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Create a Custom Angular CLI Builder

jefiozie profile image Jeffrey Bosch Originally published at jefiozie.github.io on ・4 min read

In this post, we will try to explain the basics theory around the Angular CLI builders and how you can build a Custom Builder. How to build a Custom Builder will be done based on a builder we've created with a very general use case, Image Optimization. In this article, we will only show a simple example.

History

Back in the day, before Angular CLI version 8 the supported method to customize the Angular CLI was ng eject. When using this command we would say against the Angular CLI that we as developers would handle the configuration. Maybe you didn't know but under the hood of the Angular CLI is using Webpack. So when we did run the command the Angular CLI would eject the Webpack configuration to a file that we can change. Of course, this works, but you needed to know how and what to exactly change for your needs and the Webpack can be (in my opinion) a bit overwhelming when you look at it.

The Angular CLI today

As mentioned in the History of the Angular CLI when writing this post we are at version 11 and a lot has been changed. The ng eject command is removed from the Angular CLI. Since Angular CLI version 8 something new has made its place. This new part is called the Builders API. The Builders API makes it easy to extend general parts like ng build, ng serve, or make a custom CLI command like ng run mybuilder:app.

The builders we use today, every day!

Did you ever wondered what is happening when we use ng build or ng serve? The Angular CLI will start a new task based on the angular.json file. First, it will examine the angular.json looking for the project, in a single app set up this will be always the default application.

angular.json file

When this project has been found, it will look at the target, in our example, this target is build. Now the Angular CLI knows enough to execute the builder! Below I've made a simple table that shows what builders are represented with a default Angular CLI command:

Command Builder
build Browser builder
serve Dev-Server builder
test Karma builder
lint TSLint builder ❗ this builder is deprecated from Angular v12
e2e Protractor

So what is a builder then

Before I'm going to provide you with my explanation of builders, let's have a look at the docs.

Several Angular CLI commands run a complex process on your code, such as linting, building, or testing.
The commands use an internal tool called Architect to run CLI builders, which apply another tool to accomplish the desired task. 
With Angular version 8, the CLI Builder API is stable and available to developers who want to customize the Angular CLI by adding or modifying commands. 
For example, you could supply a builder to perform an entirely new task or to change which third-party tool is used by an existing command.

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After reading this I made the following conclusion:

As a Angular Builder is just a function, you could refer it is a task. The Angular CLI is having an task-based system. This way we can say that the Angular CLI with the task-based system (called Architect) is delegating the tasks (builders).

For me, this made it easy in my mind to link specific commands to tasks and know that they are executed with specific commands provided by the Angular CLI.

How to create a custom builder?

Now that we've come to the part where we are going to look at the custom builder we first need to set up the project structure. Below a couple of minimal steps we need to take before we can continue with our builder:

  1. Npm init
  2. Git init
  3. Add dependencies (minimal needed):
    • Typescript
    • @angular-devkit/architect
  4. Add some npm scripts for building and testing our package
  5. Add a “builder.json” file
  6. Add "builders": "builders.json" to your package.json
  7. Add an “index.ts” file

Our project structure is complete (see a full example)! Now we are going to create the Builder, in our next article we will address how you can use/connect your custom builder with the Angular CLI. The Angular CLI team has provided an easy way to set up our custom builder so that it can be executed with the Angular CLI. We need to import the createBuilder function. The createBuilder function is hooking up the task-based system from within the Angular CLI and lets you use your custom builder.

import { createBuilder, BuilderContext, BuilderOutput } from '@angular-devkit/architect'

// Schema Options
interface Options extends JsonObject {...}

// Our func. that is executed by the tasked based system
function customBuilderFunc(
  options: Options,
  context: BuilderContext,
  ): Promise<BuilderOutput> {
    // logging the message
    context.reportStatus(`Executing Custom Builder`);
    return new Promise(resolve => {
        // log message when we are done
      context.reportStatus(`Done running Custom Builder 🎉`);
    });
}

export default createBuilder(customBuilderFunc);

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Summary

Builders are a very useful part of the Angular CLI that will make sure the CLI is very extensible. We can use builders for a variety of tasks that are related to the workspace(s). As builders are just functions we can do "ANYTHING". I've created a "demo" builder that is optimizing images in your workspace for better web performance. This builder will be in our next article where we will go a little bit deeper into, creating custom builders and how to hook them into your workspace. You can already have a look here

I hope you've enjoyed this article, all of this are from my personal experience. If you have any questions around builder you can always DM me on @jefiozie

Resources

Below I've added some helpful resources that you can have a look at if you're interested in builders.

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