Skip to main content

Setting up your Node.js project for Codespaces

Get started with your JavaScript, Node.js, or TypeScript project in Codespaces by creating a custom dev container.

Codespaces is available for organizations using GitHub Team or GitHub Enterprise Cloud. For more information, see "GitHub's products."

Introduction

This guide shows you how to set up your JavaScript, Node.js, or TypeScript project in Codespaces. It will take you through an example of opening your project in a codespace, and adding and modifying a dev container configuration from a template.

Prerequisites

  • You should have an existing JavaScript, Node.js, or TypeScript project in a repository on GitHub.com. If you don't have a project, you can try this tutorial with the following example: https://github.com/microsoft/vscode-remote-try-node
  • You must have Codespaces enabled for your organization.

Step 1: Open your project in a codespace

  1. Under the repository name, use the Code drop-down menu, and in the Codespaces tab, click Create codespace on main.

    New codespace button

    If you don’t see this option, Codespaces isn't available for your project. See Access to Codespaces for more information.

When you create a codespace, your project is created on a remote VM that is dedicated to you. By default, the container for your codespace has many languages and runtimes including Node.js, JavaScript, Typescript, nvm, npm, and yarn. It also includes a common set of tools like git, wget, rsync, openssh, and nano.

You can customize your codespace by adjusting the amount of vCPUs and RAM, adding dotfiles to personalize your environment, or by modifying the tools and scripts installed.

Codespaces uses a file called devcontainer.json to configure the development container that you use when you work in a codespace. Each repository can contain one or more devcontainer.json files, to give you exactly the development environment you need to work on your code in a codespace.

On launch, Codespaces uses a devcontainer.json file, and any dependent files that make up the dev container configuration, to install tools and runtimes, and perform other setup tasks that the project requires. For more information, see "Introduction to dev containers."

Step 2: Add a dev container configuration to your repository from a template

The default development container, or "dev container," for GitHub Codespaces will support running Node.js projects like vscode-remote-try-node out of the box. However, we recommend that you configure your own dev container, as this allows you to define any particular tools and scripts your project needs. This will ensure a fully reproducible environment for all GitHub Codespaces users in your repository.

To set up your repository to use a custom dev container, you will need to create one or more devcontainer.json files. You can add these either from a template, in Visual Studio Code, or you can write your own. For more information on dev container configurations, see "Introduction to dev containers".

  1. Access the Visual Studio Code Command Palette (Shift + Command + P / Ctrl + Shift + P), then start typing "dev container". Select Codespaces: Add Development Container Configuration Files....

    "Codespaces: Add Development Container Configuration Files..." in the Visual Studio Code Command Palette

  2. For this example, click Node.js. If you need additional features you can select any container that’s specific to Node or a combination of tools such as Node and MongoDB.

    Select Node option from the list

  3. Click the recommended version of Node.js.

    Node.js version selection

  4. Access the Visual Studio Code Command Palette (Shift + Command + P/ Ctrl + Shift + P), then start typing "rebuild". Select Codespaces: Rebuild Container.

    Rebuild container option

Anatomy of your dev container

Adding the Node.js dev container template adds a .devcontainer directory to the root of your project's repository with the following files:

  • devcontainer.json
  • Dockerfile

The newly added devcontainer.json file defines a few properties that are described after the sample.

devcontainer.json

// For format details, see https://aka.ms/devcontainer.json. For config options, see the README at:
// https://github.com/microsoft/vscode-dev-containers/tree/v0.162.0/containers/javascript-node
{
	"name": "Node.js",
	"build": {
		"dockerfile": "Dockerfile",
		// Update 'VARIANT' to pick a Node version: 10, 12, 14
		"args": { "VARIANT": "14" }
	},

	// Set *default* container specific settings.json values on container create.
	"settings": {
		"terminal.integrated.shell.linux": "/bin/bash"
	},

	// Add the IDs of extensions you want installed when the container is created.
	"extensions": [
		"dbaeumer.vscode-eslint"
	],

	// Use 'forwardPorts' to make a list of ports inside the container available locally.
	// "forwardPorts": [],

	// Use 'postCreateCommand' to run commands after the container is created.
	// "postCreateCommand": "yarn install",

	// Comment out connect as root instead. More info: https://aka.ms/vscode-remote/containers/non-root.
	"remoteUser": "node"
}
  • name - You can name your dev container anything, this is just the default.
  • build - The build properties.
    • dockerfile - In the build object, dockerfile contains the path to the Dockerfile that was also added from the template.
    • args
      • variant: This file only contains one build argument, which is the node variant we want to use that is passed into the Dockerfile.
  • settings - These are Visual Studio Code settings that you can set.
    • terminal.integrated.shell.linux - While bash is the default here, you could use other terminal shells by modifying this.
  • extensions - These are extensions included by default.
    • dbaeumer.vscode-eslint - ES lint is a great extension for linting, but for JavaScript there are a number of great Marketplace extensions you could also include.
  • forwardPorts - Any ports listed here will be forwarded automatically. For more information, see "Forwarding ports in your codespace."
  • postCreateCommand - Use this to run commands that aren't defined in the Dockerfile, after your codespace is created.
  • remoteUser - By default, you’re running as the vscode user, but you can optionally set this to root.

Dockerfile

# [Choice] Node.js version: 14, 12, 10
ARG VARIANT="14-buster"
FROM mcr.microsoft.com/vscode/devcontainers/javascript-node:0-${VARIANT}

# [Optional] Uncomment this section to install additional OS packages.
# RUN apt-get update && export DEBIAN_FRONTEND=noninteractive \
#     && apt-get -y install --no-install-recommends <your-package-list-here>

# [Optional] Uncomment if you want to install an additional version of node using nvm
# ARG EXTRA_NODE_VERSION=10
# RUN su node -c "source /usr/local/share/nvm/nvm.sh && nvm install ${EXTRA_NODE_VERSION}"

# [Optional] Uncomment if you want to install more global node modules
# RUN su node -c "npm install -g <your-package-list-here>"

You can use the Dockerfile to add additional container layers to specify OS packages, node versions, or global packages we want included in our container.

Step 3: Modify your devcontainer.json file

With your dev container configuration added and a basic understanding of what everything does, you can now make changes to customize your environment further. In this example, you'll add properties to install npm when your codespace launches and make a list of ports inside the container available locally.

  1. In the Explorer, select the devcontainer.json file from the tree to open it. You might have to expand the .devcontainer folder to see it.

    devcontainer.json file in the Explorer

  2. Add the following lines to your devcontainer.json file after extensions:

    JSON
    "postCreateCommand": "npm install",
    "forwardPorts": [4000],

    For information about the settings and properties that you can set in a devcontainer.json file, see "devcontainer.json reference" in the VS Code documentation.

  3. Access the Visual Studio Code Command Palette (Shift + Command + P/ Ctrl + Shift + P), then start typing "rebuild". Select Codespaces: Rebuild Container.

    Rebuild container option

    Rebuilding inside your codespace ensures your changes work as expected before you commit the changes to the repository. If something does result in a failure, you’ll be placed in a codespace with a recovery container that you can rebuild from to keep adjusting your container.

Step 4: Run your application

In the previous section, you used the postCreateCommand to installing a set of packages via npm. You can now use this to run our application with npm.

  1. Run your start command in the terminal withnpm start.

    npm start in terminal

  2. When your project starts, you should see a toast in the bottom right corner with a prompt to connect to the port your project uses.

    Port forwarding toast

Step 5: Commit your changes

Once you've made changes to your codespace, either new code or configuration changes, you'll want to commit your changes. Committing changes to your repository ensures that anyone else who creates a codespace from this repository has the same configuration. This also means that any customization you do, such as adding VS Code extensions, will appear for all users.

For information, see "Using source control in your codespace."

Next steps

You should now be ready start developing your JavaScript project in Codespaces. Here are some additional resources for more advanced scenarios.