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Cover image for Build a Cross Platform Command Line Executable in Node.js

Build a Cross Platform Command Line Executable in Node.js

anaptfox profile image Taron Foxworth ・2 min read

Before we begin, this article assumes you know a couple of things: Javascript, Terminal, and Node.js.

Terminal

Creating a command line tool in Node.js is easy – especially with tools like yargs, commander, inquirer.

However, secretly, I’ve been jealous of CLI tools built in Go. The CLI tools build in Go get shipped as a single binary file, with no dependencies.

Then, as I started using Zeit’s tools, I came across pkg. With pkg, I can create my tool in Node.js but, ship it as a single binary. 🙌🏽

For example, let’s create a simple command line tool:

#!/usr/bin/env node
const argv = require('yargs').argv

if (argv.digit) {
  console.log(argv.digit + 1)
} else {
  console.log('Hmmm. I\'m confused')
}

This program will add 1 to a parameter named digit . If you put this in a file called add.js (make sure you run npm install yargs ), you’ll have a command line tool:

$ ./add.js --digit=1
2
$ ./add.js --digit=12
13

Now, onto the magic. Install, pkg:

$ npm i -g pkg

To convert your program to a binary, run:

$ pkg add.js

Running this command will generate three files:

$ ls 
add-linux   add-macos   add-win.exe

You have just created a single file binary for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows.

You also run it as you would any other binary:

./add-macos

If you’re like me and was curious as to how this works, this video was enlightening:

I didn’t make this tool. I just wanted others to bask in the awesomesauce that is Javascript.

I’ll be using this tool in upcoming projects. Stay Tuned 🖖🏽


Hi 👋🏽, thanks for reading. I’m Fox, a Technical Evangelist at Losant. My dream is to translate technology for people to learn, love, and be inspired. Feel free to follow me on Twitter.

Discussion

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g2000ny profile image
g2000ny

Your example shows the parameters. How about config file? My use case is to store app user and id. They are jibberish and I do not want to pass in as parameters.

I tried to pass in the config file name. Debugging the application, it shows the 'snapshot' folder which doesn't even exist in my computer. Not sure why?!?

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dfieldfl profile image
Brandon Groves

What terminal/theme are you using these days

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anaptfox profile image
Taron Foxworth Author

Currently, I use Hyper. I love it.

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justingorham profile image
Luke Jwage

I have immediate use cases for this. Thank you.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Looks super useful. Thanks.

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Alex Escalante

I guess it will generate huge packages, but it's nice to have it!

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Hans-Helge Buerger

I had the same thought. I compiled a very simple CLI program from me and it already had 33+ MBs. This could grow quickly.

I am fairly new to JS but maybe using webpack and its tree-shaking feature could reduce the size.