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a build tool in/for JavaScript
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jbuild - a JavaScript-based build tool

Another flavor of make, using node.

Install globally via: (sudo not needed for windows)

sudo npm -g install jbuild

This will install a global command jbuild.

jbuild expects you to have a jbuild.js or node module in the current directory. The module should export a property for every task you want to define for your build. The property should be an object with two properties: doc which is a single line description of your task, and run which is the function to run when the task is invoked.

You can also define tasks using the defineTasks() function described below.

When you run jbuild with no arguments, it will do one of two things, depending on how many tasks are defined (exported) from your module.

  • When only one task is defined in a module, that task will be run.

  • Otherwise, some help will be printed, as well as the tasks in your jbuild module, and the doc entries for those tasks.

To run a task in your jbuild module, invoke jbuild with that task as the first argument. You can pass further arguments on the command line, and they will be passed to the task's function.

The shelljs package ( is installed "globally", so that all the functions are available in your module. For example, in the example below, the "echo" function is used, which is one of the shelljs global functions.

A handful of additional "global" functions are provided by jbuild, for your tasks, as described below.

In addition, jbuild will define "global" functions for all the scripts in your node_modules/.bin directory. The functions will be defined exactly like shelljs's exec() function. Some example invocations for a script node_modules/.bin/foop, from CoffeeScript:

# run `foop` in with args "1 2 3", sync, output to stdout
foop "1 2 3"

# run `foop` in with args "4", async, capturing code and output when done
foop "4", silent:true, (code,output) -> console.log output

Scripts with names which contain characters not legal in a JavaScript identifier will be installed with names where those characters are replaced with the underscore character. Eg, cat-source-map is available as the function cat_source_map.


contents of a file

exports.echo =
    doc: "echo's it's arguments to stdout"
    run: (args...) ->
        echo args.join " "

The JavaScript version, jbuild.js, would be this:

exports.echo = {
    doc: "echo's it's arguments to stdout",
    run: function() {
        var args = []
        echo(args.join(" "));

When you invoke:

jbuild echo hello world

you will see the following output:

hello world

additional global functions


will write message to the console, prefixed by the program name prefix. If you pass an empty string, an blank line will be printed

logError([err,] message)

will write message to the console, prefixed by the program name prefix. If err is non-null, it will print the error's stack trace. The function will then exit the program by calling process.exit(1).

The err parameter is optional.


will watch the files specified in the watchSpec argument for changes, and when a change occurs, run the command specified in the watchSpec argument. Once the command has completed, the files will be watched again, and when a change occurrs, run the command specified. For ever.

watchSpec is an object with two properties: files which is a string or array of strings which should be file specifications, and run which is the function to run when one of those files changes.

For more information, see the section on the watch(watchSpec) function. You can run the watch() function multiple times, to watch different files and act upon them independently.


will invoke the watch() function, but takes a slightly different object.

watch() expects an object with two properties: files and run, where files is a string or array of strings, and run is a function.

watchFiles() expects an object where the keys are the files to watch and the value associated with the key is the function to run. The keys are space-separated lists of the same file specifications that the watch() function supports.

This code using watchFiles():

    "src/*.coffee src/*.js" :-> build()
    "out/*"                 :-> test()

is exactly the same as this code using watch():

    files: ["src/*.coffee", "src/*.js"]
    run:   -> build()

    files: "out/*"
    run:   -> test()

server.start(pidFile, program, args[, options])

will create a new process with child_process.spawn(program, args, options) and capture the pid for that process in pidFile. It will also invoke server.kill(pidFile) before spawning the program.

To be specific, server.kill() is invoked with a callback which actually spawns the program, to give the event queue a chance to breathe between killing and respawning a program.

server.kill(pidFile[, callback])

will read the pid from pidFile, invoke process.kill() on it, and then call the callback on process.nextTick().

defineTasks(exports, tasksSpec)

provides an alternative to defining your tasks as objects exported from your module with doc and run properties.

The exports argument should be the object which exports properties from your module. Typically you'd just pass in the exports object provided to your module, but if you're making use of module.exports, you may need to pass that.

The tasksSpec argument should be an object where the keys are the name of the tasks, and the values of those keys are what you would use in the doc property when defining tasks.

The defineTasks() function will return an object which you should add the run functions to, using the same key that you used in the tasksSpec argument.

This code using defineTasks()

tasks = defineTasks exports,
    build:  "build the code"
    test:   "test the code" = -> build()
tasks.test  = -> test()

is exactly the same as this code defining the tasks as exports =
    doc: "build the code"
    run: -> build()

exports.test =
    doc: "test the code"
    run: -> test()

You can mix-and-match the two styles of defining tasks. The defineTasks() function just adds tasks specifications to the exports object passed in.


This function will add global functions for all the scripts in the directory path.join(dir, "node_modules", ".bin") in the same way as as they are added for your current directory automatically.

the watch(watchSpec) global function

The global watch() function takes a single argument watchSpec. watchSpec should be an object with two properties:

  • files - a wild-card enabled file specification of files to watch for changes

  • run - a function which will be invoked when a file changes

The files property must be a string or array of strings which can contain minimatch wildcards, which will be compared to all the files in the current directory. The comparison is against the path relative to the current directory, so the files arguments must not contain path entries above the current directory. For example, you can't use __filename as an argument, as that variable is a fully qualified filename. Use path.basename(__filename) instead.

The run property is the function to run when a file changes. It will be passed the first file name that was noticed to have changed. Once one file has been noticed to change, the file watching is stopped, the command is run, and then file watching begins again. Specifically, the run function will not be called for every file that changes.

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