Invoice App

August 7, 2019 · 1076 words · 6 min


This application is meant to facilitate the process of writing up a traditional invoice. Keeping track of goods sent and services provided should be a computer’s job.

This application is now more of a learning project or a playground because here is where I’m try out new things. It all started in 2019 when I took part in a national programming competition, InfoEducatie, where I took second place(the project’s page can be found here).

Cool stuff I’ve learned along the way

GitHub Actions

I wanted to find a way to seamlessly add features to this app, without having to ssh into my VPS to trigger a new deployment. So, I had a look at GitHub Actions and this tool has turned out to be exactly what I’ve been looking for. Now, whenever I push a commit into the master branch or a PR is merged into master, a deployment will be triggered automatically.

All this logic can be found in the autodeploy.yml file.

Bash Scripting

Considering that this is a full-stack application, I didn’t want to re-deploy the entire application when only one part included some new changes. For example, if the client brings something new, then only the build script of the Vue application should be run. Similarly, when the server contains some updates, then only the server container should be restarted.

In order to achieve that, I had to get familiar with a few Bash scripting concepts. This is the way the previously described logic is implemented at the moment:

  • whenever something is pushed into the master branch, the origin/master branch will be updated by using the git fetch origin master command; then, I will check whether the HEAD of master is the same as the HEAD of origin/master; the check is done by comparing the hashes of the two:

      if [ $(git log --format="%H" HEAD -1) == $(git log --format="%H" FETCH_HEAD -1) ]

    where FETCH_HEAD points to the commits that had just been fetched as a result of issuing the git fetch origin master command.

  • a check is done in order to determine if among the newly pushed commits there are some changes in the /client directory:

    git diff --pretty=%gd --stat HEAD FETCH_HEAD | grep -q client/

    as a side note, if grep finds something, then the exit code will be 0(more about it here).

    if the check is positive, then the build command is run.

  • then, a check is done to see if something new appeared in the /server directory; if the check is positive, then the server container is restarted:

    docker-compose -f --env-file ./server/.env -p "$(basename $(pwd))_PROD" restart server

Another very interesting thing that I’ve learned is that commands can be run in parallel in a Bash script. For instance, if the newly added commits comprise changes made in both client and server directories, then I wouldn’t want to wait until the Vue’s build command is ready before restarting the server container. In order to prevent that, here is how I’m running the build script:

if $shouldUpdateClient then
    npm run build -- &

if $shouldUpdateServer then
    docker-compose -f --env-file ./server/.env -p "$(basename $(pwd))_PROD" restart server


Docker and docker-compose

Undoubtedly, having to manually install the required dependencies in order to run the application locally is not the smoothest experience. For this reason, and not only, I decided to improve the DX by dockerizing the entire application.

During the process, I faced many challenges and solving them clarified a lot of things to me. One of the most interesting findings was how to make the server container wait for the redis and the db containers until they’re truly ready. For instance, it often occurred that the db container had started, but it was not ready to accept connections and it consequentially caused errors for the server container. This is how I overcame this issue:

      test: "mysql -uroot -p$DB_ROOT_PASSWORD -e 'select 1;'"
      interval: 1s
      retries: 20

    test: "redis-cli ping"
    interval: 1s
    retries: 20

      condition: service_healthy
      condition: service_healthy

Using a cron job to periodically clean up the accumulated data

Since the application is exposed to the world and since it’s really just a playground where I could try new things, I didn’t want the data to grow infinitely. To that end, I did some research and the best solution for this problem I found to be a cron job that will run a script periodically(e.g. 5 days) and that script will be responsible for cleaning up the accumulated data and eventually restart all the active sessions.

The script that will be run by the cron job is Since I’m using Docker containers, the way to clear the data was to delete the volume associated with the db container. Luckily, the docker-compose down -v command does exactly that.

However, there was another tricky problem that occurred. Because I’m using JWT tokens for authentication and authorization, there’s no state I’m keeping track of on the server, apart from the refresh tokens, which are stored in redis. So the problem was that logged in users(which had the access tokens stored in LS) were able to use the application as usual, although everything had been cleaned up(including the users table). The reason for that was the key which had been used to create the access token. In order to solve this, apart from cleaning up the data, I also changed that key, so that all the existing access tokens are invalidated.

This is the logic that I’ve followed:

docker-compose down -v \
  && openssl rand -base64 32 > ./server/.key \ # <- creating a new key!
  && docker-compose up -d


Since the beginning of this project, I was settled to learn as much as possible from it. That’s why I went with pure SQL queries instead of using an ORM.

This opened the door to many learning opportunities. One of my favorite discoveries was the use of Stored Procedures and Triggers in MySQL

Deploying my first full-stack application

This application has a very special meaning to me. Apart from being my first serious application that I’ve built, it’s also the first full-stack application that I’ve ever deployed.

I’m also seeing this small project as a reference for future projects, in the sense that it contains many starting points.

I had a great time learning more about how the Internet works and many other captivating aspects: web servers, DNS, ssh, cryptography, JWT.