Simple Nodejs Express Server

Just for fun (and because I mentioned to @jonkulp that I would), here is a quick (plus slightly extended) write up on how to spin up a simple nodejs server with express.js.

First, install nodejs and npm, it's bundled together in ArchLinux, not sure about other distros. In Debian, it looks like they are split. Also, in Debian, they have decided to rename the node executable to nodejs, which breaks some things. This is due to a package for a Ham Radio program being called node. If you don't have this node installed, you can "fix" nodejs by creating a symlink.

$ sudo ln -s /usr/bin/nodejs /usr/bin/node

At the time of this writing, here are the versions that I have installed:

$ node -v
$ npm -v

Once these are installed, we'll install express globally with:

$ sudo npm install -g express

Next we need a directory where you would like to run the server so, create a directory where ever and navigate into it.

$ mkdir express_server
$ cd express_server

Express has a built in function to set things up for you simply. To write the basic files, install dependencies and start the server, run:

$ express -c stylus
$ npm install
$ npm start

The server should start up and in the console it should say "Express server listening on port 3000", which means you can navigate to http://localhost:3000 with your browser to access the server.

So here is the start of your simple server. To edit the content on the page, edit the file /views/index.jade. This file is using jade HTML short hand. If you've never used it before, there is a slight learning curve but, it's fairly easy to get the hang of. Be sure to look over the tutorial some.

Seeing that I like markdown, let's go through adding it in since it is really damn easy. We'll add the line "marked": "*" to /package.json so that it looks similar to this:

"dependencies": {
  "express": "3.4.6",
  "jade": "*",
  "stylus": "*",
  "marked": "*"

This just tells npm that we want to use any version ("*") of "marked" within our app. Now we can run npm install and it'll pull in marked.

With this installed, lets create a directory to hold our markdown files, how about we call it /content. And within this content directory, lets create and edit a file called and put some content in there. Now we have to tell our index.jade file where to grab our markdown file with an "include":

extends layout

block content
  h1= title
  p Welcome to #{title}
    Here is a paragraph, just for the hell of it. There isn't much in this
    paragraph but, that is ok. Lemme add a <a href="">link</a> 
    just for the hell of it also.
  include ../content/

Now, head back to your browser and refresh the page, you should see the content that you added to the markdown file.

How about quickly adding in some style? I'm going to cheat here and just grab some bootstrap css from

$ cd public/stylesheets
$ wget

We'll need to link in the new css and we'll open up /views/layout.jade to do that. I added the line under the existing stylesheet line as such:

link(rel='stylesheet', href='/stylesheets/bootstrap.min.css')

A refresh in the browser shows a little styling to the text. Let's keep going and add a navbar to the top. ;)

In a file /views/navbar.jade, I've entered:

      a(href='/', class='navbar-brand') Express

and saved the file. We then need to add this to the site layout (/views/layout.jade) so that it looks like this:

doctype 5
    title= title
    link(rel='stylesheet', href='/stylesheets/style.css')
    link(rel='stylesheet', href='/stylesheets/bootstrap.min.css')
    include navbar.jade
    block content

And again, after refreshing the browser, there should be a static blue bar across the top. w00t!

Well, that's fancy but, what if you want to add another page to this simple server? Ok, let's add a page then. First, we'll create a couple of files and then add it to the webapp. We'll add an "about" page.

$ touch views/about.jade

Next we'll edit the file at /routes/index.js, adding this to the bottom of the file:

exports.about = function(req, res){
  res.render('about', { title: 'About Page' });

Next, we've got to tell the web server about the page so, this gets added to ~line 34 in /app.js:

app.get('/about', routes.about);

Once added, the server needs to be restarted (ctrl+c and npm start should do the trick). Now, navigating to http://localhost:3000/about should pull up a completely blank page. Let's fix the blankness. The first three lines in this file will be exactly like /views/index.jade and then we'll use a markdown file for the actual content. In the end, my about.jade looks like:

extends layout

block content
  include ../content/

And for the file, add in some content, I cheated again and grabbed some gobbledigook lorem ipsum. Now that we've got another page, lets add it to the navbar so that it can be accessed easily. In the end, my navbar.jade turned out like this:

      a(href='/', class='navbar-brand') Express
    ul(class='nav navbar-nav')
        a(href='/about') About

Refresh the page in the browser and there you go. I simple website using nodejs (and expressjs, and markdown, and bootstrap...). In the end, I added this blog post as another page and uploaded the whole shebang to github my Gogs instance located here for reference sake. If you have trouble anywhere along the line, at least you can check and see what I had done.

$ git clone
$ cd simple_express_server
$ npm install
$ npm start


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