Build with Dat

In this guide, we will show how to develop applications with the Dat ecosystem. The Dat ecosystem is very modular making it easy to develop custom applications using Dat.

This tutorial will follow the steps for sharing and downloading files using Dat. In practice, we implement these in dat-node, a high-level module for using Dat that provides easy access to the core Dat modules.

For any Dat application, there are three essential modules you will start with:

  1. hyperdrive for file synchronization and versioning
  2. hyperdrive-archive-swarm helps discover and connect to peers over local networks and the internet
  3. A LevelDB compatible database for storing metadata.

The Dat CLI module itself combines these modules and wraps them in a command-line API. These modules can be swapped out for a similarly compatible module, such as switching LevelDb for MemDB (which we do in the first example). More details on how these module work together are available in How Dat Works.

Getting Started

You will need node and npm installed to build with Dat. Read more about our development work flow to learn how we manage our module dependencies during development.

Download a File

Our first module will download files from a Dat link entered by the user. View the code for this module on Github.

mkdir module-1 && cd module-1
npm init
npm install --save hyperdrive memdb hyperdrive-archive-swarm
touch index.js

For this example, we will use memdb for our database (keeping the metadata in memory rather than on the file system). In your index.js file, require the main modules and set them up:

var memdb = require('memdb')
var Hyperdrive = require('hyperdrive')
var Swarm = require('hyperdrive-archive-swarm')

var link = process.argv[2] // user inputs the dat link

var db = memdb()
var drive = Hyperdrive(db)
var archive = drive.createArchive(link)
var swarm = Swarm(archive)

Notice, the user will input the link for the second argument The easiest way to get a file from a hyperdrive archive is to make a read stream. archive.createFileReadStream accepts the index number of filename for the first argument. To display the file, we can create a file stream and pipe it to process.stdout.

var stream = archive.createFileReadStream(0) // get the first file

Now, you can run the module! To download the first file from our docs Dat, run:

node index.js 395e3467bb5b2fa083ee8a4a17a706c5574b740b5e1be6efd65754d4ab7328c2

You should see the first file in our docs repo.

Bonus: Display any file in the Dat

With a few more lines of code, the user can enter a file to display from the Dat link.

Challenge: create a module that will allow the user to input a Dat link and a filename: node bonus.js <dat-link> <filename>. The module will print out that file from the link, as we did above. To get a specific file you can change the file stream to use the filename instead of the index number:

var stream = archive.createFileReadStream(fileName)

Once you are finished, see if you can view this file by running:

node bonus.js 395e3467bb5b2fa083ee8a4a17a706c5574b740b5e1be6efd65754d4ab7328c2 cookbook/

See how we coded it.

Download all files to computer

This module will build on the last module. Instead of displaying a single file, we will download all of the files from a Dat into a local directory. View the code for this module on Github.

To download the files to the file system, instead of to a database, we will use the file option in hyperdrive and the random-access-file module. We will also learn two new archive functions that make handling all the files a bit easier than the file stream in module #1.

Setup will be the same as before (make sure you install random-access-file and stream-each this time):

mkdir module-2 && cd module-2
npm init
npm install --save hyperdrive memdb hyperdrive-archive-swarm random-access-file stream-each
touch index.js

The first part of the module will look the same. We will add random-access-file (and stream-each to make things easier). The only difference is that we have to specify the file option when creating our archive:

var memdb = require('memdb')
var Hyperdrive = require('hyperdrive')
var Swarm = require('hyperdrive-archive-swarm')
var raf = require('random-access-file') // this is new!
var each = require('stream-each')

var link = process.argv[2]

var db = memdb()
var drive = Hyperdrive(db)
var archive = drive.createArchive(link, {
  file: function (name) {
    return raf(path.join('download', name)) // download into a "download" dir
var swarm = Swarm(archive)

Now that we are setup, we can work with the archive. The function downloads the file content (to wherever you specified in the file option). To download all the files, we will need a list of files and then we will call download on each of them. archive.list will give us the list of the files. We use the stream-each module to make it easy to iterate over each item in the archive, then exit when the stream is finished.

var stream = archive.list({live: false}) // Use {live: false} for now to make the stream easier to handle.
each(stream, function (entry, next) {, function (err) {
    if (err) return console.error(err)
}, function () {

You should be able to run the module and see all our docs files in the download folder:

node index.js 395e3467bb5b2fa083ee8a4a17a706c5574b740b5e1be6efd65754d4ab7328c2