pcms documentation
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pcms is a NodeJS / ExpressJS mini-framework to deliver web pages. The main goal is to deliver page content and metadata from templates and / or configuration/data files, all file-system-based.

In essence pcms is built upon the following infrastructure:

  • a NodeJS / ExpressJS Server to handle all web requests and deliver dynamic and static content
  • Several Express Middlewares that contains the pcms application logic to build routes and render pages
  • a simple file-based site-structure, aka your content, that is examined / parsed / rendered by pcms

Site structure and routes

  • The site contents are stored as directory tree in the site/ folder.
  • Every directory within site/ (including site/ itself) that contains a page.json file is considered a page, and answers to the corresponding URL route: for example, the directory site/article/sunset/, which contains a page.json file, matches the URL route /article/sunset.
  • Sub-pages / files in non-pages folders are considered as route of a top page with URL tail realtive the top page: So all content belong to a top page. This can also be the root page.
  • Every URL route matches either a page directory, or a real file (e.g. static content like images).
  • Pages can be HTML, HTML templates, Markdown with an HTML template, JSON with an HTML template, or you can do whatever you want in server-side JS.

The page.json file is the metadata information for the specific page. It may look as follows:

    "index": "index.html",                       // required. This defines the page type as well as the included template.
    "enabled": true,                             // can be used to disable a page, e.g. to stop it from being shown.
    "template": "template.html",                 // Only used by JSON data, this is the template used to process the JSON index data.
    "preprocessor": "prep.js",                   // A script that is executed before the page gets rendered, to deliver additional functionality.
    "order": 1,                                  // child order within the parent page. This can be everything, it will be ordered naturally.
    "title": "Home",                             // additional metadata, like page title, keywords etc. This info is available in the page templates.
    "keywords": ["php", "nodejs","programming"],
    // ..... more data you have available in your templates

Page delivery

The page delivery works as follows:

  1. The requested route is matched against the page tree: The longest-matching page in the tree is figured out.
  2. The page is checked for its availability (enabled flag is true), and its legimity (not in the preventDelivery match array)
  3. If the route and route tail matches static content, deliver it, end here.
  4. If given, the preprocessor function is executed. This allows the site dev to process further data for the page
  5. Finally, load the template and render it to the browser.

Page types

The framework supports the following page types, determined only by the file ending of the index file entry in page.json:

  • html: The framework looks for an HTML template named by the index key (e.g.: {"index": "index.html"}). The HTML file is read, processed by Nunjucks, and rendered back to the browser.
  • markdown: The framework looks for a .md-Markdown template named by the index key (e.g.: {"index": "index.md"}). The Markdown file is read, processed first by marked, then processed by Nunjucks, and rendered back to the browser.
  • json: The framework looks for a .json-index named by the index key (e.g.: {"index": "data.json"}). It then reads the (HTML) template defined in the template key, and processes it by Nunjucks, and rendered back to the browser. This is meant for e.g. simple index / menu files, where all the data are structured json data.
  • js: This is the most complex but also most flexible page type: The index property can point to a .js-File, which then is included by the framework and taken as an Express Router middleware: It is then in the responsibility of the js developer to process some kind of output.

Page index / page cache

The whole page tree is built upon application start: The site folder is walked recursively, and each page (a folder with a page.json file) is examined, a page node info is created.

This simple in-memory cache should be enough for smaller sites. If things get bigger, I will search for another solution. At the moment, Yagni.

It should be possible to re-scanning the page tree by sending a unix signal to the server process. How this is achieved has to be evaluated, still.

The page tree is also available in the page templates, to build menus, for example.

A future version of the framework will also include some kind of watch mechanism, for re-building the page tree at runtime. At the moment, this is not possible, so if your page tree structure changes, you have to restart the server. Of course this can also be done by using something like nodemon or pm2.