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Tutorial: Build a declarative-style node#

This tutorial walks through building a declarative-style node. Before you begin, make sure this is the node style you need. Refer to Choose your node building approach for more information.

Prerequisites#

You need the following installed on your development machine:

  • git
  • Node.js and npm. Minimum version Node 16. You can find instructions on how to install both using nvm (Node Version Manager) for Linux, Mac, and WSL here. For Windows users, refer to Microsoft's guide to Install NodeJS on Windows.

You need some understanding of:

  • JavaScript/TypeScript
  • REST APIs
  • git

Build your node#

In this section, you'll clone n8n's node starter repository, and build a node that integrates the NASA API. You'll create a node that uses two of NASA's services: APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day) and Mars Rover Photos. To keep the code examples short, the node won't implement every available option for the Mars Rover Photos endpoint.

Existing node

n8n has a built-in NASA node. To avoid clashing with the existing node, you'll give your version a different name.

Step 1: Set up the project#

n8n provides a starter repository for node development. Using the starter ensures you have all necessary dependencies. It also provides a linter.

  1. Generate a new repository from the template repository.
  2. Clone your new repository as n8n-nodes-nasa-pics:
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    git clone https://github.com/<your-organization>/<your-repo-name>.git n8n-nodes-nasa-pics
    cd n8n-nodes-nasa-pics
    

The starter contains example nodes and credentials. Delete the following directories and files:

  • nodes/ExampleNode
  • nodes/HTTPBin
  • credentials/ExampleCredentials.credentials.ts
  • credentials/HttpBinApi.credentials.ts

Now create the following directories and files:

  • nodes/NasaPics
  • nodes/NasaPics/NasaPics.node.json
  • nodes/NasaPics/NasaPics.node.ts
  • nodes/NasaPics/nasapics.svg
  • credentials/NasaPicsApi.credentials.ts

These are the key files required for any node. Refer to Node file structure for more information on required files and recommended organization.

Now install the project dependencies:

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npm i

Step 2: Add an icon#

Copy and paste the NASA SVG logo from here into nasapics.svg. To get the SVG source, right-click the image then select View page source.

n8n recommends using an SVG for your node icon, but you can also use PNG. If using PNG, the icon resolution should be 60x60px. Node icons should have a square or near-square aspect ratio.

Don't reference Font Awesome

If you want to use a Font Awesome icon in your node, download and embed the image.

Step 3: Update the npm package details#

Your npm package details are in the package.json at the root of the project. It's essential to include the n8n object with links to the credentials and base node file. Update this file to include the following information:

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{
    // All node names must start with "n8n-nodes-"
  "name": "n8n-nodes-nasapics",
  "version": "0.1.0",
  "description": "n8n node to call NASA's APOD and Mars Rover Photo services.",
  "keywords": [
        // This keyword is required for community nodes
    "n8n-community-node-package"
  ],
  "license": "MIT",
  "homepage": "https://n8n.io",
  "author": {
    "name": "Test",
    "email": "test@example.com"
  },
  "repository": {
    "type": "git",
        // Change the git remote to your own repository
        // Add the new URL here
    "url": "git+<your-repo-url>"
  },
  "main": "index.js",
  "scripts": {
        // don't change
  },
  "files": [
    "dist"
  ],
    // Link the credentials and node
  "n8n": {
    "credentials": [
      "dist/credentials/NasaPicsApi.credentials.js"
    ],
    "nodes": [
      "dist/nodes/NasaPics/NasaPics.node.js"
    ]
  },
  "devDependencies": {
        // don't change
  },
  "dependencies": {
    // don't change
  }
}

Step 4: Add node metadata#

Metadata about your node goes in the JSON file at the root of your node. n8n refers to this as the codex file. In this example, the file is NasaPics.node.json.

Add the following code to the JSON file:

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{
    "node": "n8n-nodes-base.NasaPics",
    "nodeVersion": "1.0",
    "codexVersion": "1.0",
    "categories": [
        "Miscellaneous"
    ],
    "resources": {
        "credentialDocumentation": [
            {
                "url": ""
            }
        ],
        "primaryDocumentation": [
            {
                "url": ""
            }
        ]
    }
}

For more information on these parameters, refer to Node codex files.

Step 5: Create the node#

Every node must have a base file. In this example, the file is NasaPics.node.ts. To keep this tutorial short, you'll place all the node functionality in this one file. When building more complex nodes, you should consider splitting out your functionality into modules. Refer to Node file structure for more information.

Step 5.1: Imports#

Start by adding the import statements:

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import { INodeType, INodeTypeDescription } from 'n8n-workflow';

Step 5.2: Create the main class#

The node must export an interface that implements INodeType. This interface must include a description interface, which in turn contains the properties array.

Class names and file names

Make sure the class name and the file name match. For example, given a class NasaPics, the filename must be NasaPics.node.ts.

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export class NasaPics implements INodeType {
    description: INodeTypeDescription = {
        // Basic node details will go here
        properties: [
            // Resources and operations will go here
        ]
    };
}

Step 5.3: Add node details#

All nodes need some basic parameters, such as their display name, icon, and the basic information for making a request using the node. Add the following to the description:

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        displayName: 'NASA Pics',
        name: 'NasaPics',
        icon: 'file:nasapics.svg',
        group: ['transform'],
        version: 1,
        subtitle: '={{$parameter["operation"] + ": " + $parameter["resource"]}}',
        description: 'Get data from NASAs API',
        defaults: {
            name: 'NASA Pics',
        },
        inputs: ['main'],
        outputs: ['main'],
        credentials: [
            {
                name: 'NasaPicsApi',
                required: true,
            },
        ],
        requestDefaults: {
            baseURL: 'https://api.nasa.gov',
            headers: {
                Accept: 'application/json',
                'Content-Type': 'application/json',
            },
        },

Step 5.4: Add resources#

The resource object defines the API resource that the node uses. In this tutorial, you're creating a node to access two of NASA's API endpoints: planetary/apod and mars-photos. This means you need to define two resource options in NasaPics.node.ts. Update the properties array with the resource object:

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properties: [
    {
        displayName: 'Resource',
        name: 'resource',
        type: 'options',
        noDataExpression: true,
        options: [
            {
                name: 'Astronomy Picture of the Day',
                value: 'astronomyPictureOfTheDay',
            },
            {
                name: 'Mars Rover Photos',
                value: 'marsRoverPhotos',
            },
        ],
        default: 'astronomyPictureOfTheDay',
    },
    // Operations will go here

]

type controls which UI element n8n displays for the resource, and tells n8n what type of data to expect from the user. options results in n8n adding a dropdown that allows users to choose one option. Refer to Node UI elements for more information.

Step 5.5: Add operations#

The operations object defines the available operations on a resource.

In a declarative-style node, the operations object includes routing (within the options array). This sets up the details of the API call.

Add the following to the properties array, after the resource object:

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{
    displayName: 'Operation',
    name: 'operation',
    type: 'options',
    noDataExpression: true,
    displayOptions: {
        show: {
            resource: [
                'astronomyPictureOfTheDay',
            ],
        },
    },
    options: [
        {
            name: 'Get',
            value: 'get',
            action: 'Get the APOD',
            description: 'Get the Astronomy Picture of the day',
            routing: {
                request: {
                    method: 'GET',
                    url: '/planetary/apod',
                },
            },
        },
    ],
    default: 'get',
},
{
    displayName: 'Operation',
    name: 'operation',
    type: 'options',
    noDataExpression: true,
    displayOptions: {
        show: {
            resource: [
                'marsRoverPhotos',
            ],
        },
    },
    options: [
        {
            name: 'Get',
            value: 'get',
            action: 'Get Mars Rover photos',
            description: 'Get photos from the Mars Rover',
            routing: {
                request: {
                    method: 'GET',
                    url: '=/mars-photos/api/v1/rovers/{{$parameter.roverName}}/photos',
                },
            },
        },
    ],
    default: 'get',
},
{
    displayName: 'Rover name',
    description: 'Choose which Mars Rover to get a photo from',
    required: true,
    name: 'roverName',
    type: 'options',
    options: [
        {name: 'Curiosity', value: 'curiosity'},
        {name: 'Opportunity', value: 'opportunity'},
        {name: 'Perseverance', value: 'perseverance'},
        {name: 'Spirit', value: 'spirit'},
    ],
    default: 'curiosity',
    displayOptions: {
        show: {
            resource: [
                'marsRoverPhotos',
            ],
        },
    },
},
{
    displayName: 'Date',
    description: 'Earth date',
    required: true,
    name: 'marsRoverDate',
    type: 'dateTime',
    default:'',
    displayOptions: {
        show: {
            resource: [
                'marsRoverPhotos',
            ],
        },
    },
    routing: {
        request: {
            // You've already set up the URL. qs appends the value of the field as a query string
            qs: {
                earth_date: '={{ new Date($value).toISOString().substr(0,10) }}',
            },
        },
    },
},
// Optional/additional fields will go here

This code creates two operations: one to get today's APOD image, and another to send a get request for photos from one of the Mars Rovers. The object named roverName requires the user to choose which Rover they want photos from. The routing object in the Mars Rover operation references this to create the URL for the API call.

Step 5.6: Optional fields#

Most APIs, including the NASA API that you're using in this example, have optional fields you can use to refine your query.

To avoid overwhelming users, n8n displays these under Additional Fields in the UI.

For this tutorial, you'll add one additional field, to allow users to pick a date to use with the APOD endpoint. Add the following to the properties array:

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{
    displayName: 'Additional Fields',
    name: 'additionalFields',
    type: 'collection',
    default: {},
    placeholder: 'Add Field',
    displayOptions: {
        show: {
            resource: [
                'astronomyPictureOfTheDay',
            ],
            operation: [
                'get',
            ],
        },
    },
    options: [
        {
            displayName: 'Date',
            name: 'apodDate',
            type: 'dateTime',
            default: '',
            routing: {
                request: {
                    // You've already set up the URL. qs appends the value of the field as a query string
                    qs: {
                        date: '={{ new Date($value).toISOString().substr(0,10) }}',
                    },
                },
            },
        },
    ],                                  
}

Step 6: Set up authentication#

The NASA API requires users to authenticate with an API key.

Add the following to nasaPicsApi.credentials.ts:

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import {
    IAuthenticateGeneric,
    ICredentialType,
    INodeProperties,
} from 'n8n-workflow';

export class NasaPicsApi implements ICredentialType {
    name = 'NasaPicsApi';
    displayName = 'NASA Pics API';
    // Uses the link to this tutorial as an example
    // Replace with your own docs links when building your own nodes
    documentationUrl = 'https://docs.n8n.io/integrations/creating-nodes/build/declarative-style-node/';
    properties: INodeProperties[] = [
        {
            displayName: 'API Key',
            name: 'apiKey',
            type: 'string',
            default: '',
        },
    ];
    authenticate = {
        type: 'generic',
        properties: {
            qs: {
                'api_key': '={{$credentials.apiKey}}'
            }
        },
    } as IAuthenticateGeneric;
}

For more information about credentials files and options, refer to Credentials file.

Test your node#

You can test your node as you build it by running it in a local n8n instance.

  1. Install n8n using npm:
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    npm install n8n -g
    
  2. When you are ready to test your node, publish it locally:
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    # In your node directory
    npm run build
    npm link
    
  3. Install the node into your local n8n instance:

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    # In the directory where you installed n8n
    # node-package-name is the name from the package.json
    npm link <node-package-name>
    

    Check your directory

    Make sure you run npm link <node-name> in the main directory where you installed n8n. This is probably in the node_modules directory within your Node.js installation, if you installed n8n globally.

  4. Start n8n:

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    n8n start
    

  5. Open n8n in your browser. You should see your nodes when you search for them in the nodes panel.

    Node names

    Make sure you search using the node name, not the package name. For example, if your npm package name is n8n-nodes-weather-nodes, and the package contains nodes named rain, sun, snow, you should search for rain, not weather-nodes.

Next steps#