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How I made my own file compressor using Node.js

gabrielrufino profile image Gabriel Rufino ・5 min read

You may know Node.js for its power to build highly scalable services, but don't know that it is possible to do much more than just that. Using Node.js we can build incredible tools: from on-demand data processing to building neural networks that are used in machine learning.

The main concepts covered here will be the building CLIs using NodeJS, the use of Node Streams for processing e manipulating files, the native module zlib for file compression and decompression, and transformation of functions that receive a callback in promise functions.

The final result will be a CLI called npacker having two simple commands: pack for compression and unpack for decompression.

Compression command

Terminal

$ ls -la testfile.txt
-rw-rw-r-- 1 gabrielrufino gabrielrufino 2147483648 mar 14 11:13 testfile.txt
$ npacker pack testfile.txt
$ ls -la testfile.txt testfile.txt.gz
-rw-rw-r-- 1 gabrielrufino gabrielrufino 2147483648 mar 14 11:13 testfile.txt
-rw-rw-r-- 1 gabrielrufino gabrielrufino    2087280 mar 14 11:15 testfile.txt.gz
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You may notice a reduction in the size of the compressed file compared to the source file

Decompression command

Terminal

$ ls -la testfile.txt.gz
-rw-rw-r-- 1 gabrielrufino gabrielrufino 2087280 mar 14 11:15 testfile.txt.gz
$ npacker unpack testfile.txt.gz
$ ls -la testfile.txt.gz testfile.txt
-rw-rw-r-- 1 gabrielrufino gabrielrufino 2147483648 mar 14 11:38 testfile.txt
-rw-rw-r-- 1 gabrielrufino gabrielrufino    2087280 mar 14 11:15 testfile.txt.gz
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Now you can see the original file generated by the compressed file.

Repository

If you don't want to see the explanation, you can see the final code and contribute to it.

GitHub logo gabrielrufino / npacker

Compressor de arquivos feito com Node.js

1. Creating the CLI

The first step is to create the structure of the project and make a binary file visible in the whole system. Fortunately, npm gives us an easy way to do this.

Let's create a folder, initialize an npm project and create the file index.js

Terminal

$ mkdir npacker
$ cd npacker
$ npm init -y
$ touch index.js
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These commands generate two important files for our project: the package.json and the index.js.

This is the initial state of the package.json:

package.json

{
  "name": "npacker",
  "version": "1.0.0",
  "description": "",
  "main": "index.js",
  "scripts": {
    "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1"
  },
  "keywords": [],
  "author": "",
  "license": "ISC"
}
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The task now is to make index.js a binary, give it an alias and make it visible in any folder on the system. Look at these necessary changes:

index.js

#!/usr/bin/env node

'use strict'

async function main() {
  console.log('Let\'s compress!')
}

main()
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package.json

{
  "name": "npacker",
  "version": "1.0.0",
  "description": "",
  "main": "index.js",
  "bin": {
    "npacker": "index.js"
  },
  "scripts": {
    "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1"
  },
  "keywords": [],
  "author": "",
  "license": "ISC"
}
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Notice that we need to put the line #!/usr/bin/env node on the top of the index.js. Moreover, we put the key bin on package.json giving the alias npacker to the index.js file. We also include the string use strict to activate the strict mode in the project and created the async function main to use await on it.

Finally, we run the command below to make the executable visible in any folder.

Terminal

$ npm link
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Now you can execute the command npacker at any folder. Nice!

Terminal

$ cd ~
$ npacker
Let's compress!
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2. Getting the arguments

There are two important arguments that we want to receive from the command line: the operation and the file. The operation can be pack or unpack and the file can be any file from any format.

For this, we can use the process.argv: an array containing all the command line arguments.

Let's see with code:

index.js

#!/usr/bin/env node

'use strict'

async function main() {
  console.log(process.argv)
}

main()
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Terminal

$ npacker pack music.mp3
[
  '/home/gabrielrufino/.nvm/versions/node/v14.16.0/bin/node',
  '/home/gabrielrufino/.nvm/versions/node/v14.16.0/bin/npacker',
  'pack',
  'music.mp3'
]
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The first argument is the executor that we've specified at the first line of index.js. The second argument is the generated link for the binary specified by us in package.json. These two first arguments don't matter to us.

The two last are the important arguments: the operation (pack or unpack) and the file.

We can extract them in an easy way using array destructuring assignment ignoring the two first arguments. Some like this:

index.js

#!/usr/bin/env node

'use strict'

async function main() {
  const [,, operation, file] = process.argv

  console.log(operation, file)
}

main()
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Terminal

$ npacker pack documentation.docx
pack documentation.docx
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3. Compressing files

To make the compression, we will need 4 native modules: fs, stream, zlib and util. Let's import these modules:

index.js

#!/usr/bin/env node

'use strict'

const fs = require('fs')
const stream = require('stream')
const zlib = require('zlib')
const { promisify } = require('util')

async function main() {
  const [,, operation, file] = process.argv

  console.log(operation, file)
}

main()
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Now we can verify if the operation is pack: the compression operation.

index.js

#!/usr/bin/env node

'use strict'

const fs = require('fs')
const stream = require('stream')
const zlib = require('zlib')
const { promisify } = require('util')

async function main() {
  const [,, operation, file] = process.argv

  if (operation === 'pack') {

  }
}

main()
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So far so good. Pay close attention to the next step because it is the most important one so far. We'll work with an important concept in Node.js: the Node Streams.

A stream is an abstract interface for working with streaming data in Node.js. The stream module provides an API for implementing the stream interface.

The definition above is from Node.js Documentation.

Streams are a way to process large data using a smart approach: divide all the data into small packages and process them one by one. The module fs provides us two methods to read and write data using streams: createReadStream and createWriteStream. The module zlib provides us a method to compress data in gz format: createGzip. Finally, the stream module provides us a method to create a logical sequence from reading to writing: pipeline.

index.js

#!/usr/bin/env node

'use strict'

const fs = require('fs')
const stream = require('stream')
const zlib = require('zlib')
const { promisify } = require('util')

async function main() {
  const [,, operation, file] = process.argv

  if (operation === 'pack') {
    const gzip = zlib.createGzip()
    const source = fs.createReadStream(file)
    const destination = fs.createWriteStream(`${file}.gz`)

    await promisify(stream.pipeline)(source, gzip, destination)
  }
}

main()
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The intention of the util.promisify is to transform the function stream.pipeline in a function that returns Promise instead of a function that receives a callback.

And that's it! Simple as it looks and we can run the following command:

Terminal

$ npacker pack file.txt
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4. Decompressing files

This part is the inverse of the last one. The only change is the use of zlib.createUnzip istead of zlib.createGzip. Let's see the result:

index.js

#!/usr/bin/env node

'use strict'

const fs = require('fs')
const stream = require('stream')
const zlib = require('zlib')
const { promisify } = require('util')

async function main() {
  const [,, operation, file] = process.argv

  if (operation === 'pack') {
    const gzip = zlib.createGzip()
    const source = fs.createReadStream(file)
    const destination = fs.createWriteStream(`${file}.gz`)

    await promisify(stream.pipeline)(source, gzip, destination)
  } else if (operation === 'unpack') {
    const unzip = zlib.createUnzip()
    const source = fs.createReadStream(file)
    const destination = fs.createWriteStream(file.replace('.gz', ''))

    await promisify(stream.pipeline)(source, unzip, destination)
  }
}

main()
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Finally, we can run the command for decompression:

Terminal

$ npacker unpack file.txt.gz
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Here we saw one of the wonderful things that Node.js can do other than just services. Thank you very much!

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