JavaScript build tool, similar to Make or Rake. Built to work with Node.js.
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Jake -- JavaScript build tool for Node.js

Installing with NPM

npm install -g jake

Note that Jake is a system-level tool, and wants to be installed globally.

Installing from source

Prerequisites: Jake requires Node.js. (

Get Jake:

git clone git://

Build Jake:

cd jake && make && sudo make install

By default Jake is installed in "/usr/local." To install it into a different directory (e.g., one that doesn't require super-user privilege), pass the PREFIX variable to the make install command. For example, to install it into a "jake" directory in your home directory, you could use this:

make && make install PREFIX=~/jake

If do you install Jake somewhere special, you'll need to add the "bin" directory in the install target to your PATH to get access to the jake executable.

Windows, installing from source

For Windows users installing from source, there are some additional steps.

Assumed: current directory is the same directory where node.exe is present.

Get Jake:

git clone git:// node_modules/jake

Copy jake.bat and jake to the same directory as node.exe

copy node_modules/jake/jake.bat jake.bat
copy node_modules/jake/jake jake

Add the directory of node.exe to the environment PATH variable.

Basic usage

jake [options ...] [env variables ...] target


Jake is a simple JavaScript build program with capabilities similar to the
regular make or rake command.

Jake has the following features:
    * Jakefiles are in standard JavaScript syntax
    * Tasks with prerequisites
    * Namespaces for tasks
    * Async task execution


--version                   Display the Jake version.

--help                      Display help message.

-f *FILE*
--jakefile *FILE*           Use FILE as the Jakefile.

--directory *DIRECTORY*     Change to DIRECTORY before running tasks.

--quiet                     Do not log messages to standard output.

--jakelibdir *JAKELIBDIR*   Auto-import any .jake files in JAKELIBDIR.
                            (default is 'jakelib')

--always-make               Unconditionally make all targets.

--trace                     Enable full backtrace.

--tasks                     Display the tasks (matching optional PATTERN)
                            with descriptions, then exit.

Jakefile syntax

A Jakefile is just executable JavaScript. You can include whatever JavaScript you want in it.

API Docs

API docs can be found here.


Use task to define tasks. Call it with two arguments (and one optional argument):

task(name, [prerequisites], action, [opts]);

The name argument is a String with the name of the task, and prerequisites is an optional Array arg of the list of prerequisite tasks to perform first.

The action is a Function defininng the action to take for the task. (Note that Object-literal syntax for name/prerequisites in a single argument a la Rake is also supported, but JavaScript's lack of support for dynamic keys in Object literals makes it not very useful.) The action is invoked with the Task object itself as the execution context (i.e, "this" inside the action references the Task object).

The opts argument is optional. When a task's operations are asynchronous, the async property should be set to true, and the task must call complete() to signal to Jake that the task is done, and execution can proceed. By default the async property is false.

Tasks created with task are always executed when asked for (or are a prerequisite). Tasks created with file are only executed if no file with the given name exists or if any of its file-prerequisites are more recent than the file named by the task. Also, if any prerequisite is a regular task, the file task will always be executed.

Use desc to add a string description of the task.

Here's an example:

desc('This is the default task.');
task('default', function (params) {
  console.log('This is the default task.');

desc('This task has prerequisites.');
task('hasPrereqs', ['foo', 'bar', 'baz'], function (params) {
  console.log('Ran some prereqs first.');

And here's an example of an asynchronous task:

desc('This is an asynchronous task.');
task('asyncTask', function () {
  setTimeout(complete, 1000);
}, {async: true});

A Task is also an EventEmitter which emits the 'complete' event when it is finished. This allows asynchronous tasks to be run from within other asked via either invoke or execute, and ensure they will complete before the rest of the containing task executes. See the section "Running tasks from within other tasks," below.


Create a file-task by calling file.

File-tasks create a file from one or more other files. With a file-task, Jake checks both that the file exists, and also that it is not older than the files specified by any prerequisite tasks. File-tasks are particularly useful for compiling something from a tree of source files.

desc('This builds a minified JS file for production.');
file('foo-minified.js', ['bar', 'foo-bar.js', 'foo-baz.js'], function () {
  // Code to concat and minify goes here


Create a directory-task by calling directory.

Directory-tasks create a directory for use with for file-tasks. Jake checks for the existence of the directory, and only creates it if needed.

desc('This creates the bar directory for use with the foo-minified.js file-task.');

This task will create the directory when used as a prerequisite for a file-task, or when run from the command-line.


Use namespace to create a namespace of tasks to perform. Call it with two arguments:

namespace(name, namespaceTasks);

Where is name is the name of the namespace, and namespaceTasks is a function with calls inside it to task or desc definining all the tasks for that namespace.

Here's an example:

desc('This is the default task.');
task('default', function () {
  console.log('This is the default task.');

namespace('foo', function () {
  desc('This the foo:bar task');
  task('bar', function () {
    console.log('doing foo:bar task');

  desc('This the foo:baz task');
  task('baz', ['default', 'foo:bar'], function () {
    console.log('doing foo:baz task');


In this example, the foo:baz task depends on the the default and foo:bar tasks.

Passing parameters to jake

Parameters can be passed to Jake two ways: plain arguments, and environment variables.

To pass positional arguments to the Jake tasks, enclose them in square braces, separated by commas, after the name of the task on the command-line. For example, with the following Jakefile:

desc('This is an awesome task.');
task('awesome', function (a, b, c) {
  console.log(a, b, c);

You could run jake like this:

jake awesome[foo,bar,baz]

And you'd get the following output:

foo bar baz

Note that you cannot uses spaces between the commas separating the parameters.

Any parameters passed after the Jake task that contain an equals sign (=) will be added to process.env.

With the following Jakefile:

desc('This is an awesome task.');
task('awesome', function (a, b, c) {
  console.log(a, b, c);
  console.log(process.env.qux, process.env.frang);

You could run jake like this:

jake awesome[foo,bar,baz] qux=zoobie frang=asdf

And you'd get the following output:

foo bar baz
zoobie asdf

Running jake with no arguments runs the default task.

Note for zsh users : you will need to escape the brackets or wrap in single quotes like this to pass parameters :

jake 'awesome[foo,bar,baz]'

An other solution is to desactivate permannently file-globbing for the jake command. You can do this by adding this line to your .zshrc file :

alias jake="noglob jake"

Running tasks from within other tasks

Jake supports the ability to run a task from within another task via the invoke and execute methods.

The invoke method will run the desired task, along with its prerequisites:

desc('Calls the foo:bar task and its prerequisites.');
task('invokeFooBar', function () {
  // Calls foo:bar and its prereqs

The invoke method will only run the task once, even if you call it repeatedly.

desc('Calls the foo:bar task and its prerequisites.');
task('invokeFooBar', function () {
  // Calls foo:bar and its prereqs
  // Does nothing

The execute method will run the desired task without its prerequisites:

desc('Calls the foo:bar task without its prerequisites.');
task('executeFooBar', function () {
  // Calls foo:bar without its prereqs

Calling execute repeatedly will run the desired task repeatedly.

desc('Calls the foo:bar task without its prerequisites.');
task('executeFooBar', function () {
  // Calls foo:bar without its prereqs
  // Can keep running this over and over

If you want to run the task and its prerequisites more than once, you can use invoke with the reenable method.

desc('Calls the foo:bar task and its prerequisites.');
task('invokeFooBar', function () {
  // Calls foo:bar and its prereqs
  // Does nothing
  // Only re-runs foo:bar, but not its prerequisites

The reenable method takes a single Boolean arg, a 'deep' flag, which reenables the task's prerequisites if set to true.

desc('Calls the foo:bar task and its prerequisites.');
task('invokeFooBar', function () {
  // Calls foo:bar and its prereqs
  // Does nothing
  // Only re-runs foo:bar, but not its prerequisites

It's easy to pass params on to a sub-task run via invoke or execute:

desc('Passes params on to other tasks.');
task('passParams', function () {
  var t = jake.Task['foo:bar'];
  // Calls foo:bar, passing along current args
  t.invoke.apply(t, arguments);

Evented tasks

Tasks are EventEmitters. They can fire 'complete' and 'error' events.

If a task called via invoke is asynchronous, you can set a listener on the 'complete' event to run any code that depends on it.

desc('Calls the async foo:baz task and its prerequisites.');
task('invokeFooBaz', function () {
  var t = jake.Task['foo:baz'];
  t.addListener('complete', function () {
    console.log('Finished executing foo:baz');
    // Maybe run some other code
    // ...
    // Complete the containing task
  // Kick off foo:baz
}, {async: true});

If you want to handle the errors in a task in some specific way, you can set a listener for the 'error' event, like so:

namespace('vronk', function () {
  task('groo', function () {
    var t = jake.Task['vronk:zong'];
    t.addListener('error', function (e) {

  task('zong', function () {
    throw new Error('OMFGZONG');

If no specific listener is set for the "error" event, errors are handled by Jake's generic error-handling.

Aborting a task

You can abort a task by calling the fail function, and Jake will abort the currently running task. You can pass a customized error message to fail:

desc('This task fails.');
task('failTask', function () {
  fail('Yikes. Something back happened.');

You can also pass an optional exit status-code to the fail command, like so:

desc('This task fails with an exit-status of 42.');
task('failTaskQuestionCustomStatus', function () {
  fail('What is the answer?', 42);

The process will exit with a status of 42.

Uncaught errors will also abort the currently running task.

Showing the list of tasks

Passing jake the -T or --tasks flag will display the full list of tasks available in a Jakefile, along with their descriptions:

$ jake -T
jake default       # This is the default task.
jake asdf          # This is the asdf task.
jake concat.txt    # File task, concating two files together
jake failure       # Failing task.
jake lookup        # Jake task lookup by name.
jake foo:bar       # This the foo:bar task
jake foo:fonebone  # This the foo:fonebone task

Setting a value for -T/--tasks will filter the list by that value:

$ jake -T foo
jake foo:bar       # This the foo:bar task
jake foo:fonebone  # This the foo:fonebone task

The list displayed will be all tasks whose namespace/name contain the filter-string.

Breaking things up into multiple files

Jake will automatically look for files with a .jake extension in a 'jakelib' directory in your project, and load them (via require) after loading your Jakefile. (The directory name can be overridden using the -J/--jakelibdir command-line option.)

This allows you to break your tasks up over multiple files -- a good way to do it is one namespace per file: e.g., a zardoz namespace full of tasks in 'jakelib/zardox.jake'.

Note that these .jake files each run in their own module-context, so they don't have access to each others' data. However, the Jake API methods, and the task-hierarchy are globally available, so you can use tasks in any file as prerequisites for tasks in any other, just as if everything were in a single file.

Environment-variables set on the command-line are likewise also naturally available to code in all files via process.env.


Since shelling out in Node is an asynchronous operation, Jake comes with a few useful file-utilities with a synchronous API, that make scripting easier.

The jake.mkdirP utility recursively creates a set of nested directories. It will not throw an error if any of the directories already exists. Here's an example:


The jake.cpR utility does a recursive copy of a file or directory. It takes two arguments, the file/directory to copy, and the destination. Note that this command can only copy files and directories; it does not perform globbing (so arguments like '*.txt' are not possible).

jake.cpR(path.join(sourceDir, '/templates'), currentDir);

This would copy 'templates' (and all its contents) into currentDir.

The jake.readdirR utility gives you a recursive directory listing, giving you output somewhat similar to the Unix find command. It only works with a directory name, and does not perform filtering or globbing.


This would return an array of filepaths for all files in the 'pkg' directory, and all its subdirectories.

The jake.rmRf utility recursively removes a directory and all its contents.


This would remove the 'pkg' directory, and all its contents.

Running shell-commands: jake.exec and jake.createExec

Jake also provides a more general utility function for running a sequence of shell-commands.


The jake.exec command takes an array of shell-command strings, and an optional callback to run after completing them. Here's an example from Jake's Jakefile, that runs the tests:

desc('Runs the Jake tests.');
task('test', function () {
  var cmds = [
    'node ./tests/parseargs.js'
  , 'node ./tests/task_base.js'
  , 'node ./tests/file_task.js'
  jake.exec(cmds, function () {
    console.log('All tests passed.');
  }, {printStdout: true});
}, {async: true});

It also takes an optional options-object, with the following options:

  • printStdout (print to stdout, default false)

  • printStderr (print to stderr, default false)

  • breakOnError (stop execution on error, default true)

This command doesn't pipe input between commands -- it's for simple execution.

jake.createExec and the evented Exec object

Jake also provides an evented interface for running shell commands. Calling jake.createExec returns an instance of jake.Exec, which is an EventEmitter that fires events as it executes commands.

It emits the following events:

  • 'cmdStart': When a new command begins to run. Passes one arg, the command being run.

  • 'cmdEnd': When a command finishes. Passes one arg, the command being run.

  • 'stdout': When the stdout for the child-process recieves data. This streams the stdout data. Passes one arg, the chunk of data.

  • 'stdout': When the stderr for the child-process recieves data. This streams the sterr data. Passes one arg, the chunk of data.

  • 'error': When a shell-command exits with a non-zero status-code. Passes two args -- the error message, and the status code. If you do not set an error handler, and a command exits with an error-code, Jake will throw the unhandled error. If breakOnError is set to true, the Exec object will emit and 'error' event after the first error, and stop any further execution.

To begin running the commands, you have to call the run method on it. It also has an append method for adding new commands to the list of commands to run.

Here's an example:

var ex = jake.createExec([''], {printStdout: true});
ex.addListener('error', function (msg, code) {
  if (code == 127) {
    console.log("Couldn't find do_thing script, trying do_other_thing");
  else {
    fail('Fatal error: ' + msg, code);

Using the evented Exec object gives you a lot more flexibility in running shell commmands. But if you need something more sophisticated, Procstreams ( might be a good option.

Logging and output

Using the -q/--quiet flag at the command-line will stop Jake from sending its normal output to standard output. Note that this only applies to built-in output from Jake; anything you output normally from your tasks will still be displayed.

If you want to take advantage of the -q/--quiet flag in your own programs, you can use jake.logger.log and jake.logger.error for displaying output. These two commands will respect the flag, and suppress output correctly when the quiet-flag is on.

You can check the current value of this flag in your own tasks by using jake.program.opts.quiet. If you want the output of a jake.exec shell-command to respect the quiet-flag, set your printStdout and printStderr options to false if the quiet-option is on:

task('echo', function () {
  jake.exec(['echo "hello"'], function () {
  }, {printStdout: !jake.program.opts.quiet});
}, {async: true});


Instantiating a PackageTask programmically creates a set of tasks for packaging up your project for distribution. Here's an example:

var t = new jake.PackageTask('fonebone', 'v0.1.2112', function () {
  var fileList = [
  , ''
  , 'package.json'
  , 'lib/*'
  , 'bin/*'
  , 'tests/*'
  this.needTarGz = true;
  this.needTarBz2 = true;

This will automatically create a 'package' task that will assemble the specified files in 'pkg/fonebone-v0.1.2112,' and compress them according to the specified options. After running jake package, you'll have the following in pkg/:


PackageTask also creates a 'clobber' task that removes the pkg/ directory.

The PackageTask API docs include a lot more information, including different archiving options.

PackageTask requires NodeJS's minimatch module ( It is used in FileList, which is used to specify the list of files to include in your PackageTask (the packageFiles property). (See FileList, below.)


Jake's FileList takes a list of glob-patterns and file-names, and lazy-creates a list of files to include. Instead of immediately searching the filesystem to find the files, a FileList holds the pattern until it is actually used.

When any of the normal JavaScript Array methods (or the toArray method) are called on the FileList, the pending patterns are resolved into an actual list of file-names. FileList uses NodeJS's minimatchmodule (

To build the list of files, use FileList's include and exclude methods:

var list = new jake.FileList();
list.include(['bar/*.txt', '']);
list.include('Makefile', 'package.json');

The include method can be called either with an array of items, or multiple single parameters. Items can be either glob-patterns, or individual file-names.

The exclude method will prevent files from being included in the list. These files must resolve to actual files on the filesystem. It can be called either with an array of items, or mutliple single parameters. Items can be glob-patterns, individual file-names, string-representations of regular-expressions, or regular-expression literals.


The NpmPublishTask builds on top of PackageTask to allow you to do a version bump of your project, package it, and publish it to NPM. Define the task with your project's name, and the list of files you want packaged and published to NPM.

Here's an example from Jake's Jakefile:

var p = new jake.NpmPublishTask('jake', [
, 'Jakefile'
, ''
, 'package.json'
, 'lib/*'
, 'bin/*'
, 'tests/*'

The NpmPublishTask will automatically create a publish task which performs the following steps:

  1. Bump the version number in your package.json
  2. Commit change in git, push it to GitHub
  3. Create a git tag for the version
  4. Push the tag to GitHub
  5. Package the new version of your project
  6. Publish it to NPM
  7. Clean up the package

CoffeeScript Jakefiles

Jake can also handle Jakefiles in CoffeeScript. Be sure to make it so Jake knows it's in CoffeeScript.

Here's an example:

util = require('util')

desc 'This is the default task.'
task 'default', (params) ->
  console.log 'Ths is the default task.'
  jake.Task['new'].invoke []

task 'new', ->
  console.log 'ello from new'
  jake.Task['foo:next'].invoke ['param']

namespace 'foo', ->
  task 'next', (param) ->
    console.log 'ello from next with param: ' + param

Related projects

James Coglan's "Jake":

Confusingly, this is a Ruby tool for building JavaScript packages from source code.

280 North's Jake:

This is also a JavaScript port of Rake, which runs on the Narwhal platform.


Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (