirectory', '/stylesheets/');
    app.use(express.session({secret: 'secret'}));

Here we are setting up our middleware stack and doing some basic configuration like setting the view engine, etc. This may work for now, but we may want to configure our application slightly different for each environment we are working in.

For example use we might use the error reporter in development mode, turn on assets pipelining for production, or set any additional parameters depending on the env. To simplify setting up custom configurations for these environments, we could create a ./config/environments/ENVNAME.js file, where ENVNAME is name of env (test, development, production, heroku, ec2staging), for each environment.

On a Mac or *nix machine the Node Environment can be set on the command line with export NODE_ENV=environment, and read with echo NODE_ENV. (For Windows, this may vary based on your version). When we start our compound app, it will read the current environment variable, and load the specific environment file.

Lets create two environment configuration files:


app.configure('development', function () {
    app.disable('view cache');
    app.disable('model cache');
    app.disable('eval cache');
    app.enable('log actions');
    app.enable('env info');
    app.use(require('express').errorHandler({ dumpExceptions: true, showStack: true }));


app.configure('production', function () {
    app.enable('view cache');
    app.enable('model cache');
    app.enable('eval cache');
    app.enable('merge javascripts');
    app.enable('merge stylesheets');
    app.disable('assets timestamps');
    app.settings.quiet = true;

Let me describe each option briefly:

  • view cache: turns on view cache, which is useful for production but not necessary for development (it forces us to reload server when we need to modify view)
  • model cache: same for models (files inside app/models/ directory), in development mode models will be reloaded before each request
  • eval cache: same for controllers and any script evaluated in new context (models too)
  • merge javascripts: join all js files into one
  • merge stylesheets: join all css files into one
  • log actions: turn on verbose request logging (show actions and filters in log)
  • assets timestamps: adds timestamps to the end of js and css files
  • quiet: put logging info to ./log/ENVNAME.log file instead of STDOUT
  • env info: enables backdoor for retrieving information about environment (versions, packages, etc), this feature used in autogenerated index.html file when clicking a link:

    Information about application environment


Now we have successfully configured application and can focus on development. First of all we may want to create some routes. We should put our routes to config/routes.js file:

module.exports = function (map) {


Basically, this module should export one function that accepts a map argument. It can also export routes function, and the result is the same, but looks nicer:

exports.routes = function (map) {


At the bottom of the routes function we have couple of generic routes, which accept all requests to any controller and any action - this is a nice and powerful feature, but also may create some security problems, so use it carefully.

We also created one root route that maps action welcome of dashboard controller to '/' url. It's time to create a controller.


Controller files, by default, are executed in a new context and have shortcuts for the most often used response methods, such as send, render, redirect, as well as others. It means that you shouldn't accept req and res params in each action; you can just call send instead of res.send, or render instead of res.render.

Our dashboard controller needs a welcome action, so let's add it:

action(function welcome() {

Alternative syntax (coffee-friendly):

action('welcome', function () {

It allows us to write the controller action in coffeescript:

action 'welcome', ->
    send 'hi'

This is a common coding conventions in compoundjs controllers: all utility methods may accept one argument - named function, or two arguments - name and function.


What if we want to render a view? By default all views are located in app/views directory. We can call render without params and it will render view with the same name as action located within subdirectory with the name of controller, i.e.


action 'welcome', ->

will render app/views/dashboard/welcome.ejs. We also can pass params to view using two ways. First - pass object as first or second param of render method.

action(function welcome() {
    render({user: {name: 'Anatoliy'}});

Second - using context object of action:

action(function welcome() {
    this.user = {name: 'Anatoliy'};

If we want to render a different view, we can specify its name as the first param of render method.

Our welcome.ejs would be rendered as-is, but if we need to render it within any layout we should create a layout view inside app/views/layouts. By default (when a layout is not specified manually using layout method) the following logic of layout selection is used:

  1. Use layout with the name of controller (if exists), i.e. app/views/layouts/dashboard.ejs
  2. Use default layout app/views/layouts/application.ejs

Let's proceed with the last option. Here are the contents of our layout:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
        <title><%= title %></title>
        <%- stylesheet_link_tag('bootstrap', 'bootstrap-responsive') %>
        <%- javascript_include_tag('', 'bootstrap', 'rails', 'application') %>
        <%- csrf_meta_tag() %>
        <div class="navbar">
            <div class="navbar-inner">
                <div class="container">
                    <a class="brand" href="#">Project name</a>

        <div class="container">
            <% var flash = request.flash('info').pop(); if (flash) { %>
                <div class="alert alert-info">
                    <a class="close" data-dismiss="alert">×</a>
                    <%- flash %>
            <% } %>

            <% flash = request.flash('error').pop(); if (flash) { %>
                <div class="alert alert-error">
                    <a class="close" data-dismiss="alert">×</a>
                    <%- flash %>
            <% }; %>

            <%- body %>


This layout is using twitter bootstrap and jquery, it also loads some javascripts and defines CSRF protection meta tags. Within containers we are printing out flash messages (if any), and then print contents of our view (which is saved in body variable).


The last thing we should talk about - models. We basically have two kind of models in compound: persistent and non-persistent. Persistent models are defined in the database schema, while non-persistent models are defined directly in app/models/*.js files (these models should be exported from this file as module.exports = MyModel).


Let's say we have a User model with name property:

define('User', function () {
    property('name', String);

Now User variable available globally in application and also stored in app.models.User.

But where is it persisted? We have to select a database engine. For configuring database settings we should create config/database.json file. The structure of this file:

{ environmentName: { driver: 'name of driver', database: '', username: '', password: '', host: 'localhost', port: '' } }

for example we want redis in development env:

{ development: { driver: 'redis' } }

We need one more thing at this point - install jugglingdb ORM, using npm:

npm install jugglingdb

When you try to start your server using node server.js or compound server you will get error message explaining which database driver you should install. In our case it's redis:

npm install redis

Compound, through JugglingDB, currently supports multiple databases, including MongoDB, MySQL, and more. See the full list here.


Anatoliy Chakkaev Daniel Lochrie