The kraken suite

Kraken is a secure and scalable layer that extends express by providing structure and convention. Though kraken is the main pillar of our framework, the following modules can also be used independently:

Getting started

0. Install node.js and essential build tools

Install node.js, which will in turn install npm, which is used to manage all your dependencies.

In order for the npm install command to work, you need these essential build tools:

  • Python 2.6 or 2.7
  • C++ compiler (GCC 4.2 or newer)
  • Make

The method of installing these pre-requisites will vary by operating system.

1. Install the generator

Start by installing the generator globally using npm: [sudo] npm install -g yo generator-kraken bower grunt-cli

2. Create a project

Once installed, you can create a basic project using the generator. Type yo kraken and follow the prompts:

$ yo kraken

hh  / _  _ \
    |(@)(@)|   Release the Kraken!
    )  __  (
  (( ((  )) ))
   `\ `)(' /'

Tell me a bit about your application:

[?] Name: HelloWorld
[?] Description: A test kraken application
[?] Author: YourName GoesHere

The generator will create a new directory for your application, set up an empty project and download all the necessary dependencies.

3. Start your server

To run your project, just go into the newly created directory and type npm start:

$ cd HelloWorld
$ npm start

> helloworld@0.1.0 start ~/HelloWorld
> node index.js

[development] Listening on http://localhost:8000

Your kraken application will start up on port 8000. You can visit it at http://localhost:8000. If all goes well, your very polite application will say hello.

Structure of a Project

Kraken keeps your code organized by splitting up the configuration, content+templates and routing logic into different places so that it's easy to keep track of everything and to easily swap out components. Let's start by looking at the base structure of the project you just created:

Application configuration including environment-specific configs

Routes and logic

Language specific content bundles

Common libraries to be used across your app


Web resources that are publicly available

Server and browser-side templates

Grunt tasks to be automatically registered by [grunt-config-dir](

Unit and functional test cases

Application entry point

Let's say you want to create a simple application. As your application grows, this becomes unmanageable and messy. Kraken helps you stay organized by imposing a sound structure and strategy.

First let's look at our basic index.js entry point:

'use strict';

var kraken = require('kraken-js'),
    app = require('express')(),
    options = {
        onconfig: function (config, next) {
            config.get('view engines:js:renderer:arguments').push(app);

            next(null, config);
        /* more options are documented in the README */
    port = process.env.PORT || 8000;


app.listen(port, function (err) {
    console.log('[%s] Listening on http://localhost:%d', app.settings.env, port);

As you can see from the index.js entry point, kraken is just an express middleware. The configuration is just an object that defines an onconfig. That function is called when the application begins configuration.

There are a few other options that can be set as well as the onconfig handler.

So, where's all the configuration? Where are the routes?


Kraken's configuration can be found in the config/config.json file.

This JSON file contains key value pairs that are loaded at runtime. The advantage of this is that all your application configuration is in a single, well-known place; and you can swap it out without having to touch a single line of code.

This config file is also where you can define middleware and specify it's load-order. To find out more, check out meddleware.

Development vs. Production environments

A common scenario is that development environments have slightly different parameters than production. Kraken allows you to define a second file config/development.json with alternate values.

You can control which file is loaded by defining an environment variable: NODE_ENV and setting its value to production or development as appropriate.


Security is provided out-of-the-box by the Lusca module. Lusca is middleware for express, and it follows OWASP best practices by enabling the following request/response headers for all calls:

If you want to disable or configure them, please see the Lusca README.


Kraken moves the routing logic into separate files in the controllers folder, allowing you to group routes by functionality.

For example, a route for your home page, would use a controllers/index.js file that looks as follows:

'use strict';

var IndexModel = require('../models/index');

module.exports = function (router) {
    var model = new IndexModel();

    router.get('/', function (req, res) {
        res.render('index', model);

This file would define the routes and the logic for the home page. The advantage of keeping routes and logic segregated in individual files starts to show as the application grows. If something fails, it's very easy to pinpoint where things went wrong.

Kraken is built on top of express, so the rest of the logic should be familiar to Node developers.

New to 1.x, your controllers are given an instance of your top-level router instead of the app instance, and routes are automatically determined for you based on folder-structure. For example, if you wanted to specify a handler for /users, simple drop this in /controllers/users/index.js:

'use strict';

module.exports = function (router) {
    // notice that my route is '/' but I respond to '/users'
    router.get('/', function (req, res) {
        res.send('you can find me at /users');

With 1.x, route registration is supercharged and very flexible. Check out express-enrouten to learn more.


Kraken also separates data models from the controller logic, resulting in cleaner, more organized code. Data models live in the models folder.

When a new controller is created, the framework will also create a simple model for you.

'use strict';

module.exports = function IndexModel() {
    return {
        name: 'myApp'

While not very complex, this model serves as a base to build upon. See the Kraken Shopping Cart example for more complex usage of models.


Kraken uses LinkedIn's Dust as the templating language of choice. Adaro is the module responsible for rendering and managing the templates.

Templates are loaded from the public/templates directory. Because they reside in the public folder, this allows kraken to use the same templates on the server side as well as the client side, allowing you to reuse code.

If we wanted to greet our customers, a basic template would be:

<h1>Hello {name}!</h1>


Thanks to Makara, kraken has the ability to load content bundles on the fly, based on the request context. If we wanted to greet a user in their native language (e.g.: Spanish), we can simply add this context to the response before rendering the template:

res.locals.context = { locality: { language: 'es', country: 'ES' } };
var model = { name: 'Antonio Banderas' };

We would also change our template as follows, using a @pre type="content" tag:

<h1>{@pre type="content" key="index.greeting"/}</h1>

This instructs the framework to pick up the index.greeting string from one of the locale content bundles.

The locales directory holds these bundles, organized by country and language. The bundles are nothing more than simple key=value .property files. If our sample application caters to English and Spanish speakers, we would create two bundles:

locales/US/en/ to hold index.greeting=Hello {name}!


locales/ES/es/ to hold index.greeting=Hola {name}!

So, in the above example, since the language and country are set to es and ES respectively, the framework would pick the second bundle and display:

Hola Antonio Banderas!

Grunt tasks

Generated projects include the following grunt tasks by default:

  • $ grunt build will localize and compile your templates to the .build directory, and also copy static assets there
  • $ grunt test will run jshint as well as any mocha tests


How can I disable CSRF for specific routes?

If you need to disable the CSRF protection provided by the lusca module for certain paths --a common use case for APIs-- you can accomplish this through the configuration file, on the middleware section. The strategy is to first disable the default CSRF handling, and then re-enable it for the routes we want to protect. This can be done using a negative lookahead regular expression.

Example: Protect all routes, except those starting with /api :

    "middleware": {
         * Override the default lusca configuration to disable CSRF handling.
        "appsec": {
            "module": {
                "arguments": [
                        "xframe": "SAMEORIGIN",
                        "p3p": false,
                        "csp": false

         * Enable *ONLY* CSRF filtered by route.
         * Note: The route "regex" needs the double parens
         * because of how express parses route strings.
        "csrf": {
            "enabled": true,
            "priority": 111,
            "route": "/((?!api))*",
            "module": {
                "name": "lusca",
                "method": "csrf",
                "arguments": [ {} ]

How can I register middleware in config?

We use meddleware to facilitate the registration of middleware.

Example: Let's define a middleware to let any origin access the resource. Say it's in './middlewares/cors'

module.exports = function () {
    return function(req, res, next) {
        res.header("Access-Control-Allow-Origin", "*");
        res.header("Access-Control-Allow-Headers", "Origin, X-Requested-With, Content-Type, Accept");

I can include above middleware in my config like so:

    // ...
    "middleware": {
        "cors": {
            "enabled": true,
            "priority": 119,
            "module": {
                "name": "path: ./middlewares/cors" //"path" is a shortstop-handler

I'm encountering TypeError: Cannot call method 'replace' of undefined when I run my app. Help!

If you're running in production mode, Kraken will look for pre-compiled templates in the ./.build directory. This error likely indicates that you have not built your project. Try running grunt build.

How should I access configuration values in my application?

Since kraken compiles your configuration at runtime -- taking in to account the environment plus shortstop handlers -- you should not attempt to require the JSON directly.

You can access the configuration from the request:"my:config:property").

You can also access the configuration in an onconfig handler as discussed here:

If you are using an onconfig handler, just be aware that startup is asynchronous. I.e. don't rely on the config value until onconfig has fired, or the app emits the start event.

How can I contribute to this project?

Bugs and new features should be submitted using GitHub issues. Please include with a detailed description and the expected behavior. If you would like to submit a change yourself do the following steps.

  • Fork it.
  • Create a feature branch.
  • Commit a test that fails due to the bug
  • Commit a fix that makes the test pass
  • Open a pull request.

This page is built from the repository. To refine the document even further, you can create an issue, or better yet, submit a pull request.


Here's a few examples to get you going with kraken: