Execution context

Nest provides several utility classes that help make it easy to write applications that function across multiple application contexts (e.g., Nest HTTP server-based, microservices and WebSockets application contexts). These utilities provide information about the current execution context which can be used to build generic guards, filters, and interceptors that can work across a broad set of controllers, methods, and execution contexts.

We cover two such classes in this chapter: ArgumentsHost and ExecutionContext.

ArgumentsHost class

The ArgumentsHost class provides methods for retrieving the arguments being passed to a handler. It allows choosing the appropriate context (e.g., HTTP, RPC (microservice), or WebSockets) to retrieve the arguments from. The framework provides an instance of ArgumentsHost, typically referenced as a host parameter, in places where you may want to access it. For example, the catch() method of an exception filter is called with an ArgumentsHostinstance.

ArgumentsHost simply acts as an abstraction over a handler's arguments. For example, for HTTP server applications (when @nestjs/platform-express is being used), the host object encapsulates Express's [request, response, next] array, where request is the request object, response is the response object, and next is a function that controls the application's request-response cycle. On the other hand, for GraphQL applications, the host object contains the [root, args, context, info] array.

Current application context

When building generic guards, filters, and interceptors which are meant to run across multiple application contexts, we need a way to determine the type of application that our method is currently running in. Do this with the getType() method of ArgumentsHost:

if (host.getType() === 'http') {
// do something that is only important in the context of regular HTTP requests (REST)
} else if (host.getType() === 'rpc') {
// do something that is only important in the context of Microservice requests
} else if (host.getType<GqlContextType>() === 'graphql') {
// do something that is only important in the context of GraphQL requests
}

info Hint The GqlContextType is imported from the @nestjs/graphql package.

With the application type available, we can write more generic components, as shown below.

Host handler arguments

To retrieve the array of arguments being passed to the handler, one approach is to use the host object's getArgs() method.

const [req, res, next] = host.getArgs();

You can pluck a particular argument by index using the getArgByIndex() method:

const request = host.getArgByIndex(0);
const response = host.getArgByIndex(1);

In these examples we retrieved the request and response objects by index, which is not typically recommended as it couples the application to a particular execution context. Instead, you can make your code more robust and reusable by using one of the host object's utility methods to switch to the appropriate application context for your application. The context switch utility methods are shown below.

/**
* Switch context to RPC.
*/
switchToRpc(): RpcArgumentsHost;
/**
* Switch context to HTTP.
*/
switchToHttp(): HttpArgumentsHost;
/**
* Switch context to WebSockets.
*/
switchToWs(): WsArgumentsHost;

Let's rewrite the previous example using the switchToHttp() method. The host.switchToHttp() helper call returns an HttpArgumentsHost object that is appropriate for the HTTP application context. The HttpArgumentsHost object has two useful methods we can use to extract the desired objects. We also use the Express type assertions in this case to return native Express typed objects:

const ctx = host.switchToHttp();
const request = ctx.getRequest<Request>();
const response = ctx.getResponse<Response>();

Similarly WsArgumentsHost and RpcArgumentsHost have methods to return appropriate objects in the microservices and WebSockets contexts. Here are the methods for WsArgumentsHost:

export interface WsArgumentsHost {
/**
* Returns the data object.
*/
getData<T>(): T;
/**
* Returns the client object.
*/
getClient<T>(): T;
}

Following are the methods for RpcArgumentsHost:

export interface RpcArgumentsHost {
/**
* Returns the data object.
*/
getData<T>(): T;
/**
* Returns the context object.
*/
getContext<T>(): T;
}

ExecutionContext class

ExecutionContext extends ArgumentsHost, providing additional details about the current execution process. Like ArgumentsHost, Nest provides an instance of ExecutionContext in places you may need it, such as in the canActivate() method of a guard and the intercept() method of an interceptor. It provides the following methods:

export interface ExecutionContext extends ArgumentsHost {
/**
* Returns the type of the controller class which the current handler belongs to.
*/
getClass<T>(): Type<T>;
/**
* Returns a reference to the handler (method) that will be invoked next in the
* request pipeline.
*/
getHandler(): Function;
}

The getHandler() method returns a reference to the handler about to be invoked. The getClass() method returns the type of the Controller class which this particular handler belongs to. For example, in an HTTP context, if the currently processed request is a POST request, bound to the create() method on the CatsController, getHandler() returns a reference to the create() method and getClass() returns the CatsController type (not instance).

const methodKey = ctx.getHandler().name; // "create"
const className = ctx.getClass().name; // "CatsController"

The ability to access references to both the current class and handler method provides great flexibility. Most importantly, it gives us the opportunity to access the metadata set through the @SetMetadata() decorator from within guards or interceptors. We cover this use case below.

Reflection and metadata

Nest provides the ability to attach custom metadata to route handlers through the @SetMetadata() decorator. We can then access this metadata from within our class to make certain decisions.

@@filename(cats.controller)
@Post()
@SetMetadata('roles', ['admin'])
async create(@Body() createCatDto: CreateCatDto) {
this.catsService.create(createCatDto);
}
@@switch
@Post()
@SetMetadata('roles', ['admin'])
@Bind(Body())
async create(createCatDto) {
this.catsService.create(createCatDto);
}

info Hint The @SetMetadata() decorator is imported from the @nestjs/common package.

With the construction above, we attached the roles metadata (roles is a metadata key and ['admin'] is the associated value) to the create() method. While this works, it's not good practice to use @SetMetadata() directly in your routes. Instead, create your own decorators, as shown below:

@@filename(roles.decorator)
import { SetMetadata } from '@nestjs/common';
export const Roles = (...roles: string[]) => SetMetadata('roles', roles);
@@switch
import { SetMetadata } from '@nestjs/common';
export const Roles = (...roles) => SetMetadata('roles', roles);

This approach is much cleaner and more readable, and is strongly typed. Now that we have a custom @Roles() decorator, we can use it to decorate the create() method.

@@filename(cats.controller)
@Post()
@Roles('admin')
async create(@Body() createCatDto: CreateCatDto) {
this.catsService.create(createCatDto);
}
@@switch
@Post()
@Roles('admin')
@Bind(Body())
async create(createCatDto) {
this.catsService.create(createCatDto);
}

To access the route's role(s) (custom metadata), we'll use the Reflector helper class, which is provided out of the box by the framework and exposed from the @nestjs/core package. Reflector can be injected into a class in the normal way:

@@filename(roles.guard)
@Injectable()
export class RolesGuard {
constructor(private reflector: Reflector) {}
}
@@switch
@Injectable()
@Dependencies(Reflector)
export class CatsService {
constructor(reflector) {
this.reflector = reflector;
}
}

info Hint The Reflector class is imported from the @nestjs/core package.

Now, to read the handler metadata, use the get() method.

const roles = this.reflector.get<string[]>('roles', context.getHandler());

The Reflector#get method allows us to easily access the metadata by passing in two arguments: a metadata key and a context (decorator target) to retrieve the metadata from. In this example, the specified key is 'roles' (refer back to the roles.decorator.ts file above and the SetMetadata() call made there). The context is provided by the call to context.getHandler(), which results in extracting the metadata for the currently processed route handler. Remember, getHandler() gives us a reference to the route handler function.

Alternatively, we may organize our controller by applying metadata at the controller level, applying to all routes in the controller class.

@@filename(cats.controller)
@Roles('admin')
@Controller('cats')
export class CatsController {}
@@switch
@Roles('admin')
@Controller('cats')
export class CatsController {}

In this case, to extract controller metadata, we pass context.getClass() as the second argument (to provide the controller class as the context for metadata extraction) instead of context.getHandler():

@@filename(roles.guard)
const roles = this.reflector.get<string[]>('roles', context.getClass());
@@switch
const roles = this.reflector.get('roles', context.getClass());

Given the ability to provide metadata at multiple levels, you may need to extract and merge metadata from several contexts. The Reflector class provides two utility methods used to help with this. These methods extract both controller and method metadata at once, and combine them in different ways.

Consider the following scenario, where you've supplied 'roles' metadata at both levels.

@@filename(cats.controller)
@Roles('user')
@Controller('cats')
export class CatsController {
@Post()
@Roles('admin')
async create(@Body() createCatDto: CreateCatDto) {
this.catsService.create(createCatDto);
}
}
@@switch
@Roles('user')
@Controller('cats')
export class CatsController {}
@Post()
@Roles('admin')
@Bind(Body())
async create(createCatDto) {
this.catsService.create(createCatDto);
}
}

If your intent is to specify 'user' as the default role, and override it selectively for certain methods, you would probably use the getAllAndOverride() method.

const roles = this.reflector.getAllAndOverride<string[]>('roles', [
context.getHandler(),
context.getClass(),
]);

A guard with this code, running in the context of the create() method, with the above metadata, would result in roles containing ['admin'].

To get metadata for both and merge it (this method merges both arrays and objects), use the getAllAndMerge() method:

const roles = this.reflector.getAllAndMerge<string[]>('roles', [
context.getHandler(),
context.getClass(),
]);

This would result in roles containing ['user', 'admin'].

For both of these merge methods, you pass the metadata key as the first argument, and an array of metadata target contexts (i.e., calls to the getHandler() and/or getClass()) methods) as the second argument.