Clojure web development – state of the art – part 2

This is part 2 of my “Clojure web development” series. You can discuss first part on this reddit thread. After reading the comments I must explain two assumptions I had writing this series:

  • Keep things easy to understand for people from outside Clojure land, especially Java devs. That’s why I use REST/JSON in favor of transit and component as a “dependency injection” implementation which could be easily explained as Spring framework equivalent. The same goes with Om which is a bit verbose, but in my opinion it’s easier to understand for a start and has wider adoption than the other React wrappers.

  • Keep things easy to bootstrap on a developer machine. This is a hands-on walkthrough and all the individual steps have been committed to GitHub. That’s why I use MongoDB, which could not be the best choice for scaling your application to millions of users, but it’s perfect for bootstrapping - no schema, tables, just insert data and start working. I highly recommend Honza Kral polyglot persistence talk, where he encourages starting simple and optimize for developer happiness at the start of a project.

In previous post we bootstrapped a basic web application serving REST data with (static for now) Clojurescript frontend, all fully reloadable thanks to reloaded repl and figwheel. You can find final working version of it in this branch.

Today we’re going to display contact list stored in MongoDB. I assume you have MongoDB installed, if not - it’s trivial with docker.

Serving contact list from database

OK, let’s start. In the backend we need to add some dependencies to project.clj:

:dependencies
   ...
   [org.danielsz/system "0.1.9"]
   [com.novemberain/monger "2.0.0"]]

monger is an idiomatic Clojure wrapper for Mongo Java driver and system is a nice collection of components for various datastores, including Mongo (a bit like Spring Data for Spring).

In order to interact with a data store I like to use the concept of abstract repository. This should hide the implementation details from the invoker and allows to switch to another store in the future. So let’s create an abstract interface (in Clojure - protocol) in components/repo.clj:

(ns modern-clj-web.component.repo)

(defprotocol ContactRepository
  (find-all [this]))

We need this as a parameter to allow Clojure runtime dispatching correct implementation of this repository. Mongo implementation with Monger is really simple:

(ns modern-clj-web.component.repo
   (:require [monger.collection :as mc]
             [monger.json]))
...

(defrecord ContactRepoComponent [mongo]
  ContactRepository
  (find-all [this]
    (mc/find-maps (:db mongo) "contacts")))

(defn new-contact-repo-component []
  (->ContactRepoComponent {}))

Things to notice here:

  • mc/find-maps just returns all records from collection as Clojure maps
  • ContactComponent gets injected with mongo component created by system library, which adds Mongo client under :db key
  • Since this component is stateless, we don’t need to implement component/Lifecycle interface, but it still can be wired in system like a typical lifecycle-aware component
  • Requiring monger.json adds JSON serialization support for Mongo types (e.g. ObjectId)

Ok, it’s now time to use our new component in the endpoint/example.clj:

(:require
  ...
  [modern-clj-web.component.repo :as r])

(defn example-endpoint [{repo :contact-repo}]
 (routes
...
   (GET "/contacts" [] (response (r/find-all repo)))

The {repo :contact-repo} notation (destructuring) automatically binds :contact-repo key from system map to the repo value. So we need to assign our component to that key in system.clj:

(:require
  ...
  [modern-clj-web.component.repo :refer [new-contact-repo-component]]
  [system.components.mongo :refer [new-mongo-db]])

 (-> (component/system-map
          :app  (handler-component (:app config))
          :http (jetty-server (:http config))
          :example (endpoint-component example-endpoint)
          :mongo (new-mongo-db (:mongo-uri config))
          :contact-repo (new-contact-repo-component))
         (component/system-using
          {:http [:app]
           :app  [:example]
           :example [:contact-repo]
           :contact-repo [:mongo]}))))

In short - we use system’s new-mongo-db to create Mongo component, make it a dependency to repository which itself is a dependency of example endpoint.

And finally we need to configure :mongo-uri config property in config.clj:

(def environ
  {:http {:port (some-> env :port Integer.)}}
   :mongo-uri "mongodb://localhost:27017/contacts"})

To check if it works fine, restart repl, type (go) again and make a GET to http://localhost:3000/contacts.

curl http://localhost:3000/contacts
[]

OK, so we got empty list since we don’t have any data in Mongo database. Let’s add some with mongo console:

mongo localhost:27017/contacts
MongoDB shell version: 2.4.9
connecting to: localhost:27017/contacts
>  db.contacts.insert({firstname: "Al", lastname: "Pacino"});
>  db.contacts.insert({firstname: "Johnny", lastname: "Depp"});

And finally our endpoint should return these two records:

curl http://localhost:3000/contacts
[{"lastname":"Pacino","firstname":"Al","_id":"56158345fd2dabeddfb18799"},{"lastname":"Depp","firstname":"Johnny","_id":"56158355fd2dabeddfb1879a"}]

Sweet! Again - in case of any problems, check this commit.

Getting contacts from ClojureScript

In this step we’ll fetch the contacts with AJAX call on our ClojureScript frontend. As usual, we need few dependencies in project.clj for a start:

:dependencies 
     ...
       [org.clojure/clojurescript "1.7.48"]
       [org.clojure/core.async "0.1.346.0-17112a-alpha"]
       [cljs-http "0.1.37"]

ClojureScript should be already visible by using figwheel, but it’s always better to require specific version explicitly. cljs-http is a HTTP client for ClojureScript and core.async provides facilities for asynchronous communication in CSP model, especially useful in ClojureScript. Let’s see how it works in practice.

To make an AJAX call we need to call methods from cljs-http.client, so let’s add this in core.cljs:

(ns ^:figwheel-always modern-clj-web.core
  (:require [cljs-http.client :as http]))

(println (http/get "/contacts"))

You should see #object[cljs.core.async.impl.channels.ManyToManyChannel]. What madness is that???

This is the time we enter the core.async. The most common way to deal with asynchronous network calls from Javascript is by using callbacks or promises. The core.async way is by using channels. It makes your code look more like a sequence of synchronous calls and it’s easier to reason about. So the http/get function returns a channel on which the result is published when response arrives. In order to receive that message we need to read from this channel by using <! function. Since this is blocking, we also need to surround this call with go macro, just like in go language. So the correct way of getting contacts looks like this:

(:require
...
  [cljs.core.async :refer [<! >! chan]])

(go
  (let [response (<! (http/get "/contacts"))]
    (println (:body response))))

Adding Om component

Dealing with frontend code without introducing any structure could quickly become a real nightmare. In late 2015 we have basically two major JS frameworks on the field: Angular nad React. ClojureScript paradigms (functional programming, immutable data structures) fit really nice into React philosophy. In short, React application is composed of components taking data as input and rendering HTML as output. The output is not a real DOM, but so-called virtual DOM, which helps calculating diff from current view to updated one.

Among many React wrappers in ClojureScript I like using Om with om-tools to reduce some verbosity. Let’s introduce it into our project.clj:

:dependencies 
     ...
   [org.omcljs/om "0.9.0"]
   [prismatic/om-tools "0.3.12"]

To render a “hello world” component we need to add some code in core.cljs:

(:require 
   ...
            [om.core :as om]
            [om-tools.core :refer-macros [defcomponent]]
            [om-tools.dom :as dom :include-macros true]))

(def app-state (atom {:message "hello from om"}))

(defcomponent app [data owner]
  (render [_]
    (dom/div (:message data))))

(om/root app app-state
         {:target (.getElementById js/document "main")})

What’s going on here? The main concept of Om is keeping whole application state in one global atom, which is Clojure way of managing state. So we pass this app-state map (wrapped in atom) as a parameter to om/root which mounts components into real DOM (<div id="main"/> from index.html). The app component just displays the :message value, so you should see “hello from om” rendered. If you have fighweel running, you can change the message value, and it should be updated instantly.

And finally let’s render our contacts with Om:

(defn get-contacts []
  (go
    (let [response (<! (http/get "/contacts"))]
      (:body response))))

(defcomponent contact-comp [contact _]
  (render [_]
    (dom/li (str (:firstname contact) " " (:lastname contact)))))

(defcomponent app [data _]
  (will-mount [_]
    (go
      (let [contacts (<! (get-contacts))]
        (om/update! data :contacts contacts))))
  (render [_]
    (dom/div
      (dom/h2 (:message data))
      (dom/ul
        (om/build-all contact-comp (:contacts data))))))

So the contact-comp is just rendering a single contact. We use om/build-all to render all contacts visible in :contacts field in global state. And most tricky part - we use will-mount lifecycle method to get contacts from server when app component is about to be mounted to the DOM.

Again, in this commit should be a working version in case of any problems.

And if you liked Om, I highly recommend official tutorials and Zero to Om series.

Clojure web development – state of the art

It’s now more than a year that I’m getting familiar with Clojure and the more I dive into it, the more it becomes the language. Once you defeat the “parentheses fear”, everything else just makes the difference: tooling, community, good engineering practices. So it’s now time for me to convince others. In this post I’ll try to walktrough a simple web application from scratch to show key tools and libraries used to develop with Clojure in late 2015.

Note for Clojurians: This material is rather elementary and may be useful for you if you already know Clojure a bit but never did anything bigger than hello world application.

Note for Java developers: This material shows how to replace Spring, Angular, grunt, live-reload with a bunch of Clojure tools and libraries and a bit of code.

The repo with final code and individual steps is here.

Bootstrap

I think all agreed that component is the industry standard for managing lifecycle of Clojure applications. If you are a Java developer you may think of it as a Spring (DI) replacement - you declare dependencies between “components” which are resolved on “system” startup. So you just say “my component needs a repository/database pool” and component library “injects” it for you.

To keep things simple I like to start with duct web app template. It’s a nice starter component application following the 12-factor philosophy. So let’s start with it:

lein new duct clojure-web-app +example

The +example parameter tells duct to create an example endpoint with HTTP routes - this would be helpful. To finish bootstraping run lein setup inside clojure-web-app directory.

Ok, let’s dive into the code. Component and injection related code should be in system.clj file:

(defn new-system [config]
  (let [config (meta-merge base-config config)]
    (-> (component/system-map
         :app  (handler-component (:app config))
         :http (jetty-server (:http config))
         :example (endpoint-component example-endpoint))
        (component/system-using
         {:http [:app]
          :app  [:example]
          :example []}))))

In the first section you instantiate components without dependencies, which are resolved in the second section. So in this example, “http” component (server) requires “app” (application abstraction), which in turn is injected with “example” (actual routes). If your component needs others, you just can get then by names (precisely: by Clojure keywords).

To start the system you must fire a REPL - interactive environment running within context of your application:

lein repl

After seeing prompt type (go). Application should start, you can visit http://localhost:3000 to see some example page.

A huge benefit of using component approach is that you get fully reloadable application. When you change literally anything - configuration, endpoints, implementation, you can just type (reset) in REPL and your application is up-to-date with the code. It’s a feature of the language, no JRebel, Spring-reloaded needed.

Adding REST endpoint

Ok, in the next step let’s add some basic REST endpoint returning JSON. We need to add 2 dependencies in project.clj file:

:dependencies
 ...
  [ring/ring-json "0.3.1"]
  [cheshire "5.1.1"]

Ring-json adds support for JSON for your routes (in ring it’s called middleware) and cheshire is Clojure JSON parser (like Jackson in Java). Modifying project dependencies if one of the few tasks that require restarting the REPL, so hit CTRL-C and type lein repl again.

To configure JSON middleware we have to add wrap-json-body and wrap-json-response just before wrap-defaults in system.clj:

(:require 
 ...
 [ring.middleware.json :refer [wrap-json-body wrap-json-response]])

(def base-config
   {:app {:middleware [[wrap-not-found :not-found]
                      [wrap-json-body {:keywords? true}]
                      [wrap-json-response]
                      [wrap-defaults :defaults]]

And finally, in endpoint/example.clj we must add some route with JSON response:

(:require 
 ...
 [ring.util.response :refer [response]]))

(defn example-endpoint [config]
  (routes
    (GET "/hello" [] (response {:hello "world"}))
    ...

Reload app with (reset) in REPL and test new route with curl:

curl -v http://localhost:3000/hello

< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< Date: Tue, 15 Sep 2015 21:17:37 GMT
< Content-Type: application/json; charset=utf-8
< Set-Cookie: ring-session=37c337fb-6bbc-4e65-a060-1997718d03e0;Path=/;HttpOnly
< X-XSS-Protection: 1; mode=block
< X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN
< X-Content-Type-Options: nosniff
< Content-Length: 151
* Server Jetty(9.2.10.v20150310) is not blacklisted
< Server: Jetty(9.2.10.v20150310)
<
* Connection #0 to host localhost left intact
{"hello": "world"}

It works! In case of any problems you can find working version in this commit.

Adding frontend with figwheel

Coding backend in Clojure is great, but what about the frontend? As you may already know, Clojure could be compiled not only to JVM bytecode, but also to Javascript. This may sound familiar if you used e.g. Coffeescript. But ClojureScript philosophy is not only to provide some syntax sugar, but improve your development cycle with great tooling and fully interactive development. Let’s see how to achieve it.

The best way to introduce ClojureScript to a project is figweel. First let’s add fighweel plugin and configuration to project.clj:

:plugins
   ...
   [lein-figwheel "0.3.9"]

And cljsbuild configuration:

:cljsbuild
    {:builds [{:id "dev"
               :source-paths ["src-cljs"]
               :figwheel true
               :compiler {:main       "clojure-web-app.core"
                          :asset-path "js/out"
                          :output-to  "resources/public/js/clojure-web-app.js"
                          :output-dir "resources/public/js/out"}}]}

In short this tells ClojureScript compiler to take sources from src-cljs with figweel support and put resulting JavaScript into resources/public/js/clojure-web-app.js file. So we need to include this file in a simple HTML page:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<head>
</head>
<body>
  <div id="main">
  </div>
  <script src="js/clojure-web-app.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
</body>
</html>

To serve this static file we need to change some defaults and add corresponding route. In system.clj change api-defaults to site-defaults both in require section and base-config function. In example.clj add following route:

(GET "/" [] (io/resource "public/index.html"))

Again (reset) in REPL window should reload everything.

But where is our ClojureScript source file? Let’s create file core.cljs in src-cljs/clojure-web-app directory:

(ns ^:figwheel-always clojure-web-app.core)

(enable-console-print!)

(println "hello from clojurescript")

Open another terminal and run lein figwheel. It should compile ClojureScript and print ‘Prompt will show when figwheel connects to your application’. Open http://localhost:3000. Fighweel window should prompt:

To quit, type: :cljs/quit
cljs.user=>

Type (js/alert "hello"). Boom! If everything worked you should see and alert in your browser. Open developers console in your browser. You should see hello from clojurescript printed on the console. Change it in core.cljs to (println "fighweel rocks") and save the file. Without reloading the page your should see updated message. Fighweel rocks! Again, in case of any problems, refer to this commit.

UPDATE: In the latest duct release, there is an +cljs option which make it possible to use reloaded repl and fighweel in a single REPL. Highly recommended!

In the next post I’ll show how to fetch data from MongoDB, serve it with REST to the browser and write ReactJs/Om components to render it. Stay tuned!