Tag: tutorial

Build an Image Search Microservice with the Imgur API

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to touch Free Code Camp backend projects, but during my week off I decided to build out the next API project I had yet to attempt, the Image Search Abstraction Layer microservice. I love building and working with APIs, so this was a fun project to build. Let’s get started!

First, let’s initialize our git repository and jump into it.
git init image-search-microservice
cd image-search-microservice

Now, we’ll want to setup our project’s package.json. If you haven’t tested out Yarn yet, I highly recommend giving it a try.
yarn init

Speaking of which, make sure you’ve updated your copy of Node for this tutorial, as I’ll be using some ES6.

Whether you’re using npm or yarn, you can skip through most of the default settings. Personally though, I’m changing my entry point to app.js.

Next, let’s set up our .gitignore to ignore the node_modules folder and our .env file, which we’ll introduce a little later. Drop these two lines in your terminal to do this quickly.
echo node_modules >> .gitignore
echo .env >> .gitignore

Now let’s install the node modules we’ll need for this project. The list is pretty short for this one:
yarn add express mongoose request
yarn add dotenv --dev

Go ahead and create your app.js and setup the basic scaffolding for an express app.

const express = require('express');

const app = express();

const port = process.env.PORT || 3000;
const server = app.listen(port, function() {
    console.log(`Server listening on port ${port}`);

At this point, you should be able to run nodemon (assuming you have it installed globally) in your terminal and see your server running on port 3000. If not, go ahead and compare your project files.

I’m all about writing modular code, so we’re going to set up some folders and files like so:

First we’ll set up the routing. Add const routes = require('./routes/index');
and app.use('/', routes); in our app.js to be used as middleware. Then, setup your routes/index.js like so:

const express = require('express');
const router = express.Router();

router.get('/', (req, res) => {

router.get('/latest', (req, res) => {

router.get('/search/:q', (req, res) => {

module.exports = router;

Now, we’ve moved the job of routing out of our app.js. The advantage to doing this is that if our app were to grow, we could add additional route files and keep our project modular and clean. I’ve also setup the basic routing our application will need: a root endpoint where we can eventually display a landing page if we so choose, a /latest endpoint where our app will display the ten latest searches, and a /search/:q endpoint where we can pass a string in to search.

Next, head over to the services/imgur.js file and drop this in:

const request = require('request');

exports.getImage = function(search, page = 1) {
  return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {

We’ll be making a request to the Imgur API through our app, and the request module makes that really simple. Also, we’re going to be calling this function back in our route file, so I’ve set it up as an exported function that takes two parameters. The first is the search term, the second is the pagination option which we can default to ‘1’ if nothing is passed. And finally, I’m a big fan of promises over callbacks, so I’ve set this function to return a promise.

Now, per the documentation, the request module can be invoked with two parameters – an options object and a callback. In our options object, we’ll need to pass in our unique client ID from Imgur. Swing over to if you haven’t done so already and register your application. You can choose ‘Anonymous usage without user authorization’ when prompted.

Now that we’ve got our code, we can build out an options object within our promise statement like so:

let options = {
      url: `${page}?q=${search}`,
      headers: { Authorization: 'Client-ID kfbr392kfbr392' },
      json: true,

In here, we’re setting up the URL that we’ll be connecting to Imgur with. Here, we’ve used ES6 template strings to cleanly drop in the page and search parameters from our getImage function. Next, we set the headers as requested by Imgur to allow proper authorization of our API call (but, make sure to replace my ‘Client-ID with your own). And finally, we’ve specified that we want our response to be in JSON format.

Next, we’ll build out our callback. First, we can build a function called getPics that will take three parameters: error, response, and body. I’ll then make a quick error check inside the body of the function that ensures no errors occurred and the response received from Imgur has a status code of 200. Then, we want to take the body that was returned, and filter out items in the array that are albums. We’ll do this to best mirror the demo app shared by Free Code Camp, as we’ll want to provide a response with both a direct image link and a link to the image’s context – and unfortunately this wouldn’t work well if we included albums.

Then, after we’ve filtered out albums, we then want to map over the response and cut out all the extra information we’re not using. All we want to return is a url, a snippet, and the context. Finally, we’re going to resolve our promise with our newly transformed data, jump out of the callback and then setup our request function with its two newly created parameters. In the end, it will look like this:

function getPics(err, response, body) {
  if (!err && response.statusCode == 200) {
    body = => {
      if (!image.is_album) {
        return image;
    }).map(image => {
      return {
        snippet: image.title,
        context: `${}`

We’re almost ready to test it out, but first we have to jump back into our routes file and make sure to require our new imgur service file const imgur = require('../services/imgur');
and to call it in our /search/:q endpoint.

Here, we’ll pass the ‘q’ parameters as the search string of the function, and then we’ll let our second parameter req.query.offset handle the optional ?offset=42 flag. Then, once that promise returns, we’re going to output the response to our browser as JSON.

imgur.getImage(req.params.q, req.query.offset).then(ans => {

Now fire up nodemon and give it a test. If all is working so far, you should be able to search Imgur by pointing your browser to localhost:3000/search/puppies. If not, do some debugging or a quick code comparison at this point.

Now that this piece is working, all that we have left to add is the history component. I personally enjoy working with mLab in development just as much as in production, so I’m going to proceed with this tutorial as such. If you’d prefer to run MongoDB on your local machine prior to deployment, or you want to learn more about how to get setup on mLab – checkout my previous tutorial on building a URL shortener for more information.

The first thing we’re going to want to do is setup our environment variables. This way, we’ll able to connect to our mLab database in either production or development, without worrying about sharing our credentials on Github. In your app.js file, drop in the following at the very top:

if (process.env.NODE_ENV !== 'production') {

Here, we’re setting up our server to require the dotenv package if we’re not running in a production environment. Later when we push this up to Heroku, their platform will automatically set an environment variable of NODE_ENV as ‘production’, but on our development machines – we won’t worry about that.

Next you’ll need to create a .env file in the root of your project. This file will then assign your environment variables every time you spin up your server. In that, drop in the following as it relates to the mLab database you set up:

Now that we have our environment variables setup, we can dive into setting up our connection to the database. Back in your app.js, you’ll want to require your /config/db.js file with a const db = require(‘./config/db’);

Then, jump into your config/db.js file and drop in the following:

const connection = `mongodb://${process.env.DB_HOST}/${process.env.DB_NAME}`;
const mongoose = require('mongoose');
mongoose.Promise = global.Promise;

exports.db = mongoose.connect(connection);

Here, we are setting up a connection to our mongo database and then using mongoose as an ORM for interacting with it. Also, I’ll be using some promises, which were recently deprecated in mongoose, so I’ve set the native promise library to be used instead. And finally, we export the connection for use elsewhere in our application.

Next, in our models/history.js file, I want to set up a schema for our database. First, we’ll need to require an instance of mongoose. Next, we want to setup a schema for our database. This way, when we pass data into the model later in our routes, we’ll be able to let MongoDB know what we want each new document to look like, and specifically in this case – to always attach a timestamp to each new entry. After that, we export our model for use.

const mongoose = require('mongoose');

const historySchema = new mongoose.Schema({
 term: String,
 when: { type: Date, default: }

const History = mongoose.model('History', historySchema);
module.exports = History;

At this point, our database is setup and we’re ready to start building out the queries we’ll need.

First, let’s make sure to require our new model in our router with const History = require('../models/history');

Now, we want to add a new entry into our database every time a search is made. Right before we send back a response with the results, drop in the following to add that search query into the database: new History({ term: req.params.q }).save();

And finally, we need our /latest route to return the most recent 10 entries. For that, we’re going to query the database like so:

History.find({}, 'term when -_id').sort('-when').limit(10).then(results => {

Here, we first pass in an empty object, which will return all documents. Then, we specify that in those documents, we only are interested in the search term and the date, and we’d like to specifically exclude the unique _id field from the results. Afterwards, we instruct the query to sort the results in descending order and to only return the ten most recent documents. Finally, we pass those results through a promise and return them as JSON.

Go ahead and run your app with Nodemon and verify that everything is working. If so, you’re ready for deployment. Since we’re using ES6, you’ll need to define your node engine in your package.json, otherwise Heroku will, at the time of this writing, default to version 5.1.1 which won’t support ES6 unless you use strict mode. Also, you’ll need to make sure to add a start script to your package.json. To see what those look like, check out the file on my GitHub. And finally, make sure to drop your environment variables into your Heroku app, otherwise you definitely won’t be able to connect to your database.

That’s all there is to it. Here’s my final code for the project. Personally I went back and threw in pug as a template engine and a favicon server. The final deployed version can be seen here. Feel free to leave any questions or comments below.

Building a URL Shortener with MongoDB, Express, and Node.js

Personally, it wasn’t until I had done a few laps around Node.js until I finally felt like I had got my head around what it was capable of. So when I started the URL Shortener Microservice project, I should have expected a similar struggle for my first MongoDB application. But I didn’t.

When I had first tested the waters of learnyoumongo, I immediately felt I was in over my head. I had very little prior experience working with databases, so I took a step back and began to research the fundamentals a bit further. After I felt comfortable with databases, I took a few SQL courses to familiarize myself with relational databases. Next, I dived back into MongoDB with some great tutorials via Treehouse and Code School. At this point, I felt comfortable with the basics of querying and inserting with MongoDB, but the next step of incorporating the M into the MEAN stack was my next challenge. After a failed attempt to translate coligo’s tutorial into an API, I started from scratch.

That was the best decision I had made yet. Tackling this project step-by-step reminded me that this was the best way to learn, one small step at a time. And now that I’ve finished this project, I’m going to walk through the build process one more time. I hope this tutorial is helpful, and if anyone has any questions, comments, or critiques, please feel free to share them.

First, go ahead and initialize a new git repo (I’m going to call mine url-shortener-microservice), jump into it, and setup a directory to test out our database –
git init url-shortener-microservice
cd url-shortener-microservice

Next, setup your project’s npm and fill in any information you find necessary. I’m just going to roll through and leave all the options as their default.
npm init

Now, let’s use express-generator to scaffold our app quickly. If you get a warning about the destination not being empty, just type y to continue. If you haven’t used express-generator before, you’ll need to first install it globally.
npm install

Also, let’s create a .gitignore file to stop tracking the node_modules folder
echo node_modules > .gitignore

And for the final piece of the setup, let’s install all of the additional npm packages we’re going to need for this project
npm install mongodb --save
npm install shortid --save
npm install valid-url --save

Go ahead and run your app and connect to localhost:3000 in your browser. You should be seeing “Welcome to Express”. If you don’t have nodemon installed, you’ll want to install that globally too.
nodemon app


Now, startup your MongoDB daemon

Let’s setup our database and collection. Open a third tab on Terminal and run mongo. Then, we’ll create a database called url-shortener-microservice.
use url-shortener-microservice

Okay this time, we’re actually done with the setup.

Open up your routes/index.js file. I’m not going to touch on building out your / route, that’ll be up to you. So, let’s do some importing of modules. First and foremost, you’re going to need to import MongoDB. Then, import the shortid module. This will help us generate unique links for each url we pass through. And finally, import the valid-url module. As the name implies, we’re going to use that to verify that our urls are formatted properly.

var mongodb = require('mongodb');
var shortid = require('shortid');
var validUrl = require('valid-url');

Alright let’s finally get to the code here. First, we’re going to work on the creation of new links. Create a new GET route that looks like this:

router.get('/new/:url(*)', function (req, res, next) {

The (*) piece in our :url(*) parameter will allow us to pass in properly formatted links. Without it, Express will get confused with the forward slashes in URLs and think they’re additional parts of the route. You can also use regular expressions to accomplish this.

Let’s pause here and make sure everything is still working properly. Drop a console.log into your new route that utilizes the request parameter and test it out. My code looks like this so far:

router.get('/new/:url(*)', function (req, res, next) {

And when I try to access http://localhost:3000/new/ in my browser, I see in the browser.

Alright. So far so good.

Now, let’s get our connection to our local MongoDB database up and running. We’ll create a variable underneath where we imported our MongoDB module at the top in order to store our connection information. I’m going to call my variable mLab, as the database will eventually need to move to the cloud and I’m going to use mLab’s free offering to host it. Also, create a variable called MongoClient to host MongoDB’s connect command.
var mLab = "mongodb://localhost:27017/url-shortener-microservice";
var MongoClient = mongodb.MongoClient

Then, back in our recently created route, replace the console.log we created with the following:

MongoClient.connect(mLab, function (err, db) {
  if (err) {
    console.log("Unable to connect to server", err);
  } else {
    console.log("Connected to server")

Now, whenever this route is accessed, MongoDB will connect to our local database and print a message to the console.

Alright, jump below the successful connection console.log in your else statement and create two more variables. The first will set up our collection and make it a bit easier to access, and the second will be set to our url parameter.

var collection = db.collection('links');
var params = req.params.url;

Now, we’re going to create the function that imports a link to the database and returns a short link. We’ll call it newLink and it will accept a callback that will close the database connection once it’s run.

var newLink = function (db, callback) {

newLink(db, function () {

Okay it’s been a while since we’ve run any tests, so let’s see if we’re on track so far by importing some documents into our links collection. Inside of our newLink function, insert the following:

var insertLink = { url: params, short: "test" };

This will create a new object with our passed-thru parameters set to the url key, and “test” set to the short key. Then, it will push that object into a document in our database. And finally, we’re going to send our URL parameter to output again, just like in our last test.

Now, fire up your browser and point it to http://localhost:3000/new/

Once you see output onto the page, open up your mongo tab in Terminal and type db.links.find(). You should see something like this:

  "_id": ObjectId("572a780bcf012a51ee123b3b"),
  "url": "",
  "short": "test"
Fetched 1 record(s) in 7ms

Tip – To make working in MongoDB a bit easier in Terminal, do a global install of mongo-hacker

Alright let’s keep moving. We’re going to want to do three things when a URL is passed thru as a parameter:

  1. Check if the URL is valid
  2. If it is, assign a random set of characters to it
  3. Pass the URL and the random characters into our collection

So first, create an if/else statement utilizing our valid-url module in the newLink function. Replace the three lines we dropped in there during our last test.

if (validUrl.isUri(params)) {
  // if URL is valid, do this
} else {
  // if URL is invalid, do this

If a URL is valid, generate a short code. Then, create a new object. Insert that object into the collection as a new document like we did in our test. And finally, let’s push some JSON to our browser.

var shortCode = shortid.generate();
var newUrl = { url: params, short: shortCode };
res.json({ original_url: params, short_url: "localhost:3000/" + shortCode });

If the URL isn’t valid, make sure to output an error.
res.json({ error: "Wrong url format, make sure you have a valid protocol and real site." });

Currently, this is what our index.js file should look like. Hopefully yours looks the same and you’re successfully pushing new links into your database. We’re halfway through the meat of this project!

Now, let’s look into redirection. We’re going to set up another route that once again connects to our database, runs a function, and closes the database once that function has run. The bulk of it will look similar to our last route:

router.get('/:short', function (req, res, next) {

  MongoClient.connect(mLab, function (err, db) {
    if (err) {
      console.log("Unable to connect to server", err);
    } else {
      console.log("Connected to server")

      var collection = db.collection('links');
      var params = req.params.short;

      var findLink = function (db, callback) {

      findLink(db, function () {


Now that we have that setup, we’re going to want to take the parameter that has been passed through and find it in our collection. I’m going to use the .findOne query since the short codes are unique values, we don’t want to waste resources looking for additional matches. We’re also going to limit the query to only return the url field, as all other fields are unnecessary for our needs. Our query is going to look like this:
collection.findOne({ "short": params }, { url: 1, _id: 0 })

After the query is run, we’re going to pass in a function. If a document is found, the function will return it. Once it’s returned, we’re going to use a res.redirect() to redirect the browser to the value of the returned key/value pair. If the document is not found, we’ll output another JSON error.

collection.findOne({ "short": params }, { url: 1, _id: 0 }, function (err, doc) {
  if (doc != null) {
  } else {
    res.json({ error: "No corresponding shortlink found in the database." });

And that’s it. We now have a functioning URL shortener! Now let’s make some tweaks to improve it. In our first route, let’s built an if/else statement that queries our database before we drop a link into it to check if that link already exists, so that we can keep the size of our database down. It will look similar to the query we just built, except this time we’re looking for the url and we’re only returning the short code. This will run at the top of the newLink function, and will be followed by an else statement that runs the original code to create a new link if the query is unsuccessful.

collection.findOne({ "url": url }, { short: 1, _id: 0 }, function (err, doc) {
  if (doc != null) {
res.json({ original_url: url, short_url: local + '/' + doc.short });

At this point, our index.js file should look like this. We’ve got a few more minor tweaks to do, and then we can move our database to mLab. First, I think having underscores and dashes as options in our short codes is a bit confusing. Underneath where we imported our shortid module, let’s set a new list of characters that replaces _ and – with $ and @.

Next, let’s make our JSON output a bit more dynamic so we don’t have to update the string when we push it to deployment. In the /new/:url(*) route, add var local = req.get('host'); + "/" above the newLink function. Then, replace the localhost:3000/ string in both JSON responses to your new local variable.

Alright, let’s move our database onto a remote server. I’m using mLab, but if you’re more comfortable with an alternative, go right ahead and use that. In mLab, hit the “Create new” button, choose “Single-node”, and then select “Sandbox”. For consistency, let’s use “url-short” as our database name. Once you’ve created your database, it’s going to ask you to create a user in order to access your database. For this example, I’ll use “user” and “pass” – but you’re probably going to want to use something a bit more secure in your app. Alright, now grab the link that’s presented and replace your mLab variable with it. Make sure to drop in your username and password in the corresponding placeholder fields.
var mLab = "mongodb://";

Now, back to the browser to see if it’s working. I’m going to attempt to access http://localhost:3000/new/ again. I’m seeing a JSON response, so that’s a good sign. Now let’s hit the “Collections” tab in mLab, refresh the page, and see if our collection is there.

Yup, we have a links collection with one document in it. Success!

Before we push this to Heroku, you’re going to want to exclude your database username/password information from your Github repo. Create a file called config.js in your root directory, and paste the following into it:

var config = {};

config.db = {}; = '; = 'url-shortener-microservice';

module.exports = config;

Then, in your index.js file. Drop the following in between your mongodb and MongoClient variables:

var config = require('../config');
var mLab = 'mongodb://' + + '/' +;

Now, in your .gitignore file, add config.js. Push your code to Github, and then create a new branch called heroku and remove config.js from your .gitignore file. Push your app to Heroku, grab a beer, and pat yourself on the back.

Here’s the final code.

That’s it. My personal next steps for this project are to DRY it out a bit, create an option for custom short codes, and then dive into a dashboard with some analytics. Again, if you have any questions, comments, or critiques, please feel free to share them.

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