Latest commit ecfdb20 Feb 13, 2017 @isaacs v2.2.3


Virtual Environments for Node.

Switch out your node version and global npm install space in one command. Supports named environments. Uses subshells by default so that you can ^D or exit out of an environment quickly. No need to edit .bashrc or .profile, just install and go.

Works great with bash, fish, and zsh shells.


If you want a global nave command, you could install this thing with npm. But that's not really necessary. You can run the shell script from here, or symlink it wherever you want.

with npm

If you have npm, presumably you already have Node, so it's a tiny bit silly, but maybe you like installing the top-level Node some other way, and install your subshell version switcher with npm. Why is a bash program in npm anyway? It's fine. Bits don't judge.

npm install -g nave

with basher

basher install isaacs/nave


To use a version of node, you do this:

nave use <some version>

If you want to name a virtual env, you can do this:

nave use <some name>

If that virtual env doesn't already exist, it'll prompt you to choose a version.

Both of these commands drop you into a subshell. Exit the shell with exit or ^D to go back from whence you came.

Here's the full usage statement:

Usage: nave <cmd>


install <version>    Install the version passed (ex: 0.1.103)
use <version>        Enter a subshell where <version> is being used
use <ver> <program>  Enter a subshell, and run "<program>", then exit
use <name> <ver>     Create a named env, using the specified version.
                     If the name already exists, but the version differs,
                     then it will update the link.
usemain <version>    Install in /usr/local/bin (ie, use as your main nodejs)
clean <version>      Delete the source code for <version>
uninstall <version>  Delete the install for <version>
ls                   List versions currently installed
ls-remote            List remote node versions
ls-all               List remote and local node versions
latest               Show the most recent dist version
cache                Clear or view the cache
help                 Output help information
auto                 Find a .naverc and then be in that env
exit                 Unset all the NAVE environs (use with 'exec')

Version Strings:
Any command that calls for a version can be provided any of the
following "version-ish" identifies:

- x.y.z       A specific SemVer tuple
- x.y         Major and minor version number
- x           Just a major version number
- lts         The most recent LTS (long-term support) node version
- lts/<name>  The latest in a named LTS set. (argon, boron, etc.)
- lts/*       Same as just "lts"
- latest      The most recent (non-LTS) version
- stable      Backwards-compatible alias for "lts".

To exit a nave subshell, type 'exit' or press ^D.
To run nave *without* a subshell, do 'exec nave use <version>'.
To clear the settings from a nave env, use 'exec nave exit'

Subshell-free operation

If you prefer to not enter a subshell, just run nave with exec

exec nave use lts/argon

You could even add something like this to your .bashrc file to save on typing:

n () {
  exec nave "$@"


You can put a .naverc file in the root of your project (or anywhere). This file should contain the version that you want to use. It can be something like lts/boron or 6.8 or latest

echo lts/boron > ~/projects/my-project/.naverc

Then you can run nave auto to load the appropriate environment.


If you want to get even more absurd/automated, put this in your bash settings (like ~/.bashrc or whatever)

alias cd='exec nave auto'

and then every time you cd into a different folder, it'll automatically load the correct nave settings, or exit nave-land if no automatic stuff could be found.

Note that doing this will also cause it to exit the nave environment when you cd to a directory that doesn't have a nave setting, so it can interfere with "normal" nave operation.

Also, aliasing cd is a very all-consuming type of change to make to one's system. You might wish to give it some other name, so that you can switch directories without affecting environment variables as a potentially surprising side effect, or even just run exec nave auto as an explicit action whenever you want this behavior to happen.

Bottom line, it's your shell, and I hope that this helps you enjoy it more :)

env vars

  • $NAVE The current shell. Either a version, or a name and version.
  • $NAVENAME The name of the current shell. Equal to $NAVEVERSION in unnammed environments.
  • $NAVEVERSION The version of node that the current shell is pointing to. (This should comply with node -v.)
  • $NAVELVL The level of nesting in the subshell.
  • $NAVE_DEBUG Set to 1 to run nave in bash -x style.
  • $NAVE_DIR Set to the location where you'd like nave to do its business. Defaults to ~/.nave.
  • $NAVE_CONFIG Set this to an array of arguments to pass to ./configure. Defaults to ("--debug"). (Note that parens are required to supply multiple arguments. I use ("--debug" "--without-npm") on my own system, since I'm usually using nave to test npm, so installing it in the subshell doesn't help much.) This can be set in the ~/.naverc file, or in your normal ~/.bash{rc,_profile} files.
  • $NAVE_JOBS If set, this will be the number of jobs to run when building node. If this isn't set, it'll use the $JOBS env, then try to guess a reasonable value based on the number of CPUs, then fall back on 2 if sysctl -n hw.ncpu fails.


Prior to version 0.2, nave would run programs as node <program>. However, this is somewhat more limiting, so was dropped. If you prefer the old style, just prefix your command with node.

Nave requires bash. It will probably never work on Windows, or other systems lack a native Bourne Again Shell. Sorry.

Nave logins work with bash and zsh. If your shell doesn't set the BASH environment variable, then nave assumes you're using zsh. As such, strange archaic shells like sh, csh, tcsh, ksh, and the like will not work.


Nave will source ~/.naverc on initialization of a new subshell, if it exists and is readable.

You may control the place where nave puts things by setting the NAVE_DIR environment variable. However, note that this must be set somewhere other than ~/.naverc, since it needs to be set in the parent shell where the nave command is invoked.

By default, nave puts its stuff in ~/.nave/. If this directory does not exist and cannot be created, then it will attempt to use the location of the bash script itself. If it cannot write to this location, then it will exit with an error.


nave borrows concepts, inspiration, and code from Tim Caswell's "nvm" and Kris Kowal's "sea" programs.

Sea is really nice, but is very tied to Narwhal. Also, it's a require.paths manager, which nave is not.

Nvm is also really nice, but has to be sourced rather than being run, and thus is a little bit wonky for some use cases. But it doesn't involve subshells, which makes it better for some others.