Building command line apps in Node.js

Node.js is becoming very popular platform for creating command line utilities, so I am writing this blog post to help you get started.

Creating an executable script

To create an executable script you will have to add shebang at the top of the script. E.g:

Assuming you are on a UNIX like system, you will also have to change the permission of the script and make it executable.

and now you can execute the script:

Accepting arguments

You would also want use command line tool to accept arguments, which you can do using process.argv. This is an array which will contain all the supplied command line arguments.


The above script will print out all the supplied arguments, when executed it will generate the following out:

To remove ‘node’ and path from your script can slice out those arguments:

There several libraries out there that will make the task of accepting arguments easier, but if you are doing something trivial, I would suggest sticking to the default method.
One notable example of such library is cli.

Colors on the command line

If you want to display messages with different colours, there is a nice library called as colors to do it effortlessly.
Install it via nom:

And then include it in your script:

Exit event

If you want to preform some operation on exit, you can listen to the exit event. Once the exit event is called there is no way to prevent the exiting of the event loop, hence you must only perform synchronous operations in this handler.

Exit codes

Node.js provides supports for exit codes, if you script exits without any error, the exit code should be 0. If your script exits with an error it should be 1 or higher.
Exit codes in node.js are passed using process.exit().

Process object

Returns the number of seconds the script has been running

Returns an object describing the memory usage
The PID of the process

If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to comment.