As a developer, I like to work with NodeJS and MongoDB (I’ve also written about it before), but I usually have problems with manual administration. Long story short, it is difficult to manage database objects without having an admin panel. But now I found a NodeJS tool which can be used to create a simple admin panel for an existing or future project. In this article I will present this tool, so you too can easily setup an admin panel for your work projects. Just as I did in previous articles, I recommend you work side by side with this tutorial, making sure not to skip any important steps. Remember that Javascript’s ecosystem is very dynamic, with new ways to express yourself everyday, so future versions of these packages and steps presented may differ.

Nowadays, more and more web applications try to make your online life easier through admin panels. Many people use Twitter and Facebook or other social networks to communicate. As a reward, big networks are offering an API (Application Programming Interface) to help programmers create related web applications, usually through what is called an API Key. It is now easy to create web apps, with many tutorials showing you how to use an API key. All you have to do is come up with the app’s idea. So, after you have the application, what’s next?

I would say the next step is to add an Administration Panel. This is a must-have for a web app, and I want to come to your assistance by showing you the KeystoneJS tool. It is an open source framework which makes it easy to build such database-driven web applications and APIs in NodeJS. Under the hood, KeystoneJS uses the ExpressJS web server framework and a MongoDB database via the Mongoose object modelling framework.

Prerequisites


You’ll need a reasonable working knowledge of Javascript to use KeystoneJS, as well as familiarity with basic concepts such as databases and using node / npm.

Before you begin, make sure you have Node.js 0.10+ and MongoDB v2.4+ installed.

NodeJS

In short, NodeJS is Javascript running outside the browser, in this case on the server.

To install it, you can go to NodeJS Website. If you are using Mac and brew you can run brew install nodejs from a command line. In ubuntu, you can use nvm to install it. Here are the versions of NodeJS and npm which I use in this article; I recommend you make sure to run compatible versions.

MongoDB

In this article I will use MongoDB to store data. MongoDB is a document-oriented NoSQL database (Big Data ready). It stores data in JSON-like format and allows to perform SQL-like queries against it.

You can install it by following the instructions here. If you have a Mac and brew it’s just: brew install mongodb && mongod . In Ubuntu you can try the following command:  sudo apt-get -y install mongodb .

This is the version of MongoDB which I use. I advise you again to make sure it is installed correctly and that your version is compatible to mine, in order to prevent any mishaps in following this tutorial.

KeystoneJS

We’ll be using the KeystoneJS generator made with Yeoman. In your root directory run:

Create Admin Panel


Before starting the project we need to ensure that MongoDB is running. We can then continue to create an admin panel for a project. To avoid wasting time, I will take an existent project and create its admin panel with KeystoneJS.

In the folder project’s root folder, we will add the admin panel with a keystone command:

We will set the folder and project name as AdminPanel. This mini-project is just for Admin Panel, since I personally prefer to keep such projects separate. This will help us debug by knowing the exact paths of each failure point.

For the Admin Panel’s layout I will use Jade, because it is my favourite in such projects, but you can select whichever template you prefer.

CSS gimmicks are beyond the scope of this article, so let’s just select the Less CSS pre-processor. Of course you can select whatever you want.

We don’t need blog for admin panel, so here is a justified choice.

In case of you have a project with image gallery, here you will need to set yes, but for now let’s assume no images are needed.

If providing access to the admin panel is necessary, perhaps you can use Contact Form, but in my case we don’t need it.

Because we only use this project for an admin panel, the only user type will be that of an Admin (regular user will not have access).

Here we setup the first Admin user, so that we can use the admin panel after creating the project.

Obviously we also need a password for our admin user.

After setting up all the data for our first admin, we need to chose gulp or grunt for easy task management. I will add my personal favourite, gulp, but of course it’s up to you what you like better.

We also need a new directory, since it is a stand-alone project.

Because with this project is just an admin panel for another project and we are the only people who will use this admin panel, we do not need to use Email configuration.

Unfortunately we are beginners in dealing with this framework, so we will set yes for comments in the code, so we can have that extra bit of helpful information. After we finish with the command and have the project for admin panel, we will start it to see what happens. First we will start the server and then we access  localhost:3000

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 17.26.43

After going to  localhost:3000 , we need just to follow the steps the server shows us.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 17.28.13

Firstly, we login with the first admin user, created by the application. After logging in we will see the admin panel, but it is not yet exactly what we need.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 17.30.47

Here we can see only the Admins collection, but our target project’s database contains some other models as well. In my case, I would also want to be able to manage the Todos from the original project, and this collection isn’t here. To add that collection, we need to write some code and add the database and models to our admin panel project. First we need to open the .env file, which is in the root folder of the Admin Panel project, and add a new line MONGO_URI=mongodb://your-server/database-name . In case you will use same project as me, the .env file will look like:

The next step is to add main models in this project. In our case, we just need to add the Todos model. We need to create a model file in the models directory and after that write code for the model. In our case, the Todos model will be:

After we have all the models we need, we start the server again and we will see some new entries in our admin panel.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 18.04.58

We now have a new collection in our admin panel. We can open the Todos and see what happens.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 18.08.06

If you read my last article and remember the data we used, you will also recognize it here. Let’s try to add a new Todo in the database.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 18.18.51

Complete all the Todo’s fields and save the object.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 18.30.45After we have saved the Todo object, we can check for its presence in the list.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 18.31.59

Now we can play with this admin panel, editing and deleting Todo objects. We can add more models and objects to the admin panel, and they can be observed both in this project and our main one. For this operation we just need to write model code, much like for our Todos model. To see more examples of what you can do with KeystoneJS, I recommend you access keystoneJS.

Conclusion


KeystoneJS is a NodeJS framework which uses MongoDB as a database and helps you automatically create admin panels for your projects. Through these panels, you can administrate MongoDB database objects and create, edit and delete items for other projects. If you will use this framework just for an admin panel like me, I recommend you to be mindful of caveats like fields mismatch from project and admin panel projects.

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