Month: July 2018

How to Troubleshoot Common Angular Errors

Learn how to optimize your troubleshooting tools and became aware of the common Angular errors you might encounter while developing applications.

Debugging Tools

In this article, you will intentionally introduce an easy-to-make mistake so that you can become familiar with real-life errors that can happen while developing your applications and gain a solid understanding of the tool that makes make you an effective developer.

Now pretend that you have made an innocent mistake when copying and pasting the URL from the API documentation page on OpenWeatherMap.org and forgot to add http:// in front of it. This is an easy mistake to make:

Your app will compile successfully, but when you inspect the results in the browser, you won’t see any weather data. In fact, it seems like the¬†Current Weather¬†component is not rendering at all, as you can see in the image below:

Current Weather Does Not Render

There are many ways to debug angular errors for application or any JavaScript application here are some of this:

Debugging with Chrome Developer Tools

You can use the Google Chrome browser because of its cross-platform and consistent developer tools with helpful extensions.

Open Chrome Developer Tools (dev tools) on macOS by pressing¬†option¬†+ ‚Ćė +¬†I¬†or on Windows by pressing¬†F12¬†or¬†Ctrl+¬†Shift¬†+¬†I.

As a best practice, you write code with VS Code and the browser open side by side, while the dev tools are also open in the browser. There are several good reasons for practicing side-by-side development:

  • Fast feedback loops: With live-reloading, you see the end result of your changes very quickly
  • Laptops: A lot of developers do most of their development on a laptop and a second monitor is a luxury
  • Attention to responsive design: As you may have limited space to work with, you can constantly pay attention to mobile-first development, fixing desktop layout issues after the fact
  • Awareness of network activity: To enable you to quickly see any API call errors and also ensure that the amount of data that is being requested remains in line with your expectations
  • Awareness of console errors: To enable you to quickly react and troubleshoot when new errors are introduced

Observe how side-by-side development looks like:

Side-by-side development with live-reloading running

Note that ultimately, you should do what works best for you. With the side-by-side setup, you will frequently find yourself toggling VS Code’s Explorer on and off and resizing the dev tools pane to a larger or smaller size depending on the specific task at hand. To toggle VS Code’s Explorer, click on the Explorer icon circled in the preceding screenshot.

Just as you can do side-by-side development with live-reloading using npm start to solve angular errors. You can get the same kind of fast feedback loops for unit testing using npm test:

Side-by-side development with unit testing

With the side-by-side unit testing setup, you can become very effective in developing unit tests.

Optimizing Chrome Dev Tools

For the side-by-side development with live-reloading to work well, you need to optimize the default dev tools experience:

Optimized Chrome Developer Tools

Looking at the preceding figure, you will note that numerous settings and information radiators are highlighted:

  1. Have the Network tab open by default so that you can see network traffic flowing.
  2. Open the dev tools settings by clicking on the
  3. Click on the right-hand side icon so that dev tools dock on the right-hand side of Chrome. This layout gives more vertical space, so you can see more network traffic and console events at once. As a side benefit, the left-hand side takes the rough size and shape of a mobile device.
  4. Toggle on large request rows and toggle off overview to see more of the URL and parameters for each request and gain more vertical space.
  5. Check the option Disable cache, which will force reload every resource when you refresh a page while the dev tools are open. This prevents bizarre caching errors from ruining your day.
  6. You will mostly be interested in seeing XHR calls to various APIs, so click on XHR to filter results.
  7. Note that you can glance at the number of console errors in the upper-right corner as 12. The ideal number of console errors should be 0 at all times.
  8. Note that the top item in the request row indicates that there’s an error with status code¬†404 Not Found.
  9. Since you’re debugging an Angular application, the Augury extension has been loaded.

With your optimized dev tools environment, you can now effectively troubleshoot and resolve the application error from earlier.

Troubleshooting network issues

There are three visible issues with the app at this state:

  • The component details aren’t displaying
  • There are numerous console errors
  • The API call is returning a¬†404 not found¬†error

Begin by inspecting any network errors, since network errors usually cause knock-on effects:

  1. Click on the failing URL in the Network
  2. In the Details pane that opens to the right of the URL, click on the Preview
  3. You should see this:

By just observing this error message, you will likely miss the fact that you forgot to add the http:// prefix to the URL. The bug is subtle and certainly not glaringly obvious.

  1. Hover over the URL and observe the full URL, as shown:

Inspecting Network Errors

As you can see, now the bug is glaringly obvious. In this view, you will get to see the full URL, and it becomes clear that the URL defined in weather.service.ts is not fully qualified, so Angular is attempting to load the resource from its parent server, hosted on localhost:5000, instead of going over the web to the right server.

Investigating console errors

Before you fix this issue, it is worthwhile to understand the knock-on effects of the failing API call:

  1. Observe the console errors:

Dev Tools Console Error Context

The first element of note here is the ERROR CONTEXT object, which has a property named DebugContext_. The DebugContext_ contains a detailed snapshot of the current state of your Angular application when the error happened. The information contained within DebugContext_ is light years ahead of the amount of mostly unhelpful error messages AngularJS generates.

Note that properties that have the value¬†(…)¬†are property getters, and you must click on them to load their details. For example, if you click on the ellipsis for¬†componentRenderElement, it will be populated with the¬†app-current-weather element. You can expand the element to inspect the runtime condition of the component.

  1. Now scroll to the top of the console.
  2. Observe the first error:

You have probably encountered the¬†TypeError¬†before. This error is¬†caused¬†by trying to access the property of an object that is not defined. In this case,¬†CurrentWeatherComponent.current¬†is not assigned to an object, because the http call is failing. Since¬†current¬†is not initialized and the template blindly tries to bind to its properties like¬†{{current.city}},¬†you will get a message saying¬†property ‘city’ of undefined¬†cannot be read. This is the kind of knock-on effect that can create many unpredictable¬†side-effects in your application. You must proactively code to prevent this condition.

Karma, Jasmine, and Unit Testing errors

When running tests with the ng test command, you will encounter some high-level errors that can mask the root cause of the actual underlying errors.

The general approach to resolving errors should be inside out, resolving child component issues first and leaving parent and root components for last.

Network Error

Network errors can be caused by a multitude of underlying issues:

Working inside out, you should implement test doubles of services and provide the fakes to the appropriate components. However, in parent components, you may still encounter errors even if you correctly provided fakes.

Generic ErrorEvents

Error events are generic errors that hide the underlying cause:

To expose the root cause of a generic error, implement a new test:debug script:

  1. Implement test:debug, as shown, in json:

  1. Execute npm run test:debug.
  2. Now the Karma runner will likely reveal the underlying issue.
  3. If necessary, follow the stack trace to find the child component that may be causing the issue.

Note that if this strategy is not helpful, you may be able to glean more information on what’s going wrong by breakpoint debugging your unit tests.

Debugging with Visual Studio Code

You can also debug your Angular application, Karma, and Protractor tests from directly within Visual Studio Code. First, you need to configure the debugger to work with a Chrome debugging environment, as illustrated:

VS Code Debugging Setup

  1. Click on the Debug
  2. Expand the¬†No Configurations¬†drop-down and click on¬†Add Configuration….
  3. In the Select Environment select box, select Chrome.

This will create a default configuration in the .vscode/launch.json file. You can modify this file to add three separate configurations.

  1. Replace the contents of jsonwith the following configuration:

  1. Execute the relevant CLI command like npm start, npm test, or npm run e2ebefore you start the debugger.
  2. On the Debugpage, in the Debug drop-down, select npm start and click on the green play icon.
  3. Observe that a Chrome instance has launched.
  4. Set a breakpoint on a .ts
  5. Perform the action in the app to trigger the
  6. If all goes well, Chrome will report that the code has been Paused in Visual Studio Code.

Note that this method of debugging doesn’t reliably work. You may have to manually set a breakpoint in¬†Chrome Dev Tools | Sources¬†tab, finding the same¬†.ts¬†file under the¬†webpack://.¬†folder, which will then correctly trigger the breakpoint in VS Code. However, this renders the entire benefit of using VS Code to debug code useless. For more information, follow the Angular CLI section on VS Code Recipes on GitHub at¬†https://github.com/Microsoft/vscode-recipes.

If you liked this article, you can learn more about Angular 6 in Doguhan Uluca’s Angular 6 for Enterprise-Ready Web Applications to follow a hands-on and minimalist approach demonstrating how to design and architect high-quality apps.

Customizing a Simple Social Media Application Using MERN

Learn how to use the MERN stack to build simple social media application features in this tutorial by Shama Hoque.

MERN Social

MERN Social is a sample social media application, used for the purpose of this article, with rudimentary features inspired by existing social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. In this article, you‚Äôll learn how to update a user profile in MERN Social that can display a user uploaded profile photo and an about description.

The main purpose of this application is to demonstrate how to use the MERN stack technologies to implement features that allow users to connect and interact over content. You can extend these implementations further, as desired, for more complex features.

The code for the complete MERN Social application is available on GitHub in the repository at github.com/shamahoque/mern-social. You can clone this code and run the application as you go through the code explanations. Note that you will need to create a MERN skeleton application by adding a working React frontend, including frontend routing and basic server-side rendering of the React views for following these steps.

The views needed for the MERN Social application can be developed by extending and modifying the existing React components in the MERN skeleton application. The following component tree shows all the custom React components that make up the MERN Social frontend and also exposes the composition structure that you can use to build out extended views:

Updating the user profile

The skeleton application only has support for a user’s name, email, and password. However, in MERN Social, you can allow users to add their description and also upload a profile photo while editing the profile after signing up:

Adding an about description

In order to store the description entered in the about field by a user, you need to add an about field to the user model in server/models/user.model.js:

Then, to get the description as input from the user, you can add a multiline TextField to the EditProfile form in mern-social/client/user/EditProfile.js:

Finally, to show the description text added to the about field on the user profile page, you can add it to the existing profile view in mern-social/client/user/Profile.js:

With this modification to the user feature in the MERN skeleton code, users can now add and update a description about them to be displayed on their profiles.

Uploading a profile photo

Allowing a user to upload a profile photo will require that you store the uploaded image file and retrieve it on request to load in the view. For MERN Social, you need to assume that the photo files uploaded by the user will be of small sizes and demonstrate how to store these files in MongoDB for the profile photo upload feature.

There are multiple ways of implementing this upload feature considering the different file storage options:

  • Server filesystem: Upload and save files to a server filesystem and store the URL to MongoDB
  • External file storage: Save files to an external storage such as Amazon S3 and store the URL in MongoDB
  • Store as data in MongoDB: Save files of a small size (less than 16 MB) to MongoDB as data of type Buffer

Updating the user model to store a photo in MongoDB

In order to store the uploaded profile photo directly in the database, you can update the user model to add a photo field that stores the file as data of type Buffer, along with its contentType in mern-social/server/models/user.model.js:

Uploading a photo from the edit form

Users should be able to upload an image file from their local files when editing the profile. You can update the EditProfile component in client/user/EditProfile.js with an upload photo option and then attach the user selected file in the form data submitted to the server.

File input with Material-UI

You can use the HTML5 file input type to let the user select an image from their local files. The file input will return the filename in the change event when the user selects a file in mern-social/client/user/EditProfile.js:

To integrate this file input with Material-UI components, you can apply display:none to hide the input element from view, then add a Material-UI button inside the label for this file input. This way, the view displays the Material-UI button instead of the HTML5 file input element in mern-social/client/user/EditProfile.js:

With the Button‘s component prop set to span, the Button component renders as a span element inside the label element. A click on the Upload span or label is registered by the file input with the same ID as the label, and as a result, the file select dialog is opened. Once the user selects a file, you can set it to state in the call to handleChange(…) and display the name in the view in mern-social/client/user/EditProfile.js:

Form submission with the file attached

Uploading files to the server with a form requires a multipart form submission. You can modify the EditProfile component to use the FormData API to store the form data in the format needed for encoding type multipart/form-data.

First, you need to initialize FormData in componentDidMount() in mern-social/client/user/EditProfile.js:

Next, you need to update the input handleChange function to store input values for both the text fields and the file input in FormData in mern-social/client/user/EditProfile.js:

Then, on clicking submit, this.userData is sent with the fetch API call to update the user. As the content type of the data sent to the server is no longer ‘application/json’, you‚Äôll also need to modify the update fetch method in api-user.js to remove Content-Type from the headers in the fetch call in mern-social/client/user/api-user.js:

Now if the user chooses to upload a profile photo when editing profile, the server will receive a request with the file attached along with the other field values.

Processing a request containing a file upload

On the server, to process the request to the update API that may now contain a file, you need to use the formidable npm module:

Formidable will allow you to read the multipart form data, giving access to the fields and the file, if any. If there is a file, formidable will store it temporarily in the filesystem. You need to read it from the filesystem, using the fs module to retrieve the file type and data and store it in the photo field in the user model. The formidable code will go in the update controller in mern-social/server/controllers/user.controller.js as follows:

This will store the uploaded file as data in the database. Next, you‚Äôll need to set up file retrieval to be able to access and display the photo uploaded by the user in the frontend views.

Retrieving a profile photo

The simplest option to retrieve the file stored in the database and show it in a view is to set up a route that will fetch the data and return it as an image file to the requesting client.

Profile photo URL

You need to set up a route to the photo stored in the database for each user and also add another route that will fetch a default photo if the given user has not uploaded a profile photo in mern-social/server/routes/user.routes.js:

You need to look for the photo in the photo controller method and if found, send it in the response to the request at the photo route; otherwise, you‚Äôll need to call next() to return the default photo in mern-social/server/controllers/user.controller.js:

The default photo is retrieved and sent from the server’s file system in mern-social/server/controllers/user.controller.js:

Showing a photo in a view

With the photo URL routes set up to retrieve the photo, you can simply use these in the img element’s src attribute to load the photo in the view in mern-social/client/user/Profile.js. For example, in the Profile component, you‚Äôll get the user ID from state and use it to construct the photo URL.

To ensure that the img element reloads in the Profile view after the photo is updated in the edit, you need to also add a time value to the photo URL to bypass the browser’s default image caching behavior.

Then, you can set the photoUrl to the Material-UI Avatar component, which renders the linked image in the view:

The updated user profile in MERN Social can now display a user uploaded profile photo and an about description:

If you found this article helpful, you can explore Shama Hoque’s Full-Stack React Projects to unleash the power of MERN stack. This book guides you through MERN stack-based web development, for creating a basic skeleton application and extending it to build four different web applications.