Monday, June 24, 2013

Intro To baseapp: Making JavaScript Best Practices Easy

baseapp provides all the boilerplate to get your JavaScript web application started off right, this Part 1.

  1. Intro to baseapp
  2. Client-Side Unit Tests
  3. Server-Side Unit Tests
  4. WebDriver Integration Tests
  5. Other Grunt Goodies
  6. Authentication
  7. Continuous Integration
  8. Administration
(or binge read them all on the baseapp wiki!)
Getting started is always the hardest part.  Whether a web app, testing, or a blog post staring at a blank sheet of metaphorical paper is tough.  You have a great idea of what it should do, what you want, but how to start?  You just want to write code that brings your idea to life, but how to get to that part?  You need a web server, you need a database, you need authentication, you want it to look nice, you want to use best practices, you want to use the latest technology, and you want it to be fun.  That is why you are doing all of this at some level, it has got to be fun!  That means no tedium, no slogging through boilerplate, how can you skip all of that and just jump straight to the fun part?  Writing code that will change the world, or at least a corner of it, how can you get to that part as quickly as possible?  There is so much cruft to fight through to get there, wouldn't it be nice if all of that stuff could just 'blow away...'?

My friends I have been there, I have had lots of great ideas, start hacking, and then got quickly crushed under the weight of boilerplate and 'best practices'.  I want to 'test first'.  I want to have a solid foundation for my web app.  I want to do things the 'right way'.  But there always seems to be a horrible choice at the beginning of a new project:  either start trying to do things the 'right way' by setting up testing, automation, and foundation before any of the 'exciting' and 'interesting' work (because you cannot bake that stuff into your code later), OR dive right in and start coding the 'good' stuff and be left with a mess soon thereafter.  What a crappy set of choices!  I think we all agree we'd LIKE to start our new project off 'right' with all the test and automation infrastructure built in from the beginning, but doing that saps all of the joy out of coding, out of turning our great idea into an awesome product that the world loves.  And what's the fun in that?

So I give to you, stymied developer, the boilerplate.  I tend to use the same technology in most of my web apps: Express and Redis on the server-side, Bootstrap and LinkedIn-DustJS on the client side.  I use Jasmine and WebDriver for testing and Istanbul for code coverage.  Grunt and Travis-CI for automation and continuous integration.  I run everything through JSHint. I like Plato's static code analysis.  And most of my apps need user registration and login/logout.  And I am sick of having to rewrite all of those pieces from scratch for each web app I dream up!  So, as of today, no more.  I have created 'baseapp', a bare application with all of that all thrown in and ready to go.  The idea is you (and me!) fork this repo for every new web app you write so you can jump straight into the good parts and all the boilerplate test/automation/code coverage crap is already taken care of for us.  I'm not just talking the packages are downloaded for you.  I'm talking test code has already been written for all the base stuff.  Most people, me included, just really want to see how something is done and then we can go off and do it ourselves, 'see one, do one, teach one' kinda thing.  So I have pre-populated baseapp with client-side unit tests, server-side unit tests, and webdriver integration tests.  No need to try to re-figure out how to piece all of these things together yourself.  Just look at what I did and make more of them just like that.

Here are the technologies baseapp leverages to the hilt:

* github
* grunt
* jshint
* dustjs-linkedin
* express
* jasmine
* jasmine-node
* webdriver
* redis
* authentication
* istanbul
* plato
* karma
* phantomjs
* bootstrap
* travis-ci

This is all setup and baked into the baseapp, the packages aren't just installed, they are all actually used and setup and ready to go.  If this stack is up your alley starting your web app with 'best practices' and 'test first' cannot be easier as all of the setup/boilerplate is already done.

Here is how to start your next web app:

1. Fork the baseapp repo
    - so you have your own copy of it - you will be hacking away adding your special sauce!
2. Clone into your local dev environment
3. Update 'package.json' with the name of your web app
    - This is your biggest decision - what to name your app!
4. % npm install
    - This will suck down all packages necessary for your awesome new dev environment
5. Install & start redis from
    - But you've already got it installed & running right?
6. To run WebDriver/Selenium tests you need to start the Selenium jar
    - % java -jar ./node_modules/webdriverjs/bin/selenium-server-standalone-2.31.0.jar
7. % grunt test

You will see tests pass hopefully!  If not you will get an informative error message to as why.

To see the app running yourself simply:

% npm start

And then in your browser go to:

And you will see your beautiful application so far - buttons to login and register - that actually work - and that's it.

This article is the beginning in a series explaining exactly what it going on in 'baseapp' - I will explain everything that has already been set up for you and how to leverage it as your develop the world's next great webapp - stay tuned and have fun!


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