Posts Tagged Grunt

Scaffold a RESTful API with Yeoman, Node, Restify, and MongoDB

Using Yeoman, scaffold a basic RESTful CRUD API service, based on Node, Restify, and MongoDB.



NOTE: Generator updated on 11-13-2016 to v0.2.1.

Yeoman generators reduce the repetitive coding of boilerplate functionality and ensure consistency between full-stack JavaScript projects. For several recent Node.js projects, I created the generator-node-restify-mongodb Yeoman generator. This Yeoman generator scaffolds a basic RESTful CRUD API service, a Node application, based on Node.js, Restify, and MongoDB.

According to their website, Restify, used most notably by Netflix, borrows heavily from Express. However, while Express is targeted at browser applications, with templating and rendering, Restify is keenly focused on building API services that are maintainable and observable.

Along with Node, Restify, and MongoDB, theNode application’s scaffolded by the Node-Restify-MongoDB Generator, also implements Bunyan, which includes DTrace, Jasmine, using jasmine-nodeMongoose, and Grunt.

Portions of the scaffolded Node application’s file structure and code are derived from what I consider the best parts of several different projects, including generator-express, generator-restify-mongo, and generator-restify.


To begin, install Yeoman and the generator-node-restify-mongodb using npm. The generator assumes you have pre-installed Node and MongoDB.

npm install -g yo
npm install -g generator-node-restify-mongodb

Then, generate the new project.

mkdir node-restify-mongodb
cd $_
yo node-restify-mongodb

Yeoman scaffolds the application, creating the directory structure, copying required files, and running ‘npm install’ to load the npm package dependencies.



Using the Generated Application

Next, import the supplied set of sample widget documents into the local development instance of MongoDB from the supplied ‘data/widgets.json’ file.

NODE_ENV=development grunt mongoimport --verbose

Similar to Yeoman’s Express Generator, this application contains configuration for three typical environments: ‘Development’ (default), ‘Test’, and ‘Production’. If you want to import the sample widget documents into your Test or Production instances of MongoDB, first change the ‘NODE_ENV’ environment variable value.

NODE_ENV=production grunt mongoimport --verbose

To start the application in a new terminal window, use the following command.

npm start

The output should be similar to the example, below.


To test the application, using jshint and the jasmine-node module, the sample documents must be imported into MongoDB and the application must be running (see above). To test the application, open a separate terminal window, and use the following command.

npm test

The project contains a set of jasmine-node tests, split between the ‘/widgets’ and the ‘/utils’ endpoints. If the application is running correctly, you should see the following output from the tests.


Similarly, the following command displays a code coverage report, using the grunt, mocha, istanbul, and grunt-mocha-istanbul node modules.

grunt coverage

Grunt uses the grunt-mocha-istanbul module to execute the same set of jasmine-node tests as shown above. Based on those tests, the application’s code coverage (statement, line, function, and branch coverage) is displayed.


You may test the running application, directly, by cURLing the ‘/widgets’ endpoints.

curl -X GET -H "Accept: application/json" "http://localhost:3000/widgets"

For more legible output, try prettyjson.

npm install -g prettyjson
curl -X GET -H "Accept: application/json" "http://localhost:3000/widgets" --silent | prettyjson
curl -X GET -H "Accept: application/json" "http://localhost:3000/widgets/SVHXPAWEOD" --silent | prettyjson

The JSON-formatted response body from the HTTP GET requests should look similar to the output, below.


A much better RESTful API testing solution is Postman. Postman provides the ability to individually configure each environment and abstract that environment-specific configuration, such as host and port, from the actual HTTP requests.


Continuous Integration

As part of being published to both the npmjs and Yeoman registries, the generator-node-restify-mongodb generator is continuously integrated on Travis CI. This should provide an addition level of confidence to the generator’s end-users. Currently, Travis CI tests the generator against Node.js v4, v5, and v6, as well as IO.js. Older versions of Node.js may have compatibility issues with the application.


Additionally, Travis CI feeds test results to Coveralls, which displays the generator’s code coverage. Note the code coverage, shown below, is reported for the yeoman generator, not the generator’s scaffolded application. The scaffolded application’s coverage is shown above.


Application Details

API Endpoints

The scaffolded application includes the following endpoints.

# widget resources
var PATH = '/widgets';
server.get({path: PATH, version: VERSION}, findDocuments);
server.get({path: PATH + '/:product_id', version: VERSION}, findOneDocument);{path: PATH, version: VERSION}, createDocument);
server.put({path: PATH, version: VERSION}, updateDocument);
server.del({path: PATH + '/:product_id', version: VERSION}, deleteDocument);

# utility resources
var PATH = '/utils';
server.get({path: PATH + '/ping', version: VERSION}, ping);
server.get({path: PATH + '/health', version: VERSION}, health);
server.get({path: PATH + '/info', version: VERSION}, information);
server.get({path: PATH + '/config', version: VERSION}, configuraton);
server.get({path: PATH + '/env', version: VERSION}, environment);

The Widget

The Widget is the basic document object used throughout the application. It is used, primarily, to demonstrate Mongoose’s Model and Schema. The Widget object contains the following fields, as shown in the sample widget, below.

  "product_id": "4OZNPBMIDR",
  "name": "Fapster",
  "color": "Orange",
  "size": "Medium",
  "price": "29.99",
  "inventory": 5


Use the mongo shell to access the application’s MongoDB instance and display the imported sample documents.

 > show dbs
 > use node-restify-mongodb-development
 > show tables
 > db.widgets.find()

The imported sample documents should be displayed, as shown below.


Environmental Variables

The scaffolded application relies on several environment variables to determine its environment-specific runtime configuration. If these environment variables are present, the application defaults to using the Development environment values, as shown below, in the application’s ‘config/config.js’ file.

var NODE_ENV   = process.env.NODE_ENV   || 'development';
var NODE_HOST  = process.env.NODE_HOST  || '';
var NODE_PORT  = process.env.NODE_PORT  || 3000;
var MONGO_HOST = process.env.MONGO_HOST || '';
var MONGO_PORT = process.env.MONGO_PORT || 27017;
var LOG_LEVEL  = process.env.LOG_LEVEL  || 'info';
var APP_NAME   = 'node-restify-mongodb-';

Future Project TODOs

Future project enhancements include the following:

  • Add filtering, sorting, field selection and paging
  • Add basic HATEOAS-based response features
  • Add authentication and authorization to production MongoDB instance
  • Convert from out-dated jasmine-node to Jasmine?

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Scaffolding Modern Web Applications

Scaffold Three Full-Stack Modern Web Application Examples using Yeoman with npm, Bower, and Gruntarticle background


The capabilities of modern web applications have quickly matched and surpassed those of most traditional desktop applications. However, with the increase in capabilities, comes an increase in architectural complexity of web applications. To help deal with the increase in complexity, developers have benefitted from a plethora of popular support libraries, frameworks, API’s, and similar tooling. Examples of these include AngularJSReact.js, Play!Node.js, Express, npmYeoman, Bower, Grunt, and Gulp.

With so many choices, selecting an optimal toolset to construct a modern web application can be overwhelming. In this post, we will examine three distinct modern web application architectures, predominantly JavaScript-based. The post will discuss how to select and install the required tools, and how to use those tools to scaffold the applications. By the end of the post, we will have three working web applications, ready for further development.


The post’s examples use Yeoman generators. What is a generator? According to Wikipedia, Yeoman’s generator concept was inspired by Ruby on Rails. Using a generator’s blueprint, Yeoman scaffolds an application’s project directory and file structure, and installs required vendor libraries and dependencies. Yeoman generators usually run interactively, guiding the developer through a series of configuration questions. The configuration choices determine the project’s physical structure and components installed by Yeoman.

Generators are inherently opinionated. They dictate a particular application architecture they feel represents current best practices. However, good generators also allow developers to select from a range of architectural choices to meet the requirements of a developer’s environment. For example, a generator might allow Grunt or Gulp for task automation, or allow either Less or Sass for styling the UI. Similar to npm, RubyGems, Bower, Docker Hub, and Puppet Forge, Yeoman provides a searchable public repository. This allows developers to choose from a variety of generators to meet their specific needs.

Preparing the Development Environment

The examples in this post were built on Mac OS X. However, all the tools discussed in the post are available on the three major platforms, Linux, Mac, and Windows. Installation and configuration will vary.

An IDE is not required to scaffold the post’s application examples. However, for further development of the applications, I strongly recommend JetBrain’s WebStorm. According to Slant, WebStorm is a popular, highly rated IDE for building modern web applications. WebStorm is available on all three major platforms. A paid license is required, but well worth the reasonable investment based on the IDE’s rich feature set. WebStorm is integrated with many popular JavaScript frameworks. Additionally, there are hundreds of plug-ins available to extend WebStorm’s functionality.

Each of the post’s examples varies, architecturally. However, each also shares several common components, which we will install. They include:

We will use npm (aka Node Package Manager), a leading server-side package manager, to manage the application’s server-side JavaScript dependencies.

We will use Node.js, a JavaScript runtime, to power the JavaScript-based web application examples.

Similar to npm, Bower, is a popular client-side package manager. We will use Bower to manage the application’s client-side JavaScript dependencies.

We will use Yeoman, a leading web application scaffolding tool, to quickly build the frameworks for the example applications based on best practices and tooling.

We will use Grunt, a leading JavaScript task runner, to automate common tasks such as minification, compilation, unit-testing, linting, and packaging of applications for deployment. At least two of the three examples also offer Gulp as an alternative.

We will use Express, a Node.js web application framework that provides a robust set of features for web applications development, to support our example applications.

We will use MongoDB, a leading open-source NoSQL document database, for all three examples. For two of the examples, you can easily substitute alternate databases, such as MySQL, when configuring the application with Yeoman. The choice of database is of secondary importance in this post.

First install Node.js, which comes packaged with npm. Then, use npm to install Bower, Yeoman, and Grunt. Make sure you run the command to fix the permissions for npm. If permissions are set correctly, you should not have to use sudo with your npm commands.

The global mode option (-g) installs packages globally. Packages are usually installed globally, only if they are used as a command line tool, such as with Bower, Yeoman, and Grunt.

The easiest way to install Node.js and npm on OS X, is with Homebrew:

# install homebrew and confirm
ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"
brew update
brew doctor
export PATH="/usr/local/bin:$PATH"
brew --version
# install node and npm with brew and confirm
brew install node
node --version; npm --version

Alternatively, install Node and npm by downloading the package installer for Mac OS X (x64) from If you are not a currently a Homebrew user, I suggest this route. At the time of this post, you have the choice of Node.js version v4.2.3 LTS or v5.1.1 Stable.

Fix the potential permission problem with npm, so sudo is not required:

sudo chown -R `whoami` $(npm config get prefix)
view raw fix_npm.bash hosted with ❤ by GitHub

Then, install Yeoman, Bower, and Grunt, globally:

npm install -g bower yo grunt-cli
bower --version; yo --version; grunt --version

Lastly, install MongoDB. Similar to Node, we can use Homebrew, or download and install MongoDB from the MongoDB website. Review this page for detailed installation and configuration instructions. To install MongoDB with Homebrew, we would issue the following commands:

brew update
brew install mongod
mongod --version
sudo mkdir -p /data/db
sudo chown -R `whoami` /data/db/

Example #1: Server-Centric Express Application

For our first example, we will scaffold a server-centric JavaScript web application using Pete Cooper’s Express Generator (v2.9.2). According to the project’s GitHub site, the Express Generator is ‘An Expressjs generator for Yeoman, based on the express command line tool.’ I suggest reading the project’s documentation before continuing; it describes the generator’s functionality in greater detail.

To install, download the Express Generator with npm, and install with Yeoman, as follows:

npm install -g generator-express
yo express

As part of the Express Generator’s configuration process, Yeoman will ask a series of configuration questions. The Express generator offers several choices for scaffolding the application. For this example, we will choose the following options: MVC, Marko, Sass, MongoDB, and Grunt.

Express-Generator with Yeoman'

Using Express-Generator with Yeoman

For those not as familiar with developing full-stack JavaScript applications, some of the generator’s choices may be unfamiliar, such as view engines, css preprocessors, and build tools. For this example, we will select Marko, a highly regarded JavaScript templating engine (aka view engine), for the first application. You can compare different engines on Slant. For CSS preprocessors, you can also refer to Slant for a comparison of leading candidates. We will choose Sass.

Lastly, for a build tool (aka task runner) we will choose Grunt. Grunt and Gulp are the two most popular choices. Either is a proven tool for automation tasks such as minification, compilation, unit-testing, linting, and packaging applications for deployment.

As shown below, Yeoman creates a series of files and directories and installs JavaScript libraries with npm and Bower. Choices are based on best practices, as prescribed by the generator.

Default Express-Generator File Structure

Default Express-Generator File Structure


Yeoman uses npm and bower to install the generator’s required packages. Based on our five configuration choices for the Express Generator, npm installed over 225 packages in the project’s local node_module directory. This includes primary and secondary npm package dependencies. For example, Marko, one of the choices, which npm installed, has 24 dependencies it requires. In turn, each of those packages may have more dependencies. You quickly see why npm, and other similar package managers, are invaluable to building and managing a modern web application. The npm dependencies are declared in the package.json file, in the project’s root directory.

Partial List of npm Packages Installed

Partial List of npm Packages Installed

We will still need to install a few more items. We chose Sass as an Express generator option. Sass requires Ruby, which comes preinstalled on Mac OS X. If you wish, you can upgrade your pre-installed version of Ruby with Homebrew, but it is not required. Sass is installed with RubyGems, a package manager for Ruby. To automate the Sass-related tasks with Grunt, we also need to install the Grunt plug-in for Sass, grunt-contrib-sass, using npm:

# optional install updated version of Ruby and confirm
brew install ruby
ruby --version
# install grunt-contrib-sass
npm install grunt-contrib-sass --save-dev
# install sass and confirm
gem install sass
gem list sass

The Express Generator’s test are written in Mocha. Mocha is an asynchronous JavaScript test framework running on Node.js. The website suggests installing Mocha globally with npm. Mocha can be run from the command line:

npm install -g mocha
mocha --version

Up and Running

Simply running the grunt command will start the default Generator-Express MVC application. While in development, I prefer to run Grunt with the debug option (grunt -d) and/or with the verbose option (grunt -v or grunt -dv). These options offer enhanced feedback, especially on which tasks are run by Grunt. Review the terminal output to make sure the application started properly.

Starting the Application with Grunt

Starting the Application with Grunt

To confirm the Express application started correctly, in a second terminal window, curl the application using curl -I localhost:3000. Easier yet, point your web browser to localhost:3000. You should see the following default web page.

Default Express-Generator Application

Default Express-Generator Application

Example #2: Full-Stack MEAN Application

In our second example, we will scaffold a true full-stack JavaScript web application using Tyler Henkel’s popular AngularJS Full-Stack Generator for Yeoman (v3.0.2). According to the project’s GitHub site, the generator is a ‘Yeoman generator for creating MEAN stack applications, using MongoDB, Express, AngularJS, and Node – lets you quickly set up a project following best practices.’ As with the earlier example, I suggest you read the project’s documentation before continuing.

To install theAngularJS Full-Stack Generator, download the with npm and install with Yeoman:

npm install -g generator-angular-fullstack
mkdir demo-web-app-2; cd $_
yo angular-fullstack meanapp

Similar to the Express example, Yeoman will ask a series of configuration questions. We will choose the following options: Jade, Less, ngRoute, Bootstrap, UI Bootstrap, and MongoDB with Mongoose. AngularJS, Express, and Grunt are installed by the generator, automatically. For the sake of brevity, we will not include other available options, including Babel for ES6, OAuth authentication, or

AngularJS Full-Stack Generator Config Options

AngularJS Full-Stack Generator Config Options


After generating the AngularJS Full-Stack project, I received errors regarding PhantomJS. According to several sources, this is not uncommon. The AngularJS Full-Stack project uses PhantomJS as the default browser for Karma, the popular test runner, designed by the AngularJS team. Although npm installed PhantomJS locally, as part of the project, Karma complained about missing the path to the PhantomJS binary. To eliminate the issue, I installed PhantomJS globally with npm. I then manually added the PhantomJS binary path to the $PATH environment variable:

npm install -g phantomjs
sudo vi ~/.bash_profile
# add PHANTOMJS_BIN environment variable (next two lines)
export PHANTOMJS_BIN=/usr/local/lib/node_modules/phantomjs/bin
# your file/line may vary
phantomjs --version

To test Karma, with PhantomJS, run the grunt test command. This should result in error-free output, similar to the following.

Running "karma:unit" (karma) task

Running “karma:unit” (karma) task

Client/Server Architecture

Similar to the previous example, Yeoman creates a series of files and directories, and installs JavaScript packages on the server and client sides with npm and Bower.

AngularJS Full-Stack Generator File Structure

AngularJS Full-Stack Generator File Structure

Both the Express and AngularJS examples share several common files and directories. However, one major difference between the two is the client/server oriented directory structure of the AngularJS generator. Unlike the Express example, the AngularJS example has both a client and a server directory. The server-side of the application (aka back-end) is driven primarily by Express and Node. Mongoose serves as an interface between our application’s domain model and MongoDB, on the server-side. Also, on the server-side, Jade is used for HTML templating. The client-side of the application (aka front-end) is driven primarily by AngularJS. Twitter’s Bootstrap and Bootstrap UI offer a responsive web interface for our example application.

Full-Stack Server/Client File Structure

Full-Stack Server/Client File Structure

Up and Running

Running the grunt serve command will eventually start the default AngularJS Full-Stack application, after running a series of pre-defined Grunt tasks.

AngularJS Full-Stack App Starting with Grunt

AngularJS Full-Stack App Starting with Grunt

Review the terminal output to make sure the application started properly. You may see some warnings, suggesting the installation of several dependencies globally. You may also see warnings about dependency versions being outdated. Outdated versions are one of the challenges with generators that are not constantly kept refreshed and tested with the latest package dependencies. Warnings shouldn’t prevent the application from starting, only Errors.

AngularJS Full-Stack App Started with Grunt

AngularJS Full-Stack App Started with Grunt

To confirm the application started, in a second terminal window, curl the application using curl -I localhost:9000. Easier yet, point your web browser at localhost:9000. The default web page for the AngularJS Full-Stack web application is much more elaborate than the previous Express example. This is thanks to the Bootstrap and AngularJS client-side components.

AngularJS Full-Stack App Running in Browser

AngularJS Full-Stack App Running in Browser

Additional Generator Features

The AngularJS Full-Stack generator is capable of generating more than just the default application project. The AngularJS Full-Stack generator contains a set of generators. Beyond generating the basic application framework, you may use the generator to create boilerplate code for AngularJS and Node.js components for endpoints, services, routes, models, controllers, directives, and filters. The generators also provide the ability to prepare your application for deployment to OpenStack and Heroku.

The best place to review available options for the generators is on the GitHub sites. You can display a high-level list of the generator’s features using the yo --help command. Below are the three generators used in this post.

Below, is an example of generating additional application components using the AngularJS Full-Stack generator. First scaffold a server-side Express RESTful API endpoint, called ‘user’. The single command generates a server-side directory structure and several boilerplate files, including an Express model, controller, and router, and Mocha tests.

List of Installed Yeoman Generators

List of Installed Yeoman Generators

Next, generate a client-side AngularJS service, which connects to the server-side, Express RESTful ‘user’ endpoint above. The command creates a boilerplate AngularJS service and Mocha test. Lastly, create an AngularJS route. This generator command creates a boilerplate AngularJS route and controller, Mocha test, Jade view template, and less file.

AngularJS Full-Stack Component Generators

AngularJS Full-Stack Component Generators

Example #3: Java Hipster Application

In the third and last example, we will scaffold another full-stack web application. However, this time, we will use a generator that relies on Java EE as the primary development platform on the server-side, as opposed to JavaScript. JavaScript will be relegated largely to the client-side.

Again, we will use a Yeoman generator, JHipster, built by Julien Dubois and team, to scaffold the application (v2.25.0). According to the project’s GitHub site, JHipster uses a robust server-side Java EE stack with Spring Boot and Maven. JHipster’s mobile-first front-end is enabled with AngularJS and Bootstrap. Being the most complex of the three examples, it’s important to review the project documentation.

JHipster offers three ways to install the application, which are 1) locally, 2) a Docker container, or 3) a Vagrant VM. We will install the application framework locally as not to introduce additional complexity. To install the generator, download the JHipster generator with npm, and install with Yeoman:

npm install -g generator-jhipster
mkdir demo-web-app-3; cd $_
yo jhipster

Again, Yeoman will ask a series of configuration questions on behalf of JHipster. For this example, we will choose the following options: token-based authentication, MongoDB, Maven, Grunt, LibSass (Sass), and Gatling for testing. AngularJS and Bootstrap are installed automatically. We have chosen not to include other configuration options in this example, such as Angular Translate, WebSockets, and clustered HTTP sessions.

Default JHipster Generator Options

Default JHipster Generator Options

Once Yeoman finishes scaffolding the application, you should see the following output.

JHipster Generator Install Complete

JHipster Generator Install Complete

Maven Project Structure

The file and directory structure of JHipster is very different from the previous two examples. The first two example’s project structure is typical of a JavaScript project. In contrast, the JHipster example’s structure is more typical of a Maven-based Java project. In the JHipster project, the client-side JavaScript files are in the /src/main/webapp/ directory. The presence of the webapp directory is based on part of the project’s reliance on the Spring MVC web framework. Additionally, npm has loaded required server-side JavaScript packages into the node_modules directory, in the project’s root directory.

Default JHipster File Structure

Default JHipster File Structure

Up and Running

Running the mvn command will start the default JHipster application. The URL for the JHipster application is included in the terminal output.

JHipster Application Running with Maven

JHipster Application Running with Maven

To confirm the application has started, curl the application in a second terminal window, using curl -I localhost:8080. Easier yet, point your web browser to localhost:8080. Again, thanks to Bootstrap and AngularJS, the application presents a rich client UI.

Default JHipster Application Running

Default JHipster Application Running


The post’s examples represent a narrow sampling of available modern web application stacks, which can be easily scaffolded with generators. The JavaScript space continues to evolve rapidly. Even within the realm of JavaScript-based solutions, we didn’t examine several other popular frameworks, such as Meteor, FaceBook’s ReactJS, Ember, Backbone, and Polymer. They are all worth exploring, along with the hundreds of popular supporting frameworks, libraries, and API’s.

Useful Links

  • Post: JavaScript Frameworks: The Best 10 for Modern Web Apps (link)
  • Post: Best Web Frameworks (link)
  • Post: State Of Web Development 2014 (link)
  • YouTube: Modern Front-end Engineering (link)
  • YouTube: WebStorm – Things You Probably Didn’t Know (link)
  • Website: MEAN Stack (link)
  • Website: Full Stack Python (link)
  • Post: Best Full Stack Web Framework (link)

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Preventing Race Conditions Between Containers in ‘Dockerized’ MEAN Applications

Eliminate potential race conditions between the MongoDB data Docker container and the Node.js web-application container in a ‘Dockerized’ MEAN application.

MEAN.JS Dockerized


The MEAN stack is a has gained enormous popularity as a reliable and scalable full-stack JavaScript solution. MEAN web application’s have four main components, MongoDB, Express, AngularJS, and Node.js. MEAN web-applications often includes other components, such as Mongoose, Passport, Twitter Bootstrap, Yoeman, Grunt or Gulp, and Bower. The two most popular ready-made MEAN application templates are from Linnovate, and MEAN.JS. Both of these offer a ready-made application framework for building MEAN applications.

Docker has also gained enormous popularity. According to Docker, Docker is an open platform, which enables developers and sysadmins apps to be quickly assembled from components. ‘Dockerized’ apps are completely portable and can run anywhere.

Docker is an ideal solution for MEAN applications. Being a full-stack JavaScript solution, MEAN applications are based on a multi-tier architecture. The MEAN application’s data tier contains the MongoDB noSQL database. The application tier (logic tier) contains Node.js and Express. The application tier can also contain other components, such as Mongoose, a Node.js Object Document Mapper (ODM) for MongoDB, and Passport, an authentication middleware for Node.js. Lastly, the presentation tier (front end) has client-side tools, such as AngularJS and Twitter Bootstrap.

Using Docker, we can ‘Dockerize’ or containerize each tier of a MEAN application, mirroring the physical architecture we would deploy a MEAN application to, in a Production environment. Just as we would always run a separate database server or servers for MongoDB, we can isolate MongoDB into a Docker container. Likewise, we can isolate the Node.js web server, along with the rest of the components (Mongoose, Express, Passport) on the application and presentation tiers, into a Docker container. We can easily add more containers, for more functionality, such as load-balancing and reverse-proxies (nginx), and caching (Redis and Memcached).

The MEAN.JS project has been very progressive in implementing Docker, to offer a more realistic environment for development and testing. An additional tool that the MEAN.JS project has implemented, to automate the creation of multiple Docker containers, is Fig. The tool, Fig, provides quick, automated creation of multiple, linked Docker containers.

Using Docker and Fig, a Developer can pull down ready-made base containers from Docker Hub, configure the containers as part of a multi-tier application environment, deploy our MEAN application components to the containers, and start the applications, all with a short list of commands.

MEAN.JS Dockerized
Note, I said development and test, not production. To extend Docker and Fig to production, you can use tools such as Flocker. Flocker, by ClusterHQ, can scale the single-host Fig environment to multiple containers on multiple machines (hosts).

MEAN Dockerized

Race Conditions

Docker containers have a very fast start-up time, compared to other technologies, such as VMs (virtual machines). However, based on their contents, containers take varying amounts of time to fully start-up. In most multi-tier applications, there is a required start-up sequence for components (tiers, servers, applications). For example, in a database-driven application, like a MEAN application, you should make sure the MongoDB database server is up and running, before starting the application. Although this is obvious, it becomes harder to guarantee the order in which components will start-up, when you leverage an asynchronous, automated, continuous delivery solution like Docker with Fig.

When component dependencies are not met because another container is not fully started, we can refer to this as race condition. I have found with most multi-container MEAN application, the slower starting MongoDB data container prevents the quicker-starting Node.js web-application container from properly starting the MEAN application. In other words, the application crashes.

Fixing Race Conditions with MEAN.JS Applications

In order to eliminate race conditions, we need to script our start-up sequence to guarantee the order in which components will start, ensuring the overall application starts correctly. Specifically in this post, we will eliminate the potential race condition between the MongoDB data container (db_1) and the Node.js web-application container (web_1). At the same time, we will fix a small error with the existing MEAN.JS project, that prevents proper start-up of the ‘dockerized’ container MEAN.JS application.

Race Condition with Docker


Download and Build MEAN.JS App

Clone the meanjs/mean repository, and install npm and bower packages.

git clone
cd mean
npm install
bower install

Modify MEAN.JS App

  1. Add start-up script to root of mean project.
  2. Modify the Dockerfile, replace CMD["grunt"] with CMD /bin/sh /home/mean/
  3. Optional, add clean-up script to root of mean project.

Fix Existing Issue with MEAN.JS App When Using Docker and Fig

The existing MEAN.JS application references localhost in the development configuration (config/env/development.js). The development configuration is the one used by the MEAN.JS application, at start-up. The MongoDB data container (db_1) is not running on localhost, it is running on a IP address, assigned my Docker. To discover the IP address, we must reference an environment variable (DB_1_PORT_27017_TCP_ADDR), created by Docker, within the Node.js web-application container (web_1).

  1. Modify the config/env/development.js file, add var DB_HOST = process.env.DB_1_PORT_27017_TCP_ADDR || 'localhost';
  2. Modify the config/env/development.js file, change db: 'mongodb://localhost/mean-dev', to db: 'mongodb://' + DB_HOST + '/mean-dev',

Start the Application

Start the application using Fig commands or using the clean-up/start-up script (sh

  1. Run fig build && fig up
  2. Alternately, run sh

The Details…

The CMD command is the last step in the Dockerfile.The CMD command sets the script to execute in the Node.js web-application container (web_1) when the container starts. This script prevents the grunt command from running, until nc (or netcat) succeeds at connecting to the IP address and port of mongod, the primary daemon process for the MongoDB system, on the MongoDB data container (db_1). The script uses a 3-second polling interval, which can be modified if necessary.



# optional, view db_1 container-related env vars
#env | grep DB_1 | sort

echo "wait for mongo to start first..."

# wait until mongo is running in db_1 container
until nc -z $DB_1_PORT_27017_TCP_ADDR $DB_1_PORT_27017_TCP_PORT
 echo "waiting for $polling_interval seconds..."
 sleep $polling_interval

# start node app

The environment variables referenced in the script are created in the Node.js web-application container (web_1), automatically, by Docker. They are shown in the screen grab, below. You can discover these variables by uncommenting the env | grep DB_1 | sort line, above.

Docker Environment Variables Relating to DB_1

Docker Environment Variables Relating to DB_1

The Dockerfile modification is highlighted below.

#FROM dockerfile/nodejs

MAINTAINER Matthias Luebken,

WORKDIR /home/mean

# Install Mean.JS Prerequisites
RUN npm install -g grunt-cli
RUN npm install -g bower

# Install Mean.JS packages
ADD package.json /home/mean/package.json
RUN npm install

# Manually trigger bower. Why doesn't this work via npm install?
ADD .bowerrc /home/mean/.bowerrc
ADD bower.json /home/mean/bower.json
RUN bower install --config.interactive=false --allow-root

# Make everything available for start
ADD . /home/mean

# Currently only works for development
ENV NODE_ENV development

# Port 3000 for server
# Port 35729 for livereload
EXPOSE 3000 35729

CMD /bin/sh /home/mean/

The config/env/development.js modifications are highlighted below (abridged code).

'use strict';

// used when building application using fig and Docker
var DB_HOST = process.env.DB_1_PORT_27017_TCP_ADDR || 'localhost';

module.exports = {
	db: 'mongodb://' + DB_HOST + '/mean-dev',
	log: {
		// Can specify one of 'combined', 'common', 'dev', 'short', 'tiny'
		format: 'dev',
		// Stream defaults to process.stdout
		// Uncomment to enable logging to a log on the file system
		options: {
			//stream: 'access.log'

The file is optional and not part of the solution for the race condition. Instead of repeating multiple commands, I prefer running a single script, which can execute the commands, consistently. Note, commands in this script remove ALL ‘Exited’ containers and untagged (<none>) images.


# remove all exited containers
echo "Removing all 'Exited' containers..."
docker rm -f $(docker ps --filter 'status=Exited' -a) > /dev/null 2>&1

# remove all  images
echo "Removing all untagged images..."
docker rmi $(docker images | grep "^" | awk "{print $3}") > /dev/null 2>&1

# build and start containers with fig
fig build && fig up

MEAN Application Start-Up Screen Grabs

Below are screen grabs showing the MEAN.JS application starting up, both before and after the changes were implemented.

Start Script Cleaning Up Docker Images and Containers and Running Fig

Start Script Cleaning Up Docker Images and Containers and Running Fig

MongoDB Cannot Connect on localhost

MongoDB Cannot Connect on localhost

MEAN Application Waiting for MongoDB to Start, Currently at 70%...

MEAN Application Waiting for MongoDB to Start, Currently at 70%…

Connected to MongoDB on Correct IP Address and Grunt Running

Connected to MongoDB on Correct IP Address and Grunt Running

MEAN.JS Docker Containers Created

MEAN.JS Docker Containers Created

MEAN Application Successfully Running in Docker Containers

MEAN Application Successfully Running in Docker Containers

New Article Created with MEAN Application

New Article Created with MEAN Application

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1 Comment

Retrieving and Displaying Data with AngularJS and the MEAN Stack: Part II

Explore various methods of retrieving and displaying data using AngularJS and the MEAN Stack.

Mobile View on Android Smartphone

Mobile View on Android Smartphone


In this two-part post, we are exploring methods of retrieving and displaying data using AngularJS and the MEAN Stack. The post’s corresponding GitHub project, ‘meanstack-data-samples‘, is based on William Lepinski’s ‘generator-meanstack‘, which is in turn is based on Yeoman’s ‘generator-angular‘. As a bonus, since both projects are based on ‘generator-angular’, all the code generators work. Generators can save a lot of time and aggravation when building AngularJS components.

In part one of this post, we installed and configured the ‘meanstack-data-samples’ project from GitHub. In part two, we will we will look at five examples of retrieving and displaying data using AngularJS:

  • Function within AngularJS Controller returns array of strings.
  • AngularJS Service returns an array of simple object literals to the controller.
  • AngularJS Factory returns the contents of JSON file to the controller.
  • AngularJS Factory returns the contents of JSON file to the controller using a resource object
    (In GitHub project, but not discussed in this post).
  • AngularJS Factory returns a collection of documents from MongoDB Database to the controller.
  • AngularJS Factory returns results from Google’s RESTful Web Search API to the controller.

Project Structure

For brevity, I have tried to limit the number of files in the project. There are two main views, both driven by a single controller. The primary files, specific to data retrieval and display, are as follows:

  • Default site file (./)
    • index.html – loads all CSS and JavaScript files, and views
  • App and Routes (./app/scripts/)
    • app.js – instantiates app and defines routes (route/view/controller relationship)
  • Views (./app/views/)
    • data-bootstrap.html – uses Twitter Bootstrap
    • data-no-bootstrap.html – basically the same page, without Twitter Bootstrap
  • Controllers (./app/scripts/controllers/)
    • DataController.js (DataController) – single controller used by both views
  • Services and Factories (./app/scripts/services/)
    • meanService.js (meanService) – service returns array of object literals to DataController
    • jsonFactory.js (jsonFactory) – factory returns contents of JSON file
    • jsonFactoryResource.js (jsonFactoryResource) – factory returns contents of JSON file using resource object (new)
    • mongoFactory.js (mongoFactory) – factory returns MongoDB collection of documents
    • googleFactory.js (googleFactory) – factory call Google Web Search API
  • Models (./app/models/)
    • Components.js – mongoose constructor for the Component schema definition
  • Routes (./app/)
    • routes.js – mongoose RESTful routes
  • Data (./app/data/)
    • otherStuff.json – static JSON file loaded by jsonFactory
  • Environment Configuration (./config/environments/)
    • index.js – defines all environment configurations
    • test.js – Configuration specific to the current ‘test’ environment
  • Unit Tests (./test/spec/…)
    • Various files – all controller and services/factories unit test files are in here…
Project in JetBrains WebStorm 8.0

Project in JetBrains WebStorm 8.0

There are many more files, critical to the project’s functionality, include app.js, Gruntfile.js, bower.json, package.json, server.js, karma.conf.js, and so forth. You should understand each of these file’s purposes.

Function Returns Array

In the first example, we have the yeomanStuff() method, a member of the $scope object, within the DataController.  The yeomanStuff() method return an array object containing three strings. In JavaScript, a method is a function associated with an object.

$scope.yeomanStuff = function () {
  return [
'yeomanStuff' Method of the '$scope' Object

‘yeomanStuff’ Method of the ‘$scope’ Object

The yeomanStuff() method is called from within the view by Angular’s ng-repeat directive. The directive, ng-repeat, allows us to loop through the array of strings and add them to an unordered list. We will use ng-repeat for all the examples in this post.

<ul class="list-group">
  <li class="list-group-item"
	  ng-repeat="stuff in yeomanStuff()">


Although this first example is easy to implement, it is somewhat impractical. Generally, you would not embed static data into your code. This limits your ability to change the data, independent of a application’s code. In addition, the function is tightly coupled to the controller, limiting its reuse.

Service Returns Array

In the second example, we also use data embedded in our code. However, this time we have improved the architecture slightly by moving the data to an Angular Service. The meanService contains the getMeanStuff() function, which returns an array containing four object literals. Using a service, we can call the getMeanStuff() function from anywhere in our project.

  .service('meanService', function () {
    this.getMeanStuff = function () {
      return ([
          component: 'MongoDB',
          url: ''
          component: 'Express',
          url: ''
          component: 'AngularJS',
          url: ''
          component: 'Node.js',
          url: ''

Within the DataController, we assign the array object, returned from the meanService.getMeanStuff() function, to the meanStuff object property of the  $scope object.

$scope.meanStuff = {};
try {
  $scope.meanStuff = meanService.getMeanStuff();
} catch (error) {
'meanStuff' Property of the '$scope' Object

‘meanStuff’ Property of the ‘$scope’ Object

The meanStuff object property is accessed from within the view, using ng-repeat. Each object in the array contains two properties, component and url. We display the property values on the page using Angular’s double curly brace expression notation (i.e. ‘{{stuff.component}}‘).

<ul class="nav nav-pills nav-stacked">
  <li ng-repeat="stuff in meanStuff">


Promises, Promises…

The remaining methods implement an asynchronous (non-blocking) programming model, using the $http and $q services of Angular’s ng module. The services implements the asynchronous Promise and Deferred APIs. According to Chris Webb, in his excellent two-part post, Promise & Deferred objects in JavaScript: Theory and Semantics, a promise represents a value that is not yet known and a deferred represents work that is not yet finished. I strongly recommend reading Chris’ post, before continuing. I also highly recommend watching RED Ape EDU’s YouTube video, Deferred and Promise objects in Angular js. This video really clarified the promise and deferred concepts for me.

Factory Loads JSON File

In the third example, we will read data from a JSON file (‘./app/data/otherStuff.json‘) using an AngularJS Factory. The differences between a service and a factory can be confusing, and are beyond the scope of this post. Here is two great links on the differences, one on Angular’s site and one on StackOverflow.

  "components": [
      "component": "jQuery",
      "url": ""
      "component": "Jade",
      "url": ""
      "component": "JSHint",
      "url": ""
      "component": "Karma",
      "url": ""

The jsonFactory contains the getOtherStuff() function. This function uses $http.get() to read the JSON file and returns a promise of the response object. According to Angular’s site, “since the returned value of calling the $http function is a promise, you can also use the then method to register callbacks, and these callbacks will receive a single argument – an object representing the response. A response status code between 200 and 299 is considered a success status and will result in the success callback being called. ” As I mentioned, a complete explanation of the deferreds and promises, is too complex for this short post.

  .factory('jsonFactory', function ($q, $http) {
    return {
      getOtherStuff: function () {
        var deferred = $q.defer(),
          httpPromise = $http.get('data/otherStuff.json');

        httpPromise.then(function (response) {
        }, function (error) {

        return deferred.promise;

The response object contains the data property. Angular defines the response object’s data property as a string or object, containing the response body transformed with the transform functions. One of the properties of the data property is the components array containing the seven objects. Within the DataController, if the promise is resolved successfully, the callback function assigns the contents of the components array to the otherStuff property of the $scope object.

$scope.otherStuff = {};
  .then(function (response) {
    $scope.otherStuff =;
  }, function (error) {
'otherStuff' Property of the '$scope' Object

‘otherStuff’ Property of the ‘$scope’ Object

The otherStuff property is accessed from the view, using ng-repeat, which displays individual values, exactly like the previous methods.

<ul class="nav nav-pills nav-stacked">
  <li ng-repeat="stuff in otherStuff">
    <a href="{{stuff.url}}"


This method of reading a JSON file is often used for configuration files. Static configuration data is stored in a JSON file, external to the actual code. This way, the configuration can be modified without requiring the main code to be recompiled and deployed. It is a technique used by the components within this very project. Take for example the bower.json files and the package.json files. Both contain configuration data, stored as JSON, used by Bower and npm to perform package management.

Factory Retrieves Data from MongoDB

In the fourth example, we will read data from a MongoDB database. There are a few more moving parts in this example than in the previous examples. Below are the documents in the components collection of the meanstack-test MongoDB database, which we will retrieve and display with this method.  The meanstack-test database is defined in the test.js environments file (discussed in part one).

'meanstack-test' Database's 'components' Collection Documents

‘meanstack-test’ Database’s ‘components’ Collection Documents

To connect to the MongoDB, we will use Mongoose. According to their website, “Mongoose provides a straight-forward, schema-based solution to modeling your application data and includes built-in type casting, validation, query building, business logic hooks and more, out of the box.” But wait, MongoDB is schemaless? It is. However, Mongoose provides a schema-based API for us to work within. Again, according to Mongoose’s website, “Everything in Mongoose starts with a Schema. Each schema maps to a MongoDB collection and defines the shape of the documents within that collection.

In our example, we create the componentSchema schema, and pass it to the Component model (the ‘M’ in MVC). The componentSchema maps to the database’s components collection.

var mongoose = require('mongoose');
var Schema = mongoose.Schema;

var componentSchema = new Schema({
  component: String,
  url: String

module.exports = mongoose.model('Component', componentSchema);

The routes.js file associates routes (Request URIs) and HTTP methods to Mongoose actions. These actions are usually CRUD operations. In our simple example, we have a single route, ‘/api/components‘, associated with an HTTP GET method. When an HTTP GET request is made to the ‘/api/components‘ request URI, Mongoose calls the Model.find() function, ‘Component.find()‘, with a callback function parameter. The Component.find() function returns all documents in the components collection.

var Component = require('./models/component');

module.exports = function (app) {
  app.get('/api/components', function (req, res) {
    Component.find(function (err, components) {
      if (err)


You can test these routes, directly. Below, is the results of calling the ‘/api/components‘ route in Chrome.

Response from MongoDB Using Mongoose

Response from MongoDB Using Mongoose

The mongoFactory contains the getMongoStuff() function. This function uses $http.get() to call  the ‘/api/components‘ route. The route is resolved by the routes.js file, which in turn executes the Component.find() command. The promise of an array of objects is returned by the getMongoStuff() function. Each object represents a document in the components collection.

  .factory('mongoFactory', function ($q, $http) {
    return {
      getMongoStuff: function () {
        var deferred = $q.defer(),
          httpPromise = $http.get('/api/components');

        httpPromise.success(function (components) {
          .error(function (error) {
            console.error('Error: ' + error);

        return deferred.promise;

Within the DataController, if the promise is resolved successfully, the callback function assigns the array of objects, representing the documents in the collection, to the mongoStuff property of the $scope object.

$scope.mongoStuff = {};
  .then(function (components) {
    $scope.mongoStuff = components;
  }, function (error) {
'mongoStuff' Property of the '$scope' Object

‘mongoStuff’ Property of the ‘$scope’ Object

The mongoStuff property is accessed from the view, using ng-repeat, which displays individual values using Angular expressions, exactly like the previous methods.

<ul class="list-group">
  <li class="list-group-item" ng-repeat="stuff in mongoStuff">
    <div class="text-muted">{{stuff.description}}</div>


Factory Calls Google Search

Post Update: the Google Web Search API is no longer available as of September 29, 2014. The post’s example post will no longer return a resultset. Please migrate to the Google Custom Search API ( Please read ‘Calling Third-Party HTTP-based RESTful APIs from the MEAN Stack‘ post for more information on using Google’s Custom Search API.

In the last example, we will call the Google Web Search API from an AngularJS Factory. The Google Web Search API exposes a simple RESTful interface. According to Google, “in all cases, the method supported is GET and the response format is a JSON encoded result set with embedded status codes.” Google describes this method of using RESTful access to the API, as “for Flash developers, and those developers that have a need to access the Web Search API from other Non-JavaScript environment.” However, we will access it in our JavaScript-based MEAN stack application, due to the API’s ease of implementation.

Note according to Google’s site, “the Google Web Search API has been officially deprecated…it will continue to work…but the number of requests…will be limited. Therefore, we encourage you to move to Custom Search, which provides an alternative solution.Google Search, or more specifically, the Custom Search JSON/Atom API, is a newer API, but the Web Search API is easier to demonstrate in this brief post than Custom Search JSON/Atom API, which requires the use of an API key.

The googleFactory contains the getSearchResults() function. This function uses $http.jsonp() to call the Google Web Search API RESTful interface and return the promise of the JSONP-formatted (‘JSON with padding’) response. JSONP provides cross-domain access to a JSON payload, by wrapping the payload in a JavaScript function call (callback).

  .factory('googleFactory', function ($q, $http) {
    return {
      getSearchResults: function () {
        var deferred = $q.defer(),
          host = '',
          args = {
            'version': '1.0',
            'searchTerm': 'mean%20stack',
            'results': '8',
            'callback': 'JSON_CALLBACK'
          params = ('?v=' + args.version + '&q=' + args.searchTerm + '&rsz=' +
            args.results + '&callback=' + args.callback),
          httpPromise = $http.jsonp(host + params);

        httpPromise.then(function (response) {
        }, function (error) {

        return deferred.promise;

The getSearchResults() function uses the HTTP GET method to make an HTTP request the following RESTful URI:

Using Google Chrome’s Developer tools, we can preview the Google Web Search JSONP-format HTTP response (abridged). Note the callback function that wraps the JSON payload.

Google Web Search Results in Chrome Browser

Google Web Search Results in Chrome Browser

Within the DataController, if the promise is resolved successfully, our callback function returns the response object. The response object contains a lot of information. We are able to limit that amount of information sent to the view by only assigning the actual search results, an array of eight objects contained in the response object, to the googleStuff property of the $scope object.

$scope.googleStuff = {};
  .then(function (response) {
    $scope.googleStuff =;
  }, function (error) {

Below is the full response returned by the The googleFactory. Note the path to the data we are interested in: ‘‘.

Google Search Response Object

Google Search Response Object

Below is the filtered results assigned to the googleStuff property:

'googleStuff' Property of the '$scope' Object

‘googleStuff’ Property of the ‘$scope’ Object

The googleStuff property is accessed from the view, using ng-repeat, which displays individual values using Angular expressions, exactly like the previous methods.

<ul class="list-group">
  <li class="list-group-item"
      ng-repeat="stuff in googleStuff">
    <a href="{{unescapedUrl.url}}"

    <div class="text-muted">{{stuff.titleNoFormatting}}</div>



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Retrieving and Displaying Data with AngularJS and the MEAN Stack: Part I

Explore various methods of retrieving and displaying data using AngularJS and the MEAN Stack.

Mobile View of Application on Android Smartphone

Mobile View of Application on Android Smartphone


In the following two-part post, we will explore several methods of retrieving and displaying data using AngularJS and the MEAN Stack. The post’s corresponding GitHub project, ‘meanstack-data-samples‘, is based on William Lepinski’s ‘generator-meanstack‘, which is in turn is based on Yeoman’s ‘generator-angular‘. As a bonus, since both projects are based on ‘generator-angular’, all the code generators work. Generators can save a lot of time and aggravation when building AngularJS components.

In part one of this post, we will install and configure the ‘meanstack-data-samples’ project from GitHub, which corresponds to this post. In part two, we will we will look at several methods for retrieving and displaying data using AngularJS:

  • Function within AngularJS Controller returns array of strings.
  • AngularJS Service returns an array of simple object literals to the controller.
  • AngularJS Factory returns the contents of JSON file to the controller.
  • AngularJS Factory returns the contents of JSON file to the controller using a resource object
    (In GitHub project, but not discussed in this post).
  • AngularJS Factory returns a collection of documents from MongoDB Database to the controller.
  • AngularJS Factory returns results from Google’s RESTful Web Search API to the controller.


If you need help setting up your development machine to work with the MEAN stack, refer to my last post, Installing and Configuring the MEAN Stack, Yeoman, and Associated Tooling on Windows. You will need to install all the MEAN and Yeoman components.

For this post, I am using JetBrains’ new WebStorm 8RC to build and demonstrate the project. There are several good IDE’s for building modern web applications; WebStorm is one of the current favorites of developers.

Complexity of Modern Web Applications

Building modern web applications using the MEAN stack or comparable technologies is complex. The ‘meanstack-data-samples’ project, and the projects it is based on, ‘generator-meanstack’ and ‘generator-angular’, have dozens of moving parts. In this simple project, we have MongoDBExpressJSAngularJS, Node.js, yoGrunt, BowerGitjQueryTwitter BootstrapKarmaJSHint, jQueryMongoose, and hundreds of other components, all working together. There are almost fifty Node packages and hundreds of their dependencies loaded by npm, in addition to another dozen loaded by Bower.

Installing, configuring, and managing all the parts of a modern web application requires a basic working knowledge of these technologies. Understanding how Bower and npm install and manage packages, how Grunt builds, tests, and serves the application with ExpressJS, how Yo scaffolds applications, how Karma and Jasmine run unit tests, or how Mongoose and MongoDB work together, are all essential. This brief post will primarily focus on retrieving and displaying data, not necessarily how the components all work, or work together.

Installing and Configuring the Project

Environment Variables

To start, we need to create (3) environment variables. The NODE_ENV environment variable is used to determine the environment our application is operating within. The NODE_ENV variable determines which configuration file in the project is read by the application when it starts. The configuration files contain variables, specific to that environment. There are (4) configuration files included in the project. They are ‘development’, ‘test’, ‘production’, and ‘travis’ ( The NODE_ENV variable is referenced extensively throughout the project. If the NODE_ENV variable is not set, the application will default to ‘development‘.

For this post, set the NODE_ENV variable to ‘test‘. The value, ‘test‘, corresponds to the ‘test‘ configuration file (‘meanstack-data-samples\config\environments\test.js‘), shown below.

// set up =====================================
var express          = require('express');
var bodyParser       = require('body-parser');
var errorHandler     = require('errorhandler');
var favicon          = require('serve-favicon');
var logger           = require('morgan');
var cookieParser     = require('cookie-parser');
var methodOverride   = require('method-override');
var session          = require('express-session');
var path             = require('path');
var env              = process.env.NODE_ENV || 'development';

module.exports = function (app) {
    if ('test' == env) {
        console.log('environment = test');
        app.use(function staticsPlaceholder(req, res, next) {
            return next();
        app.set('db', 'mongodb://localhost/meanstack-test');
        app.set('port', process.env.PORT || 3000);
        app.set('views', path.join(, '/app'));
        app.engine('html', require('ejs').renderFile);
        app.set('view engine', 'html');
        app.use(cookieParser('your secret here'));

        app.use(function middlewarePlaceholder(req, res, next) {
            return next();


The second environment variable is PORT. The application starts on the port indicated by the PORT variable, for example, ‘localhost:3000’. If the the PORT variable is not set, the application will default to port ‘3000‘, as specified in the each of the environment configuration files and the ‘Gruntfile.js’ Grunt configuration file.

Lastly, the CHROME_BIN environment variable is used Karma, the test runner for JavaScript, to determine the correct path to browser’s binary file. Details of this variable are discussed in detail on Karma’s site. In my case, the value for the CHROME_BIN is ‘C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe'. This variable is only necessary if you will be configuring Karma to use Chrome to run the tests. The browser can be changes to any browser, including PhantomJS. See the discussion at the end of this post regarding browser choice for Karma.

You can easily set all the environment variables on Windows from a command prompt, with the following commands. Remember to exit and re-open your interactive shell or command prompt window after adding the variables so they can be used.

REM cofirm the path to Chrome, change value if necessary
setx /m NODE_ENV "test"
setx /m PORT "3000"
setx /m CHROME_BIN "C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe"

Install and Configure the Project

To install and configure the project, we start by cloning the ‘meanstack-data-samples‘ project from GitHub. We then use npm and bower to install the project’s dependencies. Once installed, we create and populate the Mongo database. We then use Grunt and Karma to unit test the project. Finally, we will use Grunt to start the Express Server and run the application. This is all accomplished with only a few individual commands. Please note, the ‘npm install’ command could take several minutes to complete, depending on your network speed; the project has many direct and indirect Node.js dependencies.

# install meanstack-data-samples project
git clone
cd meanstack-data-samples
npm install
bower install
mongoimport --db meanstack-$NODE_ENV --collection components components.json --drop # Unix
# mongoimport --db meanstack-%NODE_ENV% --collection components components.json --drop # Windows
grunt test
grunt server

If everything was installed correctly, running the ‘grunt test’ command should result in output similar to below:

Results of Running 'grunt test' with Chrome

Results of Running ‘grunt test’ with Chrome

If everything was installed correctly, running the ‘grunt server’ command should result in output similar to below:

Results of Running 'grunt server' to Start Application

Results of Running ‘grunt server’ to Start Application

Running the ‘grunt server’ command should start the application and open your browser to the default view, as shown below:

Displaying the Application's Google Search Results on Desktop Browser

Displaying the Application’s Google Search Results on Desktop Browser

Karma’s Browser Choice for Unit Tests

The GitHub project is currently configured to use Chrome for running Karma’s unit tests in the ‘development’ and ‘test’ environments. For the ‘travis’ environment, it uses PhantomJS. If you do not have Chrome installed on your machine, the ‘grunt test’ task will fail during the ‘karma:unit’ task portion. To change Karma’s browser preference, simply change the ‘testBrowser’ variable in the ‘./karma.conf.js’ file, as shown below.

// Karma configuration
module.exports = function (config) {
// Determines Karma's browser choice based on environment
var testBrowser = 'Chrome'; // Default browser
if (process.env.NODE_ENV === 'travis') {
testBrowser = 'PhantomJS'; // Must use for headless CI (Travis-CI)
console.log("Karma browser: " + testBrowser);
// Start these browsers, currently available:
// Chrome, ChromeCanary, Firefox, Opera,
// Safari (only Mac), PhantomJS, IE (only Windows)
browsers: [testBrowser],

I recommend installing and using  PhantomJS headless WebKit, locally. Since PhantomJS is headless, Karma runs the unit tests without having to open and close browser windows. To run this project on continuous integration servers, like Jenkins or Travis-CI, you must PhantomJS. If you decide to use PhantomJS on Windows, don’t forget add the PhantomJS executable directory path to your ‘PATH’ environment variable to, after downloading and installing the application.


Code Generator

As I mentioned at the start of this post, this project was based on William Lepinski’s ‘generator-meanstack‘, which is in turn is based on Yeoman’s ‘generator-angular‘. Optionally, to install the ‘generator-meanstack’ npm package, globally, on our system use the following command The  ‘generator-meanstack’ code generator will allow us to generate additional AngularJS components automatically, within the project, if we choose. The ‘generator-meanstack’ is not required for this post.

npm install -g generator-meanstack


Part II

In part two of this post, we will explore each methods of retrieving and displaying data using AngularJS, in detail.


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Installing and Configuring the MEAN Stack, Yeoman, and Associated Tooling on Windows

Configure your Windows environment for developing modern web applications using the popular MEAN Stack and Yeoman suite of utilities.

MEAN Stack Using the Project, Running on Windows

MEAN Stack Using the Project Running on Windows


It’s an exciting time to be involved in web development. There are dozens of popular open-source JavaScript frameworks, libraries, code-generators, and associated tools, exploding on to the development scene. It is now possible to use a variety of popular technology mashups to provide a complete, full-stack JavaScript application platform.

MEAN Stack

One of the JavaScript mashups gaining a lot of traction recently is the MEAN Stack. If you’re reading this post, you probably already know MEAN is an acronym for four leading technologies: MongoDB, ExpressJS, AngularJS, and Node.js. The MEAN stack provides an end-to-end JavaScript application solution. MEAN provides a NoSQL document database (Mongo), a server-side solution for JavaScript (Node/Express), and a magic client-side MV* framework (Angular).

Depending in which MEAN stack generator or pre-build project you start with, in addition to the main four technologies, you will pull down several other smaller libraries and frameworks.  These most commonly include jQuery, Twitter Bootstrap, Karma (test runner), Jade (template engine), JSHint, Underscore.js (utility-belt library), Mongoose (MongoDB object modeling tool), Passport (authentication), RequireJS (file and module loader), BreezeJS (data entity management), and so forth.

Common Tooling

If you are involved in these modern web development trends, then you are aware there is also a fairly common set of tools used by a majority of these developers, including source control, IDE, OS, and other helper-utilities. For SCM/VCS, Git is the clear winner. For an IDE, WebStormSublime Text, and Kompozer, are heavy favorites. The platform of choice for most developers most often appears to be either Mac or Linux. It’s far less common to see a demonstration of these technologies, or tutorials built on the Microsoft Windows platform.


Another area of commonality is help-utilities, used to make the development, building, dependency management, and deployment of modern JavaScript applications, easier. Two popular ones are Brunch and YeomanYeoman is also an acronym for a set of popular tools: yo, Grunt, and Bower. The first, yo, is best described as a scaffolding tool. Grunt is the build tool. Bower is a tool for client-side package and dependency management. We will install Yeoman, along with the MEAN Stack,  in this post.


There is no reason Windows cannot serve as your development and hosting platform for modern web development, without specifically using Microsoft’s .NET stack. In fact, with minimal set-up, you would barely know you were using Windows as opposed to Linux or Mac. In this post, I will demonstrate how to configure your Windows machine for developing these modern web applications using the MEAN Stack and Yeoman.

Here is a list of the components we will discuss:



The use of Git for source control is obvious. Git is the overwhelming choice of modern developers. Git has been integrated into most major IDEs and hosting platforms. There are hooks into Git available for most leading development tools. However, there are more benefits to using Git than just SCM. Being a Linux/Mac user, I prefer to use a Unix-like shell on Windows, versus the native Windows Command Prompt. For this reason, I use Git for Windows, available from msysGit. This package includes Git SCM, Git Bash, and Git GUI. I use the Git Bash interactive shell almost exclusively for my daily interactions requiring a command prompt. I will be using the Git Bash interactive shell for this post. OpenHatch has great post and training materials available on using Git Bash with Windows.

Using Git Bash on Windows for a Unix-like Experience

Using Git Bash on Windows for a Unix-like Experience

Git for Windows provides a downloadable Windows executable file for installation. Follow the installation file’s instructions.

Git Installation Process

To test your installation of Git for Windows, call the Git binary with the ‘–version’ flag. This flag can be used to test all the components we are installing in this post. If the command returns a value, then it’s a good indication that the component is installed properly and can be called from the command prompt:

gstafford: ~/Documents/git_repos $ git --version
git version 1.9.0.msysgit.0

You can also verify Git using the ‘where’ and ‘which’ commands. The ‘where’ command will display the location of files that match the search pattern and are in the paths specified by the PATH environment variable. The ‘which’ command tells you which file gets executed when you run a command. These commands will work for most components we will install:

gstafford: ~/Documents/git_repos $ where git
C:\Program Files (x86)\Git\bin\git.exe
C:\Program Files (x86)\Git\cmd\git.cmd
C:\Program Files (x86)\Git\cmd\git.exe

gstafford: ~/Documents/git_repos $ which git


The reasons for Git are obvious, but why Ruby? Yeoman, specifically yo, requires Ruby. Installing Ruby on Windows is easy. Ruby recommends using RubyInstaller for Windows. RubyInstaller downloads an executable file, making install easy. I am using Ruby 1.9.3. I had previously installed the latest 2.0.0, but had to roll-back after some 64-bit compatibility issues with other applications.

Ruby Installation Process

To test the Ruby installation, use the ‘–version’ flag again:

gstafford: ~/Documents/git_repos $ ruby --version
ruby 1.9.3p484 (2013-11-22) [i386-mingw32]


Optionally, you might also to install RubyGems. RubyGems allow you to add functionality to the Ruby platform, in the form of ‘Gems’. A common Gem used with the MEAN stack is Compass, the Sass-based stylesheet framework creation and maintenance of CSS. According to their website, Ruby 1.9 and newer ships with RubyGems built-in but you may need to upgrade for bug fixes or new features.

On Windows, installation of RubyGems is as simple as downloading the .zip file from the RubyGems download site. To install, RubyGems, unzip the downloaded file. From the root of the unzipped directory, run the following Ruby command:

ruby setup.rb

To confirm your installation:

gstafford: ~/Documents/git_repos $ gem --version

If you already have RubyGems installed, it’s recommended you update RubyGems before continuing. Use the first command, with the ‘–system’ flag, will update to the latest RubyGems. Use the second command, without the tag, if you want to update each of your individually installed Ruby Gems:

gem update --system
gem update


MongoDB provides a great set of installation and configuration instructions for Windows users. To install MongoDB, download the MongoDB package. Create a ‘mongodb’ folder. Mongo recommends at the root of your system drive. Unzip the MongoDB package to ‘c:\mongodb’ folder. That’s really it, there is no installer file.

Next, make a default Data Directory location, use the following two commands:

mkdir c://data && mkdir c://data/db

Unlike most other components, to call Mongo from the command prompt, I had to manually add the path to the Mongo binaries to my PATH environment variable. You can get access to your Windows environment variables using the Windows and Pause keys. Add the path ‘c:\mongodb\bin’ to end of the PATH environment variable value.

Adding Mongo to the PATH Environment Variable

Adding Mongo to the PATH Environment Variable

To test the MongoDB installation, and that the PATH variable is set correctly, close any current interactive shells or command prompt windows. Open a new shell and use the same ‘–version’ flag for Mongo’s three core components:

gstafford: ~/Documents/git_repos
$ mongo --version; mongod --version; mongos --version
MongoDB shell version: 2.4.9

db version v2.4.9
Sun Mar 09 16:26:48.730 git version: 52fe0d21959e32a5bdbecdc62057db386e4e029c

MongoS version 2.4.9 starting: pid=15436 port=27017 64-bit 
host=localhost (--help for usage)
git version: 52fe0d21959e32a5bdbecdc62057db386e4e029c
build sys info: windows sys.getwindowsversion(major=6, minor=1, build=7601, 
platform=2, service_pack='Service Pack 1') 

To start MongoDB, use the ‘mongod’ or ‘start mongod’ commands. Adding ‘start’ opens a new command prompt window, versus tying up your current shell. If you are not using the default MongoDB Data Directory (‘c://data/db’) you created in the previous step, use the ‘–dbpath’ flag, for example ‘start mongod –dbpath ‘c://alternate/path’.

MongoDB Running on Windows

MongoDB Running on Windows


MongoDB Default Data Directory Containing New Databases

MongoDB Default Data Directory Containing New MEAN Database


To install Node.js, download and run the Node’s .msi installer for Windows. Along with Node.js, you will get npm (Node Package Manager). You will use npm to install all your server-side components, such as Express, yo, Grunt, and Bower.

Node Installation Process

gstafford: ~/Documents/git_repos 
$ node --version && npm --version


To install Express, the web application framework for node, use npm:

npm install -g express

The ‘-g’ flag (or, ‘–global’ flag) should be used. According to Stack Overflow, ‘if you’re installing something that you want to use in your shell, on the command line or something, install it globally, so that its binaries end up in your PATH environment variable:

gstafford: ~/Documents/git_repos $ express --version

Yeoman – yo, Grunt, and Bower

You will also use npm to install yoGrunt, and Bower. Actually, we will use npm to install the Grunt Command Line Interface (CLI). The Grunt task runner will be installed in your MEAN stack project, locally, later. Read these instructions on the Grunt website for a better explanation. Use the same basic command as with Express:

npm install -g yo grunt-cli bower

To test the installs, run the same command as before:

gstafford: ~/Documents/git_repos 
$ yo --version; grunt --version; bower --version
grunt-cli v0.1.13

If you already had Yeoman installed, confirm you have the latest versions with the ‘npm update’ command:

gstafford: ~/Documents/git_repos/gen-angular-sample 
$ npm update -g yo grunt-cli bower
npm http GET
npm http GET
npm http GET
npm http 304
npm http 304
npm http 200

All of the npm installs, including Express, are installed and called from a common location on Windows:

gstafford: ~/Documents/git_repos/gen-angular-sample 
$ where express yo grunt bower

gstafford: ~/Documents/git_repos 
$ which express; which yo; which grunt; which bower

Use the command, ‘npm list –global | less’ (or, ‘npm ls -g | less’) to view all npm packages installed globally, in a tree-view. After you have generated your project (see below), check the project-specific server-side packages with the ‘npm ls’ command from within the project’s root directory. For the client-side packages, use the ‘bower ls’ command from within the project’s root directory.

If your in a hurry, or have more Windows boxes to configure you can use one npm command for all four components, above:

npm install -g express yo grunt-cli bower

MEAN Boilerplate Generators and Projects

That’s it, you’ve installed most of the core components you need to get started with the MEAN stack on Windows. Next, you will want to download one of the many MEAN boilerplate projects, or use a MEAN code generator with npm and yo. I recommend trying one or all of the following projects. They are each slightly different architecturally, but fairly stable:

Yeoman Running MEAN Generator

Yeoman Running MEAN Generator


MEAN Stack Using James Cryer's 'generator-mean'

MEAN Stack Using James Cryer’s ‘generator-mean’


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