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Begin Quickstart

⏱ This guide should require less than 5 minutes

Getting started building with Begin is remarkably fast and simple.

Once you're finished with this guide, you'll be ready to build and scale just about any kind of web application, API, or site with speed, ease, and grace.

First, let's review what you need to get going.


While this guide assumes general familiarity with such things as text editors, terminal interfaces, git, and basic software development in JS with Node.js, you do not need to be a CTO to use Begin (or this guide)!

tl;dr, you'll need:

  • A (free) GitHub account
  • Any computer running macOS, Windows, or Linux, with:
    • Node.js 12
    • npm 6.x

Platforms: macOS, Windows, and Linux

Begin supports local, offline development on just about all modern computers, including: macOS, Windows (10+), and Linux.

Runtimes: Node.js 12

Begin provisions and manages AWS infrastructure that runs solely on Node.js 12 (with support additional runtimes coming soon).

You can work locally with versions of Node other than 12, but your app shouldn't depend on any features, functionality, or fixes that are not available in Node 12.

You can grab Node.js here.

Package management: NPM 6.x

Begin requires npm 6.x for local development. Recent releases of Node bundle npm 5.x, so you'll want to make sure to upgrade with: npm install npm@latest -g

Version control: GitHub

Begin hosts project repos on GitHub; if you don't have one already, sign up for a free GitHub account here.

When you create a new app, Begin will provision your GitHub repo pre-wired with the integrations it needs, such as webhooks to Begin's CI.

Begin only requests the least-privileged set of permissions required to work with GitHub, and does not attempt to access any other repositories or personal data.

Create a Begin account

To create a Begin account, simply click the Login button on the Begin home page, authorize it with GitHub, and pick a username. That's it!

Creating an app


After creating your Begin account, select an app from the list of starter apps to build from. (We think the Personal website is a great place to start, but this guide applies to all Begin apps.)

Then name your app and repo, and Begin will spin up your new project repository under{your GH username}/{your repo name}, and populate it with a fully functional Begin app.

By default your Begin app repo is created as a public GitHub repo; it can be set to private by granting Begin additional permissions via in the Settings screen found in the left nav of your Begin app.

Your first deploy


Immediately after Begin is finished setting up your project repo, it will kick off its first deploy to your app's staging environment.

By default, each commit to master initiates a build; if the build is green, that build is immediately deployed to your app's staging environment. No fuss, no muss!

Every new build to staging and master appears in your Activity feed.

Learn more about building & deploying with Begin.

Accessing your live app

Once deployed, your app will be immediately live and available on the internets. Nice! 🎉

To access your staging environment, click Staging link in the build status module in the top of the left navbar.

Project structure

Now that your app is live in staging, a brief word about how Begin apps are structured so you'll know your way around.

Begin applications are comprised of many small, fast, individually executing cloud functions (or Functions, for short). Let's take a quick look at the source tree of a basic Begin app:

├── public/
├── src/
│   ├── http/
│   │   └── get-index/
│   ├── shared/
│   └── views/
└── test/
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Your app's many small, fast, isolated Functions are organized in your project under src/.

Each HTTP Function directory services a handler for a publicly available HTTP route (e.g. src/http/get-hello-world services GET /hello/world).

So if you want to make a change to your app's root view, you'll want to modify its src/http/get-index/index.js file.

Learn more about Begin app project structure.

Working locally

Get started working locally on your app in five easy steps. Assuming you used the default name of Begin app, open your terminal app, and:

  • Clone your app's repo to your local machine:
git clone{your GH username}/begin-app.git
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  • cd to your Begin project directory:
cd begin-app
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  • Install npm packages:
npm install
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  • Start the app locally:
npm start
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Learn more about getting set up in our Introduction.

That's it!

In just a few minutes, you now have a fresh app with dedicated staging and production environments, a fast local, offline dev environment, pre-wired CI/CD, and everything you need to rapidly iterate.

Happy building!

Ship to production

  • Lint and run tests, of course:
npm run lint && npm t
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  • Release to production by:
    • Using the Deploy to Production button in the left nav in Begin, or
    • Creating a git tag, i.e.:
git tag -a 1.0.1 -m "This release includes 20% more cowbell"
git push origin 1.0.1
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👓 Note: We strongly encourage the use of SemVer when creating production releases!

Keep learning

There are many fun things to learn about building Begin apps, check out the rest of our docs here!

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