Using HTML5, Not Hash Routes

By default AngularJS’ $locationProvider defaults to URLs like:

http://localhost:3000/#/admin/

If in the future you may decide on one of the following:

Then, you should switch to HTML5 routing instead of using the default hash URLs.

Besides, it’s easy and takes 2 minutes.


Step 1: Re-enable X-Requested-With Header

For some reason, this was removed around v1.1.5, but it’s crucial for your AngularJS app to tell your server when it’s making AJAX requests for, say, an ng-include or templateUrl.

// client/app.js
angular
  .module('app', [])
  .config([
    '$httpProvider',
    function($httpProvider) {
      // Expose XHR requests to server
      $httpProvider.defaults.headers.common['X-Requested-With'] = 'XMLHttpRequest';
    }
  ])
;

Step 2: Enable HTML5 Routing

// client/app.js
angular
  .module('app', [])
  .config([
    '$httpProvider',
    '$locationProvider',
    function($httpProvider, $locationProvider) {
      // Expose XHR requests to server
      $httpProvider.defaults.headers.common['X-Requested-With'] = 'XMLHttpRequest';

      // This is `false` by default
      $locationProvider.html5Mode(true);
    }
  ])
;

Step 3: Create a Wildcard Route

Assuming you’re using express, the very last route you define will be you’re catch-all. This way, any routes you explicitly define on the server-side are handled there, while any other routes render the client-side page, AngularJS to handle.

// server/app.js
app.get('/*', function(req, res) {
  // AJAX requests are aren't expected to be redirected to the AngularJS app
  if (req.xhr) {
    return res.status(404).send(req.url + ' not found');
  }

  // `sendfile` requires the safe, resolved path to your AngularJS app
  res.sendfile(path.resolve(__dirname + '/path/to/index.html'));
});

The important part is the check for req.xhr. If you didn’t include this, then using ng-include with a missing template would recursively keep including your broken application.

Caveats

Even though this solution has worked quite well in my experience (plus, it just feels right), there is one draw back: 404s are now 200s, as they’re now rendered by the client.

Luckily, this can be remedied a number of ways.

For example, if your server-side application consists of primarily an /api root URL, then you can have /api/* act as a catchall to send a legitimate 404.

If you want to explicitly serve your AngularJS app only for AngularJS routes, then you’ll have to do more legwork, where your routes are defined as an Object for use by both the client and server for defining routes.

Conclusion

Even with those minor nit-picks, I prefer my SPAs to look & act like proper, server-rendered sites as much as possible, especially with minimal effort.