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Ark allows you package up your browser Javascript using the Node module system. You can use require just like in Node. Put another way, you can reuse server-side code in the browser and still use require and NPM.

Hat Tip

To browserify, which was the original inspiration for Ark, and from which I took some code, such as the HTTP implementation.

Speaking Of Which ...

The obvious question is: how is Ark different than browserify?

  • Ark is more CoffeeScript-friendly. You don't need to add a transform or plugin to bundle CoffeeScript into your Ark. Also, most of Ark is actually implemented in CoffeeScript in case you want to fork or submit patches.

  • Ark uses a CSON manifest file to decide what to package up, so you have complete control over what's being shipped to the browser. Use glob expansion and exclusion to make it easy.

  • Ark does not use the package.json browser field, or any other specification for generating your bundled JavaScript. Everything you need to know is in the manifest.

  • Ark allows you to include any arbitrary files into your ark. You can then use the node fs API to read them. For example, we often bundle a configuration file that tells us where to find various backend resources.

  • Ark is just simpler, both in terms of usage and implementation.


npm install -g ark


  1. Create an ark directory in your source tree. Put stuff in that directory that you want to ship to the browser. In Ark parlance, that stuff is called "the ark."

  2. Add in a package.json file to set the entry point for your ark (using the main property).

  3. Create a manifest.cson file with the list of files and emulated Node APIs you want to bundled in your ark.

  4. Package up your ark: ark package -m <manifest> -f <path-to-javascript>

The Manifest

The manifest file might look like this:

root: "/Users/dan/Projects/ark/test"
files: [
apis: [ "assert", "child_process", "crypto", "events", "fs", "http",  
        "https", "module", "path", "querystring", "stream", "sys", "tty", 
        "url", "util" ]

That's it. There's never any question about which files or APIs are included, because you control it via the manifest. Also, we can use any glob pattern in our list of files to save typing.

Excluding Files

You can also exclude files. For example, if you want to make sure that no files within test directories are committed, you might do something like this:

root: "/Users/dan/Projects/ark/test"
files: [
exclude: [
apis: [ "assert", "child_process", "crypto", "events", "fs", "http",  
        "https", "module", "path", "querystring", "stream", "sys", "tty", 
        "url", "util" ]

Checking The Manifest

If you use glob expansion, you might want to see exactly what the result of the expansion is -- you can do this by using the list command:

ark ls -m <manifest>

Conditional Generation

To package up your ark only if it's out-of-date, use the -t option:

ark package -m <manifest> -f <path-to-javascript> -t

You can also use standard standard output for the bundled JavaScript. However, you can't use standard output with the -t option.

More Details

See the man page for more, or just type ark help.


You can also use Ark programmatically. It's pretty simple:

Ark = require "ark"

  manifest: "./ark.cson"
  file: "js/application.js"

Other options include:

  • compilers. This is just an object with file extensions as keys and functions that take a string and transform it somehow. The default compilers include one for CoffeeScript, but using this mechanism, you can include others.

Ex: Suppose you want to compile Jade templates when you bundle your JavaScript so that they can simply be required. You might write an Ark compiler like this:

compileJade = do ->
  jade = require "jade"
  options = 
    client: true
    compileDebug: false
  (template) -> jade.compile template, options

  manifest: "./ark.cson"
  file: "js/application.js"
  compilers: ".jade": compileJade
  • file. This is just the path of the output file. If it's undefined, Ark will write to stdout.

  • minify. This is a flag to indicate whether you want to minify the code. If true, ark will run the generated JavaScript through Uglify.js.

The mtime Function

To run a command conditionally based on whether your Ark is out-of-date, use the mtime function, like this:

  manifest: "./ark.cson"
  file: "js/application.js"
  -> console.log "The Ark must be rebuilt!"

The list Function

You can also generate the full manifest, after glob expansion, with list, which returns an array of relative paths.

console.log "Your ark will include:", 
    manifest: "./ark.cson"
    file: "js/application.js"


Ark is under active development but is not yet production-ready.

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