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node-direct npm version Build Status

Run server-side JavaScript files directly

If your VPS contains a lot of applications and you don't want to set up NodeJS server for every application, you're in the right place. node-direct allows to run JavaScript on a server just like .php files are run. The tool initializes one NodeJS instance per many websites and executes JavaScript files when URLs like are requested. .srv.js extension is configurable.

You know how to set up and run PHP script. You just need to upload it and run like this: But what about NodeJS? You must define routes, run every app on its own port, set up deployment, make sure that all instances work after server reload... It's OK if you do a big application but when you have only small server-side utilities (like ajax proxy) they just wasting your time.


npm install -g node-direct

Nginx configuration

All the magic mostly happens on Nginx side (the project itself is extremely small). You'll need to configure it to handle requests to .srv.js files.

location ~ \.srv\.js$ {
    root <path_to_website_files>;
    proxy_pass http://localhost:<port>;
    proxy_set_header X-Requested-File-Path $document_root$uri;
  • path_to_website_files - where static files are located.
  • port - a port of node-direct server


server {
    listen 80;


    # Serve static files
    location / {
        root /var/web/;
        index index.srv.js index.html index.htm;

    location ~ \.srv\.js$ {
        root /var/web/;
        proxy_pass http://localhost:8123;
        proxy_set_header X-Requested-File-Path $document_root$uri;


node-direct --port=8000

node-direct is powered by Express. Every .srv.js file should export a function which accepts request and response objects created by Express.

Hello world:

module.exports = function(req, res) {
    const someModule = require('some-module');
    res.send('Hello world!');


module.exports = function(req, res) {
    if(req.method === 'POST') {
            message: 'Everything is awesome'
    } else {
            message: 'Only POST requests are allowed'

HTML rendering:

const fs = require('fs');
const ejs = require('ejs');
const template = ejs.compile(fs.readFileSync('./templates/index.html'));

module.exports = function(req, res) {
    res.type('html').send(template({ foo: 'bar' }));

Check out Express documentation for more info.

You can use local package.json and require any modules by .srv.js files placed at node_modules as you usually do. There is an example of potential file structure of an app.

/package.json - a package file with dependencies and devDependencies for this specific application
/index.html - main HTML file
/js/app.js - client-side JavaScript app
/css/style.css - styles
/node_modules/ - things installed by "npm install"
/foo/index.srv.js - some JSON API which allows to make requests to /foo/
/bar/index.srv.js - some dynamic HTML page returned when /bar/ is requested



  • --port - a port of node-direct server (8123 by default)

Standalone mode

The standalone mode creates static HTTP server which doesn't require Nginx for its work. It should be used for development purposes on your local machine.

  • --standalone - turns on standalone mode
  • --root - a root of static files (process.cwd() by default)
  • --ext - an extension of runnable JS files (.srv.js by default)
node-direct --port=8000 --standalone --root=./foo/bar --ext=.serverside.js

Running node-direct on startup (Linux)

You can add cron job to run the server on startup. To modify crontab run crontab -e. Add the job to the end of the crontab file:

@reboot <path_to_node> <path_to_installed_module> [<flags>]
  • path_to_node - absolute path to NodeJS binary (run which node to get the path)
  • path_to_installed_module - absolute path to installed node-direct (there is no direct way to get it)
  • flags - flags you want to use


@reboot /usr/local/bin/node /usr/local/lib/node_modules/node-direct/index.js --port=8123

(if you have examples how to set up startup script for another OS, feel free to make PR)


Automatic module reload

As you know NodeJS caches values returned by require function. When you call require('foo') twice or more it returns the same object. node-direct updates cache when .srv.js file is replaced (eg. you upload another version of such file) and you don't have to reload node-direct every time when the file is changed. A problem can appear there when you require other modules by .srv.js files.

// foo.srv.js
module.exports = function(req, res) {
    const bar = require('./bar');
    // ...

When you change foo.srv.js it is reloaded as expected but when you change ./bar its value returned by require remains the same. The tool could hot-reload all requested modules but this would make side-effects which may cause unpredictable behavior in other modules. To handle this issue and update module cache you need to define watcher and clear cache when the require'd file is changed.

In example below you do want to hot reload ./bar when it's changed but you don't want to update ./baz on its change.

// foo.srv.js

// for more modules you'll need to use a loop
const fs = require('fs');
const barPath = require.resolve('./bar');
const watcher =, (eventType) => {
    if (eventType === 'change') {
        delete require.cache[barPath];

module.exports = function(req, res) {
    const bar = require('./bar');
    const baz = require('./baz');
    // ...

If it looks too tricky check out fresh-up.

// foo.srv.js

// for more modules you'll need to use a loop
const freshUp = require('fresh-up');

module.exports = function(req, res) {
    const bar = require('./bar');
    const baz = require('./baz');
    // ...

Potential vulnerability: X-Requested-File-Path header

As you may notice, Nginx config described above passes requested file path as X-Requested-File-Path HTTP header. A hacker can use this header to run custom JavaScript files on your server. The server needs to contain some dangerous JavaScript file and the hacker needs to know its path relative to root. If you want to fix this potential vulnerability you'll need to deny an access to a port used by node-direct with firewall.

This is how it can be made on Linux:

sudo ufw deny 8123


Allows to run server-side JavaScript files via NodeJS as easy as PHP files via Apache








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