grunt-express

Start (and supervise) an Express.js web server using grunt.js, works well with socket.io

npm install grunt-express
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grunt-express Build Status Dependency Status

grunt-express v1.0

v1.0 is nearly a complete re-done, it acts as a higher-level grunt task that depends on (and consumes) grunt-contrib-watch. It will dynamically configure watch tasks based on your express task setup at runtime, and it will run watch if necessary. Here's the list of high level changes

  1. use grunt-contrib-watch to manage reloading express server, instead of forever-monitor
  2. support both livereload and serverreload (pre-v1.0 users: grunt-express will no longer manage to restart your server by default, you would have to set serverreload to true to regain the old behavior)
  3. if serverreload is set to false in options, then the following are true:
    • server will be started in the same process as your grunt (so developers can run debugger using Webstorm or other tools)
    • server will be run WITHOUT the this.async() call (you can optionally append the task express-keepalive to keep the server running), this allows you to run tests using grunt-express
  4. continue to support socket.io + express use cases
  5. discontinue support of express-stop

I am in process to add more test cases to cover all use cases

Sample app

grunt-express-angular-example is a minimal example that shows how you can use grunt-express to run a basic express server that hosts an Angular app, it is based on @bford's Yeoman generator generator-angular.

Getting Started

This plugin requires Grunt ~0.4.0

If you haven't used Grunt before, be sure to check out the Getting Started guide, as it explains how to create a Gruntfile as well as install and use Grunt plugins. Once you're familiar with that process, you may install this plugin with this command:

npm install grunt-express --save-dev

Once the plugin has been installed, it may be enabled inside your Gruntfile with this line of JavaScript:

grunt.loadNpmTasks('grunt-express');

Express task

express (main task, Multi Tasks)

Run this task with the grunt express command.

Configure one or more servers for grunt to start, the minimal config would be:

  grunt.initConfig({
    express: {
      default_option: {}
    }
  });

  grunt.loadNpmTasks('grunt-express');

  grunt.registerTask('default', ['express']);

express-start

express-restart

Start your express server (or restart a server if it is already started).

express-keepalive

Note that when serverreload is false, this server only runs as long as grunt is running. Once grunt's tasks have completed, the web server stops. This behavior can be changed by appending a express-keepalive task at the end of your task list like so

grunt.registerTask('myServer', ['express', 'express-keepalive']);

Now when you run grunt myServer, your express server will be kept alive until you manually terminate it.

Such feature can also be enabled ad-hoc by running the command like grunt express express-keepalive.

This design gives you the flexibility to use grunt-express in conjunction with another task that is run immediately afterwards, like the grunt-contrib-qunit plugin qunit task. If we force express task to be always async, such use case can no longer happen.

Options

All options of grunt-express are optional, if you specify nothing, it will start a connect server using port 3000 (which serves nothing).

port

Type: Integer Default: 3000

The port on which the webserver will respond. The task will fail if the specified port is already in use.

hostname

Type: String Default: 'localhost'

The hostname the webserver will use. If set to '*', server could be accessed from ip (e.g. 127.0.0.1) as well as localhost

bases

Type: String|Array Default: null

The bases (or root) directories from which static files will be served. A connect.static() will be generated for each entry of bases. When livereload is set to true (or set to a specific port number), a watch task will be created for you (at runtime) to watch your basePath/**/*.*.

You may optionally define a placeholder middleware named staticsPlaceholder in your server's list of middlewares, and when one is defined, every connect.static() middleware generated from your bases will be inserted before your staticsPlaceholder middleware. If you do not define a staticsPlaceholder, your connect.static() will be appended at the end of the middleware stack.

staticsPlaceholder example
app.use(function staticsPlaceholder(req, res, next) {
  return next();
});

server

Type: String Default: null

This option allows you to specify a path to a Node.js module that exports a "connect-like" object. Such object should have the following two functions:

  1. use(route, fn) (https://github.com/senchalabs/connect/blob/master/lib/proto.js#L62)
  2. listen() (https://github.com/senchalabs/connect/blob/master/lib/proto.js#L227) note: you DO NOT want to call the listen() from within your server module, express task will take care of that for you

The simplest example would be:

var connect = require('connect');
module.exports = connect();

or if you prefer express.js

var express = require('express');
var app = express();
app.get('/', function(req, res) {
  res.send('hello!');
});
module.exports = app;

or if you want to use both express and socket.io

var app = require('express')()
  , server = require('http').createServer(app)
  , io = require('socket.io').listen(server);

app.get('/', function (req, res) {
  res.sendfile(__dirname + '/index.html');
});

io.sockets.on('connection', function (socket) {
  socket.emit('news', { hello: 'world' });
  socket.on('my other event', function (data) {
    console.log(data);
  });
});

exports = module.exports = server;
// delegates user() function
exports.use = function() {
  app.use.apply(app, arguments);
};

When server option is not set, express task will generate a plain connect object for you.

note: express task will generate static middleware for each of the bases you specified, and load them onto your server (or the generated server) object by calling use() function

livereload

Type: Boolean|Number Default: false

This options allows you to define the livereload port (or if you set it to true, it will use the default livereload port: 35729), and when you also define bases options, then the livereload server will be watching all contents under your bases folder, and perform livereload when those contents change.

When livereload is set, a connect-livereload middleware will be inserted at the top of your server's middleware stack (so you don't have to do the extra step as intructed by grunt-contrib-connnect's documentation)

serverreload

Type: Boolean Default: false

Setting this option to true will tell express task to start a forever running server in a child process, and if any of your server scripts change, the server will be restarted (using a dynamically generated watch task)

When this options is not set (or set to false), the server will be running in the same process as grunt, and will only live as long as the grunt process is running. You may optionally use express-keepalive task to keep it alive.

showStack

Type: Boolean Default: false

Setting this option to true will tell express task to show the full error stack, if an error occurs in your express server.

watch (experimental)

Type: Object

If you set serverreload (to true), a grunt-contrib-watch task config would be generated for you to manage the express server. In which case, you can optionally define a watch option to control the configuration of such watch task. There are, however, a few settings (that grunt-express is relying on) you may not change, they are as follow:

var watcherOptions = {
  interrupt: true,
  atBegin: true,
  event: ['added', 'changed']
}

middleware (experimental)

Type: Array Default: null

Try to mimic grunt-contrib-connect's middleware options (and should work the same way). Like bases options, you can control the insertion point of your middleware by adding a middlewarePlaceholder, like so:

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

open (mimics grunt-contrib-connect#open)

Type: Boolean or String Default: false

Open the served page in your default browser. Specifying true opens the default server URL, while specifying a URL opens that URL.

monitor (WARN: no longer availabe in 1.0+)

Please use a trailing serverreload option instead

Type: Object Default: null

Under the hood grunt-express uses forever-monitor to manage individual servers in separate child processes. This makes restarting the server automatically possible. This property allow you to pass in the forever-monitor options. When specified, the object will be used as the options hash when creating the forever monitor to manage the server in child process.

keepalive (WARN: no longer availabe in 0.20+)

Please use a trailing express-keepalive task instead

Type: Boolean Default: false

Keep the server alive indefinitely. Note that if this option is enabled, any tasks specified after this task will never run. By default, once grunt's tasks have completed, the web server stops. This option changes that behavior.

monitor (WARN: no longer availabe in 1.0+)

debug (WARN: no longer availabe in 1.0+)

Type: Boolean Default: false

Turning this option on will make the "supervised" express|connect instance output more debugging messages.

Usage examples

Basic Use

In this example, grunt express (or more verbosely, grunt express:server) will start a static web server at http://localhost:9000/, with its base path set to the public directory relative to the gruntfile, and any tasks run afterwards will be able to access it.

// Project configuration.
grunt.initConfig({
  express: {
    server: {
      options: {
        port: 9000,
        bases: 'public'
      }
    }
  }
});

You may specify more than one bases like so. Enhancing the above example, now your server will server static content from both public folder and dist folder (both are relative path to the Gruntfile.js)

// Project configuration.
grunt.initConfig({
  express: {
    server: {
      options: {
        port: 9001,
        bases: ['public', 'dist']
      }
    }
  }
});

If you want your web server to use the default options, just omit the options object. You still need to specify a target (uses_defaults in this example), but the target's configuration object can otherwise be empty or nonexistent. In this example, grunt express (or more verbosely, grunt express:uses_defaults) will start a static web server using the default options.

// Project configuration.
grunt.initConfig({
  express: {
    uses_defaults: {}
  }
});

But usually, you want to start an express server using your own express application script, like so:

// Project configuration.
grunt.initConfig({
  express: {
    myServer: {
      server: path.resolve(__dirname, 'server.js')
      // if you do not define a port it will start your server at port 3000
    }
  }
});

Livereload (both server and browser)

grunt-express leaves the control on your hands to perform livereload for your express server and the browser contents (e.g. html, javascript, css). You can set the livereload and serverreload respectively like following:

grunt.initConfig({
  express: {
    livereloadServer: {
      server: path.resolve(__dirname, 'server'),
      bases: path.resolve(__dirname, 'public'),
      livereload: true, // if you just specify `true`, default port `35729` will be used
      serverreload: true
    }
  }
});

If all you have are the browser side static contents, you can omit the server option (and of course, you would not set serverreload to true in this case, although it would not hurt to set it):

grunt.initConfig({
  express: {
    myLivereloadServer: {
      bases: path.resolve(__dirname, 'public'),
      livereload: true
    }
  }
});

The above example is equivalent to the following:

var LIVERELOAD_PORT = 35729;
var lrSnippet = require('connect-livereload')({ port: LIVERELOAD_PORT });
var mountFolder = function (connect, dir) {
  return connect.static(require('path').resolve(dir));
};

grunt.initConfig({
  watch: {
    options: {
      livereload: LIVERELOAD_PORT
    },
    files: [
      path.resolve(__dirname, 'public') + '/{,*/}*.*'
    ]
  },
  connect: {
    livereload: {
      options: {
        port: 3000,
        middleware: function (connect) {
          return [
            lrSnippet,
            mountFolder(connect, path.resolve(__dirname, 'public')),
            mountFolder(connect, yeomanConfig.app)
          ];
        }
      }
    }
  }
});

Managing static content and dynamic middlewares

Noted that grunt-exress translates each of your static folders (defined as bases option) into an instance of express.static() middleware. And in the case of livereload is true (or a port number), grunt-express will also insert a connect-livereload middleware for you. This is unlike grunt-contrib-connect, where you have to define your own middleware to do so (which has the up side of having full flexibility). Also noted that grunt-express will rearrange your middlewares (at runtime) to make sure connect-livereload is at the top of your server's middleware stack (like connect-livereload's documentation has suggested).

Starting v1.0, grunt-express also allow a dynamic list of middlewares to be passed in as option middleware, this is to mimic the popular grunt-contrib-connect middleware feature. There are some limitations on enabling this, and may not be fully funtional in all cases.

Usually, we also want to control the order of loading express middlewares, because sometimes they would only function with a particular loading order. grunt-express tries to give you such freedom with the introduction of placeholder middleware. Let's see an example. Say, you have the following express script:

var express = require('express');
var passport = require('passport');
var app = express();


app.use(express.logger('dev'));

// I want to place any static content here
// but I want to define the location of these static content in `grunt-express` options like so:
//
// grunt.initConfig({
//  express: {
//    livereloadServer: {
//      server: path.resolve(__dirname, 'server'),
//      bases: [path.resolve(__dirname, 'public'), path.resolve(__dirname, '.tmp')],
//      livereload: true,
//      serverreload: true
//    },
//    productionServer: {
//      server: path.resolve(__dirname, 'server'),
//      bases: path.resolve(__dirname, 'dist')
//    }
//  }
// });
// Notice the name of the following middleware function
app.use(function staticsPlaceholder(req, res, next) {
  return next();
});

app.use(express.cookieParser());
app.use(express.session({ secret: 'i am not telling you' }));
app.use(express.bodyParser());

app.use(passport.initialize());
app.use(passport.session());

// here is where I want my dynamic middlewares be loaded
app.use(function middlewarePlaceholder(req, res, next) {
  return next();
});

app.use(myOtherMiddlewares);

…

grunt-exress also support an edge case where you put the staticsPlaceholder middleware as part of the middlewares being passed in as part of the options.

Multiple Servers

You can specify multiple servers to be run alone or simultaneously by creating a target for each server. In this example, running either grunt express:site1 or grunt express:site2 will start the appropriate web server, but running grunt connect will run both. Note that any server for which the keepalive option is specified will prevent any task or target from running after it.

// Project configuration.
grunt.initConfig({
  express: {
    site1: {
      options: {
        port: 9000,
        bases: 'www-roots/site1'
      }
    },
    site2: {
      options: {
        port: 9001,
        bases: 'www-roots/site2'
      }
    }
  }
});

Custom express

Like the Basic Use example, this example will start a static web server at http://localhost:9001/, with its base path set to the www-root directory relative to the gruntfile. Unlike the other example, this will use your custom server script as referred to by server! We also set keepalive and watchChanges to true, so the server will run forever (until you terminate the command), also the server will restart when you apply any changes to your server script.

// Project configuration.
grunt.initConfig({
  express: {
    custom: {
      options: {
        port: 9001,
        bases: 'www-root',
        server: path.resolve('./server/main')
      }
    }
  }
});

any in your server/main.js, we reuse the previous sample server script

var express = require('express');
var app = express();
app.get('/', function(req, res) {
  res.send('hello!');
});
module.exports = app;

(open localhost:9001 and you should see "hello!")

Now let's change server/main.js's content to:

var express = require('express');
var app = express();
app.get('/', function(req, res) {
  res.send('bonjour!');
});
module.exports = app;

(refresh browser and you should see "bonjour!")

Release History

  • 2013-07-16 v1.0.0-beta use grunt-contrib-watch, support both serverreload and livereload
  • 2013-04-25 v0.3.3 use forever-monitor npm v1.2.1
  • 2013-03-24 v0.3.2 fixed npm v1.2.15 compatibility issue
  • 2013-03-14 v0.3.0 support 'debug-brk' option for launching server in child process (so it can be linked to a remote debugger); also point forever-monitor dependency to its github verion (has fix for accepting 'debug-brk' options)
  • 2013-03-13 v0.2.2 do not defalt hostname to "localhost" when none is provided as that will prevent access to the server through IP addres
  • 2013-03-11 v0.2.1 Make static directories not browsable as it breaks twitter bootstrap (suggested by @hmalphettes)
  • 2013-02-28 v0.2.0 Switch to use forever-monitor (instead of node-supervisor). Removed "keepalive" option, instead enable the feature using "express-keepalive" task.
  • 2013-02-25 v0.1.3 Fixes #1, changing option "watchChanges" to "supervisor".
  • 2013-02-24 v0.1.1 Added missing "connect" dependency, factored out some logic to util.js.
  • 2013-02-23 v0.1.0 first draft.

License-MIT

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