Bitcatcha's content is reader-supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

What Is Node.js And How To Set It Up? (A Beginner’s Guide)

WRITTEN BY
Timothy Shim
UPDATED
February 26, 2024

 

Node.js is a server-side JavaScript runtime environment allowing developers to run JavaScript code outside a web browser. This open-source platform has gained immense popularity among developers worldwide for its fast, scalable, and efficient nature.

 

If you’re new to development or interested in Node.js, this guide will provide an overview of the platform and help you get started.

 

 

What Is Node.js?

 

Node.js

Node.js is highly efficient and scalable. (Credit: Wikipedia)

 

Node.js was created by Ryan Dahl in 2009, and it has since become one of the most popular server-side platforms in the world.

 

It uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model, which makes it highly efficient and scalable. Built on top of the V8 JavaScript engine used by Google Chrome, Node.js allows developers to write server-side code in JavaScript, a language traditionally used for front-end development.

 

Node.js is also an open-source platform, meaning its code is freely available to developers, who can modify and redistribute it. This has led to a vast ecosystem of modules, packages, and tools built by the Node.js community, making it easy to build complex and scalable web applications.

 

 

How to Set Up Node.js

 

Before building Node.js applications, you must install Node.js on your computer. Node.js can be downloaded from the official website, and it comes bundled with the Node Package Manager (NPM), which is used to manage dependencies and packages for Node.js applications.

 

Node.js official webiste

The Node.js official website homepage.

 

Once you have downloaded Node.js, you can verify that it is installed correctly by running the following command in your terminal:

 

node -v

 

This command will display the version of Node.js that is installed on your computer. If you see a version number, then Node.js is installed correctly.

 

What about Node.js configuration?

 

Node.js applications can be configured using environment variables, command-line arguments, and configuration files. These configuration options allow you to customize the behavior of your application without having to modify the source code.

 

Configuration options include port numbers, database connection strings, and other application-specific settings. By configuring your Node.js application properly, you can tailor it to meet your specific needs and optimize its performance.

 

 

How To Create Your First Node.js Application

 

To create a new Node.js application, you need to create a new directory for your project and then navigate into that directory using your terminal. Once you are in the project directory, you can create a new file called index.js, which will contain the entry point for your application.

 

// index.js

console.log(“Hello, Node.js!”);

 

This code is your standard “Hello World” message and can be run with the following terminal command;

 

node index.js

 

 

How To Work With Modules In Node.js

 

nodejs modules

The Node.js NPM helps you work with external modules. (Credit: FreeCodeCamp)

 

In Node.js, modules are separate units of code that can be loaded into an application using the required function. Node.js has a built-in module system that makes it easy to load and use modules in your application.

 

For example, let’s say you have a file called math.js, which contains a function to add two numbers:

 

// math.js
 
function add(a, b) {
return a + b;
}
 
module.exports = { add };

 

This code defines an “add” function, which takes two parameters and returns their sum. We then export this function using the module.exports object, which makes it available for use in other parts of our application.

 

To use this function in our index.js file, we can use the require function to load the math.js module:

 

// index.js
 
const math = require(“./math.js”);
 
console.log(math.add(2, 3)); // Output: 5

 

In this code, we use the required function to load the math.js module and assign it to a variable called “math.” We can then use the add function from the math module to add two numbers.

 

 

How To Use the Node Package Manager

 

Node Package Manager (NPM) is a package manager for Node.js that makes it easy to manage dependencies and packages for your applications. It comes bundled with Node.js, so you don’t need to install it separately.

 

To initialize a new NPM project, you need to run the following command in your project directory:

 

npm init

 

This command will prompt you to enter information about your project, such as the name, version, description, and author. Once you have entered this information, NPM will create a package.json file in your project directory containing metadata about your project and its dependencies.

 

To install a new package using NPM, you can use the following command in your terminal:

 

npm install

 

For example, to install the express package, which is a popular web framework for Node.js, you can use the following command:

 

npm install express

 

This command will download and install the express package and its dependencies in your project directory. You can then use the required function to load the express module in your application.

 

// index.js
 
const express = require(“express”);
const app = express();
 
app.get(“/”, (req, res) => {
res.send(“Hello, Node.js!”);
});
 
app.listen(3000, () => {
console.log(“Server started on port 3000”);
});

 

We use the express module in this code to create a new Express application. We then define a route for the root path (/) using the app.get method, which sends the message “Hello, Node.js!” to the client when the route is accessed. Finally, we start the server using the app.listen method for incoming requests on port 3000.

 

 

Node.js Frameworks Help Speed Up Development

 

Express.js

Express.js is one of many available frameworks for Node.js development.

 

With its large and active community, Node.js has a vast ecosystem of frameworks and libraries that can be used to simplify and streamline the development process. These frameworks offer a range of features and functionalities that make it easier to build complex applications.

 

Examples of popular Node.js frameworks include;

 

  • Express.js
    Express.js is one of the most widely used Node.js frameworks for building web applications. It provides a simple and flexible API for handling HTTP requests and responses and support for middleware, routing, and template engines.
  • Nest.js
    Nest.js is a TypeScript-based Node.js framework that provides a structured and opinionated approach to building scalable and maintainable applications. It is built on Express.js and provides additional features such as dependency injection, modules, and a powerful CLI tool.
  • Koa.js
    Koa.js is a lightweight and modular Node.js framework that emphasizes using ES6 features and async/await functions. It provides a minimalistic API for handling HTTP requests and responses and allows developers to compose middleware for their applications easily.

 

 

Deploying A Node.js Application On A Web Host

 

Hostinger VPS

Hostinger offers Node.js templates to its VPS plan subscribers.

 

Deploying a Node.js application on a web host makes your application accessible to the public by hosting it on a server. In this section, we’ll cover the basic steps you need to follow to deploy your Node.js application on a web host.

 

Step 1: Choose a web host

 

The first step in deploying a Node.js application is to choose a web host. Many web hosts are available that support Node.js, such as Hostinger, DigitalOcean, and more. You should choose a web host that meets your needs regarding pricing, features, and ease of use.

 

Step 2: Prepare your application for deployment

 

Before deploying your application, prepare it for production. This includes optimizing your code, configuring your environment variables, and setting up any necessary services, such as a database or a CDN.

 

One crucial step is to set the NODE_ENV environment variable to “production.” This tells Node.js to run your application in production mode, which can improve performance and enable additional security features.

 

You can also use a process manager, such as PM2 or Forever, to manage your Node.js application in production. These tools can automatically restart your application if it crashes, manage logs, and more.

 

Step 3: Deploy your application

 

Once your application is prepared for deployment, you can deploy it to your web host. The exact process for deployment depends on your web host but typically involves the following steps:

 

  1. Create an account on your web host.
  2. Create a new application or project.
  3. Connect your local development environment to your web host using a command-line tool or a web-based interface.
  4. Upload your code to your web host using a git repository or a file upload.
  5. Install any necessary dependencies and configure your environment variables on your web host.
  6. Start your Node.js application on your web host using a command or a button in the web interface.

 

Step 4: Test your application

 

After deploying your application, you should test it to ensure it works correctly. You can do this by accessing your application’s URL in a web browser or using a tool like curl to make HTTP requests.

 

If you encounter any issues, you can use the logs provided by your web host or process manager to diagnose and fix the problem.

 

 

Node.js Is Powerful, Robust, And Flexible

 

Whether you’re a beginner just starting with Node.js, or an experienced developer looking to build scalable and efficient web applications, Node.js provides a robust set of tools and features to meet your needs.

 

There is much to learn about Node.js, such as working with databases, building REST APIs, and deploying applications to production servers. However, by mastering the fundamentals of Node.js and its ecosystem, you can quickly become proficient in building complex and scalable web applications.

 

 

Web Hosting Guides & Best Web Host Services

Learn about web hosting and make informed decision while shopping for quality web hosting services.