Automate, automate and automate!

Recently I’ve spent several days on find the best way to set up an automation process for Javascript developers and I investigated several tools strictly related to the Javascript world.
These tools allow you to save a lot of time when you perform repetitive and sometimes boring tasks in order to test your HTML5 game, website or web app.
In this post I’d like to share with you what tools I’ve found and used to create a full-stack Javascript automation pipeline for any front end developer or team.

Let’s see what a Javascript developer or a team could automate in their machine to have a better code quality and to save a lot of time when they are working on their own library or projects.
For this purpose, in my pipeline, I’ve used different CLI tools like mocha, grunt, yeoman, blanket or plato.
Each of this tool allows you to perform a specific task but combined all together these tools will provide in your projects:

  • tdd, bdd and unit test
  • code coverage
  • dependencies management
  • (custom) project template
  • static analysis
  • tasks automation (live reloading, deploy in localhost folder, files concatenation…)

These are only few of the multiple options that you can have “playing” with these tools, but let’s try to go a little bit more in deep to see what tool can effectively help to accomplish each of the item present in the list above.

TDD, BDD and UNIT TEST

Surfing on the web about this topic on Javascript you’ll find really a lot of good libraries, the one I decided to use is Mocha because is very well integrated with Blanket (code coverage) and karma (tests runner) and because it’s based on node.js so you can create your libraries and then testing in pure javascript without any need to pass through HTML pages and if you need to test javascript code that will run only inside the browser you could fake the window object with libraries like jsdom integrated in your test cases.
Mocha allows you to work in BDD, TDD and in Unit Testing you can easily mix with several assertion libraries and writing also async tests became really really easy.
Other libraries that could be useful could be Jasmine or QUnit.

CODE COVERAGE

As I wrote before I found an interesting library that work perfectly with Mocha that is Blanket.js.
Blanket is very simple and easy to use library in particular when you have all your test written in modules (node.js style) instead of a mix between html and js files.
Blanket works not only with Mocha but also with Jasmine and QUnit, so basically with the most famous testing libraries!
One thing that I really appreciate of blanket is the final output that could be exported in an interactive HTML where immediately you can recognise what it’s not tested yet and jump from a file to another one following the menu on the right side of the template.
Another one that it seems quite interesting is Istanbul.js, I didn’t try yet but it’ll be the next one for sure, I heard really good experiences from other developers with this library!

STATIC ANALYSIS

When you want to use a static analysis tool in your pipeline on of the most popular is….
But I suggest to give a try to Plato in particular if you work alone or in a small team and you want to do a sanity check of your project.

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Plato, in fact, store all the information of your code project locally in some JSON files and you can navigate through the report directly from an HTML page created by the tool (above a screenshoot sample).
These stats are very interesting to check the are of improvement of your project and in particular with these tools you can have an immediate feedback on where your efforts should be focused in order to deliver a better product and be sure that the maintenance shouldn’t cost too much later on.
Obviously you can also use more sophisticated solutions like SonarQube and install it inside your server with the Javascript plugin and run your static analysis every time a developer push his code in git or mercurial.
Depends always the dimension of the project and the team, my suggestion is to start with Plato in a small project and then when you see the real value move to SonarQube also if you are a small organisation.r

PROJECT TEMPLATE

When you talk about template for Javascript it’s impossible to forget of Yeoman.
Yeoman is a scaffolding tool that allow you to create skeleton of project with your favorite JS library ready to use.
I really suggest to use these kind of tools because it facilitates the beginning of new projects and give you at the same time some standards inside your company and between your projects.
There are several generators ready to use and searchable from the official website, if you can’t find what you’re looking for it’s very easy use Node.JS and the APIs already built in Yeoman to create your own generator with the functionalities that your company or projects need.

TASKS AUTOMATION and DEPENDENCIES MANAGEMENT

This is my favourite part, I found in Grunt a really good tool to automate more or less everything that is not strictly related to write the project code inside my IDE!
Grunt is the glue to assembly in a pipeline all the tools explained above, easily in one line inside your CLI: “grunt”.
The community is really huge and you can find more or less everything for Node.JS or plain Javascript, from minify, uglify and concatenate your JS files, to compile your LESS or SASS files, to convert your ES6 code to ES5, to run static analysis or push your code directly on git simply with a grunt task.
One thing that I really like of Grunt is that you can easily scale the way you are working with it using a yaml file and different js files (one per task) and assembly them at runtime.
This allows to create some common tasks for the whole company and at the same time have the freedom to add custom automation for each project and/or department of your company.
I really suggest to take a look to the official website where you can find also many technical information and then start to automate your daily Javascript workflow.
Obviously if you’re not working with JS you can still use Grunt in combination with your favourite programming language or technology like Haxe, Dart, Typescript, Coffeescript or Adobe AIR; the flexibility of this tool is really impressive!

An Alternative to Grunt could be Gulp where the main difference is that grunt favours configuration over code and Gulp exactly the opposite.
The Gulp community is growing day by day and it’s interesting to see the different approach between these two great task runners, probably in the long term the Gulp approach will be more successful but for now Grunt is exactly what I was looking for.

Conclusion

As you’ve read the JS world has got really a lot of useful tool that will save a lot of time during your daily job as developer or company.
The mix of these tools allow to create a pipeline in pure Javascript and they could really improve your code quality and your flow to have standards inside yout projects and a solid flow that will able to scale your company or projects in an easy and professional way.
Obviously there aren’t only these few tools and libraries that I’ve tried, there are many others outside there that I’d like to mention like PhantomJS or Buster or Lineman and so on, but form the next five minutes before come back on what you were doing before reading this post, try to think how to improve your flow, trust me you will remain surprise on how more productive you’ll become introducing them inside your routine.

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A long weekend with Tizen, CreateJS and JQuery Mobile

Let’s start from the end of my weekend, this is what I’ve just finished:

And now it’s time to explain what there is behind.

What you have just seen is a PoC (Proof of Concept) for an application that I’ve in mind, it allowed me to study, test and having fun with different technologies, in this post I’d like to share what I’ve learnt in less than 24 hours.
I worked with different technologies as the post title suggest, I was really curios to see how I can create good application UI on Tizen OS and understand more about its limits (if there were of course) and performances.
At the beginning, I worked on the 2.5D animation where I had to scale, skew and rotate any images chosen by the user from the Gallery application.
When I started this part I tried immediately the CSS3 transitions, I thought: “They are new, so probably they care about performances on mobile!”, so after 3 hours to play with CSS3 transitions and trying to have a smooth animation on Tizen, I decide to move on Canvas!
CSS3 transitions are very good for web and desktop, but for mobile when you start to do many heavy animations they really suck, in this Tizen device (it has an hardware similar to Galaxy S3) that is so powerful everything has to work well and with them I can’t achieve my idea.

So I moved to Canvas, but I thought to find something that could help me during my “coding time” and that it feels me more comfortable so I remembered that I’ve used long time ago CreateJS for some test and in this case it helps me a lot.
When you work with CreateJS, more or less you are working with Actionscript with some small changes, for any Actionscript developer it should be a good start to move on Javascript, but there are many other options as Dart or Typescript for example that are good enough for any developer that is looking for something more than Javascript (my 2 cents).
But in this case CreateJS  helps me a lot because is highly focused on Canvas development so definitely what I was looking for.
I haven’t any trouble with this library on Tizen, the performance are so good as you have seen on the video and I didn’t write so much code, my Javascript file for the whole app is less than 260 lines, not a lot I guess.

After that I moved on and I start to work with Tizen web APIs to get images from the Gallery application.
In this case the Tizen developer forum and the online guide help me so much, in fact I found a working example in the forum that I had only to customise for my PoC.
The big issue that I found here is if I want to select more than one image, working with Gallery instance, I couldn’t do that or maybe I couldn’t find a way to do that, so I decided to create a quick picker (at the beginning of my application) to allow me to choose more than one image to the time.
To do that I had to work with filesystem APIs instead of the Gallery one, but in a while I had done everything, this is the code to retrieve all images from Image folder of Tizen OS, but you can use to retrieve any kind of files on Tizen OS:

function onResolveError() {
    console.log("error retrieve data");
}
function onsuccess(files) {
    for (var i = 0; i < files.length; i++) {
        console.log("File name is " + files[i].name + " and URL is " + files[i].toURI()); 
    }
}
function onResolveSuccess(dir) {
    dir.listFiles(onsuccess, onResolveError);
}
function openImages() {
    tizen.filesystem.resolve('images', onResolveSuccess, onResolveError, 'w'); 
}

After that I spend few hours to skin my app and get the right look and feel I had in mind with CSS and JQuery mobile and to create this post with the video.
A quick recap of my last experience:

  • on Tizen if you need to improve performances try to work with Canvas instead of CSS transitions
  • when you have to retrieve files (images, video or whatever) remember to set the right privileges on config.xml and then add the code you can find above
  • CreateJS is a really good library if you want to work with Canvas efficiently and without wasting your time
  • CreateJS has a good community and if you have a problem you can find a lot of solutions and suggestions
  • CreateJS is familiar for any Actionscript 3 developer

That’s it!
Ah, if you are asking if I changed my “religion”? Don’t worry, soon you’ll have news about Flash Platform in this blog, but sometimes I want to experiment new things.