Express Complete tutorial : Part 1

Express is web framework written for Node. It is one of the fastest growing web framework and some of the popular web application like koding, prismatic are using this framework.

In this tutorial i am going to explain how to bootstrap and setup the Express web application project.

Install Express:

Very first thing you need to install Express in your System. There are two ways, either install it globally or in project only. I choose second option always because it seems easy to deploy.

npm install -g express
npm install --save express

Bootstrap using Express:

Update : Now express separates their app generator into module called ‘express-generator’. Install it using.

npm install --save express-generator

Rest of the procedure is same.

if you do not want to do any manual work then you can create an app by using express command line which will generate all the required folders and setting in the specified path. Run the command line using.

express folder_name OR express .
express bootstrap
You can run

npm install

to install dependencies. To run the app use

npm start

and visit localhost:3000 to view the app.
express app
This is very quick way to setup express project. Express automatically creates required folder and application setting files which you will need to run your app. This is time saving and easiest way to setup express project.

Geek way : Setup manually:

If you want to know how to the setup manually rather than using single command line then you can read here.

Every express project have three important things:

  • Dependencies
  • Environment setup.
  • Routes.

Some must have dependencies which you need for your app is listed down:

Environment setup:

You need to configure environment in order to server static files, handling routes and keeping the backend and frontend code separate. Very first thing you need to do is configure the express web application. In this,

  • Set view engine for express.
  • Tell express to use body-parser middleware.
  • Tell express to use cookie-parser middleware.
  • Tell express to use the Session.
  • Tell express from where to server the static files.

Express uses the template engine to parse the front end scripts. You can parse HTML,EJS,JADE etc. Set the appropriate one by using.

app.set('view engine', 'ejs');

Then tell express from where to deliver the front end file.

app.set('views', __dirname + '/views');

Body parser is a middleware to handle POST data in Express. In express 4 you have to manually install and mention the middleware. You can install by typing.

npm install --save body-parser

In Express use:


Cookie parser is a middleware to handle cookie in Express. In express 4 you have to manually install and mention the middleware. You can install by typing.

npm install --save cookie-parser

In Express use:


Express Session is a middleware to handle Session in Express. In express 4 you have to manually install and mention the middleware. You can install by typing.

npm install --save express-session

In Express use:

app.use(session({ secret: '$#%!@#@@#SSDASASDVV@@@@', key: 'sid'}));

You have to tell Express from where it should deliver static files. Static files are images, JavaScript library, CSS files etc. You can specify by using.

app.use(express.static(__dirname + '/folder_name'));


You can use app.get() or function according to type of HTTP request, to handle routes. You will have two callback variables namely request and response and by using them you can handle the routing purpose. For e.g

In next tutorial, i will explain more about handling routes in express.

Shahid (UnixRoot) Shaikh

Hey there, This is Shahid, an Engineer and Blogger from Bombay. I am also an Author and i wrote a programming book on Sails.js, MVC framework for Node.js.

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  1. great tutorial…but I have to add one small have described how to create an app using the express command line. I tried to to this but it did not work…apparently Express 4 has separated the generator from express. so we first have to install it using

    $ npm install -g express-generator

  2. very nice tutorial!

    I have one question. You said “Every express project have four important things” but you listed only three things. What is last one?

  3. Very nice tutorial.

    Shahid, can you tell me how to send more than one response from a function. Now, whenever I try to do it, I am getting this “Error: Can’t set headers after they are sent.”. Please, any information would be of great help.

    1. Once the HTTP response is sent, and you are trying to send it again it will say “Header’s can’t send”. You can use res.setHeader() to set headers but only before res.write(). Hope it helps !

      Tip : Try to keep the protocol the way it is designed, one request, one response. Write logic to combine two responses into once and send it to wherever your end point is.

  4. I trying to bootstrap using express on OS X. Does not seem to work ?
    Any idea why ?
    P.S : I did install the express generator.

    1. Figured it out… had to use … ‘sudo npm install express-generator -g’ … Apparently the path does not get set when you just do a npm install.

  5. hi I am a mere starter in nodejs,express and mongo but worked in angular for couple of small learning projects. I wanted to ask “does express js handles all routing instead of routing in angular ?”

  6. Hi bro,

    Really a very helpful tutorial. I have just started learning node js. I hope you are active here to reply on comments. (DANISH from Saboo :))

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