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Boudy de Geer
Boudy de Geer

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Mastering Node.js CLI: Best Practices and Tips

This article is inspired by this awesome GitHub repository created by @lirantal, please go ahead and have a look it's worth.

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The largest Node.js CLI Apps best practices list ✨

Node.js CLI Apps Best Practices

A collection of curated best practices on how to build successful, empathic and user-friendly Node.js Command Line Interface (CLI) applications

Why this guide?

A bad CLI can easily discourage users from interacting with it. Building successful CLIs requires attention to detail and empathy for the user in order to create a good user experience. It is very easy to get wrong.

In this guide I have compiled a list of best practices across areas of focus which aim to optimize for an ideal user experience when interacting with a CLI application.


Node.js CLI Apps Best Practices

Why me?

Hi there, I'm Liran Tal and I'm addicted to building command line applications.

Some of my recent…

Creating a command-line interface (CLI) in Node.js goes beyond basic functionality; it's about offering an intuitive, efficient, and user-friendly experience. Let’s explore the best practices to enhance your Node.js CLI applications, complete with examples to guide you along the way.

1. Respecting POSIX Arguments

POSIX-compliant argument syntax ensures your CLI aligns with familiar standards, reducing the learning curve for users.

// Using yargs for POSIX-compliant arguments parsing
const yargs = require('yargs/yargs');
const { argv } = yargs(process.argv.slice(2))
  .option('verbose', {
    alias: 'v',
    type: 'boolean',
    description: 'Run with verbose logging'
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This code snippet uses yargs, a Node.js package, to parse command-line arguments in a POSIX-compliant way, including support for short and long-form options. You could also use the popular commander defined as a complete node.js command-line interface.

2. Building Empathic CLIs

An empathic CLI anticipates user errors and guides them towards correct usage, enhancing user experience.

// Simple check for required arguments
if (!process.argv[2]) {
  console.log("Please provide the required argument.");
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This example demonstrates basic input validation, ensuring users are prompted for necessary arguments.

3. Stateful Data Management

Remembering user preferences between sessions makes your CLI more intuitive and user-friendly.

// Using configstore for managing stateful data
const Configstore = require('configstore');
const config = new Configstore('my-cli-app');

// Saving a user preference
config.set('theme', 'dark');

// Retrieving the saved preference
const theme = config.get('theme');
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Configstore is an excellent tool for handling persistent data across user sessions.

4. A Colorful CLI Experience

Colors can make your CLI more engaging and easier to navigate, but always provide options for colorless output.

// Using chalk for colored output
const chalk = require('chalk');
console.log('This is a message in blue'));

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Chalk is a popular choice for adding colors to CLI output while maintaining readability.

5. Enhancing Interactivity

Rich interactions like dropdowns or progress bars can significantly improve user experience.

// Using inquirer for interactive prompts
const inquirer = require('inquirer');

    type: 'list',
    name: 'script',
    message: 'Which setup script do you want to run?',
    choices: ['Install', 'Configure', 'Update'],
]).then(answers => {
  console.log(`Running ${answers.script} script...`);
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Inquirer.js is a handy tool for adding interactive prompts to your CLI.

6. Utilizing Hyperlinks

Embedding hyperlinks in your CLI's output can provide users with quick access to resources and documentation.

// Printing a clickable URL in the terminal
console.log('Visit our documentation:');
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Most modern terminals will automatically detect and make URLs clickable.

7. Zero Configuration for Initial Setup

A CLI that requires minimal setup enhances user satisfaction by reducing initial friction.

Detecting environment variables can be a part of zero-configuration design. No specific code example here, but the idea is to use existing system settings or sensible defaults whenever possible.

8. Respecting POSIX Signals

Proper handling of POSIX signals like SIGINT ensures your CLI terminates gracefully and behaves predictably.

// Graceful shutdown on SIGINT (Ctrl+C)
process.on('SIGINT', () => {
  console.log('Process interrupted. Exiting gracefully.');
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Handling SIGINT allows your CLI to clean up resources or save state before exiting.

Developing a Node.js CLI isn't just about getting the job done; it's about crafting an experience that users find intuitive and delightful. By following these best practices, from respecting POSIX standards to handling stateful data and enhancing interactivity, you can create a CLI that not only performs well but also resonates with its users. Remember, the key to a great CLI is a balance between functionality, usability, and a touch of creativity!

Top comments (1)

lirantal profile image
Liran Tal

Thanks Boudy πŸ€—