Creating a New Node.js Project

Mar 19 2014

Node.js JavaScript

As we saw in my previous tutorials on Installing Node.js with Nginx Proxy and Serving Dynamic Pages with Node.js it’s quite easy to get Node up and running in no time. However if we really want to take full advantage of Node.js we’ll want to familiarize ourselves with it’s package manager npm for short. With the package manager we can install any libraries available including the popular express framework by simply creating a dependency for it and typing npm update.

To start we will have to create a file called package.json in the root of our project. We can do this two ways. One is to just copy and paste a generic template into a package.json file. The second way is to navigate to the root of our project and type npm init which will ask you a few questions and create the file for you.

/path/to/project/npm init

Either way you go you will probably need to edit the file anyway. My preference is to just copy and paste as using the npm init command generates the file with additional dependencies and options that we don’t necessarily need. In the end at a minimum we want to start with something like this:

{
  "name": "myproject",
  "title": "My Project",
  "version": "0.0.0",
  "description": "My project is great.",
  "main": "",
  "author": {
    "name": "Rob",
    "email": "rob@websanova.com",
    "url": "http://websanova.com"
  },
  "homepage" : "http://myproject.com",
  "dependencies": {

  }
}

As you can see most of these fields are generic and can be filled out based on your project names and so forth.

With the dependencies it’s as easy as finding the package you want to install in the node package manager directory and entering it’s name. The value to the right of the name indicates the version number following the semver format allowing you to specify a particular version of a package should you need to. Otherwise just leave it blank and it will pull the latest version available.

{
  ...
  "dependencies": {
    "express": ""
  }
}

The great thing here is that if we want to update our packages we can just type npm update and it will automatically update all our packages to the latest versions for us.

Note that we could also install a package directly by typing the packages name. The problem with this however, is that it won't be registered within our project so if we wanted do an update we would need to run the command on every package we would want to update.

npm install <package_name>
npm update <package_name>

There you have it, again the great thinng with Node.js is it’s simplicity. As you can see setting up a project is as easy as dropping in a single file, setting some dependencies and typing out a single command, npm update. This keeps things really simple and allows us to get a good idea of what is going on in a Node project by just looking at its package.json file.

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