KeystoneJS 5 Quick Review

I have recently started on a little project to organise the quotes that I have collected in years of reading (see kindle-citation-extractor). I originally got my quotes into Airtable but I quickly hit the limit for the free tier.

I figured that it would be great if I could develop a simple database with a simple user interface. Ideally I would not want to implement the basic CRUD views and so I had a look around for tools that can generate simple UIs for databases. My initial search revealed Keystone and Strapi.

I really liked the looks of KeystoneJS (Version 5) since it appears simple and clean. In this article, I will first document my experiences with the Getting Started example for KeystoneJS and conclude with my first impressions and comparison to similar solutions.

Getting Started

After some browsing around, I decided to follow the getting started guide from the Keystone documentation.

I am particularly interested in running Keystone with Postgres, so to get my local example running, I quickly spun up a Postgres server using Docker:

docker run --name keystone-pg -e POSTGRES_PASSWORD=password -d -v db:/var/lib/postgresql/data -p 5432:5432 postgres


Then I configured the keystone project as per instructions:

yarn create keystone-app  keystone-playground

Provided answers for the prompts:

Prompts for Keystone Project initialisation

Then I connected to the Postgres instance in Docker and created a keystone table:

Create keystone database

And finally run the example:

DATABASE_URL=postgres://postgres:password@localhost:5432/keystone && yarn dev

Unfortunately, loading the AdminUI then resulted in the following error:

> GraphQL error: select count(*) from "public"."Todo" as "t0" where true – relation "public.Todo" does not exist

There appears to be an open issue for this already: Trouble running starter

I was able to fix this issue by modifying index.js as follows:

const keystone = new Keystone({
  adapter: new Adapter({
    dropDatabase: true,
    knexOptions: {
      client: 'postgres',
      connection: process.env.DATABASE_URL,

Adding the dropDatabase option here seems to force Keystone to create the data in the database upon startup.

Keystone example

The interface on localhost:3000 is also up and running:

Keystone 5 Example To Do list App

Quick Review

Based on looking around the documentation and my experiences with the sample app, my observations for Keystone JS 5 are as follows:

  • KeystoneJS 5 appears very modern, with excellent capabilities for GraphQL
  • Based on my experiences with the Getting Started example, it seems that the documentation for KeystoneJS leaves some things to be desired.
  • I like how lightweight KeystoneJS feels. It runs fast and the code to configure it seems very straightforward and simple.
  • A few lines of declarative code can yield impressive outcomes, such as a fully featured GraphQL API and a nice admin interface.
  • Seems like it is possible to deploy Keystone in Serverless environments, see Serverless deployment using Now.
  • KeystoneJS does not manage migrations when the data model is changed (see this comment). This requires to create any additional lists and fields manually in the database. Here an example how this can be accomplished using Knex migrations.

Potential alternatives for KeystoneJS are:

  • Strapi: Very similar to Keystone but based on a REST API first (GraphQL available as a plugin). Allows creating and editing table schema using the Admin UI. Overall it is more of a CMS that KeystoneJS.
  • Prisma: Prisma is closer to traditional ORM tools than KeystoneJS. The recently released Prisma Admin is similar to the Admin interface of KeystoneJs. Prisma offers a client library whereas KeystoneJS depends on clients interfacing with the data through the GraphQL API.

Overall I still believe that KeystoneJS is a viable technology for my use case. My biggest concern is around migrations; I believe it may be quite difficult to orchestrate this easily across development, test and production system. I will probably continue to poke around a bit more in the KeystoneJS examples and documentation and possibly try out one of the alternatives.

I have uploaded my project resulting from following the Getting Started guide to GitHub. I think it can be quite useful for complementing the existing Getting Started documentation, particularly when wanting to get started using Postgres:


Testing Apollo Client/Server Applications

Following up on the GraphQL, Node.JS and React Monorepo Starter Kit and GraphQL Apollo Starter Kit (Lerna, Node.js), I have now created an extended example which includes facilities to run unit and integration tests using Jest.

The code can be found on GitHub:


The following tests are included:

React Component Test

This tests asserts a react component is rendered correctly. Backend data from GraphQL is supplied via a mock [packages/client-components/src/Books/Books.test.js]

import React from 'react';
import Books from './Books';

import renderer from 'react-test-renderer'
import { MockedProvider } from 'react-apollo/test-utils';

import GET_BOOK_TITLES from './graphql/queries/booktitles';

import wait from 'waait';

const mocks = [
    request: {
      query: GET_BOOK_TITLES
    result: {
      data: {
        books: [
            title: 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets',
            author: 'J.K. Rowling',
            title: 'Jurassic Park',
            author: 'Michael Crichton',

it('Renders one book', async () => {

  const component = renderer.create(<MockedProvider mocks={mocks} addTypename={false}>
    <Books />

  // to wait for event loop to complete - after which component should be loaded
  await wait(0);

  const pre = component.root.findByType('pre');
  expect(pre.children).toContain('Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets');


GraphQL Schema Test

Based on the article Extensive GraphQL Testing in 3 minutes, this test verifies the GraphQL schema is defined correctly for running the relevant queries [packages/server-books/src/schema/index.test.js].

import {
} from 'graphql-tools';

import { graphql } from 'graphql';

import booksSchema from './index';

const titleTestCase = {
    id: 'Query Title',
    query: `
      query {
        books {
    variables: {},
    context: {},
    expected: { data: { books: [{ title: 'Title'} , { title: 'Title' }] } }

const cases = [titleTestCase];

describe('Schema', () => {
    const typeDefs = booksSchema;
    const mockSchema = makeExecutableSchema({ typeDefs });

        schema: mockSchema,
        mocks: {
            Boolean: () => false,
            ID: () => '1',
            Int: () => 1,
            Float: () => 1.1,
            String: () => 'Title',

    test('Has valid type definitions', async () => {
        expect(async () => {
            const MockServer = mockServer(typeDefs);

            await MockServer.query(`{ __schema { types { name } } }`);

    cases.forEach(obj => {
        const { id, query, variables, context: ctx, expected } = obj;

        test(`Testing Query: ${id}`, async () => {
            return await expect(
                graphql(mockSchema, query, null, { ctx }, variables)


GraphQL Schema and Resolver Test

Extending the previous test as suggested by the article Effective Testing a GraphQL Server, this test affirms that GraphQL schema and resolvers are working correctly [packages/server-books/tests/Books.test.js].

import { makeExecutableSchema } from 'graphql-tools'
import { graphql } from 'graphql'
import resolvers from '../src/resolvers'
import typeDefs from '../src/schema'

const titleTestCase = {
    id: 'Query Title',
    query: `
      query {
        books {
    variables: {},
    context: {},
    expected: { data: { books: [{ title: 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' }, { title: 'Jurassic Park' }] } }

describe('Test Cases', () => {

    const cases = [titleTestCase]
    const schema = makeExecutableSchema({ typeDefs: typeDefs, resolvers: { Query: resolvers } })

    cases.forEach(obj => {
        const { id, query, variables, context, expected } = obj

        test(`query: ${id}`, async () => {
            const result = await graphql(schema, query, null, context, variables)
            return expect(result).toEqual(expected)


As with the previous two articles on getting started with Apollo etc. the code developed again aims to be as minimalistic as possible. It shows how Apollo client/server code may be tested in three different ways. These are quite exhaustive, even if the presented tests are simplistic.

The only test missing is an integration tests which will test the React component linked to a live Apollo server back-end. I am not sure if it is possible to run an ’embedded’ Apollo server in the browser. Running such a server for testing the React component would also be a good addition.

GraphQL, Node.JS and React Monorepo Starter Kit

Following the GraphQL Apollo Starter Kit (Lerna, Node.js), I wanted to dig deeper into developing a monorepo for a GraphQL/React client-server application.

Unfortunately, things are not as easy as I thought at first. Chiefly the create-react-app template does not appear to work very well with monorepos and local dependencies to other packages.

That’s why I put together a small, simple starter template for developing modular client-server applications using React, GraphQL and Node.js. Here is the code on GitHub:


Some things to note:

  • There are four packages in the project
    • client-main: The React client, based on create-react-app
    • client-components: Contains a definition of the component app. Used by client-main
    • server-main: The Node.js server definition
    • server-books: Contains schema and resolver for GraphQL backend. Used by server-main.
  • Each package defines it’s own package.json and can be built independent of the other packages.
  • The main entry point for the dependent packages (client-components and server-books) is set to dist/index.js. This way, packages which use them, can use the transpiled version created by babel and don’t need to worry about specific JS features used in the dependent packages.

Like GraphQL Apollo Starter Kit (Lerna, Node.js) this starter kit is meant to be very basic to allow easy exploration of the source code.

GraphQL Apollo Starter Kit (Lerna, Node.js)

In many ways developing in Node.js is very fast and lightweight. However it can also be bewildering at times. Mostly so since for everything there seems to be more than one established way of doing things. Moreover, the right way to do something can change within 3 to 6 months, so best practices documented in books and blogs quickly become obsolete.

Some days ago I wanted to create a simple sample project that shows how to develop a simple client/server application using Apollo and React. I thought this would be a simple undertaking. I imagined I would begin with a simple tutorial or ‘starter kit’ and quickly be up and running.

I found that things were not as easy as I imagined, since there are plenty of examples to spin up a simple react app chiefly using create-react-app. I also found the awesome apollo-universal-starter-kit. However, the former lacks insight of how to link this to a Node.js back-end server and the latter is a bit complex and opinionated in some ways as to which frameworks to use.

This motivated me to develop a small, simple ‘starter kit’ for Apollo Client and Server in GraphQL with the following features:

  • Uses ES 2018 ‘vanilla’ JavaScript
  • Uses Lerna to define project with two packages (client and server)
  • Uses Node.js / Express as web server
  • Uses Babel to allow using ES 6 style modules for Node.js
  • Provides easy ways to start a development server and spin up a production instance

Here a link to the project on GitHub:


The README provides the instructions to run and build the project.

A few things of note about the implementation:

This project is aimed at developers new to Node.js/React/Apollo. It is not implemented in the most elegant way possible but in a way which makes it easy to understand what is going on by browsing through the code. Be welcome to check out the project and modify it!