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plop

Plop

Micro-generator framework that makes it easy for an entire team to create files with a level of uniformity. plop demo

Documentation also available on plopjs.com

Getting Started

npm   npm   plop on slack

What is Plop?

Plop is what I like to call a "micro-generator framework." Now, I call it that because it is a small tool that gives you a simple way to generate code or any other type of flat text files in a consistent way. You see, we all create structures and patterns in our code (routes, controllers, components, helpers, etc). These patterns change and improve over time so when you need to create a NEW insert-name-of-pattern-here, it's not always easy to locate the files in your codebase that represent the current "best practice." That's where plop saves you. With plop, you have your "best practice" method of creating any given pattern in CODE. Code that can easily be run from the terminal by typing plop. Not only does this save you from hunting around in your codebase for the right files to copy, but it also turns "the right way" into "the easiest way" to make new files.

If you boil plop down to its core, it is basically glue code between inquirer prompts and handlebar templates.

This documentation is a work in progress. If you have great ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Installation

1. Add plop to your project

$ npm install --save-dev plop

2. Install plop globally (optional, but recommended for easy access)

$ npm install -g plop

3. Create a plopfile.js at the root of your project

module.exports = function (plop) {
    // create your generators here
    plop.setGenerator('basics', {
        description: 'this is a skeleton plopfile',
        prompts: [], // array of inquirer prompts
        actions: []  // array of actions
    });
};

Your First Plopfile

A plopfile starts its life as a lowly node module that exports a function which accepts the plop object as its first parameter.

module.exports = function (plop) {};

The plop object exposes the plop api object which contains the setGenerator(name, config) function. This is the function that you use to (wait for it) create a generator for this plopfile. When plop is run from the terminal in this directory (or any sub-directory), a list of these generators will be displayed.

Let's try setting up a basic generator to see how that looks.

module.exports = function (plop) {
    // controller generator
    plop.setGenerator('controller', {
        description: 'application controller logic',
        prompts: [{
            type: 'input',
            name: 'name',
            message: 'controller name please'
        }],
        actions: [{
            type: 'add',
            path: 'src/{{name}}.js',
            templateFile: 'plop-templates/controller.hbs'
        }]
    });
};

The controlller generator we created above will ask us 1 question, and create 1 file. This can be expanded to ask as many questions as needed, and create as many files as needed. There are also additional actions that can be used to alter our codebase in different ways.

CLI Usage

Once plop is installed, and you have created a generator, you are ready to run plop from the terminal. Running plop with no parameters will present you with a list of generators to pick from. You can also run plop [generatorName] to trigger a generator directly. If you did not install plop globally, you will need to setup an npm script to run plop for you.

Bypassing Prompts

Once you get to know a project (and its generators) well, you may want to provide answers to the prompts when you run the generator. If I have (for instance) a component generator that has one prompt (name), I can run that generator using plop component "some component name" and it will immediately execute as though I had typed "some component name" into the prompt. If that same generator had a second prompt, the same input would have resulted in the user being prompted for the second value.

Prompts like confirm and list try to make sense of your input as best they can. For instance entering "y", "yes", "t", or "true" for a confirm prompt will result in a boolean true value. You can select items from a list using their value, index, key, or name. Checkbox prompts can accept a comma separated list of values in order to select multiples.

plop bypass demo

If you want to provide bypass input for the second prompt but not the first, you can use an underscore "_" to skip the bypass (ie plop component _ "input for second prompt").

Plop comes with bypass logic built-in for standard inquirer prompts, but there are also ways to provide custom logic for how to handle user input for a specific prompt.

If you have published a 3rd party inquirer prompt plugin and would like to support bypass functionality for plop users out of the box, that is covered in another section of this documentation.

Why Generators?

Because when you create your boilerplate separate from your code, you naturally put more time and thought into it.

Because saving your team (or yourself) 5-15 minutes when creating every route, component, controller, helper, test, view, etc... really adds up.

Because context switching is expensive and saving time is not the only benefit to automating workflows

Plopfile Api

The plopfile api is the collection of methods that are exposed by the plop object. Most of the work is done by setGenerator but this section documents the other methods that you may also find useful in your plopfile.

Main Methods

These are the methods you will commonly use when creating a plopfile. Other methods that are mostly for internal use are list in the other methods section.

Method Parameters Returns Description
setGenerator String, GeneratorConfig GeneratorConfig setup a generator
setHelper String, Function setup handlebars helper
setPartial String, String setup a handlebars partial
setActionType String, CustomAction register a custom action type
setPrompt String, InquirerPrompt registers a custom prompt type with inquirer
load Array[String], Object, Object loads generators, helpers and/or partials from another plopfile or npm module

setHelper

setHelper directly corresponds to the handlebars method registerHelper. So if you are familiar with handlebars helpers, then you already know how this works.

module.exports = function (plop) {
    plop.setHelper('upperCase', function (text) {
        return text.toUpperCase();
    });
 
    // or in es6/es2015
    plop.setHelper('upperCase', (txt) => txt.toUpperCase());
};

setPartial

setPartial directly corresponds to the handlebars method registerPartial. So if you are familiar with handlebars partials, then you already know how this works.

module.exports = function (plop) {
    plop.setPartial('myTitlePartial', '<h1>{{titleCase name}}</h1>');
    // used in template as {{> myTitlePartial }}
};

setActionType

setActionType allows you to create your own actions (similar to add or modify) that can be used in your plopfiles. These are basically highly reusable custom action functions.

FunctionSignature Custom Action

Parameters Type Description
1) answers Object Answers to the generator prompts
2) config ActionConfig The object in the "actions" array for the generator
3) plop PlopfileApi The plop api for the plopfile where this action is being run
module.exports = function (plop) {
 
    plop.setActionType('doTheThing', function (answers, config, plop) {
        // do something
        doSomething(config.configProp);
        // if something went wrong
        throw 'error message';
        // otherwise
        return 'success status message';
    });
 
    // or do async things inside of an action
    plop.setActionType('doTheAsyncThing', function (answers, config, plop) {
        // do something
        return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
            if (success) {
                resolve('success status message');
            } else {
                reject('error message');
            }
        });
    });
 
    // use the custom action
    plop.setGenerator('test', {
        prompts: [],
        actions: [{
            type: 'doTheThing',
            configProp: 'available from the config param'
        }, {
            type: 'doTheAsyncThing',
            speed: 'slow'
        }]
    });
};

setPrompt

Inquirer provides many types of prompts out of the box, but it also allows developers to build prompt plugins. If you'd like to use a prompt plugin, you can register it with setPrompt. For more details see the Inquirer documentation for registering prompts. Also check out the plop community driven list of custom prompts.

const promptDirectory = require('inquirer-directory');
module.exports = function (plop) {
    plop.setPrompt('directory', promptDirectory);
    plop.setGenerator('test', {
        prompts: [{
            type: 'directory',
            ...
        }]
    });
};

setGenerator

The config object needs to include prompts and actions (description is optional). The prompts array is passed to inquirer. The actions array is a list of actions to take (described in greater detail below)

Interface GeneratorConfig

Property Type Default Description
description [String] short description of what this generator does
prompts Array[InquirerQuestion] questions to ask the user
actions Array[ActionConfig] actions to perform

If your list of actions needs to be dynamic, take a look at using a dynamic actions array.

Interface ActionConfig

The following properties are the standard properties that plop handles internally. Other properties will be required depending on the type of action. Also take a look at the built-in actions.

Property Type Default Description
type String the type of action (add, modify, addMany, etc)
abortOnFail Boolean true if this action fails for any reason abort all future actions

Instead of an Action Object, a function can also be used

Other Methods

Method Parameters Returns Description
getHelper String Function get the helper function
getHelperList Array[String] get a list of helper names
getPartial String String get a handlebars partial by name
getPartialList Array[String] get a list of partial names
getActionType String CustomAction get an actionType by name
getActionTypeList Array[String] get a list of actionType names
setWelcomeMessage String Customizes the displayed message that asks you to choose a generator when you run plop.
getGenerator String GeneratorConfig get the GeneratorConfig by name
getGeneratorList Array[Object] gets an array of generator names and descriptions
setPlopfilePath String set the plopfilePath value which is used internally to locate resources like template files
getPlopfilePath String returns the absolute path to the plopfile in use
getDestBasePath String returns the base path that is used when creating files
setDefaultInclude Object Object sets the default config that will be used for this plopfile if it is consumed by another plopfile using plop.load()
getDefaultInclude String Object gets the default config that will be used for this plopfile if it is consumed by another plopfile using plop.load()
renderString String, Object String Runs the first parameter (String) through the handlebars template renderer using the second parameter (Object) as the data. Returns the rendered template.

Built-In Actions

There are several types of built-in actions you can use in your GeneratorConfig. You specify which type of action (all paths are based on the location of the plopfile), and a template to use.

Add

The add action is used to (you guessed it) add a file to your project. The path property is a handlebars template that will be used to create the file by name. The file contents will be determined by the template or templateFile property.

Property Type Default Description
path String a handlebars template that (when rendered) is the path of the new file
template String a handlebars template that should be used to build the new file
templateFile String a path a file containing the template
abortOnFail inherited from ActionConfig

AddMany

The addMany action can be used to add multiple files to your project with a single action. The destination property is a handlebars template that will be used to identify the folder that the generated files should go into. The base property can be used to alter what section of the template paths should be omitted when creating files. The paths located by the templateFiles glob can use handlebars syntax in their file/folder names if you'd like the added file names to be unique (example: {{ dashCase name }}.spec.js).

Property Type Default Description
destination String a handlebars template that (when rendered) is the destination folder for the new files
base String the section of the path that should be excluded when adding files to the destination folder
templateFiles Glob glob pattern that matches multiple template files to be added
abortOnFail inherited from ActionConfig

Modify

The modify action will use a pattern property to find/replace text in the file located at the path specified. More details on modify can be found in the example folder.

Property Type Default Description
path String handlebars template that (when rendered) is the path of the file to be modified
pattern RegExp regular expression used to match text that should be replaced
template String handlebars template that should replace what was matched by the pattern. capture groups are available as $1, $2, etc
templateFile String path a file containing the template
abortOnFail inherited from ActionConfig

Custom (Action Function)

The Add and Modify actions will take care of almost every case that plop is designed to handle. However, plop does offer custom action functions for the node/js guru. A custom action function is a function that is provided in the actions array.

  • Custom action functions are executed by plop with the same CustomAction function signature.
  • Plop will wait for the custom action to complete before executing the next action.
  • The function must let plop known what’s happening through the return value. If you return a Promise, we won’t start other actions until the promise resolves. If you return a message (String), we know that the action is done and we’ll report the message in the status of the action.
  • A custom action fails if the promise is rejected, or the function throws an Exception

See the example plopfile for a sample synchronous custom action.

Built-In Helpers

There are a few helpers that I have found useful enough to include with plop. They are mostly case modifiers, but here is the complete list.

Case Modifiers

  • camelCase: changeFormatToThis
  • snakeCase: change_format_to_this
  • dashCase/kebabCase: change-format-to-this
  • dotCase: change.format.to.this
  • pathCase: change/format/to/this
  • properCase/pascalCase: ChangeFormatToThis
  • lowerCase: change format to this
  • sentenceCase: Change format to this,
  • constantCase: CHANGE_FORMAT_TO_THIS
  • titleCase: Change Format To This

Other Helpers

  • pkg: look up a property from a package.json file in the same folder as the plopfile.

Taking it Further

There is not a lot needed to get up and running on some basic generators. However, if you want to take your plop-fu further, read on young padawan.

Using a Dynamic Actions Array

Alternatively, the actions property of the GeneratorConfig can itself be a function that takes the answers data as a parameter and returns the actions array.

This allows you to adapt the actions array based on provided answers:

module.exports = function (plop) {
    plop.setGenerator('test', {
        prompts: [{
            type: 'confirm',
            name: 'wantTacos',
            message: 'Do you want tacos?'
        }],
        actions: function(data) {
            var actions = [];
 
            if(data.wantTacos) {
                actions.push({
                    type: 'add',
                    path: 'folder/{{dashCase name}}.txt',
                    templateFile: 'templates/tacos.txt'
                });
            } else {
                actions.push({
                    type: 'add',
                    path: 'folder/{{dashCase name}}.txt',
                    templateFile: 'templates/burritos.txt'
                });
            }
 
            return actions;
        }
    });
};

3rd Party Prompt Bypass

If you have written an inquirer prompt plugin and want to support plop's bypass functionality, the process is pretty simple. The plugin object that your prompt exports should have a bypass function. This bypass function will be run by plop with the user's input as the first parameter and the prompt config object as the second parameter. The value that this function returns will be added to the answer data object for that prompt.

// My confirmation inquirer plugin
module.exports = MyConfirmPluginConstructor;
function MyConfirmPluginConstructor() {
    // ...your main plugin code
    this.bypass = (rawValue, promptConfig) => {
        const lowerVal = rawValue.toString().toLowerCase();
        const trueValues = ['t', 'true', 'y', 'yes'];
        const falseValues = ['f', 'false', 'n', 'no'];
        if (trueValues.includes(lowerVal)) return true;
        if (falseValues.includes(lowerVal)) return false;
        throw Error(`"${rawValue}" is not a valid ${promptConfig.type} value`);
    };
    return this;
}

For the above example, the bypass function takes the user's text input and turns it into a Boolean value that will be used as the prompt answer data.

Adding Bypass Support to Your Plopfile

If the 3rd party prompt plugin you are using does not support bypass by default, you can add the bypass function above to your prompt's config object and plop will use it for handling bypass data for that prompt.