Dependency injection is an important application design pattern. Angular has its own dependency injection framework, and we really can't build an Angular application without it. It's used so widely that almost everyone just calls it DI.
In this chapter we'll learn what DI is and why we want it. Then we'll learn how to use it in an Angular app.
- Why dependency injection?
- Angular dependency injection
- Injector providers
- Dependency injection tokens
Why dependency injection?
Let's start with the following code.
Car creates everything it needs inside its constructor.
What's the problem?
The problem is that our
Car class is brittle, inflexible, and hard to test.
Car needs an engine and tires. Instead of asking for them,
Car constructor instantiates its own copies from
the very specific classes
What if the
Engine class evolves and its constructor requires a parameter?
Car is broken and stays broken until we rewrite it along the lines of
this.engine = new Engine(theNewParameter).
We didn't care about
Engine constructor parameters when we first wrote
We don't really care about them now.
But we'll have to start caring because
when the definition of
Engine changes, our
Car class must change.
What if we want to put a different brand of tires on our
Car? Too bad.
We're locked into whatever brand the
Tires class creates. That makes our
Right now each new car gets its own engine. It can't share an engine with other cars.
While that makes sense for an automobile engine,
we can think of other dependencies that should be shared, such as the onboard
wireless connection to the manufacturer's service center. Our
Car lacks the flexibility
to share services that have been created previously for other consumers.
When we write tests for our
Car we're at the mercy of its hidden dependencies.
Is it even possible to create a new
Engine in a test environment?
Engineitself depend upon? What does that dependency depend on?
Will a new instance of
Engine make an asynchronous call to the server?
We certainly don't want that going on during our tests.
What if our
Car should flash a warning signal when tire pressure is low?
How do we confirm that it actually does flash a warning
if we can't swap in low-pressure tires during the test?
We have no control over the car's hidden dependencies. When we can't control the dependencies, a class becomes difficult to test.
How can we make
Car more robust, flexible, and testable?
That's super easy. We change our
Car constructor to a version with DI:
See what happened? We moved the definition of the dependencies to the constructor.
Car class no longer creates an engine or tires.
It just consumes them.
We also leveraged TypeScript's constructor syntax for declaring parameters and properties simultaneously.
Now we create a car by passing the engine and tires to the constructor.
How cool is that?
The definition of the engine and tire dependencies are
decoupled from the
Car class itself.
We can pass in any kind of engine or tires we like, as long as they
conform to the general API requirements of an engine or tires.
If someone extends the
Engine class, that is not
The consumer of
Car has the problem. The consumer must update the car creation code to
something like this:
The critical point is this:
Car itself did not have to change.
We'll take care of the consumer's problem soon enough.
Car class is much easier to test because we are in complete control
of its dependencies.
We can pass mocks to the constructor that do exactly what we want them to do
during each test:
We just learned what dependency injection is.
It's a coding pattern in which a class receives its dependencies from external sources rather than creating them itself.
Cool! But what about that poor consumer?
Anyone who wants a
Car must now
create all three parts: the
Car class shed its problems at the consumer's expense.
We need something that takes care of assembling these parts for us.
We could write a giant class to do that:
It's not so bad now with only three creation methods. But maintaining it will be hairy as the application grows. This factory is going to become a huge spiderweb of interdependent factory methods!
Wouldn't it be nice if we could simply list the things we want to build without having to define which dependency gets injected into what?
This is where the dependency injection framework comes into play. Imagine the framework had something called an injector. We register some classes with this injector, and it figures out how to create them.
When we need a
Car, we simply ask the injector to get it for us and we're good to go.
Everyone wins. The
Car knows nothing about creating an
The consumer knows nothing about creating a
We don't have a gigantic factory class to maintain.
Car and consumer simply ask for what they need and the injector delivers.
This is what a dependency injection framework is all about.
Now that we know what dependency injection is and appreciate its benefits, let's see how it is implemented in Angular.
Angular dependency injection
Angular ships with its own dependency injection framework. This framework can also be used as a standalone module by other applications and frameworks.
That sounds nice. What does it do for us when building components in Angular? Let's see, one step at a time.
We'll begin with a simplified version of the
that we built in the The Tour of Heroes.
HeroesComponent is the root component of the Heroes feature area.
It governs all the child components of this area.
Our stripped down version has only one child,
which displays a list of heroes.
HeroListComponent gets heroes from
HEROES, an in-memory collection
defined in another file.
That may suffice in the early stages of development, but it's far from ideal.
As soon as we try to test this component or want to get our heroes data from a remote server,
we'll have to change the implementation of
fix every other use of the
HEROES mock data.
Let's make a service that hides how we get hero data.
Given that the service is a separate concern, we suggest that you write the service code in its own file.
See this note for details.
HeroService exposes a
getHeroes method that returns
the same mock data as before, but none of its consumers need to know that.
@Injectable() decorator above the service class.
We'll discuss its purpose shortly.
We aren't even pretending this is a real service. If we were actually getting data from a remote server, the API would have to be asynchronous, perhaps returning a Promise. We'd also have to rewrite the way components consume our service. This is important in general, but not to our current story.
A service is nothing more than a class in Angular. It remains nothing more than a class until we register it with an Angular injector.
Configuring the injector
We don't have to create an Angular injector. Angular creates an application-wide injector for us during the bootstrap process.
We do have to configure the injector by registering the providers that create the services our application requires. We'll explain what providers are later in this chapter.
We can either register a provider within an NgModule or in application components
Registering providers in an NgModule
Here's our AppModule where we register a
UserService, and an
Registering providers in a component
Here's a revised
HeroesComponent that registers the
When to use the NgModule and when an application component?
On the one hand, a provider in an NgModule is registered in the root injector. That means that every provider registered within an NgModule will be accessible in the entire application.
On the other hand, a provider registered in an application component is available only on that component and all its children.
We want the
APP_CONFIG service to be available all across the application, but a
HeroService is only used within the Heroes
feature area and nowhere else.
Also see "Should I add app-wide providers to the root
AppModule or the root
AppComponent?" in the NgModule FAQ.
Preparing the HeroListComponent for injection
HeroListComponent should get heroes from the injected
Per the dependency injection pattern, the component must ask for the service in its
constructor, as we explained earlier.
It's a small change:
Focus on the constructor
Adding a parameter to the constructor isn't all that's happening here.
Note that the constructor parameter has the type
HeroService, and that
HeroListComponent class has an
(scroll up to confirm that fact).
Also recall that the parent component (
providers information for
The constructor parameter type, the
and the parent's
providers information combine to tell the
Angular injector to inject an instance of
HeroService whenever it creates a new
Implicit injector creation
When we introduced the idea of an injector above, we showed how to
use it to create a new
Car. Here we also show how such an injector
would be explicitly created:
We won't find code like that in the Tour of Heroes or any of our other samples.
We could write code that explicitly creates an injector if we had to, but we rarely do.
Angular takes care of creating and calling injectors
when it creates components for us — whether through HTML markup, as in
or after navigating to a component with the router.
If we let Angular do its job, we'll enjoy the benefits of automated dependency injection.
Dependencies are singletons within the scope of an injector.
In our example, a single
HeroService instance is shared among the
HeroesComponent and its
However, Angular DI is an hierarchical injection system, which means that nested injectors can create their own service instances. Learn more about that in the Hierarchical Injectors chapter.
Testing the component
We emphasized earlier that designing a class for dependency injection makes the class easier to test. Listing dependencies as constructor parameters may be all we need to test application parts effectively.
For example, we can create a new
HeroListComponent with a mock service that we can manipulate
Learn more in Testing.
When the service needs a service
HeroService is very simple. It doesn't have any dependencies of its own.
What if it had a dependency? What if it reported its activities through a logging service?
We'd apply the same constructor injection pattern,
adding a constructor that takes a
Here is the revision compared to the original.
The constructor now asks for an injected instance of a
Logger and stores it in a private property called
We call that property within our
getHeroes method when anyone asks for heroes.
@Injectable() marks a class as available to an
injector for instantiation. Generally speaking, an injector will report an
error when trying to instantiate a class that is not marked as
As it happens, we could have omitted
@Injectable() from our first
HeroService because it had no injected parameters.
But we must have it now that our service has an injected dependency.
We need it because Angular requires constructor parameter metadata
in order to inject a
We recommend adding
@Injectable() to every service class, even those that don't have dependencies
and, therefore, do not technically require it. Here's why:
- Future proofing: No need to remember
@Injectable()when we add a dependency later.
- Consistency: All services follow the same rules, and we don't have to wonder why a decorator is missing.
Injectors are also responsible for instantiating components
HeroesComponent. Why haven't we marked
We can add it if we really want to. It isn't necessary because the
HeroesComponent is already marked with
@Component, and this
decorator class (like
@Pipe, which we'll learn about later)
is a subtype of Injectable. It is in
Injectable decorators that
identify a class as a target for instantiation by an injector.
The TypeScript compiler discards metadata by default.
emitDecoratorMetadata compiler option is true
(as it should be in the
for every class with at least one decorator.
While any decorator will trigger this effect, mark the service class with the Injectable decorator to make the intent clear.
@Injectable(), not just
Our application will fail mysteriously if we forget the parentheses.
Creating and registering a logger service
We're injecting a logger into our
HeroService in two steps:
- Create the logger service.
- Register it with the application.
Our logger service is quite simple:
We're likely to need the same logger service everywhere in our application,
so we put it in the project's
app folder, and
we register it in the
providers array of our application module,
If we forget to register the logger, Angular throws an exception when it first looks for the logger:
That's Angular telling us that the dependency injector couldn't find the provider for the logger.
It needed that provider to create a
Logger to inject into a new
HeroService, which it needed to
create and inject into a new
The chain of creations started with the
Logger provider. Providers are the subject of our next section.
A provider provides the concrete, runtime version of a dependency value. The injector relies on providers to create instances of the services that the injector injects into components and other services.
We must register a service provider with the injector, or it won't know how to create the service.
Earlier we registered the
Logger service in the
providers array of the metadata for the
AppModule like this:
There are many ways to provide something that looks and behaves like a
Logger class itself is an obvious and natural provider.
But it's not the only way.
We can configure the injector with alternative providers that can deliver an object that behaves like a
We could provide a substitute class. We could provide a logger-like object.
We could give it a provider that calls a logger factory function.
Any of these approaches might be a good choice under the right circumstances.
What matters is that the injector has a provider to go to when it needs a
The Provider class and provide object literal
We wrote the
providers array like this:
This is actually a shorthand expression for a provider registration using a provider object literal with two properties:
The first is the token that serves as the key for both locating a dependency value and registering the provider.
The second is a provider definition object, which we can think of as a recipe for creating the dependency value. There are many ways to create dependency values ... and many ways to write a recipe.
Alternative class providers
Occasionally we'll ask a different class to provide the service.
The following code tells the injector
to return a
BetterLogger when something asks for the
Class provider with dependencies
EvenBetterLogger could display the user name in the log message.
This logger gets the user from the injected
which happens also to be injected at the application level.
Configure it like we did
Aliased class providers
Suppose an old component depends upon an
OldLogger has the same interface as the
NewLogger, but for some reason
we can't update the old component to use it.
When the old component logs a message with
we want the singleton instance of
NewLogger to handle it instead.
The dependency injector should inject that singleton instance
when a component asks for either the new or the old logger.
OldLogger should be an alias for
We certainly do not want two different
NewLogger instances in our app.
Unfortunately, that's what we get if we try to alias
The solution: alias with the
Sometimes it's easier to provide a ready-made object rather than ask the injector to create it from a class.
Then we register a provider with the
which makes this object play the logger role.
useValue examples in the
Non-class dependencies and
Sometimes we need to create the dependent value dynamically, based on information we won't have until the last possible moment. Maybe the information changes repeatedly in the course of the browser session.
Suppose also that the injectable service has no independent access to the source of this information.
This situation calls for a factory provider.
Let's illustrate by adding a new business requirement: the HeroService must hide secret heroes from normal users. Only authorized users should see secret heroes.
HeroService needs a fact about the user.
It needs to know if the user is authorized to see secret heroes.
That authorization can change during the course of a single application session,
as when we log in a different user.
EvenBetterLogger, we can't inject the
UserService into the
HeroService won't have direct access to the user information to decide
who is authorized and who is not.
Why? We don't know either. Stuff like this happens.
HeroService constructor takes a boolean flag to control display of secret heroes.
We can inject the
Logger, but we can't inject the boolean
We'll have to take over the creation of new instances of this
HeroService with a factory provider.
A factory provider needs a factory function:
HeroService has no access to the
UserService, our factory function does.
We inject both the
Logger and the
UserService into the factory provider and let the injector pass them along to the factory function:
useFactory field tells Angular that the provider is a factory function
whose implementation is the
deps property is an array of provider tokens.
UserService classes serve as tokens for their own class providers.
The injector resolves these tokens and injects the corresponding services into the matching factory function parameters.
Notice that we captured the factory provider in an exported variable,
This extra step makes the factory provider reusable.
We can register our
HeroService with this variable wherever we need it.
In our sample, we need it only in the
where it replaces the previous
HeroService registration in the metadata
Here we see the new and the old implementation side-by-side:
Dependency injection tokens
When we register a provider with an injector, we associate that provider with a dependency injection token. The injector maintains an internal token-provider map that it references when asked for a dependency. The token is the key to the map.
In all previous examples, the dependency value has been a class instance, and
the class type served as its own lookup key.
Here we get a
HeroService directly from the injector by supplying the
HeroService type as the token:
We have similar good fortune when we write a constructor that requires an injected class-based dependency.
We define a constructor parameter with the
HeroService class type,
and Angular knows to inject the
service associated with that
HeroService class token:
This is especially convenient when we consider that most dependency values are provided by classes.
What if the dependency value isn't a class? Sometimes the thing we want to inject is a string, function, or object.
Applications often define configuration objects with lots of small facts (like the title of the application or the address of a web API endpoint) but these configuration objects aren't always instances of a class. They can be object literals such as this one:
We'd like to make this configuration object available for injection. We know we can register an object with a value provider.
But what should we use as the token?
We don't have a class to serve as a token.
There is no
TypeScript interfaces aren't valid tokens
HERO_DI_CONFIG constant has an interface,
AppConfig. Unfortunately, we
cannot use a TypeScript interface as a token:
That seems strange if we're used to dependency injection in strongly typed languages, where an interface is the preferred dependency lookup key.
One solution to choosing a provider token for non-class dependencies is to define and use an OpaqueToken. The definition looks like this:
We register the dependency provider using the
Now we can inject the configuration object into any constructor that needs it, with
the help of an
AppConfig interface plays no role in dependency injection,
it supports typing of the configuration object within the class.
Or we can provide and inject the configuration object in an ngModule like
HeroService requires a
Logger, but what if it could get by without
We can tell Angular that the dependency is optional by annotating the
constructor argument with
@Optional(), our code must be prepared for a null value. If we
don't register a logger somewhere up the line, the injector will set the
logger to null.
We learned the basics of Angular dependency injection in this chapter. We can register various kinds of providers, and we know how to ask for an injected object (such as a service) by adding a parameter to a constructor.
Angular dependency injection is more capable than we've described. We can learn more about its advanced features, beginning with its support for nested injectors, in the Hierarchical Dependency Injection chapter.
Appendix: Working with injectors directly
We rarely work directly with an injector, but
InjectorComponent that does.
Injector is itself an injectable service.
In this example, Angular injects the component's own
Injector into the component's constructor.
The component then asks the injected injector for the services it wants.
Note that the services themselves are not injected into the component.
They are retrieved by calling
get method throws an error if it can't resolve the requested service.
We can call
get with a second parameter (the value to return if the service is not found)
instead, which we do in one case
to retrieve a service (
ROUS) that isn't registered with this or any ancestor injector.
The technique we just described is an example of the service locator pattern.
We avoid this technique unless we genuinely need it. It encourages a careless grab-bag approach such as we see here. It's difficult to explain, understand, and test. We can't know by inspecting the constructor what this class requires or what it will do. It could acquire services from any ancestor component, not just its own. We're forced to spelunk the implementation to discover what it does.
Framework developers may take this approach when they must acquire services generically and dynamically.
Appendix: Why we recommend one class per file
Having multiple classes in the same file is confusing and best avoided. Developers expect one class per file. Keep them happy.
If we scorn this advice and, say,
HeroService class with the
HeroesComponent in the same file,
define the component last!
If we define the component before the service,
we'll get a runtime null reference error.
We actually can define the component first with the help of the
forwardRef() method as explained
in this blog post.
But why flirt with trouble?
Avoid the problem altogether by defining components and services in separate files.