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A boilerplate for Node.js web applications.

If you have attended any hackathons in the past, then you know how much time it takes to get a project started: decide on what to build, pick a programming language, pick a web framework, pick a CSS framework. A while later, you might have an initial project up on GitHub, and only then can other team members start contributing. Or how about doing something as simple as Sign in with Facebook authentication? You can spend hours on it if you are not familiar with how OAuth 2.0 works.

When I started this project, my primary focus was on simplicity and ease of use. I also tried to make it as generic and reusable as possible to cover most use cases of hackathon web apps, without being too specific. In the worst case, you can use this as a learning guide for your projects, if for example you are only interested in Sign in with Google authentication and nothing else.


“Nice! That README alone is already gold!”
— Adrian Le Bas

“Awesome. Simply awesome.”
— Steven Rueter

“I'm using it for a year now and many projects, it's an awesome boilerplate and the project is well maintained!”
— Kevin Granger

“Small world with Sahat's project. We were using his hackathon starter for our hackathon this past weekend and got some prizes. Really handy repo!”
— Interview candidate for one of the companies I used to work with.

Modern Theme

Flatly Bootstrap Theme

API Examples

Table of Contents


  • Login
    • Local Authentication using Email and Password
    • OAuth 2.0 Authentication: Sign in with Google, Facebook, X (Twitter), LinkedIn, Twitch, Github, Snapchat
  • User Profile and Account Management
    • Gravatar
    • Profile Details
    • Change Password
    • Forgot Password
    • Reset Password
    • Verify Email
    • Link multiple OAuth strategies to one account
    • Delete Account
  • Contact Form (powered by SMTP via Sendgrid, Mailgun, AWS SES, etc.)
  • File upload
  • API Examples
    • Facebook, Foursquare, Tumblr, Pinterest, Github, Steam, Quickbooks, Paypal, Stripe, Twilio (text messaging), Lob (USPS Mail), HERE Maps, Google Maps, Google Drive, Google Sheets, Alpha Vantage (stocks and finance info) with ChartJS,, New York Times, Web Scraping,
  • Flash notifications
    • reCaPTCHA and rate limit protection
  • CSRF protection
  • MVC Project Structure
  • Node.js clusters support
  • HTTPS Proxy support (via ngrok, Cloudflare, etc.)
  • Sass stylesheets (auto-compiled via middleware)
  • Bootstrap 5
  • "Go to production" checklist


  • MongoDB (local install OR hosted)

    • Local Install: MongoDB
    • Hosted: No need to install, see the MongoDB Atlas section
  • Node.js 18+

  • Command Line Tools

  •  Mac OS X: Xcode (or OS X 10.9+: xcode-select --install)

  •  Windows: Visual Studio Code + Windows Subsystem for Linux - Ubuntu OR Visual Studio

  •  Ubuntu /  Linux Mint: sudo apt-get install build-essential

  •  Fedora: sudo dnf groupinstall "Development Tools"

  •  OpenSUSE: sudo zypper install --type pattern devel_basis

Note: If you are new to Node or Express, you may find Node.js & Express From Scratch series helpful for learning the basics of Node and Express. Alternatively, here is another great tutorial for complete beginners - Getting Started With Node.js, Express, MongoDB.

Getting Started

Step 1: The easiest way to get started is to clone the repository:

# Get the latest snapshot
git clone myproject

# Change directory
cd myproject

# Install NPM dependencies
npm install

# Then simply start your app
node app.js

Note: I highly recommend installing Nodemon. It watches for any changes in your node.js app and automatically restarts the server. Once installed, instead of node app.js use nodemon app.js. It will save you a lot of time in the long run, because you won't need to manually restart the server each time you make a small change in code. To install, run sudo npm install -g nodemon.

Step 2: Obtain API Keys and change configs if needed After completing step 1 and locally installing MongoDB, you should be able to access the application through a web browser and use local user accounts. However, certain functions like API integrations may not function correctly until you obtain specific keys from service providers. The keys provided in the project serve as placeholders, and you can retain them for features you are not currently utilizing. To incorporate the acquired keys into the application, you have two options:

  1. Set environment variables in your console session: Alternatively, you can set the keys as environment variables directly through the command prompt. For instance, in bash, you can use the export command like this: export FACEBOOK_SECRET=xxxxxx. This method is considered a better practice as it reduces the risk of accidentally including your secrets in a code repository.
  2. Replace the keys in the .env.example file: Open the .env.example file and update the placeholder keys with the newly acquired ones. This method has the risk of accidental checking-in of your secrets to code repos.

What to get and configure:

  • SMTP

    • For user workflows for reset password and verify email
    • For contact form processing

    • For contact form submission
  • OAuth for social logins (Sign in with / Login with)

    • Depending on your application need, obtain keys from Google, Facebook, X (Twitter), LinkedIn, Twitch, GitHub, Snapchat. You don't have to obtain valid keys for any provider that you don't need. Just remove the buttons and links in the login and account pug views before your demo.
  • API keys for service providers in the API Examples if you are planning to use them.

  • MongoDB Atlas

    • If you are using MongoDB Atlas instead of a local db, set the MONGODB_URI to your db URI (including your db user/password).
  • Email address

    • Set SITE_CONTACT_EMAIL as your incoming email address for messages sent to you thru the contact form.
    • Set TRANSACTION_EMAIL as the "From" address for emails sent to users thru the lost password or email verification emails to users. You may set this to the same address as SITE_CONTACT_EMAIL.
  • ngrok and HTTPS If you want to use some API that needs HTTPS to work (for example Pinterest or Facebook), you will need to download ngrok. Start ngrok, set your BASE_URL to the forwarding address (i.e ), and use the forwarding address to access your application. If you are using a proxy like ngrok, you may get a CSRF mismatch error if you try to access the app at http://localhost:8080 instead of the address.

    After installing or downloading the standalone ngrok client you can start ngrok to intercept the data exchanged on port 8080 with ./ngrok http 8080 in Linux or ngrok http 8080 in Windows.

Step 3: Develop your application and customize the experience

Step 4: Optional - deploy to production See:

Obtaining API Keys

You will need to obtain appropriate credentials (Client ID, Client Secret, API Key, or Username & Password) for API and service provides which you need. See Step 2 in the Getting started section for more info.


Obtain SMTP credentials from a provider for transactional emails. Set the SMTP_USER, SMTP_PASSWORD, and SMTP_HOST environment variables accordingly. When picking the smtp host, keep in mind that the app is configured to use secure SMTP transmissions over port 465 out of the box. You have the flexibility to select any provider that suits your needs or take advantage of one of the following providers, each offering a free tier for your convenience.

Provider Free Tier Website
SendGrid 100 emails/day for free
SMTP2Go 1000 emails/month for free
Brevo 300 emails/day for free

  • Visit Google reCAPTCHA Admin Console
  • Enter your application's name as the Label
  • Choose reCAPTCHA v2, "I'm not a robot" Checkbox
  • Enter localhost as the domain. You can have other domains added in addition to localhost
  • Accept the terms and submit the form
  • Copy the Site Key and the Secret key into .env. These keys will be accessible under Settings, reCAPTCHA keys drop down if you need them again later

  • Visit Google Cloud Console
  • Click on the Create Project button
  • Enter Project Name, then click on Create button
  • Then click on APIs & auth in the sidebar and select API tab
  • Click on Google+ API under Social APIs, then click Enable API
  • Click on Google Drive API under G Suite, then click Enable API
  • Click on Google Sheets API under G Suite, then click Enable API
  • Next, under APIs & auth in the sidebar click on Credentials tab
  • Click on Create new Client ID button
  • Select Web Application and click on Configure Consent Screen
  • Fill out the required fields then click on Save
  • In the Create Client ID modal dialog:
  • Application Type: Web Application
  • Authorized Javascript origins: set to your BASE_URL value (i.e. http://localhost:8080, etc)
  • Authorized redirect URI: set to your BASE_URL value followed by /auth/google/callback (i.e. http://localhost:8080/auth/google/callback )
  • Click on Create Client ID button
  • Copy and paste Client ID and Client secret keys into .env

  • Visit Snap Kit Developer Portal
  • Click on the + button to create an app
  • Enter a name for your app
  • Enable the scopes that you will want to use in your app
  • Click on the Continue button
  • Find the Kits section and make sure that Login Kit is enabled
  • Find the Redirect URLs section, click the + Add button, and enter your BASE_URL value followed by /auth/snapchat/callback (i.e. http://localhost:8080/auth/snapchat/callback )
  • Find the Development Environment section. Click the Generate button next to the Confidential OAuth2 Client heading within it.
  • Copy and paste the generated Private Key and OAuth2 Client ID keys into .env
  • Note: OAuth2 Client ID is SNAPCHAT_ID, Private Key is SNAPCHAT_SECRET in .env
  • To prepare the app for submission, fill out the rest of the required fields: Category, Description, Privacy Policy Url, and App Icon

  • Visit Facebook Developers
  • Click My Apps, then select *Add a New App from the dropdown menu
  • Enter a new name for your app
  • Click on the Create App ID button
  • Find the Facebook Login Product and click on Facebook Login
  • Instead of going through their Quickstart, click on Settings for your app in the top left corner
  • Copy and paste App ID and App Secret keys into .env
  • Note: App ID is FACEBOOK_ID, App Secret is FACEBOOK_SECRET in .env
  • Enter localhost under App Domains
  • Choose a Category that best describes your app
  • Click on + Add Platform and select Website
  • Enter your BASE_URL value (i.e. http://localhost:8080, etc) under Site URL
  • Click on the Settings tab in the left nav under Facebook Login
  • Enter your BASE_URL value followed by /auth/facebook/callback (i.e. http://localhost:8080/auth/facebook/callback ) under Valid OAuth redirect URIs

Note: After a successful sign-in with Facebook, a user will be redirected back to the home page with appended hash #_=_ in the URL. It is not a bug. See this Stack Overflow discussion for ways to handle it.

  • Go to Account Settings
  • Select Developer settings from the sidebar
  • Then click on OAuth Apps and then on Register new application
  • Enter Application Name and Homepage URL. Enter your BASE_URL value (i.e. http://localhost:8080, etc) as the homepage URL.
  • For Authorization Callback URL: your BASE_URL value followed by /auth/github/callback (i.e. http://localhost:8080/auth/github/callback )
  • Click Register application
  • Now copy and paste Client ID and Client Secret keys into .env file

  • Sign in at
  • Click Create a new application
  • Enter your application name, website and description. Set the website as your BASE_URL value (i.e. http://localhost:8080, etc).
  • For Callback URL: your BASE_URL value followed by /auth/twitter/callback (i.e. http://localhost:8080/auth/twitter/callback )
  • Go to Settings tab
  • Under Application Type select Read and Write access
  • Check the box Allow this application to be used to Sign in with Twitter
  • Click Update this Twitter's applications settings
  • Copy and paste Consumer Key and Consumer Secret keys into .env file

  • Sign in at LinkedIn Developer Network
  • From the account name dropdown menu select API Keys
  • It may ask you to sign in once again
  • Click + Add New Application button
  • Fill out all the required fields
  • OAuth 2.0 Redirect URLs: your BASE_URL value followed by /auth/linkedin/callback (i.e. http://localhost:8080/auth/linkedin/callback )
  • JavaScript API Domains: your BASE_URL value (i.e. http://localhost:8080, etc).
  • For Default Application Permissions make sure at least the following is checked:
  • r_basicprofile
  • Finish by clicking Add Application button
  • Copy and paste API Key and Secret Key keys into .env file
  • API Key is your clientID
  • Secret Key is your clientSecret

  • Sign up or log into your dashboard
  • Click on your profile and click on Account Settings
  • Then click on API Keys
  • Copy the Secret Key. and add this into .env file

  • Visit PayPal Developer
  • Log in to your PayPal account
  • Click Applications > Create App in the navigation bar
  • Enter Application Name, then click Create app
  • Copy and paste Client ID and Secret keys into .env file
  • App ID is client_id, App Secret is client_secret
  • Change host to if you want to test against production and use the live credentials

  • Go to Foursquare for Developers
  • Click on My Apps in the top menu
  • Click the Create A New App button
  • Enter App Name, Welcome page url,
  • For Redirect URI: your BASE_URL value followed by /auth/foursquare/callback (i.e. http://localhost:8080/auth/foursquare/callback )
  • Click Save Changes
  • Copy and paste Client ID and Client Secret keys into .env file

  • Go to
  • Once signed in, click +Register application
  • Fill in all the details
  • For Default Callback URL: your BASE_URL value followed by /auth/tumblr/callback (i.e. http://localhost:8080/auth/tumblr/callback )
  • Click ✔Register
  • Copy and paste OAuth consumer key and OAuth consumer secret keys into .env file

  • Go to
  • Sign in with your existing Steam account
  • Enter your Domain Name based on your BASE_URL, then and click Register
  • Copy and paste Key into .env file

  • Visit the Twitch developer dashboard
  • If prompted, authorize the dashboard to access your twitch account
  • In the Console, click on Register Your Application
  • Enter the name of your application
  • Use OAuth Redirect URLs enter your BASE_URL value followed by /auth/twitch/callback (i.e. http://localhost:8080/auth/twitch/callback )
  • Set Category to Website Integration and press the Create button
  • After the application has been created, click on the Manage button
  • Copy and paste Client ID into .env
  • If there is no Client Secret displayed, click on the New Secret button and then copy and paste the Client secret into .env

  • Go to
  • Sign up and create a Freemium project
  • Create JAVASCRIPT/REST credentials. Copy and paste the APP_ID and APP into .env file.
  • Note that these credentials are available on the client-side, and you need to create a domain whitelist for your app credentials when you are publicly launching the app.

  • Go to
  • Sign up for an account.
  • Once logged into the dashboard, expand the link 'show api credentials'
  • Copy your Account Sid and Auth Token

Project Structure

Name Description
config/passport.js Passport Local and OAuth strategies, plus login middleware.
controllers/api.js Controller for /api route and all api examples.
controllers/contact.js Controller for contact form.
controllers/home.js Controller for home page (index).
controllers/user.js Controller for user account management.
models/User.js Mongoose schema and model for User.
public/ Static assets (fonts, css, js, img).
public/js/application.js Specify client-side JavaScript dependencies.
public/js/app.js Place your client-side JavaScript here.
public/css/main.scss Main stylesheet for your app.
views/account/ Templates for login, password reset, signup, profile.
views/api/ Templates for API Examples.
views/partials/flash.pug Error, info and success flash notifications.
views/partials/header.pug Navbar partial template.
views/partials/footer.pug Footer partial template.
views/layout.pug Base template.
views/home.pug Home page template.
.dockerignore Folder and files ignored by docker usage.
.env.example Your API keys, tokens, passwords and database URI.
.eslintrc Rules for eslint linter.
.gitignore Folder and files ignored by git.
app.js The main application file.
docker-compose.yml Docker compose configuration file.
Dockerfile Docker configuration file.
package.json NPM dependencies.
package-lock.json Contains exact versions of NPM dependencies in package.json.

Note: There is no preference for how you name or structure your views. You could place all your templates in a top-level views directory without having a nested folder structure if that makes things easier for you. Just don't forget to update extends ../layout and corresponding res.render() paths in controllers.

List of Packages

Package Description
@fortawesome/fontawesome-free Symbol and Icon library.
@googleapis/drive Google Drive API integration library.
@googleapis/sheets Google Sheets API integration library.
@ladjs/bootstrap-social Social buttons library.
@lob/lob-typescript-sdk Lob (USPS mailing / physical mailing service) library.
@node-rs/bcrypt Library for hashing and salting user passwords.
@octokit/rest GitHub API library.
@passport-js/passport-twitter X (Twitter) login support (OAuth 2).
@popperjs/core Frontend js library for poppers and tooltips.
axios HTTP client.
body-parser Node.js body parsing middleware.
bootstrap CSS Framework.
chai BDD/TDD assertion library.
cheerio Scrape web pages using jQuery-style syntax.
compression Node.js compression middleware.
connect-mongo MongoDB session store for Express.
dotenv Loads environment variables from .env file.
errorhandler Development-only error handler middleware.
eslint Linter JavaScript.
eslint-config-airbnb-base Configuration eslint by airbnb.
eslint-plugin-chai-friendly Makes eslint friendly towards Chai.js 'expect' and 'should' statements.
eslint-plugin-import ESLint plugin with rules that help validate proper imports.
express Node.js web framework.
express-flash Provides flash messages for Express.
express-rate-limit Rate limiting middleware for abuse protection.
express-session Simple session middleware for Express.
husky Git hook manager to automate tasks with git.
jquery Front-end JS library to interact with HTML elements.
lastfm API library.
lint-stage Utility to lint files staged by git.
lob Lob API library.
lodash A utility library for working with arrays, numbers, objects, strings.
lusca CSRF middleware.
mailchecker Verifies that an email address is valid and not a disposable address.
mocha Test framework.
moment Parse, validate, compute dates and times.
mongodbMemoryServer MongoDB in memory (for running tests without a running db).
mongoose MongoDB ODM.
morgan HTTP request logger middleware for node.js.
multer Node.js middleware for handling multipart/form-data.
nodemailer Node.js library for sending emails.
nyc Coverage test.
passport Simple and elegant authentication library for node.js.
passport-facebook Sign-in with Facebook plugin.
passport-github2 Sign-in with GitHub plugin.
passport-google-oauth Sign-in with Google plugin.
passport-linkedin-oauth2 Sign-in with LinkedIn plugin.
passport-local Sign-in with Username and Password plugin.
passport-oauth Allows you to set up your own OAuth 1.0a and OAuth 2.0 strategies.
passport-oauth2-refresh A library to refresh OAuth 2.0 access tokens using refresh tokens.
passport-snapchat Sign-in with Snapchat plugin.
passport-steam-openid OpenID 2.0 Steam plugin.
patch-package Fix broken node modules ahead of fixes by maintainers.
paypal-rest-sdk PayPal APIs library.
pug Template engine for Express.
sass Sass compiler to generate CSS with superpowers
sinon Test spies, stubs and mocks for JavaScript.
stripe Offical Stripe API library.
supertest HTTP assertion library.
twilio Twilio API library.
twitch-passport Sign-in with Twitch plugin.
validator A library of string validators and sanitizers.

Useful Tools and Resources

  • JavaScripting - The Database of JavaScript Libraries
  • HTML to Pug converter - HTML to PUG is a free online converter helping you to convert HTML files to pug syntax in real-time.
  • JavascriptOO - A directory of JavaScript libraries with examples, CDN links, statistics, and videos.
  • Favicon Generator - Generate favicons for PC, Android, iOS, Windows 8.

Recommended Design Resources

Recommended Node.js Libraries

  • Nodemon - Automatically restart Node.js server on code changes.
  • geoip-lite - Geolocation coordinates from IP address.
  • Filesize.js - Pretty file sizes, e.g. filesize(265318); // "265.32 kB".
  • Numeral.js - Library for formatting and manipulating numbers.
  • sharp - Node.js module for resizing JPEG, PNG, WebP and TIFF images.

Recommended Client-side Libraries

  • Framework7 - Full Featured HTML Framework For Building iOS7 Apps.
  • InstantClick - Makes your pages load instantly by pre-loading them on mouse hover.
  • NProgress.js - Slim progress bars like on YouTube and Medium.
  • Hover - Awesome CSS3 animations on mouse hover.
  • Magnific Popup - Responsive jQuery Lightbox Plugin.
  • Offline.js - Detect when user's internet connection goes offline.
  • Alertify.js - Sweet looking alerts and browser dialogs.
  • selectize.js - Styleable select elements and input tags.
  • drop.js - Powerful Javascript and CSS library for creating dropdowns and other floating displays.
  • scrollReveal.js - Declarative on-scroll reveal animations.

Pro Tips

  • Need to find a specific object inside an Array? Use _.find function from Lodash. For example, this is how you would retrieve an X (Twitter) token from database: var token = _.find(req.user.tokens, { kind: 'twitter' });, where 1st parameter is an array, and a 2nd parameter is an object to search for.


Why do I get 403 Error: Forbidden when submitting a form?

You need to add the following hidden input element to your form. This has been added in the pull request #40 as part of the CSRF protection.

input(type='hidden', name='_csrf', value=_csrf)

Note: It is now possible to whitelist certain URLs. In other words, you can specify a list of routes that should bypass the CSRF verification check.

Note 2: To whitelist dynamic URLs use regular expression tests inside the CSRF middleware to see if req.originalUrl matches your desired pattern.

I am getting MongoDB Connection Error, how do I fix it?

That's a custom error message defined in app.js to indicate that there was a problem connecting to MongoDB:

mongoose.connection.on('error', (err) => {
  console.log('%s MongoDB connection error. Please make sure MongoDB is running.','✗'));

You need to have a MongoDB server running before launching app.js. You can download MongoDB here, or install it via a package manager. Windows users, read Install MongoDB on Windows.

Tip: If you are always connected to the internet, you could just use MongoDB Atlas instead of downloading and installing MongoDB locally. You will only need to update database credentials in .env file.

I get an error when I deploy my app, why?

Chances are you haven't changed the Database URI in .env. If MONGODB is set to localhost, it will only work on your machine as long as MongoDB is running. When you deploy to Render, OpenShift, or some other provider, you will not have MongoDB running on localhost. You need to create an account with MongoDB Atlas, then create a free tier database. See Deployment for more information on how to set up an account and a new database step-by-step with MongoDB Atlas.

Why do you have all routes defined in app.js?

For the sake of simplicity. While there might be a better approach, such as passing app context to each controller as outlined in this blog, I find such a style to be confusing for beginners. It took me a long time to grasp the concept of exports and module.exports, let alone having a global app reference in other files. Tha to me is backward thinking. The app.js is the "heart of the app", it should be the one referencing models, routes, controllers, etc. When working solo on small projects, I prefer to have everything inside app.js as is the case with this REST API server.

How It Works (mini guides)

This section is intended for giving you a detailed explanation of how a particular functionality works. Maybe you are just curious about how it works, or perhaps you are lost and confused while reading the code, I hope it provides some guidance to you.

Custom HTML and CSS Design 101

HTML5 UP has many beautiful templates that you can download for free.

When you download the ZIP file, it will come with index.html, images, CSS and js folders. So, how do you integrate it with Hackathon Starter? Hackathon Starter uses the Bootstrap CSS framework, but these templates do not. Trying to use both CSS files at the same time will likely result in undesired effects.

Note: Using the custom templates approach, you should understand that you cannot reuse any of the views I have created: layout, the home page, API browser, login, signup, account management, contact. Those views were built using Bootstrap grid and styles. You will have to manually update the grid using a different syntax provided in the template. Having said that, you can mix and match if you want to do so: Use Bootstrap for the main app interface, and a custom template for a landing page.

Let's start from the beginning. For this example I will use Escape Velocity template: Alt

Note: For the sake of simplicity I will only consider index.html, and skip left-sidebar.html, no-sidebar.html, right-sidebar.html.

Move all JavaScript files from html5up-escape-velocity/js to public/js. Then move all CSS files from html5up-escape-velocity/css to public/css. And finally, move all images from html5up-escape-velocity/images to public/images. You could move it to the existing img folder, but that would require manually changing every img reference. Grab the contents of index.html and paste it into HTML To Pug.

Note: Do not forget to update all the CSS and JS paths accordingly.

Create a new file escape-velocity.pug and paste the Pug markup in views folder. Whenever you see the code res.render('account/login') - that means it will search for views/account/login.pug file.

Let's see how it looks. Create a new controller escapeVelocity inside controllers/home.js:

exports.escapeVelocity = (req, res) => {
  res.render('escape-velocity', {
    title: 'Landing Page'

And then create a route in app.js. I placed it right after the index controller:

app.get('/escape-velocity', homeController.escapeVelocity);

Restart the server (if you are not using nodemon); then you should see the new template at http://localhost:8080/escape-velocity

I will stop right here, but if you would like to use this template as more than just a single page, take a look at how these Pug templates work: layout.pug - base template, index.pug - home page, partials/header.pug - Bootstrap navbar, partials/footer.pug - sticky footer. You will have to manually break it apart into smaller pieces. Figure out which part of the template you want to keep the same on all pages - that's your new layout.pug. Then, each page that changes, be it index.pug, about.pug, contact.pug will be embedded in your new layout.pug via block content. Use existing templates as a reference.

This is a rather lengthy process, and templates you get from elsewhere might have yet another grid system. That's why I chose Bootstrap for the Hackathon Starter. Many people are already familiar with Bootstrap, plus it's easy to get started with it if you have never used Bootstrap. You can also buy many beautifully designed Bootstrap themes at Themeforest, and use them as a drop-in replacement for Hackathon Starter. However, if you would like to go with a completely custom HTML/CSS design, this should help you to get started!

How do flash messages work in this project?

Flash messages allow you to display a message at the end of the request and access it on the next request and only the next request. For instance, on a failed login attempt, you would display an alert with some error message, but as soon as you refresh that page or visit a different page and come back to the login page, that error message will be gone. It is only displayed once. This project uses express-flash module for flash messages. And that module is built on top of connect-flash, which is what I used in this project initially. With express-flash you don't have to explicitly send a flash message to every view inside res.render(). All flash messages are available in your views via messages object by default, thanks to express-flash.

Flash messages have a two-step process. You use req.flash('errors', { msg: 'Error messages goes here' } to create a flash message in your controllers, and then display them in your views:

if messages.errors
    for error in messages.errors
      div= error.msg

In the first step, 'errors' is the name of a flash message, which should match the name of the property on messages object in your views. You place alert messages inside if message.errors because you don't want to show them flash messages are present. The reason why you pass an error like { msg: 'Error message goes here' } instead of just a string - 'Error message goes here', is for the sake of consistency. To clarify that, express-validator module which is used for validating and sanitizing user's input, returns all errors as an array of objects, where each object has a msg property with a message why an error has occurred. Here is a more general example of what express-validator returns when there are errors present:

  { param: "name", msg: "Name is required", value: "<received input>" },
  { param: "email", msg: "A valid email is required", value: "<received input>" }

To keep consistent with that style, you should pass all flash messages as { msg: 'My flash message' } instead of a string. Otherwise, you will see an alert box without an error message. That is because in partials/flash.pug template it will try to output error.msg (i.e. "My flash message".msg), in other words, it will try to call a msg method on a String object, which will return undefined. Everything I just mentioned about errors, also applies to "info" and "success" flash messages, and you could even create a new one yourself, such as:

Data Usage Controller (Example)

req.flash('warning', { msg: 'You have exceeded 90% of your data usage' });

User Account Page (Example)

if messages.warning
    for warning in messages.warning
      div= warning.msg

partials/flash.pug is a partial template that contains how flash messages are formatted. Previously, flash messages were scattered throughout each view that used flash messages (contact, login, signup, profile), but now, thankfully it uses a DRY approach.

The flash messages partial template is included in the layout.pug, along with footer and navigation.

    include partials/header

      include partials/flash
      block content

    include partials/footer

If you have any further questions about flash messages, please feel free to open an issue, and I will update this mini-guide accordingly, or send a pull request if you would like to include something that I missed.

How do I create a new page?

A more correct way to say this would be "How do I create a new route?" The main file app.js contains all the routes. Each route has a callback function associated with it. Sometimes you will see three or more arguments for a route. In a case like that, the first argument is still a URL string, while middle arguments are what's called middleware. Think of middleware as a door. If this door prevents you from continuing forward, you won't get to your callback function. One such example is a route that requires authentication.

app.get('/account', passportConfig.isAuthenticated, userController.getAccount);

It always goes from left to right. A user visits /account page. Then isAuthenticated middleware checks if you are authenticated:

exports.isAuthenticated = (req, res, next) => {
  if (req.isAuthenticated()) {
    return next();

If you are authenticated, you let this visitor pass through your "door" by calling return next();. It then proceeds to the next middleware until it reaches the last argument, which is a callback function that typically renders a template on GET requests or redirects on POST requests. In this case, if you are authenticated, you will be redirected to the Account Management page; otherwise, you will be redirected to the Login page.

exports.getAccount = (req, res) => {
  res.render('account/profile', {
    title: 'Account Management'

Express.js has app.get,, app.put, app.delete, but for the most part, you will only use the first two HTTP verbs, unless you are building a RESTful API. If you just want to display a page, then use GET, if you are submitting a form, sending a file then use POST.

Here is a typical workflow for adding new routes to your application. Let's say we are building a page that lists all books from the database.

Step 1. Start by defining a route.

app.get('/books', bookController.getBooks);

Note: As of Express 4.x you can define your routes like so:


And here is how a route would look if it required an authentication and an authorization middleware:


Use whichever style makes sense to you. Either one is acceptable. I think that chaining HTTP verbs on app.route is a very clean and elegant approach, but on the other hand, I can no longer see all my routes at a glance when you have one route per line.

Step 2. Create a new schema and a model Book.js inside the models directory.

const mongoose = require('mongoose');

const bookSchema = new mongoose.Schema({
  name: String

const Book = mongoose.model('Book', bookSchema);
module.exports = Book;

Step 3. Create a new controller file called book.js inside the controllers directory.

 * GET /books
 * List all books.
const Book = require('../models/Book.js');

exports.getBooks = (req, res) => {
  Book.find((err, docs) => {
    res.render('books', { books: docs });

Step 4. Import that controller in app.js.

const bookController = require('./controllers/book');

Step 5. Create books.pug template.

extends layout

block content
    h3 All Books

    for book in books

That's it! I will say that you could have combined Step 1, 2, 3 as following:

app.get('/books',(req, res) => {
  Book.find((err, docs) => {
    res.render('books', { books: docs });

Sure, it's simpler, but as soon as you pass 1000 lines of code in app.js it becomes a little challenging to navigate the file. I mean, the whole point of this boilerplate project was to separate concerns, so you could work with your teammates without running into MERGE CONFLICTS. Imagine you have four developers working on a single app.js, I promise you it won't be fun resolving merge conflicts all the time. If you are the only developer, then it's okay. But as I said, once it gets up to a certain LoC size, it becomes difficult to maintain everything in a single file.

That's all there is to it. Express.js is super simple to use. Most of the time you will be dealing with other APIs to do the real work: Mongoose for querying database, for sending and receiving messages over WebSockets, sending emails via Nodemailer, form validation using validator.js library, parsing websites using Cheerio, etc.

How do I use with Hackathon Starter?

Dan Stroot submitted an excellent pull request that adds a real-time dashboard with And as much as I'd like to add it to the project, I think it violates one of the main principles of the Hackathon Starter:

When I started this project, my primary focus was on simplicity and ease of use. I also tried to make it as generic and reusable as possible to cover most use cases of hackathon web apps, without being too specific.

When I need to use, I really need it, but most of the time - I don't. But more importantly, WebSockets support is still experimental on most hosting providers. Due to past provider issues with WebSockets, I have not include as part of the Hackathon Starter. For now... If you need to use in your app, please continue reading.

First, you need to install

npm install

Replace const app = express(); with the following code:

const app = express();
const server = require('http').Server(app);
const io = require('')(server);

I like to have the following code organization in app.js (from top to bottom): module dependencies, import controllers, import configs, connect to database, express configuration, routes, start the server, stuff. That way I always know where to look for things.

Add the following code at the end of app.js:

io.on('connection', (socket) => {
  socket.emit('greet', { hello: 'Hey there browser!' });
  socket.on('respond', (data) => {
  socket.on('disconnect', () => {
    console.log('Socket disconnected');

One last thing left to change:

app.listen(app.get('port'), () => {


server.listen(app.get('port'), () => {

At this point, we are done with the back-end.

You now have a choice - to include your JavaScript code in Pug templates or have all your client-side JavaScript in a separate file - in app.js. I admit, when I first started with Node.js and JavaScript in general, I placed all JavaScript code inside templates because I have access to template variables passed in from Express right then and there. It's the easiest thing you can do, but also the least efficient and harder to maintain. Since then I almost never include inline JavaScript inside templates anymore.

But it's also understandable if you want to take the easier road. Most of the time you don't even care about performance during hackathons, you just want to "get shit done" before the time runs out. Well, either way, use whichever approach makes more sense to you. At the end of the day, it's what you build that matters, not how you build it.

If you want to stick all your JavaScript inside templates, then in layout.pug - your main template file, add this to head block.

    let socket = io.connect(window.location.href);
    socket.on('greet', function (data) {
      socket.emit('respond', { message: 'Hey there, server!' });

Note: Notice the path of the, you don't actually have to have file anywhere in your project; it will be generated automatically at runtime.

If you want to have JavaScript code separate from templates, move that inline script code into app.js, inside the $(document).ready() function:

$(document).ready(function() {

  // Place JavaScript code here...
  let socket = io.connect(window.location.href);
  socket.on('greet', function (data) {
    socket.emit('respond', { message: 'Hey there, server!' });


And we are done!


ES6 Cheatsheet


Declares a read-only named constant.

const name = 'yourName';

Declares a block scope local variable.

let index = 0;

Template Strings

Using the `${}` syntax, strings can embed expressions.

const name = 'Oggy';
const age = 3;

console.log(`My cat is named ${name} and is ${age} years old.`);


To import functions, objects, or primitives exported from an external module. These are the most common types of importing.

const name = require('module-name');
const { foo, bar } = require('module-name');

To export functions, objects, or primitives from a given file or module.

module.exports = { myFunction }; = 'yourName';
module.exports = myFunctionOrClass;

Spread Operator

The spread operator allows an expression to be expanded in places where multiple arguments (for function calls) or multiple elements (for array literals) are expected.

<ChildComponent {...this.props} />


A Promise is used in asynchronous computations to represent an operation that hasn't completed yet but is expected in the future.

var p = new Promise(function(resolve, reject) { });

The catch() method returns a Promise and deals with rejected cases only.

p.catch(function(reason) { /* handle rejection */ });

The then() method returns a Promise. It takes two arguments: callback for the success & failure cases.

p.then(function(value) { /* handle fulfillment */ }, function(reason) { /* handle rejection */ });

The Promise.all(iterable) method returns a promise that resolves when all of the promises in the iterable argument have resolved or rejects with the reason of the first passed promise that rejects.

Promise.all([p1, p2, p3]).then(function(values) { console.log(values) });

Arrow Functions

Arrow function expression. Shorter syntax & lexically binds the this value. Arrow functions are anonymous.

singleParam => { statements }
() => { statements }
(param1, param2) => expression
const arr = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5];
const squares = => x * x);


The class declaration creates a new class using prototype-based inheritance.

class Person {
  constructor(name, age, gender) {   = name;
    this.age    = age;
    this.gender = gender;

  incrementAge() {

🎁 Credits: DuckDuckGo and @DrkSephy.

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JavaScript Date Cheatsheet

Unix Timestamp (seconds)

Math.floor( / 1000);

Add 30 minutes to a Date object

var now = new Date();
now.setMinutes(now.getMinutes() + 30);
moment().add(30, 'minutes');

Date Formatting

var now = new Date();

var DD = now.getDate();
var MM = now.getMonth() + 1;
var YYYY = now.getFullYear();

if (DD < 10) {
  DD = '0' + DD;

if (MM < 10) {
  MM = '0' + MM;

console.log(MM + '-' + DD + '-' + YYYY); // 03-30-2016
console.log(moment(new Date(), 'MM-DD-YYYY'));
// hh:mm (12 hour time with am/pm)
var now = new Date();
var hours = now.getHours();
var minutes = now.getMinutes();
var amPm = hours >= 12 ? 'pm' : 'am';

hours = hours % 12;
hours = hours ? hours : 12;
minutes = minutes < 10 ? '0' + minutes : minutes;

console.log(hours + ':' + minutes + ' ' + amPm); // 1:43 am
console.log(moment(new Date(), 'hh:mm A'));

Next week Date object

var today = new Date();
var nextWeek = new Date(today.getTime() + 7 * 24 * 60 * 60 * 1000);
moment().add(7, 'days');

Yesterday Date object

var today = new Date();
var yesterday = date.setDate(date.getDate() - 1);
moment().add(-1, 'days');

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Mongoose Cheatsheet

Find all users:

User.find((err, users) => {

Find a user by email:

let userEmail = '';
User.findOne({ email: userEmail }, (err, user) => {

Find 5 most recent user accounts:

  .sort({ _id: -1 })
  .exec((err, users) => {

Get the total count of a field from all documents:

Let's suppose that each user has a votes field and you would like to count the total number of votes in your database across all users. One very inefficient way would be to loop through each document and manually accumulate the count. Or you could use MongoDB Aggregation Framework instead:

User.aggregate({ $group: { _id: null, total: { $sum: '$votes' } } }, (err, votesCount)  => {

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You will need to install docker and docker-compose on your system. If you are using WSL, you will need to install Docker Desktop on Windows and docker-compose on WSL.

After installing docker, start the application with the following commands :

# To build the project while supressing most of the build messages
docker-compose build web

# To build the project without supressing the build messages or using cached data
 docker-compose build --no-cache --progress=plain web

# To start the application (or to restart after making changes to the source code)
docker-compose up web

To view the app, find your docker IP address + port 8080 ( this will typically be http://localhost:8080/ ). To use a port other than 8080, you would need to modify the port in app.js, Dockerfile, and docker-compose.yml.


Once you are ready to deploy your app, you will need to create an account with a cloud platform to host it. These are not the only choices, but they are my top picks. Additionally, you can create an account with MongoDB Atlas and then pick one of the providers below. Again, there are plenty of other choices, and you are not limited to just the ones listed below.

Deployment to Render

Render provides free nodejs hosting for repos on Github and Gitlab.

  • Sign up for a free Individual account at
  • Link your Github account
  • Create a Web Service
  • Add your repo and add your environment variables under the Advanced settings. Note 1: The automated deployments may not work, and you may need to manually trigger deployments after your commits.

Hosted MongoDB Atlas

  • Go to
  • Click the green Get started free button
  • Fill in your information then hit Get started free
  • You will be redirected to Create New Cluster page.
  • Select a Cloud Provider and Region (such as AWS and a free tier region)
  • Select cluster Tier to Free forever Shared Cluster
  • Give Cluster a name (default: Cluster0)
  • Click on green ⚡Create Cluster button
  • Now, to access your database you need to create a DB user. To create a new MongoDB user, from the Clusters view, select the Security tab
  • Under the MongoDB Users tab, click on +Add New User
  • Fill in a username and password and give it either Atlas Admin User Privilege
  • Next, you will need to create an IP address whitelist and obtain the connection URI. In the Clusters view, under the cluster details (i.e. SANDBOX - Cluster0), click on the CONNECT button.
  • Under section (1) Check the IP Whitelist, click on ALLOW ACCESS FROM ANYWHERE. The form will add a field with Click SAVE to save the whitelist.
  • Under section (2) Choose a connection method, click on Connect Your Application
  • In the new screen, select Node.js as Driver and version 3.6 or later.
  • Finally, copy the URI connection string and replace the URI in MONGODB_URI of .env.example with this URI string. Make sure to replace the with the db User password that you created under the Security tab.
  • Note that after some of the steps in the Atlas UI, you may see a banner stating We are deploying your changes. You will need to wait for the deployment to finish before using the DB in your application.


**NOTE** *These instructions might be out of date due to changes in OpenShift. Render is currently a good free alternative. If you know the new process, please feel free to help us update this page*
  • First, install this Ruby gem: sudo gem install rhc 💎
  • Run rhc login and enter your OpenShift credentials
  • From your app directory run rhc app create MyApp nodejs-0.10
  • Note: MyApp is the name of your app (no spaces)
  • Once that is done, you will be provided with URL, SSH and Git Remote links
  • Visit provided URL, and you should see the Welcome to your Node.js application on OpenShift page
  • Copy and paste Git Remote into git remote add openshift YOUR_GIT_REMOTE
  • Before you push your app, you need to do a few modifications to your code

Add these two lines to app.js, just place them anywhere before app.listen():

var IP_ADDRESS = process.env.OPENSHIFT_NODEJS_IP || '';
var PORT = process.env.OPENSHIFT_NODEJS_PORT || 8080;

Then change app.listen() to:

app.listen(PORT, IP_ADDRESS,() => {
  console.log(`Express server listening on port ${PORT} in ${app.settings.env} mode`);

Add this to package.json, after name and version. This is necessary because, by default, OpenShift looks for server.js file. And by specifying supervisor app.js it will automatically restart the server when node.js process crashes.

"main": "app.js",
"scripts": {
  "start": "supervisor app.js"
  • Finally, you can now push your code to OpenShift by running git push -f openshift master
  • Note: The first time you run this command, you have to pass -f (force) flag because OpenShift creates a dummy server with the welcome page when you create a new Node.js app. Passing -f flag will override everything with your Hackathon Starter project repository. Do not run git pull as it will create unnecessary merge conflicts.
  • And you are done!


**NOTE** *Beyond the initial 12 month trial of Azure, the platform does not seem to offer a free tier for hosting NodeJS apps. If you are looking for a free tier service to host your app, Render might be a better choice at this point*
  • Login to Windows Azure Management Portal
  • Click the + NEW button on the bottom left of the portal
  • Click COMPUTE, then WEB APP, then QUICK CREATE
  • Enter a name for URL and select the datacenter REGION for your web site
  • Click on CREATE WEB APP button
  • Once the web site status changes to Running, click on the name of the web site to access the Dashboard
  • At the bottom right of the Quickstart page, select Set up a deployment from source control
  • Select Local Git repository from the list, and then click the arrow
  • To enable Git publishing, Azure will ask you to create a user name and password
  • Once the Git repository is ready, you will be presented with a GIT URL
  • Inside your Hackathon Starter directory, run git remote add azure [Azure Git URL]
  • To push your changes run git push azure master
  • Note: You will be prompted for the password you created earlier
  • On Deployments tab of your Windows Azure Web App, you will see the deployment history

IBM Bluemix Cloud Platform

NOTE At this point it appears that Bluemix's free tier to host NodeJS apps is limited to 30 days. If you are looking for a free tier service to host your app, Render might be a better choice at this point

  • Create a Bluemix Account

    Sign up for Bluemix, or use an existing account.

  • Download and install the Cloud Foundry CLI to push your applications to Bluemix.

  • Create a manifest.yml file in the root of your application.

- name:      <your-app-name>
  host:      <your-app-host>
  memory:    128M
  - myMongo-db-name

The host you use will determinate your application URL initially, e.g. <host> The service name 'myMongo-db-name' is a declaration of your MongoDB service. If you are using other services like Watson for example, then you would declare them the same way.

  • Connect and login to Bluemix via the Cloud-foundry CLI
$ cf login -a
$ cf create-service mongodb 100 [your-service-name]

Note: this is a free and experiment verion of MongoDB instance. Use the MongoDB by Compose instance for production applications:

$ cf create-service compose-for-mongodb Standard [your-service-name]'
  • Push the application

    $ cf push
    $ cf env <your-app-name >
    (To view the *environment variables* created for your application)

Done, now go to the staging domain (<host> and see your app running.

IBM Watson

Be sure to check out the full list of Watson services to forwarder enhance your application functionality with a little effort. Watson services are easy to get going; it is simply a RESTful API call. Here is an example of a Watson Toner Analyzer to understand the emotional context of a piece of text that you send to Watson.

Watson catalog of services

Virtual Assistant - Deliver consistent and intelligent customer care across all channels and touchpoints with conversational AI.

Natural Language Understanding - Analyze text to extract meta-data from content such as concepts, entities, keywords and more.

Discovery - Accelerate business decisions and processes with an AI-powered intelligent document understanding and content analysis platform.

Orchestrate - Hand off tedious tasks to Watson and never work the same way again.

List of Watson Services.

Google Cloud Platform

  • Download and install Node.js

  • Select or create a Google Cloud Platform Console project

  • Enable billing for your project (there's a $300 free trial)

  • Install and initialize the Google Cloud SDK

  • Create an app.yaml file at the root of your hackathon-starter folder with the following contents:

    runtime: nodejs
    env: flex
      instances: 1
  • Make sure you've set MONGODB_URI in .env.example

  • Run the following command to deploy the hackathon-starter app:

    gcloud app deploy
  • Monitor your deployed app in the Cloud Console

  • View the logs for your app in the Cloud Console


If you are starting with this boilerplate to build an application for prod deployment, or if after your hackathon you would like to get your project hardened for production use, see


You can find the changelog for the project in:


If something is unclear, confusing, or needs to be refactored, please let me know. Pull requests are always welcome, but due to the opinionated nature of this project, I cannot accept every pull request. Please open an issue before submitting a pull request. This project uses Airbnb JavaScript Style Guide with a few minor exceptions. If you are submitting a pull request that involves Pug templates, please make sure you are using spaces, not tabs.


The MIT License (MIT)

Copyright (c) 2014-2023 Sahat Yalkabov

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.