Friday, 28 February 2014

A really SIMPLE and clean AngularJS+Firebase example

As seen on the First PoC of sending TeamMentor's server-side request URLS to Firebase (and seeing it in realtime in an AngularJS page) I created a Simple AngularJS website which I'm very happy with (and I mean Simple with a capital S).

The main reason I really like the solution shown below, is because it represents a number of really nice, clean and Simple solutions for common (complex) problems that exist while developing in Javascript.

The created application is an:
  • AngularJS real-time viewer for HTTP requests, 
  • ... made to an ASP.NET web application (TeamMentor),  
  • ... captured by an custom C# HttpHandler filter
  • ... submitted to Firebase using its REST API and 
  • ... pushed back to the AngularJS app using open HTML 5 WebSockets.

The image below shows what the AngularJS+Firebase application looks like, with the urls shown in the background browser being the ones requested when the TeamMentor website is loaded or navigated (note that the latency between 'request made' and 'request listed' is really small (about ~ 50 milliseconds)):



What I also like about the AngularJS structure that I ended up with, is that it represents a great way to learn AngularJS' architecture and capabilities (and yes I know and agree that for bigger AngularJS apps it is better to organise by feature and group the multiple files under a dedicated folder (for example the login controller, service, factory, view and tests should all go under the same logical folder))

This post contains a tour of the multiple files created (gist here) which where developed/refactored while in Eclipse using the Eclipse Groovy REPL script to sync a Browser with file changes (with recursive folder search via Java's WatchService) 

Folder/File Structure:

Inside an Eclipse Web Static project, I created a file structure with:
  • index.html as the main AngularJS file (i.e. this is the single-page application file)
  • all javascript files were placed in the js folder (with the file names providing a clue on what they are doing/providing)
  • 1 directive created in the directives folder
  • 3 views placed on the views folder



1) Index.html

This is the file loaded directly by the browser, which is made of:
  • External/Framework javascript includes: angular.js, angular-route.js, firebase.js, angularfire.js, bootsrap.min.css
  • AngularJS javascript includes (for the current application): app.js, factories.js, controllers.js, directives.js, routes.js
  • CSS link to bootstrap.min.css
  • Html body (containing the AngularJS ng-app directive) and:
    • div tag with container css class
    • h3 tag with alert-success css class (which creates that nice green top banner)
    • the custom top-menu directive (using attribute instead of element)
    • the AngularJS ng-view directive   


Since I'm using the AngularJS Eclipse plugin, hovering the mouse op top of an AngularJS directive provides a nice description of they do.

Here is the ng-app directive


... and here is the ng-view directive:



2) app.js

This is where the project module is created (with two dependencies ngRoute and firebase).

Since I moved the controllers, factories, directives and routes into their own separate js file, there wasn't much to do here, apart from creating global values for the firebase URL and auth token (which will be dependency injected into the controllers and factories)


3) controllers.js

This file contains 3 controllers: DebugCtrl, MessagesCtrl and RequestsUrlCtrl (each will be used on a specific view)

Note that each controller has services injected into them (the AngularJS $scope and the custom fbDebugMsg, fbRequestUrl, fbaDebugUrl)

The DebugCtrl is currently just adding the injected fbDebugMsg and fbRequestUrl services into the $scope so that we can see them in the view (this is a nice trick to get an inside view of AngularJS objects)

The MessagesCtrl is using the Firebase AngularFire API, which is makes it really easy to create the firebase-real-time update view (my only problem with this was that there didn't seem to be an easy way to re-order the new elements (which in the current AngularFire implementation are added at the end of the provided array)

The RequestsUrlsCtrl uses the default Firebase Javascript API (i.e not the AngularFire one) which gives us more control on how to handle the data received by Firebase. The $scope.urls array is used to store the data received from the Firebase child_added event (one note here to say that the  Firebase child_added will also provide the entire data-set on first load, which is okish, but I would prefer that the child_added only fired for new events)


4) directives.js 

This is a simple directive used by index.html, that will display a top menu, created by the content of the topMenu.html file (directives are AngularJS way to creating/defining new HTML tags/attributes)


5) factories.js

These factories create the Firebase mappings, namely they define the 'area' (or namespace/object) that the data will be read from.

The first two (fbDebugMsg and fbRequestUrl) use the Firebase Javascript API. I needed to do them this way so that I could add the Firebase auth token (that said, I'm sure there is a better way to do this in Angular, since ideally I would have an Angular service that took the two variables that need to be set: the target Firebase area and auth code)

The fbaDebugMsg is just a simple service/factory to return an AngularFire API object based on the (dependency injected) fbDebugMsg service


6) routes.js

The routes configuration is basically defining the 3 available views (each with a different controller mapped to it)



7) requestUrls.html  (view)

Since the RequestsUrlsCtrl is responsible for updating the $scope.urls array, all we need to do here is to use Angular's ng-repeat directive to create a list with all items (the list-unstyled class hides the bullet usually shown in HTML <li> tags).

Note that since the RequestsUrlsCtrl controller is using the Firebase Javascript API child_added event, we will see new entries shown in real time (ie. no browser refresh needed), but any changes made to existing items will not be reflected on the UI (unless the entire page is refreshed and the data is reloaded)



8) messages.html (view)

In this view the $scope.messages (used in the ng-repeat) is populated by the MessagesCtrl controller which is using the AngularFire API. This means that data will be updated in real time (on both add and change events)


... which look like this:



9) debug.html (view)

This view just shows a json representation of the fbDebugMsg and fbRequestUrl 


... which looks like this:


10) topMenu.html (directive templateUrl)

Finally this is the html that creates the top menu (this could be improved/refactored by having the url and titles being provided as a ng-model object)


All code:

For reference here is the entire source code (gist here) of the source code files shown above:


Btw, did you noticed anything different in the formatting of the code samples above? 

Is it easier to read? 

If you are interested in the topic of code formatting also see On Java code formatting  and Formatting code for readability
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