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Node.js virtual environment

nodeenv (node.js virtual environment) is a tool to create isolated node.js environments.

It creates an environment that has its own installation directories, that doesn't share libraries with other node.js virtual environments.

Also the new environment can be integrated with the environment which was built by virtualenv (python).

If you use nodeenv feel free to add your project on wiki: Who-Uses-Nodeenv.


Global installation

You can install nodeenv globally with easy_install:

$ sudo easy_install nodeenv

or with pip:

$ sudo pip install nodeenv

or on Debian using dpkg:

$ ln -s debian-upstream debian
$ dpkg-buildpackage -uc -us -b
$ sudo dpkg -i $(ls -1rt ../nodeenv_*.deb | tail -n1)

Local installation

If you're using virtualenv then you can install nodeenv via pip/easy_install inside any virtual environment built with virtualenv:

$ virtualenv env
$ . env/bin/activate
(env) $ pip install nodeenv
(env) $ nodeenv --version

If you want to work with the latest version of the nodeenv you can install it from the github repository:

$ git clone
$ ./nodeenv/ --help

or with pip:

$ pip install -e git+


For nodeenv

  • python (2.6+, 3.5+, or pypy)
  • make
  • tail

For node.js

  • libssl-dev



Create new environment:

$ nodeenv env

Activate new environment:

$ . env/bin/activate

Check versions of main packages:

(env) $ node -v

(env) $ npm -v

Deactivate environment:

(env) $ deactivate_node


Get available node.js versions:

$ nodeenv --list
0.0.1   0.0.2   0.0.3   0.0.4   0.0.5   0.0.6   0.1.0
0.1.2   0.1.3   0.1.4   0.1.5   0.1.6   0.1.7   0.1.8
0.1.10  0.1.11  0.1.12  0.1.13  0.1.14  0.1.15  0.1.16
0.1.18  0.1.19  0.1.20  0.1.21  0.1.22  0.1.23  0.1.24
0.1.26  0.1.27  0.1.28  0.1.29  0.1.30  0.1.31  0.1.32
0.1.90  0.1.91  0.1.92  0.1.93  0.1.94  0.1.95  0.1.96
0.1.98  0.1.99  0.1.100 0.1.101 0.1.102 0.1.103 0.1.104
0.2.1   0.2.2   0.2.3   0.2.4   0.2.5   0.2.6   0.3.0
0.3.2   0.3.3   0.3.4   0.3.5   0.3.6   0.3.7   0.3.8
0.4.1   0.4.2   0.4.3   0.4.4   0.4.5   0.4.6

Install node.js "0.4.3" without ssl support with 4 parallel commands for compilation and npm.js "0.3.17":

$ nodeenv --without-ssl --node=0.4.3 --npm=0.3.17 --with-npm --jobs=4 env-4.3

Install node.js from the source:

$ nodeenv --node=0.10.25 --source env-0.10.25

Install node.js from a mirror:

$ nodeenv --node=10.19.0 --mirror=

It's much faster to install from the prebuilt package than Install & compile node.js from source:

$ time nodeenv --node=0.10.25 --prebuilt env-0.10.25-prebuilt
 + Install node.js (0.10.25) ... done.

real    0m6.928s
user    0m0.408s
sys     0m1.144s

$ time nodeenv --node=0.10.25 --source env-0.10.25-src
 + Install node.js (0.10.25) ... done.

real    4m12.602s
user    6m34.112s
sys     0m30.524s

Create a new environment with the system-wide node.js:

$ nodeenv --node=system

Saving the versions of all installed packages to a file:

$ . env-4.3/bin/activate
(env-4.3)$ npm install -g express
(env-4.3)$ npm install -g jade
(env-4.3)$ freeze ../prod-requirements.txt

If you want to list locally installed packages use -l option:

(env-4.3)$ freeze -l ../prod-requirements.txt

Create an environment from a requirements file:

$ nodeenv --requirements=../prod-requirements.txt --jobs=4 env-copy

Requirements files are plain text files that contain a list of packages to be installed. These text files allow you to create repeatable installations. Requirements file example:

$ cat ../prod-requirements.txt

If you already have the python virtualenv tool, and want to use nodeenv and virtualenv in conjunction, then you should create (or activate) the python virtual environment:

# in case of using virtualenv_wrapper
$ mkvirtualenv my_env

# in case of using virtualenv
$ . my_env/bin/activate

and add a node virtual environment to this existing new_venv:

$ nodeenv -p

If you need to set the path to make used to build node:

$ nodeenv -m /usr/local/bin/gmake ENV

That's all. Now, all your node.js modules will be installed into your virtual environment:

$ workon my_env
$ npm install -g coffee-script
$ which coffee

Creating a virtual environment with a custom prompt:

$ nodeenv --node=12.18.2 --prompt="(myenv)" nodeenv

If environment's directory already exists then you can use --force option:

$ nodeenv --requirements=requirements.txt --jobs=4 --force env

If you already have an environment and want to update packages from requirements file you can use --update option:

$ . env-4.3/bin/activate
(env-4.3)$ nodeenv --requirements=requirements.txt --update env-4.3

If you want to call node from environment without activation then you should use shim script:

$ ./env-4.3/bin/shim --version


You can use the INI-style file ~/.nodeenvrc to set default values for many options, the keys in that file are the long command-line option names.

These are the available options and their defaults:

node = 'latest'
npm = 'latest'
with_npm = False
jobs = '2'
without_ssl = False
debug = False
profile = False
make = 'make'
prebuilt = True
ignore_ssl_certs = False
mirror = None


There are several alternatives that create isolated environments:

  • nave - Virtual Environments for Node. Nave stores all environments in one directory ~/.nave. Can create per node version environments using nave use envname versionname. Can not pass additional arguments into configure (for example --without-ssl) Can't run on windows because it relies on bash.
  • nvm - Node Version Manager. It is necessarily to do nvm sync for caching available node.js version. Can not pass additional arguments into configure (for example --without-ssl)
  • virtualenv - Virtual Python Environment builder. For python only.