Dropbox Express with ECMAScript 6+
Part 6: Double boxing.

May 30 2015.

This is how I built a simple server-side JavaScript app on top of the Dropbox API, using Express.js, ECMAScript 6 (and one thing I hope will be in ES 7), and Zombie.js for testing. It was my first time using any of these things (except JavaScript, natch), so there are probably better ways to do some of it. Let me know!

In part 5, we set up separate environments for development and testing. Our app is working fine, but it isn't very interesting. Let's complicate things a little.

File fetching.

Instead of just counting files in the folder, let's make the app fetch and display the contents of the latest file. (When I wrote the application these posts are based on, I had some very specific requirements, but the basic gist is, show me the latest entry from my journal.)

First, copy a couple of HTML files to the Dropbox folder for your test app. If your test app is named "journal test," you can do it with this shell command:

curl http://notebook.erikostrom.com/projects/dropbox-express/fixtures/2015-05-{30,31}.html -o ~/Dropbox/Apps/journal\ test/2015-05-\#1.html 

And here are direct links to the files:

2015-05-31.html has a body that tells us it's the newest file, so let's revise test/acceptance_test.js to look for it:

  it('displays the latest file from the Dropbox folder', function() {
    this.browser.assert.text('body', /newest file/i);

More callbacks!

npm test fails because the app is still just counting files. We need to fetch the list of files, figure out which one is the latest (from the date in the filename), and fetch its contents. In app.js:

// When a browser requests `/`, display the latest file from the
// Dropbox folder.
app.get('/', (req, res) => {
  // Ask Dropbox for a list of files in the app folder.
  client.readdir('/', (dirError, entries, dirstat, filestats) => {
    // We get either `error` or `entries` depending on whether
    // reading the directory worked.
    if (dirError) {
      // Failure! Tell the user of our disgrace.
      return res.send(dirError.response.error);

    // Ignore files without dates in their names.
    const datedFiles = filestats.filter(e => /^[0-9-]*\.html$/.test(e.name));
    // Get the last one.
    const latest = datedFiles.sort()[datedFiles.length - 1];

    // Ask Dropbox for the contents of the latest file.
    client.readFile(latest.path, (fileError, contents) => {
      // Another opportunity for failure!
      if (fileError) {
        return res.send(fileError.response.error);

      // Success at last! Display the file contents to the user.
      return res.send(contents);

(Notice the arrow function expression in the filter line. We've used arrow functions before, with multiline bodies inside curly braces. This is a simpler way of writing a function that just evaluates an expression and returns the result.)

This does the job — the test passes, and you can run npm start and try it out with different combinations of files in your development app folder — but it's become harder to follow the basic logic. We're nesting callbacks within callbacks to do what's effectively a linear procedure, and we interrupt the usual flow — not once but twice — to talk about what to do when things go wrong. In part 7, we'll use ECMAScript 6 promises to start making this easier to read.

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