Streamy Classes with Node and ES2015
I really like node streams. They’re everywhere in node, and they can be really efficient because you’re only dealing with small chunks of data at a time. You can use streams to read/write files, transform data, etc. The
response objects in most nodejs web frameworks are readable and writable streams, respectively. You can do cool stuff like pipe the output of a CSV file to a database, or transforming that data to JSON and
pipe‘ing it to a web response stream.
The big hindrance to streams in my view has been the syntax. Here’s an example of creating a Transform stream (a stream that is meant to change output of a readable stream for piping out to a writable stream). It’s pretty simple, it just takes an object in and converts it to stringified JSON on the way out:
Now here’s the same stream written as an ES2015 class.
It’s the same thing but the ES5 version is 40% more code (14 lines vs 10), and in my opinion more readable. As you can see, we don’t have to worry about requiring
util for inheritance, we don’t have awkward syntax to call a parent class’s constructor and pass
this into it, and we have default parameters in the constructor in fewer lines than the default values above. The implementation of this stream is exactly the same as the first example, except you have to use
new to call it. I don’t consider that a big issue though; maybe you do.
Here’s an example of usage that reads a CSV, stringifies the resulting objects, and pipes it out to standard output, all in 7 lines of code:
The Stream API in node is a pretty easy interface to implement and is a good use case for classes. I’m actually not a big fan of complicated object inheritance hierarchies but I bend a little in the case of streams because the alternative isn’t as clean to me. I tend to go for making simple functions first, and if necessary building up to objects or classes after that. Usually doing the simplest thing that can possibly work is a good guideline to have.
For more information on node streams, I suggest reading Substack’s Stream Handbook, which is a very thorough tutorial on nodejs streams.