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Matthew Palmer
Matthew Palmer

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Getting Started with Express-Generator (Express/Node.js)


Hi there! 👋 Welcome to my tutorial for setting up a new Express application. This isn't a tutorial for how to use it, but I'll cover getting yourself set up including ES6+ revisions. (I'll be writing future tutorials moving forward on how to use Express)

Let's get started

Step 1 - Installing the Generator

Assuming you already have Node.js installed, you will want to open your IDE of choice (I personally recommend VsCode) and type into your terminal: npm i express-generator -g

This will install the express generator on your machine.

Step 2 - Generating an Express App

Next, you'll want generate your first Express app by typing into your terminal:
express --view=ejs your-app-name

At this point, you'll want to open your project in your IDE. Alternatively, you can cd into your project. Whichever you prefer.

Once in, type into your terminal npm i or npm install to generate your package-lock.json and node_modules.

Step 3 - Fixing Declarations in App.js (Optional)

Lines 1 through 10 will be filled with declarations that are declared with var. Change all of them to const for the sake of ES6+ syntax. It doesn't matter in the beginning, but var is known to have some scope issues. Especially in much larger applications. This is optional... but highly suggested.

Step 4 - Generating devDependencies

There are some necessary dependencies you'll want to install. Let's walk through each one:

Type into your terminal: npm i mongoose passport
Explanation: Here we are installing two (2) dependencies: mongoose and passport. Both are used together as our MongoDB database using passport for simplified user authentication.

Type into your terminal: npm i -D locus
Explanation: The -D stands for "Development Dependencies". This will stop it from being pushed onto Heroku when we deploy in the future. locus will serve as our debugging module.

Type into your terminal: npm i -D dotenv
Explanation: Again, The -D stands for "Development Dependencies". dotenv will allow us the ability to store secret keys for APIs and any general sensitive information.

Type into your terminal: npm i -g nodemon
Explanation: nodemon is a dependency that will restart our server automatically when we change any of our files. If you're familiar with React, it's similar to a Virtual DOM, except the information we change doesn't automatically show the moment we change it. It requires us to refresh the page to see these changes. The purpose is to automate restarting the server instead of having to do it ourselves every single time we change something.

From here on out, normally we would start our server with npm start. Instead, we will be able to type nodemon into the terminal which will automatically call on npm start.

Once done, run npm i one more time to make sure node_modules is fully updated.

Step 5 - Creating Controllers, Models, & Middleware Folders

Part of a MVC (Model, View, Controller) framework requires necessary files that handle the underlying logic. If you're unfamiliar with how an MVC works, here is some helpful information to bring you up to speed. To accomplish this, type into your terminal:
mkdir controllers models middleware

Step 6 - Creating .gitignore and .env

.gitignore will ignore any files specified in this folder. To generate this, type into your terminal touch .gitignore. Inside of this file, you should include this information:

Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

You'll notice .env is in there. Let's create this file also. In your terminal, type: touch .env to create this file. *When it comes time to use this file, we will go into depth on how it works and what the purpose is. Otherwise, you can give a quick google search get a general idea of what .env is.

Step 7 - Fire It Up

You made it! Start your application by typing nodemon into your terminal. You can navigate to http://localhost:3000/ in your browser to verify everything worked.


Express / MongoDB are a great alternative to building a database for your applications. Personally, I come from a background of using Ruby on Rails as a backend API. As I learn, I will be sharing lessons in future blogs like this one! Once you're set up, you can follow along and grow with me. :) Hope to see you again soon!

Drop a comment if you have any questions. I'll be happy to answer!

Top comments (1)

vectorware profile image
Akalonu Chukwuduzie Blaise

Nice read, really impressive stuff. Im currently working on an express generator for REST APIs which would not include provision for views. Any tips on that??