trool

a rule engine for NodeJS written in TypeScript

Usage no npm install needed!

<script type="module">
  import trool from 'https://cdn.skypack.dev/trool';
</script>

README

TROOL - a spreadsheet rule engine for NodeJS/TypeScript

Get rules out of the code so non-engineers can make updates over time!


Features

  • Manage rules in a business spreadsheet format.
  • Heavily inspired by Java's KnowledgeBase Library.
  • Allows use of Import objects so values can be reused. These can be passed dynamically through the code or hardcoded in the spreadsheet.
  • GitHub Repo contains fully-functional sample project so you can start practicing right away.
  • Fully type-safe :)

Requirements

  • The spreadsheet must be exported as a .csv before usage.
  • Can be used directly with JavaScript (ES5 and ES6) but documentation is in TypeScript.

Screenshot

fullOverview

Quick Start

  • install $ npm install --save trool

  • Open Excel, LibreOffice Calc, or some other spreadsheet tool of your choice.

  • A Fact is an instance-object or array of instance-objects, which you want to update based on conditions that may change over time. Create at least one decision-table on the spreadsheet so you can update a fact.

  • You must follow the format closely for setting up a decision-table. Trool may throw errors if you do not set things up correctly. The guide contains all the details for setting up a decision-table. You can look at the screen-shot above if you want a quick glimpse on what decision-tables look like.

  • Export your spreadsheet as a CSV file. The rules for formatting the csv are the same as they are for the csvtojson library. That's what Trool uses internally to convert the csv to a JSON object.

  • Create a new NodeJS program (preferably with TypeScript) and import the trool library at the top.

import Trool from 'trool';

class PriceCalculator {

  • To use Trool you must call two methods init() and applyRules(). The first one takes in your facts array and the path to the CSV file. init() is asynchronous so make sure to use async/await with it. applyRules() returns the update facts and must be called after init().

  • init() has two optional params showLogs and imports. If you want access to the decision-tables for some reason after init() is called, there is the decisionTables getter on the trool instance.

  • The facts and the imports must be wrapped in holder objects, with the key being the name of the fact/import to use in the spreadsheet and the value being the actual fact or import. The imports param is optional because you may only want to use ones specified in the spreadsheet or have no need for any.

public async calcTotalPrice(): Promise<void> {
    
    const factsHolder = {
        Visitors: [new Visitor(), new Visitor()],
        Tickets: new Ticket(),
    };

    const importsHolder = { 
        VisitorTypes: {
            ADULT: 'Adult',
            CHILD: 'Child',
        },
    };

    try {
        const facts = this.setupFactsHolder(visitors, ticketOpt);
        const trool = new Trool();
        await trool.init(csvFilePath, factsHolder, true, importsHolder);
        const updatedFacts = trool.applyRules();
        totalPrice = this.addUpEachTicketPrice(updatedFacts);
        // Access decision tables
        cinfo(trool.decisionTables);
    } catch (err) {
        console.error(err.message);
    }
}
  • The updatedFacts variable in the previous snippet will contain all the same key/value pairs and arrays in the same order as the factsHolder that was passed in.

Guide

Important! When you setup your decision-tables and imports there are some rules to follow the in order for your tables/imports to be properly loaded into memory. Strict formatting is enforced for readability purposes.

Decision-Tables:

  • All decision-tables must start with a cell containing the text Table: "Fact Name". A table without a fact name or with a fact name that does not exist on the facts-holder will throw an error. If you create 2 tables that have the same fact-name, the second table will overwrite all the changes from the first.

  • A table will end when it reaches an empty row, the end of the file, or the start of a new table or import. For readability, you should terminate all tables with an empty row.

  • The first 2 rows on a decision-table are for specifying the conditions and the actions. If all conditions are true, then the actions will execute. After the start cell (the cell with Table: "Fact Name") you must specify at least 1 condition and 1 action.

  • Specifying Condition and Action columns must be done by putting 'Condition' or 'Action', at the top of each column. These are case sensitive so make sure to capitalize the values. All conditions must come before all actions and you cannot have anything other than 'Condition' or 'Action' at the top of your table columns.

  • The condition must be a statement which evaluates to true or false. The left side of the statement must be a method or getter on the fact's instance-object and the right side must be $param. The operator must be an existing JavaScript comparator such as == or <=. The values in the rows below will replace $param. For example, suppose I want to get the age of a visitor for an app which calculates ticket prices. I would need to create a TypeScript getter (get age(): number {}) or a method like getAge() {} to fetch the visitor's age and compare it to the parameter value.

  • Actions are methods on a fact which will execute if all the conditions evaluate to true. Unlike conditions, you can have multiple params passed in. The action must be a method or a TypeScript setter function on the fact or else Trool will throw an error. The number of params in the action columns' cells below must match the number or $param strings or else Trool will throw an error.

  • All rows on a decision-table, except for the first 2, are referred to as rules. A rule works by evaluating a list of conditions against cell values which, if they all evaluate to true, will execute the specified actions. A rule must start with a rule name and can be anything but cannot be blank.

  • For each cell on the rule, if it is a condition column, the cell value will replace the $param value and evaluate the cell as true or false. An empty cell will automatically be evaluated as true. If any cell evaluates to false, that rule will fail and the decision-table will go on the next rule.

  • While on a rule's action column, each param specified must be separated by a comma. If no params are specified (the cell is blank), the rule will skip that action column.

  • Whew that was a lot! Now that we've gone over the rules for creating tables, let's look at an example in detail. In the following snippet, we see an example on a decision-table and the fact Tickets.

sampleTable
  • To update this fact you needs to make sure the Tickets property exists on the facts-holder when it gets passed to applyRules(). If Tickets is an array, the decision-table will get applied to each Ticket instance in the array.

  • The table has one condition and one action. There's also 2 rules: Set Price - Regular and Set Price - Season. Look at the operations for the condition and action. On the left side of each operation we can see the properties option and price. This means that each Ticket instance object passed in must have getters/setters for the option and price properties or else an error will be thrown.

  • The first rule Set Price - Regular will take the value for option and check and see if its value is equal to the string "Regular". If so, it will apply the action column to the fact. The setter for price will be called and the value 70 will be passed in. The exact same sequence of events will take place for the next rule Set Price - Season. In other words, if the Ticket option is "Season", the price will be 600, if the option is "Regular", the price will be 70.

  • And that's how Trool works! If you need to change the price for a Regular or Seasonal ticket over time without bugging your engineers, just have someone else make updates to the spreadsheet :)

Imports:

  • For large complicated spreadsheets you might want to reuse certain values. Suppose for Visitors who might be buying these tickets the maximum age for a child is 18. One might need to reuse this value for multiple rules/tables and if it's updated in once place, it needs to be updated everywhere. For example, the maximum age for a child might change from 18 to 15 or something like that. This is where imports come in handy. An import basically sets up a simple JSON object that you can access in your tables. Imports can be created in the spreadsheet or passed through applyRules().

  • Trool iterates the entire spreadsheet and first looks for all the imports, then it goes back through and initializes all the decision-tables. So the ordering of your tables/imports does not matter. For cleanliness I recommend keeping them separated.

  • All imports must begin with the cell Import: "Import Name". If you pass an import in the imports holder (via applyRules()) that has a key matching an import name in the spreadsheet, you will get the warning: !!WARNING!! The spreadsheet is using an import name already passed via the imports object. The spreadsheet will overwrite the import: "Import Name".

  • The quick-start had an example of passing imports through applyRules(). Let's look at an example of an import hardcoded in the spreadsheet. importExample

  • With this import, each table will have access to an object named TicketTypes and all of its properties. If you were to place TicketTypes.SEASON in a cell for the operation option == $param, the Ticket object would call the option getter and pass "SEASON" as the value.

  • When using imports through applyRules(), you don't have to necessary use an object as a property and could have it as a primitive. VisitorTypes itself could be a string or number. I don't recommend using imports this way though; it could be confusing in a collaborative environment.

  • One more thing, you cannot use nested properties on imports: i.e. Import.key.key This is intentional, it would lead to a very message spreadsheet.

Special Notes:

  • In Trool spreadsheets, == under the hood is actually using ===.

  • The values you can pass through cells are strings, numbers, true, false, and null. Don't use objects or undefined. Via imports, you could actually use an object as a $param value, but don't do it. This could be confusing for non-engineers. Stick with primitives. Create extra getters and setters when dealing with multiple values.

  • Import property name rules are the same as for JavaScript keys. That means alphanumeric, underscores, and dashes. Anything other than characters will throw an error.

  • In case you don't have local access to your rules file, or can't otherwise pass a file path, you can use initFromString() and pass the content of the CSV file as a string instead:

        const factsHolder = {
            Visitors: [new Visitor(), new Visitor()],
            Tickets: new Ticket(),
        };
    
        const importsHolder = {
            VisitorTypes: {
                ADULT: 'Adult',
                CHILD: 'Child',
            },
        };
    
        try {
            const s3 = new AWS.S3();
            const data = await s3.getObject({ Bucket: bucketName, Key: bucketKey });
    
            const facts = this.setupFactsHolder(visitors, ticketOpt);
            const trool = new Trool();
            await trool.initFromString(data.Body, factsHolder, true, importsHolder);