Quick start tutorial


In this tutorial we'll learn how to use Geddy by creating a simple To-Do Manager applciation.

In this tutorial we'll cover:

  • Creating a Geddy application
  • Learning how to use the Geddy executable
  • Using Geddy models
  • How views in Geddy work
  • How to use controllers to tie everything together


If you haven't already, install Node on your machine.

Next, install Geddy from NPM, this will also install Jake:

$ npm install -g geddy

We need to install it globally (-g) so we can use geddy generators or start the server. More on this later. (Note: installing packages globally may require super-user access sudo npm install -g geddy)

Now that we have Geddy installed we need to learn how to use its generator commands from the CLI. If no commands are given, Geddy will start up the server. (if you try to run the geddy command outside the directory for a Geddy app, it will output a message prompting you to view the help.)

Click here for detailed docs for the Geddy CLI.

Using the geddy gen command

If you give Geddy the gen command, it can be used to generate applications or resources for applications. We'll be using this command to create an app -- but first, a quick overview of how the generator commands work.

Each of Geddy's generator commands (e.g., app, resource, controller, etc.) takes an or set of arguments (excluding secret).

app <name>: Create a new Geddy application.

app takes a single argument: the name for your application's top-level directory. You must include a name.

secret: Create an app-secret.

secret doesn't take any arguments. It will find your config/environment file and create a new application secret in it, deleting any other secret. This secret is used for things like creating session tokens and anti-CSRF tokens.

By default this file is in the .gitignore file for your application. If you absolutely have to check it into revision control, you can use EJS syntax (<%= %>) in it to include an environment variable for the actual value of your secret.

scaffold <name> [model properties]: Creates a scaffolded resource.

scaffold takes one or more arguments: a name, followed by a set of model properties. You can specify the datatype for the property after a colon (e.g., foo:string or bar:number).

A scaffolded resource includes a model, REST routes, a controller with appropriate CRUD actions, and views.

If you also include the options --swig, --jade, --handle or --mustache you can substitute the template language to your liking.

resource <name> [model attributes]: Create a plain resource.

resource takes one or more arguments: a name, followed by a set of model properties. You can specify the datatype for the property after a colon (e.g., foo:string or bar:number).

Simple resources include a model, REST routes, a controlle with minimal CRUD actions. It does not include views.

controller <name>: Generates a bare controller.

controller takes a single argument: a name.

A bare controller includes a controller, REST routes, and an index view.

If you also include the options --swig, --jade, --handle or --mustache you can substitute the template language to your liking.

model <name> [model attributes]: Generate a new model.

model takes one or more arguments: a name, followed by a set of model properties. You can specify the datatype for the property after a colon (e.g., foo:string or bar:number).

Generating models this way will only create a model file, and nothing else.

Model properties

There are a three commands (scaffold, resource, model) that also include model property arguments. This is a list seperated by spaces that include the property, its datatype and an optional flag for setting the 'default' property.

Click here to see how Geddy models are defined, and what datatypes are supported.

Here are some examples of how model properties are added:

$ geddy gen scaffold book title:string description:text

The example above will create a scaffolded model that includes a title property of type string, and a description property of type text. (If no type is given it will default to string.)

$ geddy gen scaffold user name:default

This example creates scaffolding but includes name as the default property that will be used when displaying the content in the views.

In this example the property name is given the type string because no type was given. You could have also written name:string:default (or some other type in place of 'string'). If no default property is given Geddy will use id as the default display property.

Note: the id property is always be created, and managed internally by Geddy's ORM.

Building an app

This will be a short tutorial as scaffolded resources make things incredibly easy. First we'll create our application --this will create a base so we can start on:

$ geddy gen app to_do

Let's spend some time reviewing what Geddy did. The previous command created a lot.

During the tutorial we will edit and review some of these files, but we'll briefly explain what they are now so you get familiar with the base application layout.

  • app/controllers: contains the base controller and the main controller. All controllers will go in this folder
  • app/models: Models you create will go in this folder
  • app/view: All templates for rendering views go here
  • app/views/layouts/application.html.ejs: layout used by default by all the views
  • app/views/main/index.html.ejs: main view displayed when you visit the root of your web application
  • app/views/errors/not_found.html.ejs: used to render 404 rror pages
  • app/views/errors/default.html.ejs: used to render all other error pages
  • config/development.js: configuration for the development environment
  • config/environment.js: configuration for all your environments
  • config/init.js: this is where you write code that will be run only once your app starts.
  • config/production.js: configuration for the production environment
  • config/router.js: contains route settings. It has some examples and you can learn more about routes from the Wiki.
  • public/: contains static assets that will be served directly by geddy's server
  • public/css/: Geddy uses twitter bootstrap. These are referenced by the layout file (application.html.ejs)
  • public/img/: contains a few images used by twitter bootstrap. Your images will usually go here as well
  • public/js/: bootstrap and jquery scripts
  • lib: Reusable libs for your app can go here
  • log: Your app writes logs to this folder
  • node_modules: Node modules your app depends on will be installed here by npm install.
  • package.json Defines all the important info about your app
  • test Tests for your app go here. Always write tests
  • Jakefile Used for defining the various build tasks for your app

Now from your app's root, simply start geddy

$ cd to_do
$ geddy

Then open your browser and navigate to localhost:4000, and you'll find the hello world page.

Optional: check out your app on a mobile phone

  • Open up your favorite phone simulator and go to http://localhost:4000
  • OR resize your browser to at most 480px wide
  • OR set your app to listen on an external IP address and use your actual phone

Check out the config

Look in the config directory -- the development.js file is the one that interests us here now, because we'll be working in 'development' mode, and this file is what the server uses for its configuration when starting that environment up.

Here's the contents:

var config = {
  detailedErrors: true
, debug: true
, hostname: null
, port: 4000
, model: {
    defaultAdapter: 'filesystem'
, sessions: {
    store: 'memory'
  , key: 'sid'
  , expiry: 14 * 24 * 60 * 60

You can see the default Model adapter is the Filesystem adapter. That means we're just writing stuff to a flat file, and you don't need to install any DB to play around with Geddy.

In the prodution environment, you'll likely be using an actual DB like Postgres or MongoDB.

Create a resource

So now we want to create a resource for our ToDo items. We will create a 'title' and 'status' property so that we have some attributes to use.

$ geddy gen scaffold to_do title:default status

After this, you have to restart Geddy to pick up the newly created files.

$ geddy

Open your browser to localhost:4000/to_dos and you'll get a list of the to_dos which should be empty.

Go ahead and look around, you can create show edit and delete to_do items. We're going to make a few changes though.

Add validation

The first thing we'll do is to add some validation to our ToDo model. So open 'app/models/to_do.js' in your editor and add the following lines anywhere inside the constructor function

var ToDo = function () {
  // Add this inside the constructor function
  this.validatesLength('title', {min: 5});

  this.validatesWithFunction('status', function (status) {
    return status == 'open' || status == 'done';
  }, {message: "Status must be 'open' or 'done.'"});
ToDo = geddy.model.register('ToDo', ToDo);

Here we are making it so the title property is required and have a minumum of 5 characters. We also made it so the status acts like a boolean attribute but uses custom names instead of true/false. The 'message' property passed in the opts sets the error message that will show in the flash-message when an item fails validation.

We will later also change our edit and add views to limit the options, but for now we will leave the views the way they are.

The auto process-restart for development-mode should pick up the changes we've just made, so go and play with the app again.

Create a few ToDo items, try to edit them, and test the validation rules. When an item can't be saved bcause it's not valid, you'll see an error message on the page in the session flash.

Click here to learn more about the session flash.

We've got a good ToDo application running and didn't really have to do much. Scaffolding is very good when you need something simple to get you started.

Create an association

Now we're going to create another resource, and relate it to our ToDos.

Let's say that a ToDo has a number of steps to finish before the ToDo can be completed. Let's scaffold out our Step resource.

$ geddy gen scaffold step title:default description:text status

That creates the same sort of scaffolded resource we saw with ToDos.

Add validation for Steps

Now we can create Steps to link to a particular ToDo. Let's quickly add some validation to ensure each Step has at least a 'title'. Add this to your Step model (app/models/step.js):

var Step = function () {
  this.validatesLength('title', {min: 5});

  this.validatesWithFunction('status', function (status) {
    return status == 'open' || status == 'done';
  }, {message: "Status must be 'open' or 'done.'"});
Step = geddy.model.register('Step', Step);

Exactly the same validation for our ToDos.

Create the association

Now, let's make the changes to our models to create the association between them.

Add the following line inside your ToDo model:

var ToDo = function () {
ToDo = geddy.model.register('ToDo', ToDo);

This is pretty straighforward, but it basically means that a ToDo can have multiple Steps associated with it.

Add the following line inside your Step model:

var Step = function () {
Step = geddy.model.register('Step', Step);

This is pretty simple too -- it says that each Step is owned by a ToDo.

Displaying the association

Now you can restart Geddy to pick up the new Step files, and navigate to http://localhost:4000/steps to see the empty list for Steps.

When you click the "Create a new Step" button, you can see the expected Title and Description field, but no way to link them with any of the ToDo items we created earlier. Let's fix that.

When we handle the 'add' action (later, the 'edit' action as well) for a Step, we need to load the list of ToDos, so we can dump them into a select box we can use to choose the ToDo for the Step.

Retrieve the ToDos

Open up the Step controller: app/controllers/steps.js, and look at the 'add' action (this.add, just a method on the controller).

Use the all method on Geddy's ORM to load all the ToDos you've made so far, before rendering out the 'edit' page, like this:

  this.add = function (req, resp, params) {
    var self = this;
    geddy.model.ToDo.all(function (err, data) {
      if (err) {
        throw err;
      self.respond({params: params, toDos: data});

What did we do here? We grabbed all the ToDo items we've created, and in the callback, rendered our 'edit' action, passing the items (data) to the response as the toDos param. Because we're grabbing all the ToDos, we're only passing a callback and no query query object to the all call. We want everything.

Remember, this callback is an asynchronous function, so you need to declare a self variable to keep a reference to the controller instance so you can call respond on it.

Pass the data to the form

Now we need to pass this data to the form we use to create a Step. Open up app/views/steps/add.html.ejs, and you'll see that the actual form is rendered as a partial. This lets us share the same form between the add and the edit actions.

We need to pass this list of ToDos down into the partial. Where you see the call to partial, make the code look like this:

<%- partial('form', {step: {}, toDos: toDos}) %>

The params you pass in the object literal that is the second arg will become local variables in the rendered partial template.

Display the ToDos in a select element

Let's open up the partial template now, app/views/steps/form.html.ejs. We're going to dump the list of ToDos we retrieved in the controller into a select tag.

Geddy has a handy helper for this that takes away a lot of the grunt work, called selectTag, as well as a bunch of other nice helpers.

You can find the docs for the helpers here.

Just inside the container div with the class 'control-group', add this code:

  <label for="title" class="control-label">To-Do for this step</label>
    <%- selectTag(toDos, step.toDoId, {
      name: 'toDoId'
    , valueField: 'id'
    , textField: 'title'
    }); %>

What did we do here? We just passed the list of ToDos to the selectTag helper, telling it the 'name' attribute for the select elements should be 'toDoId'. (This will be the foreign key used by each Step to link itself back to a ToDo.)

We also set a valueField and textField, telling the helper to use the 'id' property of each ToDo as the value of its option element, and the Step's 'title' as the text displayed.

You can see that in the second param of this call, we're passing step.toDoId -- this specifies the what option element should be preselected. We're not using this yet, but it will come into play when we begin editing Steps.

Refresh your 'Create a new Step' page, and you should see a select box at the top with all your ToDos in it.

Save your Step

Select a ToDo for this step, and save it. If you remembered to add a title and a valid status, and it passes validation, you should be redirected to the scaffold page displaying the new Step.

Verify that the association got added correctly by checking to see if your new Step has a toDoId -- this should correspond to the id of the associated ToDo.

Editing Steps

Right now, if you try to edit one of your existing steps, the page will blow up in your face, because the form isn't getting the toDos variable passed in (so it's 'undefined').

We basically have to go through the same set of steps for the 'edit' action. Open up your Step controller, and changed the edit action to look like this:

  this.edit = function (req, resp, params) {
    var self = this;
    geddy.model.Step.first(, function(err, step) {
      if (err) {
        throw err;
      if (!step) {
        throw new geddy.errors.BadRequestError();
      else {
        geddy.model.ToDo.all(function (err, data) {
          if (err) {
            throw err;
          self.respond({step: step, toDos: data});

IMPORTANT: Notice we've replaced the respondWith method call here with the lower-level respond. The respondWith method is very handy when all you have is a model instance, but in this case we're passing along some other data, and we need to drop down to the lower-level `respond' method.

Click here to learn more about the various ways to respond to a request.

Now open the corresponding view (app/views/steps/edit.html.ejs), and pass the toDos into the partial call, like so:

<%- partial('form', {step: step, toDos: toDos}) %>

Go ahead and create a few more Steps, and link them to the same ToDo. We still have to take care of the other side of the association -- displaying all the Steps for a ToDo.

The ToDo-side of the association

It's a similar process for the ToDo side. We need to open the ToDo controller (app/controllers/to_dos.js), and update the 'show' action to get all the associated Steps for a particular ToDo.

Change the code to look like this: = function (req, resp, params) {
    var self = this;

    geddy.model.ToDo.first(, function(err, toDo) {
      if (err) {
        throw err;
      if (!toDo) {
        throw new geddy.errors.NotFoundError();
      else {
        toDo.getSteps(function (err, data) {
          self.respond({toDo: toDo, steps: data});

Notice this action called the first action to look up the first ToDo that matches the desired id. Once we have the ToDo, we can call getSteps on it to look up all the associated Steps. This is a convenience method Geddy provides automatically based on the associated model. If we had given ToDo a hasMany of the Zoobie model, Geddy would automatically make a getZoobies method to fetch them.

IMPORTANT: We also have to do the same thing as before, with the 'update' action for the Step: change the respondWith method to respond so that we can pass the extra data of the retrieved Steps to the view.

Now open the 'show' view (app/views/to_dos/show.html.ejs), and add some code to print them out for each ToDo.

The built-in code that just iterates over properties on the object is nice to verify your item is actually saved, but it's not very practically useful. Remove that section in the bottom half of the code in the template (ignore the 'hero-unit' navigation section at the top), and replace it with this:

<h3>Status: <%= toDo.status %></h3>

<% steps.forEach(function (step) { %>
  <%- linkTo(step.title, {controller: 'steps', action: 'show', id:}); %>
<% }); %>

What did we just do? We just iterated over the list of Steps returned by the lookup in the controller, and printed out a link for each one, with the title of the Step as the anchor text, and the correct URL for navigating to the 'show' action for that Step.


Check these urls out in your browser:

  • GET: localhost:4000/to_dos.json
  • GET: localhost:4000/to_dos/:id.json
  • POST: localhost:4000/to_dos
  • PUT: localhost:4000/to_dos/:id


At this point you should have a working To-Do List app!

If you want to explore a little more, here are some other things you could do:

  • Change the Main#index route to point to the ToDos#index action (hint, check out config/router.js)
  • Add some logging with geddy.log
  • Configure mongo, riak or postgress and use it instead of the memory modelAdapter. See how easy it's to switch

Next: Eager-fetch associations (SQL adapters)

Up to now we've just been using the built-in Filesystem adapter Geddy defaults to using in development mode. This just takes the JSON of the objects created, and dumps them in a flat file in your application directory (_datastore.json).

This adapter behaves very similarly to MongoDB, Riak, or LevelDB in that it's 'non-relational.' It doesn't know anything about the relationships between items in the datastore. This is fine for some types of applications, and gives you a lot of flexibility, not requiring you to know quite as much about the structure of your data before you begin developing.

Relational datastores

But using a relational datastore -- like a SQL database -- allows you to do certain things you can't do with a non-relational store. The main ability you get is the ability to 'eager fetch' a list of associations.

This means that with our previous example, you would be able to fetch all the ToDos, and their associated Steps in one go, instead of getting the ToDos, and having to iterate over them to get all the Steps. (This is sometimes called the 'N plus 1 problem,' because you have one query to fetch your main items, then 'N' more queries, one for each item.)

Setting the DB

In an actual production app, you'd be using a relational database like PostgreSQL or MySQL, but for this tutorial, we'll just continue using development mode, and use SQLite. It's installed already on all Macs, and it's easy to install on other platforms. If you don't have it, install it.

Then, open up the development config (config/development.js), and you'll see a bunch of different possible DB configurations. In the 'model' section, set 'defaultAdapter' to 'sqlite'. (You don't need any 'db' section for configuring the database when you're using SQLite.)

If you start up your app app now, it will blow up at this point, because you need to install the correct SQLite library for Node, for Geddy's ORM to use, and initialize the database. Use this command:

$ geddy jake db:init

What did this do? Geddy uses Jake ( as a build-tool for lots of its internal scripting tasks. This tells Geddy's bundled Jake to initialize the DB specified in your production config file. This does a couple of things:

  • Installed the correct SQLite lib for Node
  • Creates a Migrations table


What are Migrations? Migrations are used with SQL DBs to manage the schema over time. It's very similar to versioning your programming code with an RCS ('revision control system') like Git or Subversion.

Click here to learn more about how Geddy's migrations work.

To create the tables needed by your models, you'll need to run the migrations that were initially created when you scaffolded out your models.

Run the migrations like this:

$ geddy jake db:migrate

We'll also need to create the columns needed by the association we created between ToDos and Steps. Since Steps all belong to a ToDo, we'll need to add a column for the toDoId property on a Step used to link back to a particular ToDo.

Create a blank migration by running this command:

$ geddy gen migration create_to_do_step_association
[Added] db/migrations/20131111135707create_to_do_step_association.js

This creates a blank migration you can fill in. Open the generated migration file, and add or remove the command for adding your foreign-key column:

var CreateToDoStepAssociation = function () {
  this.up = function (next) {
    this.addColumn('steps', 'toDoId', 'string', function (err, data) {
      if (err) { throw err; }

  this.down = function (next) {
    this.removeColumn('steps', 'toDoId', function (err, data) {
      if (err) { throw err; }

exports.CreateToDoStepAssociation = CreateToDoStepAssociation;

Run this migration, like so:

$ geddy jake db:migrate

Then start up your app, and navigate to http://localhost/to_dos. Verify that things work correctly -- create some ToDos, and some Steps, and associate each step with a ToDo.

Doing the eager-fetch of Steps

Now we'll add the code that fetches all associated Steps along with the list of ToDos loaded in the 'index' view of ToDos.

Just specify the association you want to include in the query, using the 'includes' property on the query opts.

Change the 'index' action on the ToDo controller (app/controllers/to_dos.js) to look like this:

  this.index = function (req, resp, params) {
    var self = this;

    geddy.model.ToDo.all({}, {includes: 'steps'}, function(err, toDos) {
      if (err) {
        throw err;
      self.respondWith(toDos, {type:'ToDo'});

We're passing the name of the association to eager-fetch in the 'includes' property of the query -- notice we now have to pass an empty query-object to the query, to allow us to pass options as a second arg.

Note that there's no calling getSteps on any of the returned objects, as the query generated uses a SQL JOIN to load the associated Step objects directly in the same query. All the Steps associated with each ToDo will be found on a steps property on the ToDo item.

Now let's open up the list view (app/views/to_dos/index.html.ejs) to render out these Steps inline with the list of ToDos.

Get rid of the div that's displaying the id of the ToDo item. We don't need that. Replace the entire bottom section of the code with this:

<div id="toDos-list">
<% if (toDos) { %>
  <% for (var i = 0, ii = toDos.length; i < ii; i++) { %>
    <div class="row list-item" id="toDo-<%= toDos[i].id; %>">
      <div class="span8">
        <h3><%- linkTo(toDos[i].title, toDoPath(toDos[i].id)); %></h3>
        <% var steps = toDos[i].steps || [];
          steps.forEach(function (step) { %>
              <%= step.title %>
  <% } %>
<% } %>

What does this code do? It adds a section underneath the title of each ToDo that renders the list of any Steps associated with it. It will do this for the entire list of ToDos, without you having to iterate of the list of them, and run a query to fetch the Steps. This is the advantage that eager-fetch of associations gives you.