Welcome to RestBasics

Rest Basics

Use Rest with React. There are two applications joined by a proxy:

Both of these slide decks contain relevant information that might be useful when working through this assignment:

Get Started

Create a branch called week02. Create a directory called week02-rest-basics in your week03 branch.


Your assignment is to understand how and why a request from a client is processed and routed by your server. This is one of the key subjects important subjects that we must understand. Eventually, we must perform a complete meld with HTTP requests and how they are routed on a server.

NOTE: To not understand HTTP requests and routing should be alien to you. "What do you mean you don't understand how to route an HTTP request? How can that be?" You should even feel a noticeable cooling of your affection for members of your immediate family if they don't understand HTTP requests and routing. "I know you're my child, and I know you are only 4 years old, but you have to understand that I just don't feel the same way about you since I realized you don't understand HTTP requests."

Create the Project Directory

We are going to have two projects in this assignment, so lets set up a directory for them. Navigate to the root of your repository and enter the following commands:

mkdir week03-rest-basics
cd week03-rest-basics

Create Server

Before going further, make sure you have the latest copy of JsObjects:

git pull

In the RestBasics directory, run the following command:

CreateExpressProject server
cd server

You have now created a fully functional, node based, express server that can handle HTTP requests.

NOTE: You can usually return to the directory you were in previously by typing cd -.


The following diagram provides us with some nomenclature.

           hierarchical part
           authority       path
         ┌─────┴───────┐ ┌──┴──┐
  └┬─┘   └───┬────┘└─┬─┘         └─────┬─┘    └─┬─┘
scheme     host    port              query   fragment

Some of the terms shown in this diagram are esoteric, obscure, and infrequently used. The key things you need to be able to recognize are the:

URLs and URNs are both URIs. Very loosely speaking, the technical difference looks something like this:

An analogy might be:

Another common analogy:

Don't confuse a path with a URN. For instance, the path the-great-gatsby in the following URL is not a URN:

HTTP Requests

An HTTP requests consists of URL like the one shown above:

We use a URL like this to send requests from a client to a server. If we want to tell our server to do something, we send it a request in the form a URL.

Routing Middleware

Let's write code that will handle a request such as the one defined above. We will put our custom server code in its own file.

In the routes folder create a file called api.js:

var express = require('express');
var router = express.Router();

/* Set up a route called foo. */
router.get('/foo', function(request, response) {
    var message = { 'result': 'success', 'status': 'bar', 'file': 'api.js' };
    console.log('Foo called:\n' + JSON.stringify(message, null, 4));

module.exports = router;

As explained above, this method is designed to be called whenever the user enters, or sends via HTTP, the following URL:

Application Middleware

To get started, we can describe how to link this new file to our express project. This involves using two commands:

Let's talk some more about middleware. Our server uses a library called express that is designed in part to handle requests sent to our server from a client. When a request is sent to our server:

Remeber, if we don't ever set up any middleware for handling a request, then we never see the request and it will probably be, for all intents and purposes, ignored by our server.

To set up our middleware for handling requests from the server we take two simple steps. In app.js around lines 10 and 28, we write the following:

var api = require('./routes/api');  // on line 10
app.use('/api', api);               // on line 28

The first line just allows us to gain access to our new file: it links it into our project. The second line states what we want to do: we want to use the code in our file as middleware. We are telling Express that if there is a request from the server that ends with /api, then it should be passed to our code in ./routes.api.js.

Set the Port

Now set the port, in bin/www, to 30026. Two ways to do that are explained in our Concurrently assignment.

Be sure to modify listen like this:

server.listen(port, () => console.log("Listening on", port));

We are going to run the client on port 30025, so we are setting the port for the server to some other number. I've chosen 30026 in the hopes that it will be easy to remember.

Take a moment to understand what we have done.

For instance, the following HTTP request would call the foo method in our new file:

Here is how to break it down:

Application vs Router Middleware

Notice that we have made two similar calls:

The first use Express application middleware. The second uses Express router middleware.

The router object is designed to help you set up a dedicated portion of your server for handling a particular kind of URI. For instance, all URI's that begin begin /api are handled in the file called routes/api.js.

Test your Work

If you want, go ahead and start your new server:

npm start

Now type the following URL:

You should see very plain output that looks a bit like this:


Second Terminal Tab

Our server is running in your bash shell. Because of the way we started it, it completely takes up the shell making it unusable for any other purpose:

$ npm start

> server@0.0.0 start /home/charlie/Git/isit320-calvert-2017/RestBasics/server
> nodemon ./bin/www

[nodemon] 1.11.0
Foo called:
    "result": "success",
    "foo": "bar",
    "file": "api.js"
GET /api/foo 304 7.572 ms - -

Because we can't use this terminal, we need to create a new one. In particular, you'll need to create a new terminal tab, by entering this command: CTRL-SHIFT-T. You can also create tabs from the terminal menu. In either case, you should end up with two bash shells available.

One terminal, two tabls

Create Client

Navigate to the second terminal tab, the one you are not using. From the root of the week02-rest-basics directory, create your client:

create-react-app client
cd client

This creates a new react based client application for use in the browser. It uses ES6 syntax, and has many fancy features that we will explore over time.

It is much easier to use create-rect-app than to build a program by hand as we did in the our ReactBasics assignment. The output from create-react-app is, however, much more complex. Also, it commits you to a react based style of development quite different from traditional ES5 development that uses jQuery, Angular or some other library. In this course, we are going to spend considerable time working with older applications that have subsystems built in with React and ES6. As a result,

NOTE: Because our application uses ES6 (ES2016), you want to tell WebStorm to expect modern JavaScript syntax. In particular, set the File | Settings | Languages and Frameworks | JavaScript to React JSX

Link Client and Server

In your client application, in package.json, just before the dependencies section, add this:

"proxy": "http://localhost:30026",

This tells our react app to forward requests for REST calls to our Express Server that is running on port 30026. See code in scripts/start.js for more details.

Make HTTP Request

In the client, we no longer need to install fetch. It is now present in all major browsers.

We will use this native JavaScript call in lieu of $.ajax or $.getJSON. The fetch call is part of the ES6 standard, and is now finalized.

Rewrite the Client

And here is src/App.js:

import React, {Component} from 'react';
import logo from './logo.svg';
import './App.css';
import 'whatwg-fetch';

class App extends Component {
    constructor() {
        this.state = {
            file: 'File name will be placed here.',
            status: 'waiting for server'

    queryServer = () => {
        const that = this;
            .then(function(response) {
                return response.json();
            .then(function(json) {
                console.log('parsed json', json);
                that.setState(foo => (json));
            .catch(function(ex) {
                console.log('parsing failed, URL bad, network down, or similar', ex);

    render() {
        return (
            <div className="App">
                <div className="App-header">
                    <img src={logo} className="App-logo" alt="logo"/>
                    <h2>Welcome to React</h2>

                <p className="App-intro">
                    state: {this.state.status} file: {this.state.file}
                <button onClick={this.queryServer}>Bar</button>

export default App;

The key call here is to fetch, found in the method named queryServer. The promise uses two .then statements. The first is to check if the HTTP call worked, even if the server reported an error such as 404 Not found or 500 Internal Server error. The second .then statement gives us the result if the call succeeds. In other words, if the server sent us back some JSON, then the JSON will be found here.

    .then(function(response) {
        // response.ok will be false if we return a 404 or 500 error.
    .then(function(json) {
    .catch(function(ex) {
        console.log('parsing failed, URL bad, network down, or similar', ex);

Run the Application.

Could not be simpler:

npm start

Your application will magically open in the browser. Updates should also appear as you make them.

Run the server on Cloud 9

First be sure bower is installed:

npm -g install bower

Then make sure you have processed both package.json and bower.json:

npm install && bower install

Then run the application:

npm start

Then Preview | Preview running application from the menu items near the top right of the Cloud 9 IDE.

Cloud 9 Client

Alright. I finally got the Rest Basics type of app to run on Cloud 9. Here is what I did.

Run the server on 30026 as we normally do. We can't ever see this server running, it is just going in the background. Remember to set export SERVER_PORT=30026 or whatever we decided. Test it:


Now run your client on PORT 8080 (export PORT=8080). In the client directory, create a file called .env.development.local and put this in it:

# It exposes your machine to attacks from the websites you visit.

After doing that, things started to work for me. See this and this:

Search for comments by Gearon, and especially the place where he wrote:

If you do use the proxy feature, please follow these instructions.

gearon is Mister React. He sits on the team and is one of the most important React developers.


Run the client on Cloud 9

For a long time, I could not get this type of app to work on Cloud 9. Eventually I found the solution shown above. If that does not work for you then try this alternative. Edit your code Cloud 9. Test everything but the button click. If all is clean:

It works for me.

We'll do this later, but skip it for now.:

Run Concurrently

Make sure you set up the project the same way we did in the Concurrently assignment. We should be able to issue a single command and start both projects.

Turn it in

Push, submit.

Eject Option

Though I don't recommend it, and in fact recommend that you don't do it, if you are terminally curious, you can run this command in the root of your client application:

npm run eject

The command exposes the inner workings of create_react_app. In particular, it creates a scripts directory and modifies package.json. Look at package.json to see the relationship between the two. Rather than do this with a project that you might want to keep, I would do create a temporary project, and try this command there. It's interesting to learn more about create-react-app.

Manual Step

We don't need to do this in this application because everything is handled for us by the code auto-generated by create-react-app. But in a manual ReactBasics type of project, I believe you also need to add code to webpack.config.js in the entry property:

entry: [
    ... and so on