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How we built an @Autowired annotation to make NestJS great again πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ


I really love NestJS to build APIs using Node and Typescript. I introduced this technology at ITI in 2018, when I was the Head of Engineering of R&D, and since then, I always use NestJS for new projects based on NodeJS.

NestJS is like Angular, but for the backend. And as Angular, NestJS really hates circular dependencies. But circular dependencies are natural if we think in the domain of the problem. It's natural for us (the humans) to understand that a user belongs to an organization, and to understand that an organization is formed by a bunch of users.

However, these kind of relations are problematic in NestJS, but also in Angular and other modern frameworks.

The solution offered by NestJS consists in use a forwardRef method, which will resolve later on the lifecycle of the service the involved dependency.

export class CommonService {
    @Inject(forwardRef(() => CatsService))
    private catsService: CatsService
  ) {}

This works if you are testing the technology, but is VERY problematic if your domain is complex or is deeply interconnected. And, let me be clear, the reality is always complex and deeply interconnected.

If you apply this solution, you will rapidly found yourself using forwardRef frequently, and there will come a point where you get into a dependency injection error loop that you can't get out of.

And what is the answer you are going to find in the Internet from folks that took only 1 minute to read your question at StackOverflow without understanding the globality of your domain or your problem?

Your architecture is wrong. Change it.

Robert Downey Junior Really Meme

# The approach

For better or worse, I coded in lots of languages and frameworks, and when I face that problem I thought...

Why this wasn't happening to me in Java and Spring?

The exact answer to that exceeds my capacity, but I know how the dependency injector works in Spring and Java, summarizing it excesively:

  • When the server is starting, creates all the services and store the reference of that service in a global map in memory
  • Every time a service wants to use another service (at runtime), looks for that service in the map and returns the reference

The keywords here are starting and runtime. The issue with the circular dependencies and NestJS comes because NestJS tries to resolve everything before the server is completely started (at start time). For that reason, you can fall into a dependency injection loop. What would happen if we create all the services at start time, and delay the injection after the server is up and running, returning the reference of the service at runtime? Would that solve the circular dependency problem? The answer is yes.

In fact it's the same strategy as forwardRef, but taken to the extreme, delaying the moment of the dependency injection as much as possible, that means, injecting the dependency just before the code is going to use it.

Talk is cheap. Show me the code.

The implementation

As a former Java developer I love two above all things: annotations and simplicity (joking about simplicity πŸ€ͺ). So my goal is:

To have an annotation that allows me to inject a service at runtime, just before the use, in the simplest way I can achieve

First of all, I need a global map in which save the references of the services. And methods to securely register, or retrieve, these services:

The singletons will be stored by name (dependency injection resolved by name). As I am not a big fan of interfaces (yes, I'm weird, I love Java but I hate interfaces), I decided to use the name of the class as unique key.

I decided to use an annotation named Autowired, in honor of the classical ultra-powerful and beloved Spring @Autowired annotation. This is the code of the autowired.ts decorator:

import { Logger, Type } from '@nestjs/common'

const singletonMap = new Map<string, any>()

 * Register a service using a unique name
 * @param name    Unique name. For example, the final implementation class would be a good choice
 * @param object  The instance of the service
export const registerSingleton = (name: any, object: any) => {
  singletonMap.set(name, object)

export const getSingletons = () => {
  return Array.from(singletonMap.keys())

export const getSingletonValue = (key) => {
  return singletonMap.get(key)

type TModel = Type<any>

export class AutowiredConfiguration {
  type?: TModel
  typeName?: string

export const Autowired = (config: AutowiredConfiguration) => {
  return (target: any, memberName: string) => {
    Object.defineProperty(target, memberName, {
      get: () => {
        if (config && config.type && {
          return singletonMap.get(
        } else if (config && config.typeName) {
          if (singletonMap.has(config.typeName)) {
            return singletonMap.get(config.typeName)
          } else {
              `[AUTOWIRED] typeName ${config.typeName} does not exist in Autowired services`
            return undefined
        } else {
            `[AUTOWIRED] Received type and typeName undefined for target ${}. Returning undefined`
          return undefined

This annotation basically looks for the service in the singleton and returns it if exists.

The usage of the annotation is pretty direct:

export class ActivityFeedController extends GenericController<ActivityFeed> {
  @Autowired({ typeName: 'ActivityFeedService' })
  private activityFeedService: ActivityFeedService;


My initial intention was to automatically get the name of the service based on the declaration, I mean, if I am declaring a private activityFeedService: ActivityFeedService, why I need to specify the @Autowired({typeName: 'ActivityFeedService'})? Couldn't take the ActivityFeedService directly from the declaration?. The answer is no, because Typescript at runtime has no real types, and basically I couldn't determine at RUNTIME the NAME of the service, so I'm forced to writedown it manually πŸ˜–.

To register automatically the services in our global singleton, a new abstract class was created as follows:

import { OnApplicationBootstrap } from '@nestjs/common'
import { registerSingleton } from '../decorators/autowired'

export abstract class AutowiredService implements OnApplicationBootstrap {
  onApplicationBootstrap() {
    registerSingleton(, this)

So a service can be declared as follows:

function factory(service: ActivityFeedService) {
  return service;

export function createProvider(): Provider<ActivityFeedService> {
  return {
    provide: `${}`,
    useFactory: (service) => factory(service),
    inject: [ActivityFeedService],

export class ActivityFeedService extends AutowiredService {
  constructor() {

Probably you will ask yourself... what the hell is that factory and createProvider functions? That's the the ugly part. All this can't work as a static provider (using NestJS terminology). We must use the DynamicModule interface, which is almost equal to a static module, but not exactly equal...

import { DynamicModule } from '@nestjs/common'
import { ActivityFeedController } from './activity-feed.controller'
import { ActivityFeedService, createProvider } from './activity-feed.service'

export class ActivityFeedModule {
  static async forRoot(): Promise<DynamicModule> {
    const activityFeedServiceDynamicProvider = createProvider()
    return {
      controllers: [ActivityFeedController],
      exports: [activityFeedServiceDynamicProvider],
      module: ActivityFeedModule,
      providers: [ActivityFeedService, activityFeedServiceDynamicProvider],

I know this is a kind of magic, but if you are familiar with NestJS and Angular, makes sense. In practice, instead of declaring the controllers, exports, modules and providers directly in the module, you just do it inside the forRoot() method, so not a big deal.

Then, you must import these modules in the main module of the application:

  imports: [
  providers: [...],
export class AppModule implements NestModule { ... }

Finally, in the main.ts file of your NestJS project you must add the following lines, to register all the singletons. This piece of code must be placed after the creation of the application, similar to this const app = await NestFactory.create<NestExpressApplication>(AppModule);. I prefer to put it at the end of the bootstrap function.

// Autowired extension to allow injection outside the constructor and avoid circular dependencies
const singletons: string[] = getSingletons()

singletons.forEach((x: any) => {
  const instance = app.get(x)
  registerSingleton(x, instance)

And that's all!

Handicaps and considerations

As every opinionated solution, it have it's own drawbacks.

  • What about testing?
    • I'm pretty sure the model can be extended to allow to inject mocks of services
    • For example, we can reach a consensus in which the name of the service + "Mock" would be injected if the environment variable ENVIRONMENT is set to test
  • What about interfaces and injection of specific implementations of that interface?
    • No problem at all, you can define the type of your service with the interface and inject the desired implementation of that interface by name. The model allows it.
export class ActivityFeedController extends GenericController<ActivityFeed> {
  @Autowired({ typeName: 'EmailNotificationService' })
  private notificationService: INotificationService;

For sure there are more things to have into consideration, but for us in this project, at this moment, is a very good solution that solves our problems.

If in the future we find something ugly... well, another post will come explaining it :)

Happy coding!!