How to Start a Node.js Project

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Sometimes I write blog posts to remind myself what I’ve learned and sometimes I write them because someone else shares something and I want to remember that better. This post is one of the latter.


Usually when I start a new Node.js project I use npm to generate my initial project.

npm init

npm then asks me some questions and builds a package.json file for me. Then I start building the project.

Later I inevitably copy and paste a .gitignore file from GitHub’s useful repo of .gitignore templates. And if I remember I’ll actually create a LICENSE file with the open source license that I intended to use.

This is not efficient.

Then this week I saw Tierney Cyren tweet this:

These four commands do everything that I was doing manually and more, setting up a project for success right from the start.

If you’ve not seen npx before it looks locally to see if there is a command to run and executes it, if there is no local command it will try to download, install the command from npm, and run it. This is really useful when generating new projects and saves you from globally installing a bunch of npm packages that are only used in this setup mode.

  • npm init -y accepts all of the default options that npm init asks you about

Tierney also suggested customising your npm init defaults so that the output of npm init -y is correct.


You can see your current npm config by entering npm config list on the command line. To just see the config that affects npm init you can grepfor “init”:

npm config list | grep init

There are a number of defaults you can set; author name, author email, author url, the license, and the version. To set them, you can enter them on the command line or use npm config edit to open up the config file in your text editor. The command line is easy enough though, you can set all five defaults like so:

npm set "Your name"
npm set ""
npm set ""
npm set init.license "MIT"
npm set init.version "1.0.0"

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Once you have that customised to your liking, npm init -y will always produce the right settings.


There are some improvements that I’d make to Tierney’s commands, though I appreciate he was constrained by Twitter. Here’s a bash script I have come up with inspired by his tweet.

function node-project {
  git init
  npx license $(npm get init.license) -o "$(npm get" > LICENSE
  npx gitignore node
  npx covgen "$(npm get"
  npm init -y
  git add -A
  git commit -m "Initial commit"

To the original I’ve added fetching the license type, the author name and email from the npm init defaults. I’ve also initialised a new git repository and committed the results of this script as the “Initial commit”.

You can take this function and add it to your ~/.bash_profile. Then, either source ~/.bash_profile or open a new command line window and run node-project. Feel free to add or remove other bits as you see fit to create your perfect initialisation script.


Now you have the perfect script to start a Node.js project why not go create a new one. I have a few small projects in mind that I plan to build this year and this is a nice basis to start from.

If you have any more suggestions to improve the script, let me know on Twitter at @philnash. Happy open sourcing!

About the Author:

Phil Nash is a developer evangelist for Twilio. Sometimes he writes code on stage in front of a crowd, praying inside that everything works. Sometimes he writes open source code, which is much less stressful because if it is wrong someone else can correct it. He writes code in tweets sometimes, but not much fits. He blogs on this site and on the Twilio blog and you’ll find plenty of code there too.


Nash, P. (2019). How to Start a Node.js Project. Available at: [Accessed: 16th August 2019].

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