Plugin system for reusable code in node.js
Last updated 2 years ago by e0ipso .
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$ cnpm install plugnplay 
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Mateu Aguiló Bosch (e0ipso) Travis Coverage Status Last Commit David Dependency Management Node


Plug'n'Play is a simple plugin system that will allow you leverage polymorphism.

Example 1: Imagine a service that needs to process some data and store it in S3. The piece that stores the data could be a plugin, and you could have a plugin that writes to S3, another that writes to the local filesystem and another that dumps the data in the console. This way you could use configuration files to say:

OK, run the application locally but don't upload to S3 save to my disk so I can debug and inspect the end result.

You would only need to change storePlugin from 's3' to 'disk'.

Example 2: Your application deals with user objects, but a user can be initialized from their public GitHub data, AboutMe, etc. You can declare a plugin type 'user' and then have plugins for 'user-from-github', 'user-from-aboutme', etc. More on this example.

Example 3: In a data pipeline application you want to apply an unknown number of transformations to your data. Similar to a middleware you want to chain data processors. A data processor exposes a function that applies to your specific data and provides a specific output. Each data processor will be a plugin instance. For instance you may want to chain 'validate-against-schema', 'remove-mb-characters', 'log-to-splunk'. Data processors can be defined in your application or can be discovered in 3rd party modules.


Imagine that you want to use a different logger for your local environment than from the production environment. You want to use console.log in your local and you want to send to Logstash in production. You could do something like:

const config = require('config');
const { PluginManager } = require('plugnplay');

const manager = new PluginManager();

manager.instantiate(config.get('loggerPlugin'), config.get('loggerOptions'))
  .then(({ logger }) => {
    logger('We are using the logger provided by the plugin!');
  .catch((e) => {


Why not just node modules that you include with a require?

Plugins offer several features that you can't easily obtain with require('./some/code'):

  • 3rd party modules can provide plugins that your app can discover for feature enhancements.
  • Typed plugins ensure expectations on what is returned.
  • Plugins can contain additional metadata in plugnplay.yml.
  • Plugins can be registered at run-time.
  • Plugins can return a promise. This allows you to do async requires.
  • Plugins are auto-discovered and instantiated by ID. Requiring a plugin does not depend on the directory you are in.

Can all the pluggability resolve at build time?

Yes, it can! Well no, but almost. Since the plug-in dependency resolution can also happen over I/O you will need to resolve a promise. This is how you'd do almost-build-time pluggability:

// app.js cares about pluginWithIO and plugin2 (plugin0 is also added via dependencies).

const { PluginManager } = require('plugnplay');

const manager = new PluginManager();

// All plugins are found and cached at this point.
.then(([pluginWithIO, plugin2]) => {
  // Your app code that depends on plugins happen here.
  doSomeCoolStuff(pluginWithIO, plugin2);

If you know that your plugins can be instantiated synchronously then you can use manager.require() instead.

// app.js cares about pluginWithIO and plugin2 (plugin0 is also added via dependencies).
// If the plugins can be instantiated synchronously, then we can use manager.require().
const { PluginManager } = require('plugnplay');

const manager = new PluginManager();

const pluginWithIO = manager.require('pluginWithIO');
const plugin2 = manager.require('plugin2');
// All plugins are found and cached at this point.

// Your app code that depends on plugins happen here.
doSomeCoolStuff(pluginWithIO, plugin2);

Can external modules provide plugins?

They can! Just by declaring the plugin, anyone can find that module in the filesystem. If your application needs plugins provided by 3rd party modules, make sure to enable the allowsContributed option.

What's the impact on performance of the plugin auto discovery?

If you include plugins from 3rd party modules and your node_modules directory is very big, then it may take a while to scan all the files. If that's your case reduce the scope of the scan with the rootPath option.

For instance:

const { PluginManager } = require('plugnplay');

const manager = new PluginManager({
  discovery: {
    allowsContributed: true,
    rootPath: '+(./lib|./node_modules/foo_*|./node_modules/bar)'

See more path options in the Glob project.

Why does export() return a Promise?

The recommendation is that your plugin instance is fully loaded and ready to be used. That's why it can accept configuration options. That is also the reason why export() returns a promise, so it can execute async operations to fully load the exported data.

For instance:

 * 'user-from-github' is a plugin of type 'user'.
 * It contains the name, username, image and a google maps object about the user. It also contains a
 * connection to the database to read/write users.
module.exports = UserFromGitHubLoader extends PluginLoaderBase {
  exports(options = {}) {
    const promises = [
      new SqlConnection('foo', 'bar')
    return Promise.all(promises)
      .then(([data, storage]) => ({
        image: data.avatar_url,
        username: options.username,
        map: new GoogleMaps(data.location),

This way your User plugin can be initialized synchronously from your apps data, or asynchronously by using GitHub's data. You don't care where the info came from, you just use the plugin instance!

Discover your plugins synchronously

In some occasions it can be useful to build your plugins synchronously. That's when you need to make use of discoverSync().

const { PluginManager } = require('plugnplay');

const manager = new PluginManager(/* Choose your options */);
const pluginDescriptors = manager.discoverSync();

Create a Plugin

Watch the Video Tutorials

Alt text

The basics

A plugin is just a directory that contains a plugnplay.yml file and a loader. For instance:

 |_ plugnplay.yml
 |_ loader.js

Example: Imagine the following plugin that exports a logger function.

The Plugin Descriptor

The plugin descriptor is a YAML file that contains basic information about a plugin. Consider the following example:

# /path/to/plugin1/plugnplay.yml
id: plugin1
name: First Plugin
description: This is the first plugin to be tested.
loader: loader.js # This is the file that contains the plugin loader.

The Loader

The loader is a very simple class that will export an object with the actual functionality to export. Consider the following example:

const { PluginLoaderBase } = require('plugnplay');

module.exports = class FirstPluginLoader extends PluginLoaderBase {
   * @inheritDoc
  export() {
    return Promise.resolve({
      logger: console.log,

This loader will export the console.log function as the logger property in the exported functionality.

Typed Plugins

A common use case is to have plugins that all conform to the same shape. For that we can use typed plugins. A typed plugin is a plugin that has the type key populated. The type contains the id of another plugin, this other plugin is the type plugin. Type plugins are regular plugins with the only requirement that their loader extends from PluginTypeLoaderBase.

Look at the example plugins in the test folder: fruit is the type for pear (the typed plugin).


id: fruit
name: Fruit
description: A type of delicious food.
loader: loader.js
const { PluginTypeLoaderBase } = require('plugnplay');

module.exports = class FruitLoader extends PluginTypeLoaderBase {
   * @inheritDoc
  definePluginProperties() {
    // This defines the names of the properties that plugins of this type will expose. If a plugin
    // of this type doesn't expose any of these, an error is generated.
    return ['isBerry', 'isGood', 'size'];


id: pear
name: Pear
description: A kind of fruit
loader: loader.js
# The ID of the Fruit plugin.
type: fruit

Decorated Plugins

Decorated plugins are a great way to define plugins that are driven only by the plugnplay.yml file.

For an example of a decorated plugin see the Ripe Avocado plugin.



type PluginManagerConfig = {
  discovery: {
    rootPath: string,
    allowsContributed: boolean,


  • rootPath string ('.'): The root path where to find all plugins. Use this setting to restrict where the plugin manager searches for plugins, this improves discovery performance.
  • allowsContributed boolean (true): Set to false to exclude the node_modules directory from the discovery scan.

Plugin Descriptor

The plugin descriptor is the plugnplay.yml file.

export type PluginDescriptor = {
  id: string,
  name?: string,
  description?: string,
  loader: string,
  dependencies: Array<string>,
  _pluginPath: string,


The plugin ID. This is used to identify the plugin while loading and discovering. Required.


The plugin human readable name.


The plugin description. Describes what the plugin does.


The name of the file that contains the loader. The loader needs to extend PluginLoaderBase. Required.


A list of plugin IDs this plugins requires for correct functioning.


Mateu (e0ipso)

Mateu (e0ipso)


GPL-2.0 @ Mateu (e0ipso)

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