Dependency Injection

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.

In this chapter we'll learn what Dependency Injection is, why we want it, and how to use it.

Why Dependency Injection?

Let's start with the following code.

class Engine {}

class Tires {}

class Car {
  private engine: Engine;
  private tires: Tires;

  constructor() {
    this.engine = new Engine(); = new Tires();
  // Method using the engine and tires
  drive() {}

Our 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.

Our Car needs an engine and tires. Instead of asking for them, the Car constructor creates its own copies by "new-ing" them from the very specific classes, Engine and Tires.

What if the Engine class evolves and its constructor requires a parameter? Our 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 Car. We don't really care about them now. But we'll have to start caring because when the definion of Engine changes, our Car class must change. That makes Car brittle.

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 Car inflexible.

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 ... like 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? What does 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 if 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 become difficult to test.

How can we make Car more robust, more flexible, and more testable?

That's super easy. We probably already know what to do. We change our Car constructor to this:

constructor(engine: Engine, tires: Tires) {
  this.engine = engine; = tires;

See what happened? We moved the definition of the dependencies to the constructor. Our Car class no longer creates an engine or tires. It just consumes them.

Now we create a car by passing the engine and tires to the constructor.

var car = new Car(new Engine(), new Tires());

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 Car's problem.

The consumer of Car has the problem. The consumer must update the car creation code to something like:

var car = new Car(new Engine(theNewParameter), new Tires());

The critical point is this: Car itself did not have to change. We'll take care of the consumer's problem soon enough.

The 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:

var car = new Car(new MockEngine(), new MockLowPressureTires());

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, Engine, and Tires. 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:

class SuperFactory {
  createEngine = () => new Engine();
  createTires =  () => new Tires();
  createCar = () => new Car(this.createEngine(), this.createTires());

It's not so bad now with only three creation methods. But maintaining it will be hairy as the application grows. This SuperFactory is going to become a huge spider web 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.

function main() {
  var injector = new Injector([Car, Engine, Tires, Logger]);
  var car = injector.get(Car);;

Everyone wins. The Car knows nothing about creating an Engine or Tires. The consumer knows nothing about creating a Car. We don't have a gigantic factory class to maintain. Both Car and consumer simply ask for what they need and the Injector delivers.

This is what a Dependency InjectionFramework 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 HeroesComponent that we built in the The Tour of Heroes.

import {Component} from 'angular2/angular2';
import {Hero} from './hero';
import {HEROES} from './mock-heroes';

  selector: 'my-heroes'
  templateUrl: 'app/heroes.component.html'
export class HeroesComponent {

  heroes: Hero[] = HEROES;


It assigns a list of mocked heroes to its heroes property for binding within the template. Pretty straight forward.

Those heroes are currently a fixed, in-memory collection, defined in another file and imported by the component. That works 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 this component's implementation of heroes and fix every other use of the HEROES mock data.

Let's make a service that hides how we get Hero data.

Write this service in its own file. See this note to understand why.

import {Hero} from './hero';
import {HEROES} from './mock-heroes';

class HeroService {

  heroes: Hero[];

  constructor() {
    this.heroes = HEROES;

  getHeroes() {
    return this.heroes;

Our HeroService exposes a getHeroes() method that returns the same mock data as before but none of its consumers need to know that.

A service is nothing more than a class in Angular 2. It remains nothing more than a class until we register it with the Angular injector.

Configuring the Injector

We don't have to create the injector. Angular creates an application-wide injector for us during the bootstrap process.


Let’s configure the injector at the same time that we bootstrap by adding our HeroService to an array in the second argument. We'll explain that array when we talk about providers later in this chapter.

bootstrap(AppComponent, [HeroService]);

That’s it! The injector now knows about the HeroService which is available for injection across our entire application.

Preparing the HeroesComponent for injection

The HeroesComponent should get its heroes from this service. Per the dependency injection pattern, the component must "ask for" the service in its constructor as we explained earlier".

constructor(heroService: HeroService) {
  this.heroes = heroService.getHeroes();

Adding a parameter to the constructor isn't all that's happening here.

We are writing the app in TypeScript and have followed the parameter name with a type notation, :HeroService. The class is also decorated with the @Component decorator (scroll up to confirm that fact).

When the TypeScript compiler evaluates this class, it sees the decorator and adds class metadata into the generated JavaScript code. Within that metadata lurks the information that associates the heroService parameter with the HeroService class.

That's how the Angular injector will know to inject an instance of the HeroService when it creates a new HeroesComponent.

Creating the HeroesComponent with the injector (implicitly)

When we introduced the idea of an injector above, we showed how to create a new Car with that injector.

var car = injector.get(Car);

Search the entire Tour of Heroes source. We won't find a single line like

var hc = injector.get(HeroesComponent);

We could write code like that if we wanted to. We just don't have to. Angular does that for us when it renders a HeroesComponent whether we ask for it in an HTML template ...


... or navigate to a HeroesComponent view with the router.

Singleton services

We might wonder what happens when we inject the HeroService into other components. Do we get the same instance every time?

Yes we do. Dependencies are singletons. We’ll discuss that later in our chapter about Hierarchical Injectors.

Testing the component

We emphasized earlier that designing a class for dependency injection makes it easier to test.

Mission accomplished! We don't even need the Angular Dependency Injection system to test the HeroesComponent. We simply create a new HeroesComponent with a mock service and poke at it:

it("should have heroes when created", () => {
  let hc = new HeroesComponent(mockService);

When the service needs a service

Our 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.

Here's a rewrite of HeroService with a new constructor that takes a logger parameter.

import {Injectable} from 'angular2/angular2';
import {Hero} from './hero';
import {HEROES} from './mock-heroes';
import {Logger} from './logger';

class HeroService {

  heroes: Hero[];

  constructor(private logger: Logger) {
    this.heroes = HEROES;

  getHeroes() {
    this.logger.log('Getting heroes ...')
    return this.heroes;

The constructor now asks for an injected instance of a Logger and stores it in a private property called logger. We call that property within our getHeroes() method when anyone asks for heroes.

The @Injectable() decoration catches our eye!

Always include the parentheses! Always call @Injectable(). It's easy to forget the parentheses. Our application will fail mysteriously if we do. It bears repeating: always include the parentheses.

We haven't seen @Injectable() before. As it happens, we could have added it to HeroService. We didn't bother because we didn't need it then.

We need it now ... now that our service has an injected dependency. We need it because Angular requires constructor parameter metadata in order to inject a Logger. As we mentioned earlier, TypeScript only generates metadata for classes that have a decorator. .

The HeroesComponent has an injected dependency too. Why don't we add @Injectable() to the HeroesComponent? We can add it if we really want to. It isn't necessary because the HeroesComponent is already decorated with @Component. TypeScript generates metadata for any class with a decorator and any decorator will do.

Injector Providers

Remember when we added the HeroService to an array in the bootstrap process?

bootstrap(AppComponent, [HeroService]);

That list of classes is actually a list of providers.

"Providers" create the instances of the things that we ask the injector to inject. There are many ways to "provide" a thing that has the necessary shape and behavior to serve as a HeroService. A class is a natural provider - it's meant to be created. But it's not the only way to produce something injectable. We could hand the injector an object to return. We could give it a factory function to call. Any of these approaches might be a good choice under the right circumstances.

What matters is that the injector knows what to do when something asks for a HeroService.

The Provider Class

When we wrote ...


we used a short-hand expression for provider registration. Angular expanded that short-hand into a call to the Angular provide method

[provide(HeroService, {useClass:HeroService})];

and the provide method in turn creates a new instance of the Angular Provider class:

[new Provider(HeroService, {useClass:HeroService})]

This provider instance associates a HeroService token with code that can create an instance of a HeroService.

The first parameter is the token that serves as the key for both locating a dependency value and registering the provider.

The second parameter is a provider definition object which we 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.

We do that regularly when testing a component that we're creating with dependency injection. In this example, we tell the injector to return a MockHeroService when something asks for the HeroService.

beforeEachProviders(() => [
  provide(HeroService, {useClass: MockHeroService});

Value Providers

Sometimes it's easier to provide a ready-made object rather than ask the injector to create it from a class.

We do that a lot when we write tests. We might write the following test setup for tests that explore how the HeroComponent behaves when the HeroService returns an empty hero list.

beforeEachProviders(() => {

  let emptyHeroService = { getHeroes: () => [] };

  return [ provide(HeroService, {useValue: emptyHeroService}) ];

Notice we defined the recipe with useValue instead of useClass.

Factory Providers

Sometimes the best choice for a provider is neither a class nor a value.

Suppose our HeroService has some cool new feature that we're only offering to "special" users. The HeroService shouldn't know about users and we won't know if the current user is special until runtime anyway. We decide to extend our HeroService constructor to accept a useCoolFeature flag that toggles the feature on or off. We rewrite the HeroService again as follows.

class HeroService {

  heroes: Hero[];

  constructor(private logger: Logger, private useCoolFeature: boolean) {
    this.heroes = HEROES;

  getHeroes() {
    let msg = this.useCoolFeature ? 'the cool new way' : 'the old way';
    this.logger.log('Getting heroes ...' + msg)
    return this.heroes;

The feature flag is a simple boolean value. We'd like to inject the flag but it seems silly to write an entire class for a simple flag.

We can replace the HeroService provider with a factory function that creates a properly configured HeroService for the current user. We'll' build up to that result, beginning with our definition of the factory function:

let heroServiceFactory = (logger: Logger, userService: UserService) => {
  return new HeroService(logger, userService.user.isSpecial);

The factory takes two parameters: the logger service and a user service. The logger we pass straight to the constructor as we did before.

We'll know to use the cool new feature if the userService.user.isSpecial flag is true, a fact we can't know until runtime.

We use dependency injection everywhere so of course the factory function depends on two injected services: Logger and UserService. We declare those requirements in our provider definition object:

let heroServiceDefinition = {
   useFactory: heroServiceFactory,
   deps: [Logger, UserService]

The useFactory field tells Angular that the provider is a factory function and that its implementation is the heroServiceFactory.

The deps property is an array of provider tokens. The Logger and UserService classes serve as tokens for their own class providers.

Finally, we create the provider and adjust the bootstrapping to include that provider among its provider registrations.

let heroServiceProvider = provide(HeroService, heroServiceDefinition);

bootstrap(AppComponent, [heroServiceProvider, Logger, UserService]);

String tokens

Sometimes we have an object dependency rather than a class dependency.

Applications often define configuration objects with lots of small facts like the title of the application or the address of a web api endpoint. These configuration objects aren't always instances of a class. They're just objects ... like this one:

let config = {
  apiEndpoint: '',
  title: 'The Hero Employment Agency'

We'd like to make this config object available for injection. We know we can register an object with a "Value Provider". But what do we use for the token?

Until now, we've always asked the class to play the token role whether we wrote a provider with a class, value, or factory recipe. This time we don't have a class to serve as a token. There is no Config class.

Fortunately, the token can be a string, a class type, or an OpaqueToken. Internally, the Provider turns the string and class parameter into an OpaqueToken; the injector locates dependency values and providers by this token.

We'll register our configuration object with a string-based token!

bootstrap(AppComponent, [
  // other providers //
  provide('App.config', {useValue:config})

Let's apply what we've learned and update the HeroesComponent constructor so it can display the configured title. Right now the constructor signature is

constructor(heroService: HeroService)

We might think we can add the config dependency by writing:

// FAIL!
constructor(heroService: HeroService, config: config)

That's not going to work. There is no type called config and we didn't register the config object under that name anyway. We'll need a little help from another Angular decorator called @Inject.

import {Inject} from 'angular2/angular2'

constructor(heroService: HeroService, @Inject('app.config') config)

Next Steps

We learned the basics of Angular Dependency Injection in this chapter.

The 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: Why we recommend one class per file

Developers expect one class per file. Multiple classes per file is confusing and is best avoided. If we define every class in its own file, there is nothing in this note to worry about. Move along!

If we scorn this advice and we add our HeroService class to the HeroesComponent file anyway, define the HeroesComponent last! If we put it define component before the service, we'll get a runtime null reference error.

To understand why, paste the following incorrect, ultra-simplified rendition of these two classes into the TypeScript playground.

class HeroesComponent {
  static $providers=[HeroService]

class HeroService { }


The HeroService is incorrectly defined below the HeroComponent.

The $providers static property represents the metadata about the injected HeroService that TypeScript compiler would add to the component class.

The alert simulates the action of the Dependency Injector at runtime when it attempts to create a HeroesComponent.

Run it. The alert appears but displays nothing. This is the equivalent of the null reference error thrown at runtime.

We understand why when we review the generated JavaScript which looks like this:

var HeroesComponent = (function () {
    function HeroesComponent() {
    HeroesComponent.$providers = [HeroService];
    return HeroesComponent;

var HeroService = (function () {
    function HeroService() {
    return HeroService;


Notice that the TypeScript compiler turns classes into function expressions assigned to variables. The value of the captured HeroService variable is undefined when the $providers array is assigned. The HeroService variable gets its value too late to be captured.

Reverse the order of class definition so that the HeroService appears before the HeroesComponent that requires it. Run again. This time the alert displays the HeroService function definition.

If we insist on defining the HeroService in the same file and insist on defining the component first, Angular offers a way to make that work. The forwardRef() method let's us reference a class before it has been defined. Learn more about this problem and the forwardRef() in this blog post.

Next Step

Template Syntax