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Flash messaging in Express 4: express-flash vs. custom middleware in ejs, handlebars, or jade

Flash Messages

Flash messaging in Express can be confusing to the newcomer. I know because I am a newcomer. The confusion tends to arise from the distinction between the concept of flash messaging, a temporary message from the server available to templates, and the various implementations of flash messaging, which include express-flash and other modules. This Gist provides a minimal example of 2 approaches to flash messaging, the express-flash module and custom middleware, using 3 common templating engines.

The express-flash module exposes getter and setter methods for a flash message of the form, { flash: { type: 'type', message: 'message' }} and depends on the express-session module. The method req.flash(type, message) sets the value of a new flash message and adds it to an array of messages of the same type. The method req.flash(type) gets the value of all flash messages matching of the same type and returns either a string value for the message if there is only 1 of that type, or an array of string values for messages matching that type. The flash messages have a lifetime of one request and are deleted afterward.

The custom middleware is lifted with modifications from Ethan Brown's excellent book, Web Development with Node & Express, and depends on the express-session module. In it, res.locals.sessionFlash acts as a the getter and req.session.sessionFlash acts as the setter for messages with a lifetime of one request. As in the express-flash module, these flashes take the form, { type: 'type', message: 'message' }, but only do so to follow established convention. They could as easily take the form, { class: 'class', intro: 'intro', text: 'text' } and be exposed via res.locals.myFlashMessages and req.session.myFlashMessages.

There are a couple of important distinctions between the 2 approaches illustrated above.

First, the custom middleware option exposes all of the properties of the flash object, not just the message. So sessionFlash.type and sessionFlash.message are both available to the templates above just by including the sessionFlash value, whereas the expressFlash message type would have to have been explicitly specified in app.js and passed as a separate value, ie expressFlashType, to the template.

Second, the custom middleware does not include a mechanism for adding multiple messages of the same type to an array. As it is written, res.locals.sessionFlash and req.session.sessionFlash are single occupancy variables.

Of note, res.locals.flash and req.session.flash can be used in the custom middleware above, but I chose different targets to avoid collision with the express-flash messages.

Both approaches offer simple mechanisms for passing temporary messages to the browser. Which one of the many options you choose depends on your needs. I hope this has been helpful.

var express = require('express');
var cookieParser = require('cookie-parser');
var session = require('express-session');
var flash = require('express-flash');
var handlebars = require('express-handlebars')
var app = express();
var sessionStore = new session.MemoryStore;
// View Engines
app.set('view engine', 'jade');
//app.engine('handlebars', handlebars()); app.set('view engine', 'handlebars');
//app.set('view engine', 'ejs');
app.use(cookieParser('secret'));
app.use(session({
cookie: { maxAge: 60000 },
store: sessionStore,
saveUninitialized: true,
resave: 'true',
secret: 'secret'
}));
app.use(flash());
// Custom flash middleware -- from Ethan Brown's book, 'Web Development with Node & Express'
app.use(function(req, res, next){
// if there's a flash message in the session request, make it available in the response, then delete it
res.locals.sessionFlash = req.session.sessionFlash;
delete req.session.sessionFlash;
next();
});
// Route that creates a flash message using the express-flash module
app.all('/express-flash', function( req, res ) {
req.flash('success', 'This is a flash message using the express-flash module.');
res.redirect(301, '/');
});
// Route that creates a flash message using custom middleware
app.all('/session-flash', function( req, res ) {
req.session.sessionFlash = {
type: 'success',
message: 'This is a flash message using custom middleware and express-session.'
}
res.redirect(301, '/');
});
// Route that incorporates flash messages from either req.flash(type) or res.locals.flash
app.get('/', function( req, res ) {
res.render('index', { expressFlash: req.flash('success'), sessionFlash: res.locals.sessionFlash });
});
var server = app.listen(3000, function () {
var host = server.address().address;
var port = server.address().port;
console.log('Flash app listening at http://%s:%s', host, port);
});
module.exports = app;
<h3> Flash messages in Express 4 </h3>
<p><a href="http://localhost:3000/express-flash">Click here</a> for a flash message using the express-flash module.</p>
<p><a href="http://localhost:3000/session-flash">Click here</a> for a flash message using custom middleware</p>
<p>Refresh to clear the flash message.</p>
<% if ( expressFlash.length > 0 ) { %>
<p><strong>FLASH!</strong> <%= expressFlash %></p>
<% } %>
<% if ( sessionFlash && sessionFlash.message) { %>
<div class="<%= sessionFlash.type %>">
<strong>FLASH!</strong> <%= sessionFlash.message %>
</div>
<% } %>
<h3> Flash messages in Express 4 </h3>
<p><a href="http://localhost:3000/express-flash">Click here</a> for a flash message using the express-flash module.</p>
<p><a href="http://localhost:3000/session-flash">Click here</a> for a flash message using custom middleware</p>
<p>Refresh to clear the flash message.</p>
{{#if expressFlash}}
<p><strong>FLASH!</strong> {{ expressFlash }}</p>
{{/if}}
{{#if sessionFlash.message}}
<div class="{{ sessionFlash.type }}">
<strong>FLASH!</strong> {{ sessionFlash.message }}
</div>
{{/if}}
block content
h3 Flash messages in Express 4
p <a href="http://localhost:3000/express-flash">Click here</a> for a flash message using the express-flash module.
p <a href="http://localhost:3000/session-flash">Click here</a> for a flash message using custom middleware
p Refresh to clear the flash message.
if expressFlash.length > 0
p <strong>FLASH!</strong> #{ expressFlash }
if sessionFlash && sessionFlash.message
div(class=sessionFlash.type)
p <strong>FLASH!</strong> #{ sessionFlash.message }
{
"dependencies": {
"cookie-parser": "~1.3.3",
"express": "~4.11.1",
"express-flash": "0.0.2",
"express-session": "^1.10.1",
"jade": "~1.9.1",
"express-handlebars": "1.1.0",
"ejs": "2.2.3"
}
}
@mnmeyers

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commented Apr 26, 2015

thank you!!

@jolyon129

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commented May 22, 2015

Just what i need, Thx!

@jrh

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commented Mar 25, 2016

so helpful, thanks!

@Biouche

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commented Mar 28, 2016

Nice snippets, clear and usefull. Thx !

@olefrank

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commented Apr 18, 2016

Cannot get it to work. Which example are you using? 1, 2 or 3?

@Dane456

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commented Jul 25, 2016

Worked once I moved the views into a created views folder! Thanks!

@pz7gc3

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commented Dec 11, 2016

Thanks for sharing! I'm new to handlebars myself and found the flash stuff confusing.
With the help of Your sample I got it to work.

@tmanolat

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commented Jan 28, 2017

Very thorough! Thanks!

@09wattry

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commented Jan 29, 2018

Thanks so much, maybe you could submit a pull request with this as a readme.md change to the repo!

@pray-ray

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commented Mar 10, 2018

OMG I LOVE YOU!

@muarachmann

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commented Mar 12, 2018

thanks a lot

@samsher

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commented Apr 28, 2018

not work for me. Please help me

@ltanase77

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commented Aug 4, 2018

It should be outlined that both approaches are based on the session mechanism. If you destroy the session (as when the users logs out) you will not be able to pass flash messages to the redirected view.

@namsir

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commented Dec 25, 2018

anyone got a bug where the first time you start the app, set the message in your post route, redirect to get route and it's not there. Do the post again, it shows 2 messages in the array. Post again, now it's working correctly. Is it a bug or something?

Here is my method in my controller for POST:

exports.save = function(req, res) {
  const email = req.body.email;
  const activated = parseInt(req.body.activate); // 1 or 0 as string
  console.log(email);
  User.findOne({ email: email })
    .then(user => {
      console.log(activated);

      if (activated === 1) {
        user.registered = true;
      } else {
        user.registered = false;
      }
      return user.save();
    })
    .then(result => {
      //   console.log(activated);
      const msg = `User with an email of ${email} has been ${
        activated ? "activated" : "deactivated"
      }.`;
      console.log(msg);

      req.flash("adminupdate", msg);
      res.redirect("/admin");
    })
    .catch(err => {
      console.log(err);
    });
};

Here is the method for GET:

exports.index = function(req, res) {
  User.find().then(users => {
    // console.log("get", req.flash("adminupdate"));
    res.render("admin/index", {
      pageTitle: "NodeShop",
      users: users,
      adminupdate: req.flash("adminupdate")
    });
  });
};
@bjamesy

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commented Feb 14, 2019

TypeError: req.session.sessionFlash is not a function

im getting this error on the line - delete req.session.sessionFlash;

anything ?

@ayanesuarome

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commented Apr 22, 2019

Really helpful this post.
I'm using Vash view engine and it's easy to use as well.

@RealSlimMahdi

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commented May 12, 2019

Helpful post, manage to solve my issue (passing error as parameter when using rendering);
cheers!

@jmcombs

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commented May 21, 2019

Thank you!!

@hughrun

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commented Jun 10, 2019

THANKYOU @brianmacarthur !!

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