csi

siq client-side infrastructure

npm install csi
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csi

client side package tools for team players

go ahead, elevator pitch me.

csi is a client side package manager for industrial strength software projects. it's built on require.js, and it allows you to write full client-side components (html, css, and javascript) that can be installed anywhere within your app. csi aims to be:

  • backend agnostic -- csi doesn't assume anything other than npm for dependency management. you can use it with whatever server-side framework you prefer.

  • test-driven -- csi provides built-in, easy to use testing with qunit, and it can be easily extended to use other frameworks like mocha.

  • require.js based -- amd is baked in with require.js, and csi builds on that foundation to allow even more modularity.

  • whollistic -- last time we checked, client-side web apps are composed of not just javascript, but also css and markup. csi helps you write full components with css and html dependencies without having to worry about where your assets will be stored.

let's get into some examples.

let's say you've got a module called bird, and its sole purpose is to put a bird on it. it is so friggin useful that you want it in all the apps that you make, even though some of your apps are 10 years old and they run on perl-scripting-cgi-serving technology, and others are so hip that you haven't even heard of their framework yet. it goes something like this:

var birdifyIt = function(node) {
    $('<div>').addClass('with-a-bird-on-it').appendTo(node);
};

and then you throw some css up somewhere:

.with-a-bird-on-it {
  width: 640px
  height: 480px;
  background-image: url(bird.png);
}

but you want to leverage amd for code reuse, so you put it in a module:

define([
    'jquery'
], function($) {
    return function(node) {
        $('<div>').addClass('with-a-bird-on-it').appendTo(node);
    };
});

you're even so savvy that you write a css plugin for require.js (maybe something like this). that way you can abstract the details of the code's styling from the caller:

define([
    'jquery',
    'css!bird.css'
], function($) {
    return function(node) {
        $('<div>').addClass('with-a-bird-on-it').appendTo(node);
    };
});

your code works, it's modular, your company is selling crap with birds on it left and right, and your boss is so happy he comes over to your cubicle and he's all like:

man that put-a-bird-on-it code you wrote is so sick, lets use it in our new app, version 2.0!

the plot thickens.

like any good engineering organization, you guys completely re-architected everything in version 2.0, and now you're putting modules into their own little subdirectories in order to help separate concerns. you throw your bird module into the components/bird directory, and BOOM, it stops working because the paths to jquery.js, bird.css, bird.png have changed.

so now you've got to edit the bird code in order to put it in a new app. that's not optimal, and since you didn't write any unit tests for it, you've got that sinking "i think i broke it when i touched it" feeling.

a simple csi module

so what would it look like to have a fully modular way of doing this? let's write it as a csi component. we make a 'bird' repository with the following directory structure:

bird
|-- package.json
`-- src
    |-- bird.css
    |-- bird.js
    `-- bird.png

bird.js looks like:

define([
    'component!vendor:jquery',
    'css!./bird.css'
], function() {
    return function(node) {
        $('<div>').addClass('with-a-bird-on-it').appendTo(node);
    };
});

let's break down line 2 where we declare the jquery.js dependency:

'component!vendor:jquery'
  • component!: we're using the 'component' plugin

  • vendor:: and we want to declare a dependency from the vendor component

  • jquery: ...and that dependency is jquery.js.

the idea is that your plugin needs jquery, but it shouldn't have to know where it's located on the server. so we add an extra level of indirection. the component plugin looks up the path to the vendor component, and prepends that to the target module jquery.js at page load (csi handles the details of this lookup. it's a bit out of scope for this tutorial though, so don't worry about that right now).

let's also break down line 3 where we declare the css dependency:

  • css!: we're still using that slick 'css' plugin

  • ./bird.css: and of course our filename, except now it's relative to the bird component, so we won't need to update this if we put it in a different project

we've also included an npm package.json file. this is necessary whether or not you plan on publishing to the npm registry because it's how we manage dependencies. here's the contents:

{
  "author": "nature and stuff",
  "name": "put-a-bird-on-it",
  "description": "we put birds on things.",
  "version": "0.0.0",
  "engines": {
    "node": "~0.6.11"
  },
  "dependencies": {
    "siq-vendor-js": "0.0.x",
    "csi": "0.0.x"
  },
  "component": {
    "name": "bird"
  }
}

this is all pretty strait forward, but there are two important things:

  • csi dependency: declaring csi as a dependency gives us tools like the reqiure.js path plugin and makes unit testing and code reuse a breeze.

  • component property: csi uses this to define the name of the component. the component.name property is required.

before we get into how we include the bird component, let's write a quick qunit test to cover ourselves in future refactorings:

define([
    'component!vendor:jquery'
    'component!bird:bird'
], function($, birdifyIt) {

    test('put an effin bird on it', function() {
        birdifyIt($('body'));
        equal($('body').children().last()[0].className, 'with-a-bird-on-it');
    });

    start();
});

running the test is easy:

$ npm install
$ node_modules/.bin/component test

this will start up a server for you and list out URL's you can visit to run tests. open up http://localhost:1335/components/bird/test in your browser.

including components in an app

now back to your app version 2.0. you'll have a directory structure like this:

app_v2
|-- package.json
`-- static
    |-- bluejay.js
    `-- index.js

your sweet new bluejay module extends the functionality of birdifyIt:

define([
    'component!bird:bird'
], function(birdifyIt) {
    return function(node) {
        var childNodes;
        birdifyIt(node);
        childNodes = node.childNodes;
        childNodes[childNodes.length-1].style.backgroundColor = 'blue';
    };
});

#protip: you can use the shorthand path!bird instead of path!bird:bird, and csi is smart enough to load the default module

and then you can add an entry point at static/index.js

define([
    'bluejay'
], function(bluejay) {
    var body = document.getElementsByTagName('body')[0];
    bluejay(body);
});

and your package.json will be:

{
  "name": "app_v2",
  "description": "the new hotness in aviary appification",
  "version": "0.0.0",
  "engines": {
    "node": "~0.6.11"
  },
  "dependencies": {
    "siq-vendor-js": "0.0.x",
    "csi": "0.0.x",
    "put-a-bird-on-it": "git://github.com/aaronj1335/put-a-bird-on-it.git"
  }
}

thanks to npm's flexible dependency specification, we can just use a git url, but you could of course use the npm registry or the location of a tarball.

running tests is still easy:

$ npm install
$ node_modules/.bin/component test

since we defined the entry point in static/index.js, we can open http://localhost:1335/index. csi is smart enough to figure out that this is not a test module (since it doesn't have 'test' in the filename), so your page loads as without all the qunit stuff.

bada bing

and there you have it, modular client-side development. there are quite a few details that we glossed over, such as the mechanics of installing components (hint: they go in a directory called components), and the fact that csi may re-write url() paths in css files, but hopefully this was an instructive tutorial. feel free to tinker/fork/pr. the best way to get a feel for csi would probably be to check out working examples:

  • gloss: a UI framework. this makes heavy use of csi. it also includes an example of client-side templating with John Resig's micro-templating. it utilizes the following dependencies:

    • siq-vendor-js: third-party stuff like jquery and underscore

    • bedrockjs: our class and (non-DOM) event implementation

    • mesh: our integrated REST framework

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