Paginating documents/items in MEAN

If you’ve ever scrolled through the Facebook newsfeed, you’ve noticed that the topmost stories are the most recent ones, and as you scroll to the bottom, older ones get loaded over and over as you keep scrolling.

This feature is firstly kind of “cool”, and fits in perfectly in a single page application. It’s also pretty useful from a performance standpoint, since not all of the documents (items your page is displaying, such as Facebook news stories, classified ads, search results, etc.) need to be loaded up front all at once when the user first lands on the page.

Paginating your documents in a MEAN application can be accomplished fairly easily, though it isn’t necessarily obvious. So I thought I’d write about the process I took, and the code I wrote, to get it done.

Let’s start with the AngularJS side of things. I used the ngInfiniteScroll module ( to accomplish the continuous scrolling effect. It’s pretty simple to configure, so please read up on the documentation. Essentially it can just be wrapped around an Angular ng-repeat directive, and be configured with a function to call to fetch more documents when the bottom of the page is reached (ngInfiniteScroll does all the calculations internally). Here is an example of what it would look like for getting more “classifieds” from the database to add them to the view:


So in the example above, the getMorePosted() function in your controller is called whenever ngInfiniteScroll detects that the user is at the bottom of the page. Note here that ngInfiniteScroll will most likely trigger right when the user lands on the page, unless you pre-load some documents in your controller. I elected getMorePosted() to fetch both the initial set of documents, and every successive set of documents as well. Depending on how you set things up, this may or may not make a difference, but it did for me.

My getMorePosted() function in the controller looks like this (note: it uses a factory called Classified to do the actual getting of classifieds from the API (Express/MongoDB on the server side of MEAN) which I’ll define later):

$scope.initialLoadDone = false;
$scope.loadingClassifieds = false;
$scope.getMorePosted = function() {
  if($scope.loadingClassifieds) return;

  $scope.loadingClassifieds = true;

  if(!$scope.initialLoadDone) {
    Classified.getPosted(function (postedClassifieds) {
      $scope.postedClassifieds = postedClassifieds;
      $scope.loadingClassifieds = false;
      $scope.initialLoadDone = true;
    Classified.getMorePosted(function(err,numberOfClassifiedsGotten) {
      $scope.loadingClassifieds = false;

A couple things to note here. When the classifieds are being loaded, the $scope.loadingClassifieds flag is set to true. This disables ngInfiniteScroll from attempting to keep loading more classifieds when the bottom is reached, and it can also be used to put up a message to the user that loading is underway (in case it doesn’t happen near instantly due to a slow connection). Furthermore, getMorePosted() also tracks through the $scope.noMoreClassifieds flag when the end has reached (if ever, depending on how many thousands or millions of documents are in your database, and how far down the user scrolls). It does this by measuring the number of documents returned, and if the number equals zero, it means the end of pagination has been reached.

This is how getPosted() and getMorePosted() look like in the Classified factory:

app.factory('Classified', function Classified(ClassifiedResource, ...) {
      var postedClassifieds = [];
      var postedClassifiedsLoaded = false;
      getPosted: function(callback) {
          var cb = callback || angular.noop;
          if (postedClassifiedsLoaded) {
            //console.log("Sending already-loaded postedClassifieds");
            return cb(postedClassifieds);
          } else {
            return ClassifiedResource.Posted.query(
              function(_postedClassifieds) {
                //console.log("Loading postedClassifieds from webservice");
                postedClassifieds = _postedClassifieds;
                postedClassifiedsLoaded = true;
                return cb(postedClassifieds);
              function(err) {
                return cb(err);
        getMorePosted: function(callback) {
          var cb = callback || angular.noop;
          if (!postedClassifiedsLoaded)
          else {
            return ClassifiedResource.Posted.query({
                startTime: new Date(postedClassifieds[postedClassifieds.length - 1].posted).getTime()
              function(_postedClassifieds) {
                //console.log("Loading more postedClassifieds from webservice, from before startTime="+postedClassifieds[postedClassifieds.length-1].posted);
                for (var i = 0; i < _postedClassifieds.length; i++)
                  replaceOrInsertInArray(postedClassifieds, _postedClassifieds[i], true);
                return cb(null, _postedClassifieds.length);
              function(err) {
                return cb(err);

And this is how ClassifiedResource looks like:

app.factory('ClassifiedResource', function ($resource) {
  return {
    Posted: $resource(

So note that in my setup, the service loads and maintains the list of documents (postedClassifieds) within memory. And getPosted() returns that list if it is already loaded, and it also gets the first set of documents. getMorePosted() is where the magic happens. It gets the timestamp of the last classified, and transmits that to the API (server side, Express) which then loads the next “page” after for all documents (classifieds in this case) after that timestamp.

Before we continue to examine the server side, it’s important to note that you’ll need a field to sort by in a descending order (or ascending if you want you want the oldest documents up front). A timestamp value will work great. Otherwise a MongoDB ID could work too, since those are incremental. It will depend on your data. In my case, a timestamp called “posted” was available in my data, and very consistent. Documents could only be removed from before a past timestamp, but not added to in a past timestamp (even then, this wouldn’t be a huge problem). So that works just fine with this pagination approach.

Here is what the server side looks like in Express/NodeJS:

var Classified = require('./classified.model');
exports.getPosted = function(req, res) {
  var startTime = req.params.startTime ? req.params.startTime : null;

  var query = Classified.find(
      {posted: { $ne: null }}
  query.sort('-posted -_id');
    query.where({posted: {$lt: new Date().setTime(startTime)}});
    .exec(function (err, classifieds) {
      if(err) { ... }
      return res.status(200).json(classifieds);


Note that “Classified” defines my model, which is queried from using Mongoose. I limit the number of documents returned to 20, which works well for my application. And the query is sorted in descending order by the “posted” field, which is a timestamp. You’ll notice a where clause added, which gets only the classifieds posted before the time sent in (“startTime”) from the UI, so that works in conjunction with the sort and returns 20 more classifieds before the “startTime”. Also note that I send the timestamp in milliseconds, which gives a nice clean number that can be sent down to the API from the UI.

And, that’s it!

Something I want to add is that on your client side (in AngularJS) if you end up loading too many documents/items in your ng-repeat, the application performance will greatly degrade. With ngInfiniteScroll, all items on the page are always kept once they’re loaded, even if they’re not in the view currently. There’s another module: which will allow you to destroy and re-create items as they go in and out of the view from the user’s browser as the user scrolls through. This will vastly improve performance when a lot of documents are loaded.

Giving the user a message before resizing images through ng-file-upload

This had been bothering me for a while until I stumbled upon an answer that led me to a solution.

With ng-file-upload ( for AngularJS, you have the capability to resize images using the ngf-resize directive. It’s very handy since you can put some of the CPU processing burden resizing giant images to smaller sizes on the user, rather than to put it on your own server (if you resize the images after the files are uploaded).

HOWEVER, the problem with ngf-resize is when resizing starts, and especially if the user selects multiple images at once, the user’s browser hangs while the images resize. The bigger the image, the longer it takes. This is irritating, and also confusing, causing the user to wonder what is going on. For the longest time I was trying to figure out how to give the user a message before the resizing actually starts.

I eventually stumbled upon the ngf-before-model-change directive part of ng-file-upload. This allows you to define a function that is called before the model changes (and the images start resizing). This is a perfect place to put up a message to the user that their images are about to be resized, and for them to sit tight for the next few seconds.

Then the ngf-select directive can be used to define a function which is called AFTER the resizing is complete, and this is where you can remove the message to the user.

Full example follows like this. In your JavaScript side of things (in your AngularJS controller) you would do:

$scope.beforeResizingImages = function(images)

$scope.afterResizingImages = function(images)

And then in HTML:

<div ngf-before-model-change="beforeResizingImages($files)" ngf-select="afterResizingImages($files)" />

And that’s it! beforeResizingImages() and afterResizingImages() will be called in the correct order, putting the message up before resizing images (and before the browser hangs for a few seconds for the CPU intensive process), and taking it off after resizing. Note that I use angular-block-ui ( to block the UI and put the message up, and of course angular-translate to translate the text for the block message.

Simple AngularJS directive

So I found many articles on using AngularJS directives, which go into great detail for very complex directives. I couldn’t find any on just a relatively simple directive, so I thought I’d write about it.

First of all, an AngularJS directive defines a reusable HTML tag that you can use in your HTML files. It’s very useful if you want to create some complicated custom tags, or even just simple ones, that you can reuse everywhere.

In my case, I just wanted to give my users a message for them to add the system email to their spam filter allow list, so no system-generated emails get blocked. I wanted to do this everywhere an operation included a system-generated email to the user. I wanted to style the message in a particular way, translate it according to the user’s preferences, and I didn’t want to copy/paste it in those several places. I thought it would be difficult in case I wanted to change the styling, wording, or so on, I’d have to do it in many places. This is where an AngularJS directive becomes useful. I can define the directive in one place, and use it in many places.

This is how the directive is defined in JavaScript:

.directive('emailSpamMessage', function() {
  return {
    template: '

<span class="label label-danger">{{"NOTE" | translate | uppercase}}</span> {{"SPAM_MESSAGE" | translate {HOSTING_NAME:CONSTANTS.HOSTING_NAME,SYSTEM_EMAIL:CONSTANTS.SYSTEM_EMAIL} }}' 

And this is how it would look in HTML:


And that’s it! Note that the directive in JavaScript is defined as emailSpamMessage, but in HTML as “email-spam-message”. AngularJS does the conversion for you.

Also note that in the controller associated to the HTML that the custom directive is in, needs to have the correct includes for it to work fully. For my particular example the controller will need to have $translate (angular-translate) and a CONSTANTS variable included.

Limiting upload of number of files in ng-file-upload

ng-file-upload is a wonderful module to help you manage uploading files through AngularJS. Head on over to to check it out.

One thing that isn’t obvious is how to limit the number of files that a user can upload. (This of course only applies if you are allowing multiple file uploads).

One way to limit the number of files a user can upload is through the “ngf-validate-fn” angular directive. This directive can be used to call a custom function defined in your controller that validates the file.

In this custom validation function, you can check the number of files that already exist in the files model, and return true (meaning validation passed, file should be allowed) or false (or an error name, meaning validation failed… the max number of files has reached).

Let’s say you want to limit the maximum number of files uploaded to 10. It would look like this in your html:

<div ngf-select ngf-multiple="true" ng-model="files" ngf-validate-fn="validateFile($file)" />

And in your controller:

$scope.validateFile = function(file)
    return "TOO_MANY_FILES";
  return true;

And that’ll do it.

HOWEVER, big caveat: This will only work if the user selects one file at a time. If the user selects multiple files all at once (from the file-selection dialog box their browser presents), then this limitation trick will not work, and more files will get through. I am currently in the process of either myself implementing this feature as a native directive in the ng-file-upload module, or waiting till someone else implements it. I’ve posted this as an enhancement request on the module’s github page.