Replicating Vercel's File-System Routing for Express

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There is something magical about writing an API with Vercel’s (previously known as ZEIT) API routing, where each file is an exposed route, and each file exports a default function that follows Express’s handler nomenclature.

export default function (req, res) {}

Since Vercel uses micro behind the scenes, adapting to Vercel’s way of writing API routes where the Express familiarity is present makes micro much more approachable, but micro isn’t necessarily the framework of choice for most Node projects. In comes express-fs-router, my latest package aimed at simplifying building API’s with Express leveraging the file system.

The Need

When talking about adding file-system routing to Express you might be asking yourself “but why?”, and that’s a valid question. With Express we can easily import its router, create the route, export the router, and then roll it up in the routes.js or app.js file with the Express app. But with file-system routing we align with what Vercel offers: export a default function (the handler) and the route now exists and is exposed.


At the surface, file-system routing introduces several benefits to the development experience:

  • hot-load routes
  • easier to document
  • route modularity
  • logical directory structure
  • indirectly reduces time for onboarding

These benefits are a bit subjective, however building a utility like this I’ve found it’s greatly improved my own velocity when building REST API’s now that I no longer have to worry about adding the new route to the routes or app file; I hit save and it just works:tm:.

To highlight some of these benefits let’s take a look at a sample endpoint:

// api/hello.js
 * Say hello to our caller
 * @name SayHello
 * @path {GET} /api/hello
 * @query {String} [name] - Name of the caller
export default function (req, res) {
  res.json({ message: `Hello, ${ || "World"}!` })

As a developer we know that each file will export one handler, thus improving developer experience and ease of documentation, and in a sense reduces time for onboarding new developers to an existing codebase. Not only is the experience improved, but the modularity of our API is also drastically improved.


Enough with gushing over file-system routing. I know I may be a bit biased but let’s take a look at some potential caveats – again, a bit subjective:

  • unnecessary file system depth for smaller API’s
  • different concept of middleware application
  • feeling of losing control over attached route methods

file-system routing isn’t a new concept, but I can understand why some would choose to adopt a different strategy. Personally I liked the idea enough to replicate it for Express.


Noted earlier, express-fs-router is a utility I wrote to bring file-system routing to Express. It functions a lot like Vercel’s API routes, but with a bit of added functionality.


  • only attempts to import JavaScript files (ex: index.js)

  • ignores JavaScript files prepended with an underscore (ex: _utility.js)

  • functions named with a request method will attach that handler using the defined method

    export default function get(req, res) {}

    is then added to the Express router as

    router.get("/hello", handler)

    by default routes are added with ALL methods

    router.all("/hello", function (req, res) {})


Adding the file system router is relatively straightfoward, and can be added to any existing Express application:

// app.js
import express from "express"
import FSRouter from "express-fs-router"
const app = express()

app.use("/api", new FSRouter("api"))

app.listen(3000, () => console.log("Listening at http://localhost:3000"))

Closing Thoughts

Overall I had a ton of fun building and replicating functionality from other projects to ultimately bring this utility to JavaScript’s seemingly-default choice for HTTP server frameworks, Express. If you’re interested in seeing what goes on under the hood be sure to stop by the GitHub Repository. The project is still fairly recent and I’m sure I haven’t covered every use case, so if you try it out and run into any issues please submit an issue to help me improve the utility!