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Node.js is a platform for building fast and scalable server applications using JavaScript. Node.js is the runtime and npm is the Package Manager for Node.js modules.

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Visual Studio Code has support for the JavaScript and TypeScript languages out-of-the-box as well as Node.js debugging. However, to run a Node.js application, you will need to install the Node.js runtime on your machine.

To get started in this walkthrough, install Node.js for your platform. The Node Package Manager is included in the Node.js distribution. You'll need to open a new terminal (command prompt) for the node and npm command-line tools to be on your PATH.

Linux: There are specific Node.js packages available for the various flavors of Linux. See Installing Node.js via package manager to find the Node.js package and installation instructions tailored to your version of Linux.

Tip: To test that you've got Node.js correctly installed on your computer, open a new terminal and type node --help and you should see the usage documentation.

Hello World

Let's get started by creating the simplest Node.js application, 'Hello World'.

Create an empty folder called 'hello', navigate into and open VS Code:

Tip: You can open files or folders directly from the command line. The period '.' refers to the current folder, therefore VS Code will start and open the Hello folder.

From the File Explorer toolbar, press the New File button:

and name the file app.js:

By using the .js file extension, VS Code interprets this file as JavaScript and will evaluate the contents with the JavaScript language service. Refer to the VS Code JavaScript language topic to learn more about JavaScript support.

Create a simple string variable in app.js and send the contents of the string to the console:

Note that when you typed console.IntelliSense on the console object was automatically presented to you.

Also notice that VS Code knows that msg is a string based on the initialization to 'Hello World'. If you type msg. you'll see IntelliSense showing all of the string functions available on msg.

After experimenting with IntelliSense, revert any extra changes from the source code example above and save the file (⌘S (Windows, Linux Ctrl+S)).

Running Hello World

It's simple to run app.js with Node.js. From a terminal, just type:

You should see 'Hello World' output to the terminal and then Node.js returns.

Integrated Terminal

VS Code has an integrated terminal which you can use to run shell commands. You can run Node.js directly from there and avoid switching out of VS Code while running command-line tools.

View > Terminal (⌃` (Windows, Linux Ctrl+`) with the backtick character) will open the integrated terminal and you can run node app.js there:

For this walkthrough, you can use either an external terminal or the VS Code integrated terminal for running the command-line tools.

Debugging Hello World

As mentioned in the introduction, VS Code ships with a debugger for Node.js applications. Let's try debugging our simple Hello World application.

To set a breakpoint in app.js, put the editor cursor on the first line and press F9 or click in the editor left gutter next to the line numbers. A red circle will appear in the gutter.

To start debugging, select the Run View in the Activity Bar:

You can now click Debug toolbar green arrow or press F5 to launch and debug 'Hello World'. Your breakpoint will be hit and you can view and step through the simple application. Notice that VS Code displays a different colored Status Bar to indicate it is in Debug mode and the DEBUG CONSOLE is displayed.

Now that you've seen VS Code in action with 'Hello World', the next section shows using VS Code with a full-stack Node.js web app.

Note: We're done with the 'Hello World' example so navigate out of that folder before you create an Express app. You can delete the 'Hello' folder if you wish as it is not required for the rest of the walkthrough.

An Express application

Express is a very popular application framework for building and running Node.js applications. You can scaffold (create) a new Express application using the Express Generator tool. The Express Generator is shipped as an npm module and installed by using the npm command-line tool npm.

Tip: To test that you've got npm correctly installed on your computer, type npm --help from a terminal and you should see the usage documentation.

Install the Express Generator by running the following from a terminal:

The -g switch installs the Express Generator globally on your machine so you can run it from anywhere.

We can now scaffold a new Express application called myExpressApp by running:

This creates a new folder called myExpressApp with the contents of your application. The --view pug parameters tell the generator to use the pug template engine.

To install all of the application's dependencies (again shipped as npm modules), go to the new folder and execute npm install:

At this point, we should test that our application runs. The generated Express application has a package.json file which includes a start script to run node ./bin/www. This will start the Node.js application running.

From a terminal in the Express application folder, run:

Tip: You can enable an explorer for the npm scripts in your workspace using the npm.enableScriptExplorer setting.

The Node.js web server will start and you can browse to http://localhost:3000 to see the running application.

Great code editing

Close the browser and from a terminal in the myExpressApp folder, stop the Node.js server by pressing CTRL+C.

Now launch VS Code:

Note: If you've been using the VS Code integrated terminal to install the Express generator and scaffold the app, you can open the myExpressApp folder from your running VS Code instance with the File > Open Folder command.

The Node.js and Express documentation does a great job explaining how to build rich applications using the platform and framework. Visual Studio Code will make you more productive in developing these types of applications by providing great code editing and navigation experiences.

Open the file app.js and hover over the Node.js global object __dirname. Notice how VS Code understands that __dirname is a string. Even more interesting, you can get full IntelliSense against the Node.js framework. For example, you can require http and get full IntelliSense against the http class as you type in Visual Studio Code.

VS Code uses TypeScript type declaration (typings) files (for example node.d.ts) to provide metadata to VS Code about the JavaScript based frameworks you are consuming in your application. Type declaration files are written in TypeScript so they can express the data types of parameters and functions, allowing VS Code to provide a rich IntelliSense experience. Thanks to a feature called Automatic Type Acquisition, you do not have to worry about downloading these type declaration files, VS Code will install them automatically for you.

You can also write code that references modules in other files. For example, in app.js we require the ./routes/index module, which exports an Express.Router class. If you bring up IntelliSense on index, you can see the shape of the Router class.

Debug your Express app

You will need to create a debugger configuration file launch.json for your Express application. Click on the Run icon in the Activity Bar and then the Configure gear icon at the top of the Run view to create a default launch.json file. Select the Node.js environment by ensuring that the type property in configurations is set to 'node'. When the file is first created, VS Code will look in package.json for a start script and will use that value as the program (which in this case is '${workspaceFolder}binwww) for the Launch Program configuration.

Save the new file and make sure Launch Program is selected in the configuration drop-down at the top of the Run view. Open app.js and set a breakpoint near the top of the file where the Express app object is created by clicking in the gutter to the left of the line number. Press F5 to start debugging the application. VS Code will start the server in a new terminal and hit the breakpoint we set. From there you can inspect variables, create watches, and step through your code.

Deploy your application

If you'd like to learn how to deploy your web application, check out the Deploying Applications to Azure tutorials where we show how to run your website in Azure.

Next steps

There is much more to explore with Visual Studio Code, please try the following topics:

  • Settings - Learn how to customize VS Code for how you like to work.
  • Debugging - This is where VS Code really shines.
  • Video: Getting started with Node.js debugging - Learn how to attach to a running Node.js process.
  • Node.js debugging - Learn more about VS Code's built-in Node.js debugging.
  • Debugging recipes - Examples for scenarios like client-side and container debugging.
  • Tasks - Running tasks with Gulp, Grunt and Jake. Showing Errors and Warnings.

Just like any programming language, platform, or library, getting up and running with Node.js takes some initial setup before you can start hacking away. With Node.js, the only initial setup required is, quite simply, getting the binary installed.

In this quick tutorial, we'll take a quick look at how to get Node.js on macOS. Once we've completed the entirety of the tutorial, you'll be ready to take the next step with Node.js.

This guide covers installing Node.js on the following versions of OS X and macOS: OS X 10.10 (Yosemite), OS X 10.11 (El Capitan), and macOS 10.11. These are the versions that are consistently tested and supported by the Node.js build process at the time of writing.

Step 0: The Quick Guide (TL;DR) to Get Node.js Installed on macOS

Here's the abbreviated guide, highlighting the major steps:

  1. Go to the Node.js Downloads page
  2. Download Node.js for macOS by clicking the 'Macintosh Installer' option
  3. Run the downloaded Node.js .pkg Installer
  4. Run the installer, including accepting the license, selecting the destination, and authenticating for the install.
  5. You're finished! To ensure Node.js has been installed, run node -v in your terminal - you should get something like v6.9.4

Step 1: Download the Node.js .pkg Installer

As our first step, we need to actually get the official installer for Node.js on macOS. To do so, we can head over to the Node.js Downloads page to download the installer.

You can get the macOS installer by clicking the Macintosh Installer option - this will download the .pkg installer for Node.js. Make sure you save it somewhere that you'll be able to access it!

Step 2: Run the Node.js Installer

Now that you've got the installer downloaded, you'll need to run it. The installer is a pretty typical interface - it won't take long to get through it (under a minute), even though there are a few parts to it. You can get through it by following the guide below:

  • Introduction
    • Select Continue
  • License
    • Select Continue
    • Select Agree
  • Installation Type
    • Select Install
    • Authenticate with your Mac to allow the Installation
    • Select Install Software
  • Summary
    • Select Close

To verify that Node.js was installed correctly on your Mac, you can run the following command in your terminal:

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If Node.js was properly installed, you'll see something close to (but probably not exactly) this:

As one last step for good measure, we'll update your version of npm.

Node.js always ships with a specific version of npm - Node.js doesn't (and shouldn't!) automatically update npm. The npm releases aren't synced with Node.js releases. Because of this, there's almost always a newer version of npm than the one that is installed by default with a given version of Node.

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To easily update your version of npm, you can run the following command:

Step 6: Start building with Node.js!

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Now you've got Node.js on your Mac. It's time to start exploring!

Thankfully, we've got your back. We've got a ton of articles on getting started with Node.js! If you're interested in exploring ES6, you should check out our article on some of the most exciting ES6 features in Node.js. Looking for ways to standardize your JavaScript code across your team? In that case, you should check out our guide to using ESLint to build code standards in Node.js applications. Maybe you'd just like to start deploying your applications? In that case, check out our guide on deploying Node.js apps with systemd!

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That said, if you want to keep in touch with Node.js and the surrounding ecosystem, you should go follow @NodeSource on Twitter! We'll keep you updated with important news from the Node.js project, and share the best Node.js tutorials, guides, and tools that the community has to offer!