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0.9.4 • Public • Published

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A JavaScript library to query, inspect and modify a Portofino service. We can use this to build an application on top of a Portofino backend.

Portofino-commander has few dependencies:

  • The standard fetch API, for HTTP requests;
  • RxJS, for reactive APIs;
  • jwt-decode, to handle authentication;
  • i18next, for internationalization.

These all work on the browser as well as in Node, therefore Portofino-commander runs in both environments.


Portofino-commander is available from the NPM Registry, so we can use tools like NPM or Yarn to install it:

npm install --save portofino-commander


yarn add portofino-commander

For convenience, we also provide a minified bundle of Portofino-commander and its dependencies for use in the browser, so you can include it like so:

<script src="./static/bundle/portofino-commander-0.9.2-bundle.js" charset="UTF-8" defer></script>

You can find the bundle in the Releases page.

Such a deployment option is not recommended except for quick testing or very simple pages/applications. In general, we recommend using proper build tools.


Portofino-commander tries to provide intuitive APIs on top of a relatively complex implementation. Let's see how to use it.

Connection to a Portofino Service

We start by connecting to a running Portofino service:

const portofino = Portofino.connect(
    new UsernamePasswordAuthenticator(
        new FixedUsernamePasswordProvider("admin", "admin")));

The above applies to Portofino 5 and 6 services (based on Spring Boot).

Note that, in a production or staging application, the service is going to be exposed with a public or internal URL, most probably behind a reverse proxy. So, the actual URL will vary accordingly to the server's configuration.

Non-standard Service URL

Even on a development machine, a service could have a non-standard configuration, and its address could be different.

If unsure, check the log messages emitted while the service starts up and look for lines like the following:

PortofinoJerseyAutoConfiguration : API path: /abc/

and then:

TomcatWebServer  : Tomcat started on port(s): 12345 (http) with context path 'xyz'

These tell us that the root of the Portofino REST APIs is http://localhost:12345/xyz/abc. Normally, though, the API path is /, the context path is the empty string, and the port is 8080, so we obtain the URL in the example, http://localhost:8080/.

Connection to a Portofino 5 Web Application

If connecting to a Portofino 5 application deployed as a .war file, instead, the URL will be different, and it will typically look like http://localhost:8080/demo-tt/api.

demo-tt is the context path (in layman terms, a portion of the URL identifying the application). It could be missing if the application is deployed at the root (e.g., on Tomcat, if the .war file is named ROOT.war).

/api is the REST API root, because if we access http://localhost:8080/demo-tt we'll receive the HTML of the application's home page. This path can be customized in the application's web.xml file, but /api is the default, and it rarely gets changed.

Again, this only applies to local usage in a development environment. A deployed .war application will have a different URL, that depends on the configuration of the server.

Making Requests

Once we've got a connection, we can make requests to the server. We do this conceptually in two steps:

  • First, we obtain a resource (e.g. a CRUD ResourceAction) – this is a class in the application;
  • Then, we invoke an operation on the resource (e.g. "save" on an CRUD) – this is a method of the resource.

Portofino-commander implements both access to a resource and invocation of an operation with an RxJS Observable. Observables are proxied so that we don't have to use the RxJS APIs (such as pipe or subscribe) to chain them. Some examples follow.

Let's first define an observer that will just print the result of an operation to the console:

const observer = {
    next(response) { response.json().then(json => console.log(json)); },
    error(e) { alert("Uh-oh!"); console.log(e); }

Then, we can invoke an operation like so:

// Print info about the application

portofino.upstairs is a special resource that is pre-filled by Portofino-commander if it's available on the service.

We can access other resources using the get method:

const projectsCrud = portofino.get("projects");

Then, we can invoke operations on it:

// List
// CRUD, single object

We can also access sub-resources. In the following, the effect is the same as the above (loading an object from a CRUD resource):

const project1 = projectsCrud.get("PRJ_1");

get can also access a subpath:


A more involved example, invoking an upstairs operation:

    .getTablesInSchema("db", "schema")

Note: when connecting to a Portofino 5 service or application, we have to replace .load() with .op_get() (see below).

When we're done, we should terminate the session:


Note how calls to subscribe are needed to actually perform the HTTP requests to the backend. This is because RxJS is "lazy" and doesn't run any code until someone looks at the results (i.e. subscribes to the observable).

Portofino-commander automatically discovers operations such as load() above for CRUD, or getTablesInSchema(db, schema), by querying the Portofino service. That's why resource.get(subresource) returns an Observable. The resource is only "ready" after the service has responded with the list of available operations for that resource.

Note that the operations that are available also depend on the user's identity. Some users may not have the privileges to invoke a certain operation, in that case, it won't be available in the client.


To know which operations are available on a resource and what parameters they accept, we access the operations property of the resource:

//Or, alternatively
    next(p) { console.log(p.operations); }

Each operation can be invoked:

    mergeMap(ops => ops["load"].invoke())

Usually there's no reason to invoke them like this when we can simply use proxied methods as shown in the previous section. In fact, the above code is equivalent to:


Passing Parameters

Some operations may accept parameters. These can be:

  • Path parameters. We pass them as arguments of the operation, e.g. someResource.someOperation("pathParam1", "pathParam2")
  • Other parameters such as query string parameters, headers, or the HTTP request body. We pass these in an object as the last argument of the operation, e.g. someCrud.save("id", { json: { ... } }). This object conforms to the options parameter of the standard fetch API with a couple of extra properties for convenience, such as json shown earlier that automatically converts a JSON body to a string and sets the right Content-Type header.

Explicit RxJS

If for whatever reason we want to use the RxJS APIs directly without proxies we can do so:

    mergeMap(p => p.get("projects")),
    mergeMap(pr => pr.get("PRJ_1")),
    mergeMap(prj1 => prj1.load())

Notice how portofino as well as everything get returns is an Observable<ResourceAction>, while the result of invoking operations on the server (such as load in the previous example) is an Observable<Response>.


Portofino-commander is developed and tested against Portofino 6.

While portofino-commander's general approach works perfectly well with Portofino 5, some REST APIs in P5 weren't designed with such a client in mind, and require some extra handling to invoke them. For example, some methods require that we explicitly set an Accept header to restrict the response to JSON. In other cases, operation names conflict with portofino-commander's own functions (e.g. "get"). This is the case of the CRUD's load operation. In Portofino 5, instead of using crud.load(), we'll have to write crud.op_get() which is a bit uglier to read.


Portofino-commander handles JWT-based authentication for you, including refreshing the token when it's about to expire.

We can easily write a UsernamePasswordProvider that asks the user for their credentials using the UI components of our choice. Portofino-commander is completely UI agnostic (but its use of RxJS may integrate well with UI frameworks that use RxJS, such as Angular).


Portofino-commander uses I18next to translate error messages. It only comes with English translations and doesn't do any language detection on its own. It's easy to provide strings in other languages and plug in a language detector. We can just follow I18next's documentation, and ensure that Portofino doesn't set up its default I18n configuration:

Portofino.connect(url, authenticator, { setupDefaultI18n: false });


Work in progress.


Portofino-commander is licensed under the GNU AGPL. In layman terms, if you build any kind of tool or service on top of it, you need to release its source code. If you'd like to use portofino-commander as a component in a tool or service and require a more business-friendly license, please open an issue or contact me directly. I'm open to licensing this to specific organizations so that they can use it, even free of charge, but I prefer to have a say in that.


You can help me develop and maintain this and other projects by donating to my Patreon.




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