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There is a lot going on here. Read this document carefully.

installation and dev setup

setup tools

Go into the tools directory and create symbolic links to the various tools, and implicitly versions, that are named in the in that directory.

It will not work if you have things installed in your PATH like node and npm. They must be linked into the directory tools because that's the way I roll. You can thank me for it later.

enable script

There is an enable script called enable-seven5 in this directory. This is where you put shell commands, environment variables and the like that are specific to your development efforts.

If you set environment variables in your copy of the enable script, be sure that you also start the script by unsetting any variables that are related to, or more importantly the opposite of, the ones you are setting. This is so the enable script can be run any number of times and always results in a good state. Idempotency for the win.

Use an editor to check that enable-seven5 makes sense for your system. Make changes if you must.

Source the script into your shell, do not execute it. This script is designed to be your security blanket: you can do source enable-seven5 at any time from this directory and the shell you entered that command into is set for development on this project. Sometimes this is referred to as just "enabling seven5" or "enabling the project".

tools directory rationale

You'll notice that the enable script is quite parsimonious with the directories in the PATH. Notably, it does not include /usr/local/bin. This is intentional. Many people have the succumbed to the dreaded disease, package-manager-itis. This is a chronic inflammation of /usr/local/bin. While this disease has usually minor symptoms for a user of software, it can be fatal for developers. If you don't know what version of the tools you are using, especially in the javascript world where the tools change versions rapidly and complex dependencies must be maintained, you are doomed.

If there are some tools in /usr/local/bin that you cannot live without in your shell, link them into the tools directory as explained in tools/ Some good examples of this need are goland, emacs, or other clearly inferior editors.

If you are super-paranoid--and I am--this "link things into the tools directory" strategy allows you to install a particular version of node like say 14.13.1 in any random place in your filesystem and then link the tools directory commands to it. This guarantees, for example, that you get the version of node you expect and want. This is far simpler than the use of nvm or similar.

the big warning

Under no circumstances should you take some random bozo on the web's advice to use npm install -g <whatever>. The npm install -g command installs the package's binary into /usr/local/bin or similar; this is a key cause for package-manager-itis!
You don't want that, for the reasons above. Should you disregard this warning, many kittens will be left in the sun in the desert to die.

Instead, take out the -g and, if necessary, link the needed executable into the tools directory, usually they are in node_modules/.bin/.

install node packages

There are approximately 1.8 zillion dependent packages. You'll need to download them all one time to get started. They will be placed into the node_modules directory. If you get concerned, or you just "have that nagging feeling" you can nuke the node_modules directory and run the command below anytime.

Make sure your npm is linked correctly with which npm.This should result in a file in your tools directory--if it is not use your enable script!
You install all the npm packages with npm install in this directory.

installing the rest of the tools

You can do ls node_modules/.bin to see what you have wrought. With these packages all installed, go to tools/ and follow the instructions for installing the remaining command-line tools you need.

development overview

When you see a command that is of the form npm run <foo> this means that entry "foo" is in the package.json of this project. There is a section of the json in package.json called scripts. Here is a snippet:

  "scripts": {
    "dev:serve": "NODE_ENV=development webpack serve --config webpack.react.config.js --mode development --env development",
    "test": "jest",
    "format": "prettier --write src/**/*.{ts,tsx}",
    "lintfix": "eslint --fix src/**/*.{ts,tsx}",
    "redux-devtools": "redux-devtools --hostname=localhost --port=8098",
    "react-devtools": "react-devtools"

running a development version

> npm run dev:serve

When you start the command above on a Mac running OSX you'll probably get a dialog box that pops up and says "Do you want to allow this application to accept incoming connections?" or something similar. You do want that, because webservers don't work without that ability.

You will need to leave this program running. This is a hot-reloading server that in principle should reload your code into the browser when you change it. (I don't have a lot of confidence in this mechanism, but your mileage may vary. I always restart the server anytime something wonky happens.) This special development webserver that is connected to webpack and webpack's module analysis code. This webserver will watch your copy of the source code, recompile the files that change and if they compile ok, inject the newly compiled code (really "module") into the browser.

modifying the code


If you want to modify the code, it is likely that you'll want to configure your editor to know about typescript and javascript.


Goland is known to work correctly and "do all things" to assist when coding. To set it up:

  • Configure the node settings to point to the same node instance that is linked to your tools directory. This should also tells goland where your version of npm is (since its in the same bin directory).


  • Do we need to explain the prettier config?
  • Eslint config?
  • Typescript config?

(auto) checking your source code

You'll notice that when you use the hot reload functionality of dev:serve, or just webpack to build all the things, the compilation step includes "linter" check and a "prettiness check."
Under the covers this is because both kinds of compilation are driven by webpack. The configuration webpack.config.js is used to drive the whole process.

Our webpack configuration forces any compilation of the code (hot or cold) to also do a check for problems with eslint and a check for code formatting with prettier. Both of these programs, like webpack, are linked into your tools directory if you want to run them independently of webpack. The key thing to note is that using webpack may (will) cause your files to change to be "prettier". This happens you run any webpack command, but is more obvious when you run npm run dev:serve since it happens every time you save a file in your editor.

I've never gotten burned by this setup, but you can change the "fix" option in the webpack.config.json if you are a nervous type. Without the "fix" option, prettier just logs to the terminal what changes it wants. If your editor detects changes to the underlying filesystem and notifies you when its buffers get out of date, you should be fine since the changes to the disk files are always only cosmetic.

Our eslint rules can be found in the file .eslintrc.js. This file is short because we are largely borrowing the airbnb typescript rules for both typescript and react. The file .eslintignore tells eslint what directories to ignore for linting, such as node_modules.

Our prettier configuration is in .prettierrc.js. Again our configuration is quite small because we are using the default prettier configuration choices. If you want, you can use the command npm run lintfix to run prettier in "fix mode" where it will try fix any of the code formatting problems it finds. This will modify your source files in place.

building a production version

  • Need to have a way to configure the NODE_ENV and webpack mode variables
  • Need to explain how electron does it's packaging

modifying the build setup


The configuration of the various tools that are in use here is fiendishly complex. Broadly, the "driver" or "coordinator" of all parts of the build is webpack. This command, if you want, can be invoked from your tools directory and that can be useful for testing out different command line options or configuration files.

The two webpack.*.js configuration files are intended for different webpack "targets." A target to webpack is the intended environment for the resulting javascript code. webpack.electron.js is targeted at "electron-main" and webpack.react.js is targeted at "electron-renderer". electron has a strict separation of the "main" process that controls the interactions with the browser (electron) and operating system and the "rendering" process that draws the actual app inside a window.


You will notice that many of the tools that we are using reference the transpiling tool babel in their documentation. Our configuration does not use a .babelrc or babel.config.js as you might expect. We use webpack's built-in ability to configure babel and just allow webpack to invoke babel internally. So we are using babel, but the configuration is done in the webpack.*.js files.

typescript configuration

We are using typescript 4.1.3 and its primary configuration file is tsconfig.json. You can run the typescript the compiler standalone with tsc in your tools directory.

When we are building the source code (either for hot reloading or for file output), webpack runs the typescript compiler.

It is tricky if you look at the webpack.*.js you'll see that we are binding the .ts and .tsx to a webpack plugin called babel-loader. In practice the relationship between babel version 7 and typescript is very complex.

Babel and typescript (from 2019)

  • Are we sure that babel is invoking the tsc or handling the complete compilation itself? It is definitely reading the tsconfig.json.

typescript extension

We are using a proposed typescript extension for class properties. This means properties, functions, etc. The form of this extension is something like the uses of static variables below:

class foo {
  static bar:number =0;
  static baz(): number { return;}

modules (and headaches)

I really don't understand exactly what module format we are using. Our tsconfig.json says that the typescript compiler is outputting commonjs format modules, also called "cjs" or "node" format. However, webpack and babel understand all four of the major module formats and can transform one into another.

  • What should we do about this?
    Can somebody figure out all the various combinations?


The app is built using bootstrap for the basic look and feel. However, we use the react implementation of bootstrap, not the standard version.


electron security

Currently we have a number of seriously broken configuration choices in our electron app that we need to fix.

finding things in the source

The "main" process of the electron app is in src/main/main.ts.

We use the redux feature slice approach for our code: redux structure

running tests

You can run tests either with npm run test or jest, the latter of which is linked into your tools directory.

Tests are located in the tests directory and have a structure that is parallel to the structure of src.

Currently, we have a only unit tests but some of these are actually tests of the particular rendering behavior. This means we can test both the higher level of abstraction (components) as well as how the component is presented. Naturally, it is definitely a tension about how much to test the details of the HTML output because if overdone, this leads to fragility.

To get logical coverage of a feature our tests, we test these ways:

  • Test that the redux store works properly when presented with different states and different actions. The redux store is the source of truth and all changes to it are done through actions.
  • Unit tests that the transformation from current state in redux is correctly mapped to properties for display in our components.
  • Unit tests that our custom components transform a set of properties provided to them into HTML.
  • Unit tests that simulate clicks or other user inputs and test that the correct actions are generated to the redux store.
User input > redux actions --> redux store --> redux state > custom component > HTML. 


seven5 is a toolkit for build highly interactive, direct manipulation interfaces on the web.





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