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Node.js virtual environment (sandbox) builder


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


Global installation

You can install nodeenv globally with easy_install:

$ sudo easy_install nodeenv

or pip:

$ sudo pip install nodeenv

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


For nodeenv

  • make
  • curl
  • egrep
  • sort
  • tail
  • tar

For node.js

  • libssl-dev



Create new environment:

$ nodeenv env

Activate new environment:

$ . env/bin/activate

Chek 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 --jobs=4 env-4.3

Install node.js from prebuilt package:

$ nodeenv --node=0.10.25 --prebuilt env-0.10.25-prebuilt

It mach faster then 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 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 into the file versions of all installed packages:

$ . 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

Create environment copy from requirement file:

$ nodeenv --requirement=../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're already have python virtualenv tool, and want to use nodeenv and virtualenv in conjunction, then you should create (or activate) python virtual environment:

# in case of using virtualenv_wrapper
$ mkvirtualenv my_env

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

and add 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

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

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

If you alredy 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 --update=./requirements.txt


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.
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