Developing LoopBack

This document describes how to develop modules living in loopback-next monorepo. See Monorepo overview for a list of all packages.

Setting up development environment

Before you can start developing LoopBack, you need to install and configure few dependencies.

You may want to configure your IDE or editor to get better support for TypeScript too.

  • VisualStudio Code
  • Missing your favorite IDE/editor here? We would love to have documentation for more IDEs/editors! Please send a pull request to add recommended setup for your tool.

Before getting started, it is recommended to configure git so that it knows who you are:

git config --global user.name "J. Random User"
git config --global user.email "j.random.user@example.com"

Please make sure this local email is also added to your GitHub email list so that your commits will be properly associated with your account and you will be promoted to Contributor once your first commit is landed.

Building the project

Whenever you pull updates from GitHub or switch between feature branches, make sure to updated installed dependencies in all monorepo packages. The following command will install npm dependencies for all packages and create symbolic links for intra-dependencies:

npm install

The next step is to compile all packages from TypeScript to JavaScript:

npm run build

Please note that we are automatically running the build from pretest script, therefore you should not need to run this command as part of your red-green-refactor cycle.

Running tests

This is the only command you should need while developing LoopBack:

npm test

It does all you need:

  • Compile TypeScript
  • Run all tests
  • Check code formatting using Prettier
  • Lint the code using TSLint

Coding rules

  • All features and bug fixes must be covered by one or more automated tests.

  • All public methods must be documented with typedoc comments (see API Documentation below).

  • Follow our style guide as documented on loopback.io: Code style guide.

Linting and formatting

We use two tools to keep our codebase healthy:

  • TSLint to statically analyse our source code and detect common problems.
  • Prettier to keep our code always formatted the same way, avoid style discussions in code reviews, and save everybody’s time an energy.

You can run both linters via the following npm script, just keep in mind that npm test is already running them for you.

npm run lint

Many problems (especially formatting) can be automatically fixed by running the npm script lint:fix.

npm run lint:fix

File naming convention

For consistency, we follow Angular’s file naming convention. It helps to derive the usage of files by inspecting the names. Besides the LoopBack 4 codebase, we also follow this naming convention in our generated artifacts from the CLI tooling: {name}.{artifact-type}.ts

Examples are:

src/decorators/authenticate.decorator.ts
src/boot.component.ts

In addition, files under test folder are categorized according to the type of tests (unit, acceptance and integration), with the convention {name}.{test-type}.ts.

Examples are:

src/__tests__/acceptance/application.acceptance.ts
src/__tests__/integration/user.controller.integration.ts
src/__tests__/unit/application.unit.ts

API Documentation

We use strong-docs to generate API documentation for all our packages. This documentation is generated when publishing new releases to npmjs.org and it’s picked up by http://apidocs.loopback.io/.

You can preview API docs locally by opening the file docs/apidocs.html in your browser.

Commit message guidelines

Note: we have recently changed our commit message conventions. Most of other LoopBack repositories (e.g. strongloop/loopback.io) use the older convention as described on loopback.io.

A good commit message should describe what changed and why.

Our commit messages are formatted according to Conventional Commits, we use commitlint to verify and enforce this convention. These rules lead to more readable messages that are easy to follow when looking through the project history. But also, we use the git commit messages to generate change logs when publishing new versions.

Commit Message Format

Each commit message consists of a header, a body and a footer. The header has a special format that includes a type, an optional scope and a subject:

<type>(<scope>): <subject>
<BLANK LINE>
<body>
<BLANK LINE>
<footer>

type

The type must be one of the following:

  • feat: A new feature
  • fix: A bug fix
  • docs: Documentation only changes
  • style: Changes that do not affect the meaning of the code (white-space, formatting, missing semi-colons, etc)
  • refactor: A code change that neither fixes a bug nor adds a feature
  • perf: A code change that improves performance
  • test: Adding missing or correcting existing tests
  • build: Changes that affect the build system or external dependencies
  • ci: Changes to our CI configuration files and scripts
  • chore: Changes to the auxiliary tools and libraries such as documentation generation
  • revert: Reverts a previous commit

scope

The scope must be a list of one or more packages contained in this monorepo. Each scope name must match a directory name in packages/, e.g. core or context.

Note: If multiple packages are affected by a pull request, don’t list the scopes as the commit linter currently only supports only one scope being listed at most. The CHANGELOG for each affected package will still show the commit. Commit linter will be updated to allow listing of multiple affected scopes, see issue #581

subject

The subject contains succinct description of the change:

  • use the imperative, present tense: “change” not “changed” nor “changes”
  • don’t capitalize first letter
  • no dot (.) at the end

body

The body provides more details, it should include the motivation for the change and contrast this with previous behavior.

Just as in the subject, use the imperative, present tense: “change” not “changed” nor “changes”a

Paragraphs or bullet points are ok (must not exceed 100 characters per line). Typically a hyphen or asterisk is used for the bullet, followed by a single space, with blank lines in between.

The footer should contain any information about Breaking Changes introduced by this commit.

This section must start with the upper case text BREAKING CHANGE followed by a colon (:) and a space (``). A description must be provided, describing what has changed and how to migrate from older versions.

Tools to help generate a commit message

This repository has commitizen support enabled. Commitizen can help you generate your commit messages automatically. You must install it globally as follows:

npm i -g commitizen

And to use it, simply call git cz instead of git commit. The tool will help you generate a commit message that follows the above guidelines.

Making breaking changes

LoopBack is following Semantic Versioning. Any change that’s not fully backward compatible with previous versions has to increase the major version number, e.g. 1.4.2 -> 2.0.0.

In general, we try to avoid breaking backward compatibility too often and strive to limit the frequency of major releases to about once or twice a year.

  • Breaking changes make it difficult for our users to always stay at the latest version of the framework.
  • Every additional major version we have to support adds extra maintenance overhead.
  • In our Long Term Support policy, we are committing to support every major module version for at least 12 months after it entered LTS mode and also support it for the entire LTS lifetime of the connected Node.js major version. If we release major versions too often, we can end up with a long list of versions we have to keep supporting for long time.

Whenever possible, consider implementing a feature flag that allows users to decide when to migrate to the new behavior. Make this flag disabled by default to preserve backward compatibility.

However, we do recognize that often a breaking change is the most sensible thing to do. When that time comes:

  • Describe incompatibilites for release notes
  • Look for more breaking changes to include in the release
  • Update list of supported versions

Describe incompatibilites for release notes

In the pull request introducing the breaking change, provide a descriptive footer explaining the breaking change to our users. This content will be used by release tooling to compile comprehensive release notes.

Put yourself in the shoes of module users and try to answer the following questions:

  • How can I find if my project is affected by this change?

  • What does this change means for my project? What is going to change?

  • How can I migrate my project to the new major version? What steps do I need to make?

Look for more breaking changes

Look for other features or fixes that require a breaking change. Consider grouping multiple backward incompatible changes into a single semver major release.

Few examples of changes that are usually easy to make:

  • Change the default value of a feature flag from “false” (backward-compatible behavior) to “true” (the new behavior).

  • Deprecate a compatibility feature flag that’s already enabled by default.

  • Remove a deprecated feature flag.

  • Drop support for a major version of Node.js that has already reached it’s end of life or that will reach it soon (in the next 4-8 weeks).

Update list of supported versions

Make sure the package’s README has an up-to-date section about the supported versions. Read our Long Term Support policy to understand the rules governing transition between different support levels.

  • There should be at most one version in Active LTS mode. This version moves to Maintenance LTS.

  • The version listed as Current is entering Active LTS mode.

  • The new major version is becoming Current.

It is important to make these updates before publishing the new major version, so that new content is included on the package page provided by npmjs.com.

Releasing new versions

When we are ready to tag and publish a release, run the following commands:

cd loopback-next
git checkout master
git pull
npm run release

The release script will automatically perform the tasks for all packages:

  • Clean up node_modules
  • Install/link dependencies
  • Transpile TypeScript files into JavaScript
  • Run mocha tests
  • Check lint (tslint and prettier) issues

If all steps are successful, it prompts you to publish packages into npm repository.

Adding a new package

Create a new package

To add a new package, create a folder in packages as the root directory of your module. For example,

cd loopback-next/packages
mkdir <a-new-package>

The package follows the node/npm module layout. You can use npm init or lb4 extension command to scaffold the module, copy/paste from an existing package, or manually add files including package.json.

Make sure you add LICENSE file properly and all source code files have the correct copyright header.

Keep shared configuration in root

We have some configuration files at the top level (loopback-next/):

  • .gitignore
  • .prettierignore
  • .nycrc.yml

For consistency across all packages, do not add them at package level unless specific customization is needed.

Make a scoped package public

By default, npm publishes scoped packages with private access. There are two options to make a new scoped package with public access.

Either add the following section to package.json:

  "publishConfig": {
    "access": "public"
  },

Or explicitly publish the package with --access=public:

cd packages/<a-new-package>
npm publish --access=public

Register the new package

Please register the new package in the following files:

Upgrading TypeScript/tslint

In order to support tslint extensions with a peer dependency on tslint, we have to specify typescript and tslint dependency in multiple places in our monorepo.

Steps to upgrade typescript or tslint to a newer version:

  1. Update the dependencies in @loopback/build, this is the source of truth for the rest of the monorepo.

    $ (cd packages/build && npm update typescript tslint)
    
  2. Propagate the change to other places to keep everything consistent.

    $ node bin/sync-dev-deps
    

How to test infrastructure changes

When making changes to project infrastructure, e.g. modifying tsc or tslint configuration, it’s important to verify that all usage scenarios keep working.

Verify TypeScript setup

  1. Open any existing TypeScript file, e.g. packages/core/src/index.ts

  2. Add a small bit of code to break TypeScript’s type checks, for example:

    const foo: number = 'bar';
    
  3. Run npm test

  4. Verify that the build failed and the compiler error message shows a path relative to monorepo root, e.g. packages/src/index.ts.

  5. Test integration with supported IDEs:

Verify TSLint setup

  1. Open any existing TypeScript file, e.g. packages/src/index.ts

  2. Introduce two kinds linting problems - one that does and another that does not require type information to be detected. For example, you can add the following line at the end of the opened index.ts:

    const foo: any = 'bar';
    
  3. Run npm test

  4. Verify that the build failed and both linting problems are reported:

    ERROR: /Users/(...)/packages/core/src/index.ts[16, 7]: 'foo' is declared but its value is never read.
    ERROR: /Users/(...)/packages/core/src/index.ts[16, 12]: Type declaration of 'any' loses type-safety. Consider replacing it with a more precise type.
    
  5. Test integration with supported IDEs:

tsconfig files

In the loopback-next monorepo, TypeScript is set up in two places:

  1. When using VS Code, the TypeScript engine views loopback-next as a single big project.

    This enables the “refactor - rename” command to change all places using the renamed symbol, and also makes “go to definition” command jump to .ts files containing the original source code. Otherwise “refactor - rename” works within the same package only and “go to definition” jumps to .d.ts files.

  2. When building the monorepo, we need to build the packages individually, so that one dist directory is created for each package.

This is why we have two sets of tsconfig files:

  • At monorepo root, there is tsconfig.json used by VS Code.
  • Inside each package, there is tsconfig.build.json used by npm run build command.