Building a GraphQL Application with ASP.Net Core and TypeScript - Part 2

  • May 19, 2019
  • web
  • 8 minutes

In the first part of this series, we discussed steps to develop a GraphQL server using ASP.Net core. Since we have a server up and running now, we will build a client that works with the API we just created.

We will build a minimal client using TypeScript that has no dependency on frameworks or libraries such as Angular and React. Our client will accept a query or mutation from the command line argument and send a request to the GraphQL API. The client will cast the response it receives from the API to a string and print it to the console. For building this client, we will use the popular Apollo Client library which works with both TypeScript and Javascript.

Code

The complete code of the application that comprises the client and the server components is available for download from GitHub.


The source code includes two folders:

  1. api: ASP.Net core based GraphQL server.
  2. web: TypeScript based GraphQL client.

Executing The Sample

Download the sample application and open the folder containing your applications using VSCode. I have added tasks in launch.json, and tasks.json files for VSCode (in the .vscode folder) which will help you build and debug the relevant application. In your command terminal (Ctrl + `) navigate to the api folder and execute the following command to start the GraphQL server.

dotnet build
dotnet run

Ensure that the API is accessible at the address: http://localhost:5000/graphql. Now, launch another terminal and navigate to the web directory. Execute the following command to install the required node packages.

npm install

To build the client project, you can either execute the following command in the terminal or use the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + B and select the build-watch web task from the drop-down.

npm run build:watch

To execute the included Jasmine tests, execute the following command in the terminal.

npm run test

After all the tests succeed, your project is now ready for a test drive. The application supports commands in the following format.

node index.js query\mutation [-m] [-a [argument dictionary]]

The command has three parts, the query or mutation operation string, a flag parameter (-m) that allows you to specify whether the string entered as argument is a query or a mutation (you can easily determine this by reading the first word of the operation string as well), and a dictionary of arguments specified through the parameter -a.

To save you effort and also to provide you with some examples, I have added two simple npm scripts to the application that will help you test the client. Execute the following command to execute a mutation operation on the API.

npm run run:testQuery

This command will execute the following query on the GraphQL API and print the response in the form of a string to the console.

query AuthorQuery($id:ID) {
    author(id:$id) {
        name
        quotes {
            text
            category}}}

The command also sends the following argument dictionary to the query to substitute the $id parameter.

{ "id": 1 }

The output of this command will list all the quotes from the author with Id value 1. Executing the following command will add a quote to the author with Id value 2.

npm run run:testMutation

This operation will execute the following mutation operation on the GraphQL API.

mutation QuoteMutation($authorId: Int!, $text: String!, $category: String!) {
    createQuote(quote: {authorId: $authorId, text: $text, category: $category}) {
        name
        quotes {
            text
            category}}}

The operation also passes the following argument dictionary to the mutation operation.

{"authorId":2,\"text":"FamousQuote1","category":"fun"}

The output of the previous command will list the name and quotes from the author whose record we just changed.

Output

To compare the results, following is a screenshot of the result of the mutation operation.

Mutation Output
Mutation Output - Full Image

Next, following is the output of the query operation.

Query Operation
Query Operation - Full Image

Let’s now dig deeper into the code I wrote for building this application.

Following The Debugger

The application begins execution from the index.ts\js file which contains the following code.

import * as OperationParser from './operationParser';
import { gqlOperations } from './options';

var opts = OperationParser.fromArgv(process.argv.slice(2));
console.log('Input:', opts.input);
console.log('Is Mutation:', opts.mutation);
console.log('Args:', opts.arguments);
var executeOperation = async () =>
  opts.mutation
    ? await gqlOperations['mutation'].operation(opts.input, opts.arguments)
    : await gqlOperations['query'].operation(opts.input, opts.arguments);
executeOperation().then(result => console.log('OUTPUT:', result));

The code in the listing consumes the arguments you passed to the command and sends them to the formArgv function defined in optionsParser file. The function returns an instance of the Options class in response, which exposes properties we have used to surface the arguments and also invoke the proper operation using the input.

Navigate to the optionsParser.ts file now. The fromArgv function uses a helper function minimistAs to split the input into operation string, the operation flag, and argument parameter value.

import * as minimist from 'minimist';

import { Options, Arguments } from './options';

function minimistAs<T>(
  args?: string[],
  opts?: minimist.Opts
): T & minimist.ParsedArgs {
  return <T & minimist.ParsedArgs>minimist(args, opts);
}

export function fromArgv(argv: string[]): Options {
  var parsedArgs = minimistAs<Arguments>(argv, {
    alias: { mutation: 'm', arguments: 'a' }
  });

  return new Options(parsedArgs._.join(' '), parsedArgs);
}

The minimistAs function uses a simple command line parser package minimist to parse the arguments and uses the type intersection feature of Typescript to generate a type that consists of properties in the Arguments type and ParsedArgs type. We have used this further to create an instance of the Options class.

Let’s now move on to explore the Options class in the options.ts file.

import { Mutation } from './mutation';
import { Query } from './query';

function exitIfUndefined(value: any, message: string) {
  if (typeof value === 'undefined' || value.trim() === '') {
    console.error(message);
    throw new Error(`${value} is not valid input.`);
  }
}

export const gqlOperations = {


};

export interface Arguments {
  readonly mutation: boolean;
  readonly arguments: string;
}

export class Options implements Arguments {
  readonly mutation: boolean;
  readonly arguments: string;

  constructor(public readonly input: string, args: Arguments) {
    exitIfUndefined(input, 'Please pass an input string.');

    this.mutation = args.mutation === undefined ? false : args.mutation;
    this.arguments = args.arguments;
  }
}

Most of the code in this file is straightforward and requires no explanation. The dictionary gqlOperations contains a reference to the Mutation and Query variables that use the Apollo client library to send requests to the GraphQL API. The code in index.ts file invokes the operation function in one of these variables by retrieving their reference from the gqlOperations dictionary by name.

Let’s now review the Query function present in the query.ts file.

import { IOperation } from './IOperation';
import { default as ApolloClient, ApolloQueryResult } from 'apollo-boost';
import { default as gql } from 'graphql-tag';
import { Config } from './config';
import 'cross-fetch/polyfill';

export var Query: IOperation = {
  async operation(input: string, argument: string): Promise<string> {
    let query = async (): Promise<ApolloQueryResult<any>> => {
      let client = new ApolloClient({ uri: Config.graphQl });
      return await client.query({
        query: gql(input),
        variables: JSON.parse(argument)
      });
    };

    let result = await query();
    return JSON.stringify(result.data);
  }
};

Both the Query and the Mutation variables implement the IOperation interface and use the Apollo client class available in the apollo-client package to send requests to the GraphQL API. The query method of the ApolloClient class also supports sending arguments of the query in the request. We used this feature of the query method to send the arguments of the query to the API.

Understanding the code of the Mutation in the mutation.ts file will be easy for you as it closely resembles the implementation you went through in the query.ts file.

import { IOperation } from './IOperation';
import { default as ApolloClient, FetchResult } from 'apollo-boost';
import { default as gql } from 'graphql-tag';
import { Config } from './config';
import 'cross-fetch/polyfill';

export var Mutation: IOperation = {
  async operation(input: string, argument: string): Promise<string> {
    let query = async (): Promise<FetchResult<any>> => {
      let client = new ApolloClient({ uri: Config.graphQl });
      return await client.mutate({
        mutation: gql(input),
        variables: JSON.parse(argument)
      });
    };

    let result = await query();
    return JSON.stringify(result.data);
  }
};

I want to bring a few other salient features of this solution to your attention. As you must have observed, the operation function of the IOperation interface is asynchronous. This promise is resolved in the index.ts file. The configurations file config.js contains the link to the GraphQL API. If your API is running on some other port, then you can alter the link to the API in this file. I have written tests for some components of this application using Jasmine, which is the most popular BDD test framework for Javascript. To support symbol mapping so that VSCode debugger can work with tests, I have used the source-map-support package. I reference this package and invoke the install function at the beginning of every test file. For larger applications, you can concatenate this code to all test files on build. To output the test results in a visually appealing format, I have used the jasmine-console-reporter package.

Type Definitions

An issue we have not yet discussed is strong typing. In real-world applications, you would need type definitions (*.d.ts files) for TypeScript to help you develop strongly typed mutations and queries. Since GraphQL server publishes the schema of queries and mutations available to clients, tools such as apollo-codegen can help generate TypeScript definitions automatically.

I hope that I could provide you enough information to get interested in GraphQL and kindle your desire to learn GraphQL. Happy coding.

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Hi! I'm Rahul Rai, an author, a programmer, and a technophile. I'm a Senior Consultant at Readify, Sydney, Australia.

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