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Reading Backstage Configuration

Config API

There's a common configuration API for by both frontend and backend plugins. An API reference can be found here.

The configuration API is tailored towards failing fast in case of missing or bad config. That's because configuration errors can always be considered programming mistakes, and will fail deterministically.

Type Safety

The methods for reading primitive values are typed, and validate that type at runtime. For example getNumber() requires the underlying value to be a number, and there will be no attempt to coerce other types into the desired one. If getNumber() receives a string value, it will throw an error, explaining where the bad config came from, and what the desired and actual types where.

Reading Nested Configuration

The backing configuration data is a nested JSON structure, meaning there will be object, within objects, arrays within objects, and so on. There are a couple of different ways to access nested values when reading configuration, but the primary one is to use dot-separated paths.

For example, given the following configuration:

baseUrl: http://localhost:3000

We can access the baseUrl using config.getString('app.baseUrl'). Because of this syntax, configuration keys are not allowed to contain dots. In fact, configuration keys are validated using the following regular expression: /^[a-z][a-z0-9]*(?:[-_][a-z][a-z0-9]*)*$/i. This basically means that keys must only contain the letters a through z and digits, in groups separated by dashes or underscores. Additionally, the very first character of each such group must be a letter, not a digit.

Another option of accessing the baseUrl value is to create a sub-view of the configuration, config.getConfig('app').getString('baseUrl'). When reading out single values the dot-path pattern is preferred, but creating sub-views can be useful for when you want to pass on parts of configuration to be read out by a separate function. For example, given something like

title: Item A
path: /a
title: Item B
path: /b

You can get the list of all items using the .keys() method, and then pass on each sub-view to be handled individually.

for (const itemKey of config.keys('my-plugin.items')) {
const itemConfig = config.getConfig(`my-plugin.items`).getConfig(itemKey);
const title = itemConfig.getString('title');
// ...

Another option for iterating through configuration keys is to call config.get('my-plugin.items'), which simply returns the JSON structure for that position without any validation. This can be handy to use sometimes, especially if you're passing on config to an external library. There's a clear benefit to the sub-view approach though, which is that the user will receive much more detailed and relevant error messages. For example, if itemConfig.getString('title') fails in the above example because a boolean was supplied, the user will receive an error message with the full path, e.g. my-plugin.items.b.title, as well as the name of the config file with the bad value. Conversely, if you try to access missing fields in raw JSON, you tend to end up with very technical and hard-to-understand type errors from javascript.

Note that no matter what method is used for reading out nested config, the same merging rules apply. You will always get the same value for any way of accessing nested config:

// Equivalent as long as a.b.c exists and is a string

Required vs Optional Configuration

Reading configuration can be divided into two categories: required, and optional. When reading optional configuration you use the optional methods such as getOptionalString. These methods will simply return undefined if configuration values are missing, allowing the called to fall back to default values. The optional methods still validate types however, so receiving a string in a call to config.getOptionalNumber will still throw an error.

A good pattern for reading optional configuration values is to use the ?? operator. For example:

const title = config.getOptionalString('my-plugin.title') ?? 'My Plugin';

To read required configuration, simply use the methods without Optional, for example getString. These will throw an error if there is no value available.

Accessing ConfigApi in Frontend Plugins

The ConfigApi in the frontend is a UtilityApi. It's accessible as usual via the configApiRef exported from @backstage/core-plugin-api:

import { useApi, configApiRef } from '@backstage/core-plugin-api';
const MyReactComponent = (...) => {
const config = useApi(configApiRef);

Depending on the config api in another API is slightly different though, as the ConfigApi implementation is supplied via the App itself and not instantiated like other APIs. See packages/app/src/apis.ts for an example of how this wiring is done.

For standalone plugin setups in dev/index.ts, register a factory with a statically mocked implementation of the config API. Use the ConfigReader from @backstage/config to create an instance and register it for the configApiRef from @backstage/core-plugin-api.

Accessing ConfigApi in Backend Plugins

In backend plugins the configuration is passed in via options from the main backend package. See for example packages/backend/src/plugins/auth.ts.