August 29, 2021

How to Read and Write JSON with NodeJS

How to Read and Write JSON with NodeJS

In this tutorial we will go over how read and write a JSON file with NodeJS. It should come at no surprise that Node makes working with JSON extremely easy, and with the built in fs module, reading and writing to the file system is equally easy.

This tutorial is written in two parts, the first will cover reading from a JSON file, the second part will cover writing to a JSON file.

Reading a file TLDR: To read a file you can either use readFile which will read a file asynchronously, and you need to pass a file path, options and a callback, or you can use readFileSync, which will read the file synchronously, and you just pass in a file path and options, this function will return the files data.
Writing a file TLDR: To write to a file you can either use writeFile which will write a file asynchronously, and you need to pass in a file path, the data you want to write, your options and a callback to handle errors. Or, you can use writeFileSync, which will write the file synchronously, and you need to pass a file path, the data you want to write and your options.

Index

Before we get started, this is the data that I am working with, and I have this in a file called testJsonFile.json which is in my root directory:

{
	"frameworks": [
		"express",
		"feathers js",
		"meteor",
		"koa"
	]
}

Now that we have the data setup, let's look at the first two lines of my index.js file:

const fs = require('fs')
let parsedJsonData 

On the first line, we require the fs module. We will need this to read and write to the file system and we will use this throughout the tutorial.

On the next line we setup a variable that we will use later to store the JSON data that has been read from the file system, we will then add an additional JavaScript framework to that data and then write it back to the file system.

Reading a JSON file

The fs module provides a couple of popular ways to read a file, namely these are, readFile and readFileSync. We will use both of these functions, depending on your situation, reading a file synchronously might not be an issue at all, it also makes it a bit easier in my opinion as we don't need to deal with callbacks.

Reading a file with readFile

I am going to start with the code, and then I will explain it afterwards:

// 1
fs.readFile('./testJsonFile.json', 'utf8', (error, data) => {
	// 2
	if (error) {
		console.log(`ERROR: ${error}`)
		return
	}

	// 3
	const jsonData = JSON.parse(data)
	
	// 4
	parsedJsonData = jsonData
	
	// 5
	// Check the keys that jsonData has
	console.log(Object.keys(jsonData))

	// 6
	jsonData.frameworks.forEach(framework => {
		console.log(`Framework: ${framework}`)
	})
})

Ok, let's run through what is happening in the above code snippet:

  1. This is the call to the readFile function. It takes a few arguments, the first being the path to the file you want to read, the second being the options you want to pass in, we are passing in utf-8 for the encoding, and then the last argument is a callback.
  2. The first part of the callback, we are just making sure that an error does not exist, if it does, we will write the error to the console, and return. Using a return here is a personal preference. If I can stay away from using else then I generally will, but, you could use an if else instead and have the rest of the code be in the else block.
  3. Here we parse the data which is the second argument for the callback, and we assign the parsed data to the jsonData constant.
  4. We can now assign the parsed JSON data to the global variable that we created at the start of the tutorial, we will use this later when writing to the file system.
  5. This isn't an important line, but we are just printing out all the keys of the jsonData object. For the sake of this tutorial, this makes it easier to see the keys that the test data has.
  6. Lastly, we loop through the frameworks and print it to the console.

And that is it! That is how simple it is to read a json file asynchronously using Node.

Reading a file with readFileSync

Once again, let's start with the code:

// 1
try {
	// 2
	const data = fs.readFileSync('./testJsonFile.json', 'utf8')

	// 3
	const jsonData = JSON.parse(data)
	
	// 4
	parsedJsonData = jsonData

	// 5
	// Check the keys that jsonData has
	console.log(Object.keys(jsonData))
	
	// 6
	jsonData.frameworks.forEach(framework => {
		console.log(`Framework: ${framework}`)
	})
} catch (error) { // 7
	console.log(`ERROR: ${error}`)
}

Most of the steps are quite similar to the asynchronous example, the big difference is the try catch.

  1. We need use a try catch because readFileSync can throw an error. In the asynchronous example, this error would be passed as an argument to the callback, but the synchronous version does not use a callback, so the function itself will throw an error and we need to handle that.
  2. We use the readFileSync function to read the file. The first argument is the file path and the second argument is for options. Again, for the second argument, we pass through the encoding that we want to use. The readFileSync function returns the data immediately. which is why we assign it to a constant.
  3. Now, we can parse the data as we have before by using JSON.parse.
  4. We assign the parsed data to our parsedJsonData global variable so that we can use the data later on.
  5. Print out the keys of the JSON object, which helps for debugging, and just makes things a bit clearer in a tutorial.
  6. We loop through all the values for the frameworks key, and print those values to the console.
  7. As mentioned before, we need a try catch because of the way readFileSync works, and this is where we catch the error and print it to the console.

As I have mentioned before, this is my preferred way to read files because it is so straight forward, but, making use of the readFileSync function heavily depends on what your use case is.

Writing a JSON file

In the previous section we spoke about reading a file using the fs module. Writing to the file system also uses the fs module, and it too has two functions that we will use. Namely, writeFile and writeFileSync. This works in a similar way to the read functions.

Writing a file with writeFile

Let's start with the code:

// 1
parsedJsonData.frameworks.push('nest js')

// 2
const asyncFrameworksData = JSON.stringify(parsedJsonData) 
// 3
fs.writeFile('./testJsonFile.json', asyncFrameworksData, 'utf-8', (error) => {
	// 4
	if (error) {
		console.log(`WRITE ERROR: ${error}`)
	} else {
		// 5
		console.log('FILE WRITTEN TO')
	}
})
  1. We are now going to make use of the parsedJsonData that we created at the beginning of the tutorial. Since parsedJsonData already contains a JSON object, we can push an additional element, next js, onto the frameworks property.
  2. Before we write to the file, we need to stringify the JSON object.
  3. Now that we have updated and stringified parsedJsonData, we can write asyncFrameworksData to our file. To write to a file we use the writeFile function from the fs module. The first argument is the file path, the second argument is the data we want to write, in our case asyncFrameworksData, the third argument is for options, once again we are going to use it to set our encoding to utf-8. Lastly, we need to pass in a callback. This callback only takes one argument, and that is for an error.
  4. We check if an error exists, if it does we will print it in the console.
  5. If there is no error, we print to the console that the file has been written to.

That is all that is needed to write to a file asynchronously, just as easy, if not easier than reading a file.

Writing a file with writeFileSync

Starting with the code one again:

// 1
parsedJsonData.frameworks.push('nest js')

// 2
try {
	// 3
	const frameworksData = JSON.stringify(parsedJsonData)

	// 4
	fs.writeFileSync('./testJsonFile.json', frameworksData, 'utf-8')
} catch (error) { // 5
	console.log(`WRITE ERROR: ${error}`)
}
  1. If you have read the writeFile section, we are doing the same thing, we simply add a new element to the frameworks array in the parsedJsonData object.
  2. Because there is no callback provided to the writeFileSync function, it will throw an error if there is an issue, so we need to wrap it in a try catch block.
  3. Same as the previous section. Before we write the data, we need to stringify it.
  4. We write the data to the specified file path. Similarly to writeFile, writeFileSync takes the file path as the first argument, the data we want to write, frameworksData, as the second argument and lastly it takes an options argument, which we use to pass the encoding that we want, which is utf-8.
  5. This follows on from point 2, in the catch part of the try catch we catch any errors and then we will print those to our console.

The original data in the testJsonFile.json looked like this:

{
	"frameworks": [
		"express",
		"feathers js",
		"meteor",
		"koa"
	]
}

After we write to it, it should look like this:

{
	"frameworks": [
		"express",
		"feathers js",
		"meteor",
		"koa",
		"nest js"
	]
}

Conclusion

This tutorial was quite long, but the code itself is quite easy. Reading from a file and writing to a file synchronously is easier than asynchronously, simple because you do need the callback, and everything works as expected.

If you need to read the file asynchronously and then write to it afterwards, remember that you need to handle the writing from within callback, otherwise you could read a file, and while you are reading the file, the write could have already happened.

You can find all the source code here.