How to Learn Express.js
If you’ve done any work with Node.js, or any server-side programming in general, you’ve probably heard of Express.js. Express.js is used widely by companies like Fox Sports, IBM, and even Uber. We’re here to help you understand what it is, why it’s useful, and whether or not you should learn it.
What is Express.js?
Express.js is a framework designed to utilize Node.js specifically for running web servers. It takes out the effort of having to code complex server-side integrations for Node.js.
The only problem with Node.js is, that while it’s very useful for setting up servers, it wasn’t designed specifically for that application. That’s where Express.js comes in.
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Express.js comes with a number of built-in features that work well in the server environment. These benefits include:
- Faster server-side programming: Express.js takes a number of commonly used Node.js features and packages them into functions. These functions can be called anywhere in the program. This can save coders hundreds of lines of code by just calling these functions instead of having to write them.
- Routing: Node.js has a routing mechanism already, but it’s a little rudimentary. Express.js features a significantly more advanced and efficient routing mechanism that allows the web application to keep web page states through just their URLs.
- Templating: Express.js also features a templating engine. This lets the server-side build the webpage on its end, then send all of those values to the front end to display. This allows for dynamic content and reduces the load on the client-side.
What is Express.js Used For?
Express.js is a web framework that helps you organize your back-end architecture. You’ll see web developers use Express.js to implement a Model View Controller architecture. This allows a developer to write a back-end codebase that is easy to maintain.
Because Express.js operates on the back-end, you can think of it as a technology that is the “brains behind a website.” Express.js may, for instance, define how pages are routed on a website. Or a developer may use Express.js to manage authentcation on a site.
Here are some of the use cases of Express.js:
- Using cookies on a website
- Implementing authentication
- Adding a search bar to a site
- Serving static files like images
Express.js is a useful technology to know if you’re interested in web development. Not only will knowing Express.js help you write cleaner back-end code, but it will also help advance your career prospects.
Below we will guide you through the process of learning Express.js.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Express.js?
Because Express.js is a back-end technology, you’ll need a good understanding of how the back-end and front-end work together to get started. If you do not have this background, expect to spend even longer learning the basics of Express.js.
How to Learn Express.js: Step-by-Step
There is no specific way in which you should learn Express.js. Every coder is different and has different intentions for learning a new technology. But, there are a few common steps you can follow to take you from a newbie to an expert efficiently.
- Learn about back-end and front-end development. Spend some time learning about the front-end and back-end and their roles in a web application. This is crucial because Express.js is a back-end tool. You’ll need to know the role of a back-end framework to use Express.js.
- Practice your Express.js skills. Open up the Express.js documentation and start practicing Express.js. Follow any tutorials you find interesting and devote your time to mastering the basics of Express.js.
- Build a project. Building a project will help you reinforce your technical skills. Think of a web application that you want to build and work to bring it to fruition using Next.js.
The Best Express.js Courses
Companies like IBM, FOX Sports, and Uber rely on Express.js. With that in mind, as well as the size of the developer community, it’s no surprise there are tons of Express.js resources available.
While this means you have a lot of options, you may be asking yourself: which learning resources are worth my time? Below we talk about some of the best online Express.js courses to help refine your search.
Online Express.js Courses
- Provider: Udemy
- Cost: Free
- Audience: Beginners
ExpressJS Fundamentals teaches you how to create an Express.js server. You’ll learn about server-side applications, using middleware, configuring template engines, and working with routes. These are all essential pieces of knowledge to have when working with Express.js.
- Provider: Lynda
- Cost: Lynda membership ($25 / month)
- Audience: Beginners
This course is for beginners to Node.js and Express.js who want to build websites using these frameworks. You’ll learn how to create a basic Express.js application that uses multiple routes and templates. You’ll also learn how to handle POST requests and form data.
- Provider: Codecademy
- Cost: Pro membership ($16 / month)
- Audience: Beginners
Learn Express is an interactive course for beginners to Express.js. This course will teach you how to build a server using Express.js. You’ll learn about application routes, middelware, and more.
Online Express.js Books
Express in Action discusses how to build a web application using Node.js and Express.js. In this book, you’ll learn the basics of Node.js and Express.js and how to implement middleware and routing in your app.
Toward the end of this book, you’ll learn about data peristance, application security, and common best practices.
Pro Express.js is a quick-start guide to using Express.js. The book starts with a simple hello world and then extensively covers all of the API endpoints you’ll need to use. You will find exercises alongside the topics this book covers which will help you reinforce your skills.
This book is a comprehensive guide to creating a web application using Express.js. You’ll cove topics like using middleware and template engines as well as the basics of the RESTful API architecture. This book is great if you already have some Node.js skills and want to learn Express.js.
Online Express.js Resources
On the Express.js website, you’ll find a getting started guide. This will walk you through installing Express.js and building your first web application. This tutorial is full of code snippets you can use to help you get started coding with Express.js.
The Express.js team maintains a series of examples on how to use Express.js in the main project’s GitHub repository. You’ll find examples ranging from a simple hello world website to examples that show authentication and cookies in action.
Taught by freeCodeCamp, this online video covers the fundamentals of using Express.js. You’ll learn about Node.js and its role in server-side development. Then you’ll go on to practice using Express.js.
Express.js vs. Node.js
There isn’t really any competition between Node.js and Express.js. In fact, the first thing to know about Express.js is that in a way Express.js is Node.js. Express.js is a framework that runs inside Node.js.
Express.js Lives in the Stack
Express.js is at its best when implemented in a stack (a stack is all of the code required to run a web application, from the front end user’s interaction all the way back to the backend processes that result from that click). Front end and back end development are usually split, for good reason. However, it usually means that different developers are working on different parts of a puzzle that, in the end, needs to fit together.
The NERD stack is very similar. It stands for Node.js (the runtime environment; yes they moved it to the front to make the acronym more fun), Express.js (the server), React (the front end framework), and Database (this can be any database really. This is because the industry is moving away from sticking to a specific database and it makes the acronym more fun).
Right now the NERD stack is gaining popularity rapidly, making it the more relevant stack. But for the purposes of this article, both stacks use Express.js, which makes Express.js an attractive framework to learn. Bringing us to our next topic.
Why You Should Study Express.js
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