reginn
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2.1.5 • Public • Published

Reginn

Composable Command Line Applications

Reginn helps you conquer the world of command line applications functionally.

Reginn empowers you with simple functions to implement complex command-line applications with expressive code and ease. By sandboxing side effects into tightly-controlled areas of your application, your code will become easy to read, reason about, and test.

Why Reginn?

Reginn was built to eliminate the crutch on monolithic imperative APIs to work with on the command line.

Leading alternatives are both largely unmaintained and feature large imperative classes, which tend to be bad for reusability. Many of them introduce lots of new syntax that you have to learn and they all are based around the way you format strings. That is usually a recipe for disaster. Many alternatives also force the intermixing of where you declare your application’s intent and where side effects exist that leads to poor separation of concerns and testability.

Reginn is laser-focused to create small, testable functions that allow you to build you command line applications with assurances not found elsewhere. Reginn introduces zero new syntax to your application and only adds some lego-like functions that can be composed together to create your application.

TypeScript

This library is written in TypeScript and is highly recommended when writing your applications!

This is for me!

npm install --save reginn
 
# Do awesome things! 

Basic Usage and Tutorial

Defining what we want

We're going to walk through the process of creating a small application that reads an input file, and writes it somewhere else. Let's dive in!

The end result we're looking for is an application we can use like this

node ./cli.js move -i path/to/file -o new/path/to/file
# without abbreviation 
node ./cli.js move --input path/to/file --output new/path/to/file

Let's break it down into a few pieces first to see what it is we're trying to achieve. We're going to work right to left, as this is how function composition works.

Creating Option Flags

First we want to define how our application can process -o new/path/to/file The code to do this is

import { flag, alias } from 'reginn'
 
const outputFlag = flag('string', alias('output', 'o'))

Remember that we're dealing with function composition. Here we are describing that we want to create a Flag with an alias of output and an abbreviation of o.

Let's break that down a little further.

First we create a new Alias. An alias is a low-level type designed to associate other types with a name and optionally an abbreviation to that name. We do that here by calling alias('output', 'o').

Secondly we wrap that alias inside of Reginn's flag() function. This creates our second type introduced here: Flag. A Flag is a mechanism for creating options that change or define the behavior of your applications. The first argument string is telling Reginn how to parse its input.

Can you guess how we are going to create the next piece of our API?

We want to enable this: -i path/to/file

const inputFlag = flag('string', alias('input', 'i'))

Exactly like the outputFlag above!

Building Commands

Next we want to be able to describe the command build that accepts these flags. We are going to introduce a new type.

import { command } from 'reginn'
 
const moveCommand = command(alias('move'), inputFlag, outputFlag)

Here we're introducing a new type Command. Commands are composed of an Alias and any number of Flags.

Commands are a very special type and is where we branch our code to sandbox our side effects.

Sandboxing Side-Effects

Here we are going to perform our applications sole purpose. Reginn has a few functions to create side-effects but here we are going to use a Promise.

import { readFile, writeFile } from 'fs'
 
import { withPromise } from 'reginn'
 
withPromise(moveCommand).then(({ args, options }) => {
  // lets read our input file
  readFile(options.input, 'utf8', (err, content) => {
    if (err) throw err
 
    // and lets write it to our output file
    writeFile(options.output, content, 'utf8', (err) => {
      if (err) throw err
    })
  })
})

Calling withPromise with a Command as the sole argument returns to us a Promise that will resolve when the command has been matched. The resolved promise will have access to an object with args and options.

args here is an array of strings, representing all non-Flag parameters given to our application.

options here is a hash of flags we are explicitly handling, and have been matched.

For example:

node ./cli.js move notAFlag --input file.js --output output.js --unhandledFlag

The resulting args will be [ 'notAFlag' ] and options will be

{
  input: "file.js",
  output: "output.js"
}

So lets recap what we've done so far. We've learned how to create flags to give options to our application, build commands that can make use of those flags, and lastly how to do something with all that.

The last thing we need to do is run it!

The code to do so is

import { run } from 'reginn'
 
run(moveCommand)

This is all we need to implement the API we set out to describe. Here is the entire application.

import { command, flag, alias, run, withPromise } from 'reginn'
 
const outputFlag = flag(alias('output', 'o'))
const inputFlag = flag(alias('input', 'i'))
const moveCommand = command(alias('move'), inputFlag, outputFlag)
 
withPromise(moveCommand).then(({ args, options }) => {
  // lets read our input file
  readFile(options.input, 'utf8', (err, content) => {
    if (err) throw err
 
    // and lets write it to our output file
    writeFile(options.output, content, 'utf8', (err) => {
      if (err) throw err
    })
  })
})
 
run(moveCommand)

At this point I hope you now understand the core concepts of what Reginn is trying to do, and what it is capable of.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and please open an issue for suggestions and comments!

API Documentation


Types

All of the types used by Reginn are simple objects exposed by functions of the same lowercased name, which are described above.

Alias

alias (name: string, aliasedName?: string): Alias

An alias is used to associate other types to a usable value for a user of your command line applications. An Alias is a fundamental type, that can not be composed of other types.

export interface Alias {
    type: 'alias';
    name: string;
    abbreviation: string;
}

Example:

import { alias } from 'reginn'
 
alias('name')
alias('name', 'aliasToName')

Description

function desctiption(description: string): Desc

A Description is used to associate a description to your Flags and Commands. It can be particular useful for generating output about your application.

export interface Description {
    type: 'description';
    description: string;
}

Example:

import { desc, flag, alias } from 'reginn'
 
flag('string', alias('input'), desc('Takes in a relative path an input file'))

See help for a more concrete example.

Flag

function flag(...definitions: Array<Alias | Desc | Type>): Flag

A Flag is a mid-level type which can be composed of Type, Desc and Alias. A flag is used to associate options to part of your command.

export declare type FlagType = 'string' | 'boolean';
export interface Flag {
    type: 'flag';
    flagType: FlagType;
    aliases: Array<Alias>;
    description?: string;
}

Example:

import { flag, type, alias } from 'reginn'
 
flag(type('boolean'), alias('example'))

Command

command(...definitions: Array<Flag | Alias | Desc | Command>): Command

A Command is a very special type which allows us to compose many options together to create a public facing API, and also as a place to sandbox our side-effects.

A Command is typically composed of types Alias, Flag and Desc, but for subcommands, can be composed with other Command types. In the case of matching a command that has subcommands, the parent's handler will receive an instance of type App (App is described after this section in detail).

withPromise(commandWithSubCommands).then((app: App) => {
  run(app) // run your sub application
})
 
// or simply
 
withPromise(commandWithSubCommands).then(run)

The reason that subcommands are handled in this way, is because executing commands is a side-effect! Furthermore, it is possible to provide extra logic to be performed before calling the subcommmands like composing with another App.

export interface Command {
    type: 'command';
    flags: CommandFlags;
    aliases: Array<Alias>;
    commands: Array<Command>;
    description?: string;
    handler?: Handler;
}
 
export interface CommandFlags {
    string?: string[];
    boolean?: string[];
    alias?: {
        [key: string]: string;
    };
    default?: {
        [key: string]: any;
    };
}
 
export interface HandlerOptions {
    args: Array<string>;
    options: any;
}
 
export interface HandlerApp extends App {
    args: Array<string>;
    options: any;
}
 
export interface Handler {
    (input: HandlerOptions | HandlerApp): any;
}

Example:

import { command, flag, alias } from 'reginn'
run(command(flag(alias('only'), alias('test'))))

App

app(...definitions: Array<Flag | Command | App>): App

An App is a collection of any number of Commands, Flags, and also other Apps to create a container for many commands and flags for you application.

A large application can be composed or any number of smaller applications e.g. app(app(), app(), app()), where app's are composed of commands and flags.

A note on composing many applications: A deep merge is performed from left to right on each containing application. What this means, is if there is a overlap of commands between the applications, the one defined on the application to the right will override the application to the left.

export interface App {
    type: 'app';
    commands: Array<Command>;
    flags: CommandFlags;
}

Example:

import { app, command, alias } from 'reginn'
 
const gitApp = app(command(alias('git')))
 
const hgApp = app(command(alias('hg')))
 
const vcsApp = app(gitApp, hgApp)
 
// Now we've got two commands that can be used:
// node ./cli.js git
// node ./cli.js hg

Running you Application


run(args: string[], appOrCommand: App | Command): App

run(appOrCommand: App | Command): App

run() is the function which gets your application off of it's feet by processing arguments, and executing command handlers. Calling run with an array of strings allows for you to explicitly define what is parsed by the application which is immensely useful for testing.

import { run } from 'reginn'
 
run(application)

Handlers

Handlers are the mechanisms for performing side-effects from commands.

withPromise(cmd: Command): Promise<HandlerOption | App>

import { withPromise } from 'reginn'
 
withPromise(command).then(({ args, options }) => {
  // do stuff
})

withCallback(cmd: Command, callback: (input: HandlerOption | App) => any): void

import { withCallback } from 'reginn'
 
withCallback(command, ({ args, options }) => {
  // do stuff
})

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