File Processing With Kue

For a recent side project, I've been learning more about using Apollo and Graphql to upload files, and using a Kue job queue to process them. Here are some of my notes:

I came across this tweet demonstrating how to use an svg trace of an image as a placeholder while waiting for the actual image to load. The idea here being that its a better experience if you can show the user a preview of the image they'll recive ASAP while they wait for an image to load. Fortunatly, someone has worked out all of this code in the form of a webpack loader. It was a small task to covert that over to a function to allow for converting images at run time. My initial design was:

  • User uploads an image
  • Process image, return svg string
  • save image metadata, including its svg representation to database
  • Return http response

I quickly found out however that this is a pretty expensive operation. Testing with a 1.6Mb file, takes several seconds to process the image and return the resulting svg string. Much too long for a request/response cycle. Time to use a job queue! A job queue would let us do the following instead

  • User uploads an image
  • Save image meta data (sans svg string) to database
  • Hand processing of svg off to seperate process
  • return http response
  • Job completes and reutrns svg string to main process
  • Save svg string to database

Kue is a library that leverages the power of Redis which gives us a way for seperate processes to communicate with each other. Here's how it works:

Creating Jobs

We first create a job queue:

import kue from 'kue'
const jobs = kue.createQueue();

When a user uploads their file, we are ready to add a job to the queue:

const job = jobs.create('svg_trace', {imagePath: fullImagePath});

create is a method on a job queue that here is taking a couple of arguments. The first is the name of the job (we'll need this name to fetch the job later) and any data the job will need.

Next I will probobly want to attach some event listeners to my job. This will allow the parent process to recive notifications when key events in the job occur.

job.on( 'progress', (progress: number, svg: string) => {
  console.log( 'Job complete' );
  image.update({svg}).then(() => {
    console.log('updated image with svg');
  }).catch((err) => {
}).on( 'error', function () {
  console.log( 'Job failed' );

The job is listening for the progress event, expecting to be sent the resulting svg string when it does. It then adds that svg string to the database.

I'm also listening for errors in the job and logging them if they occur.

Here's a list of all of the events you can subscribe to.

You may have noticed that there is an event called complete and are asking yourself "why use progress when the job is done?" The reason is that, for some reason the complete event does not allow for sending data to the parent process but progress does. Since we need to return the svg string (that's the whole point!) progress it is!

Finally we have to save the job;

Processing Jobs

In a different file, I'm going to create another job queue to process jobs

import kue from 'kue';
import traceImage from './src/lib/traceImage';

const queue = kue.createQueue();

queue.process('svg_trace', 1, async (job, done) => {
  console.log('starting to process',;
  const svg = await traceImage(
  console.log('done with traceImage', svg.length);
  job.progress(1, 1, svg) // progress event passes svg string back to parent process

This queue will look for jobs called svg_trace and begin working on them. The job object has a member data which contains the data we provided when setting up the job. We also have to call done when the job is done.

The important thing to remember is that job processing should be run in a seperate process. This will allow us to run expensive operations without holding up the request/response cycle in the main process.